“Losing weight is simple, but it isn't easy.” —Alwyn Cosgrove
Five years ago, I grew tired of being a member of the “bloat crew” and decided to do something about it. Over the course of six months, I dropped 20 kilograms (44 pounds) in weight, improved my overall health, and improved my cardiovascular fitness levels.
In completing this transformation, I learned things that may be of interest to anyone contemplating a similar journey. The three keys to weight loss, in my humble opinion and in order of importance, are attitude, diet and exercise.
Attitude is the key. Without the proper attitude, it will be hard to focus on weight loss and you may subconsciously or unintentionally, sabotage your efforts. Attitude is the thing that will keep you from overeating, making poor food choices, or not doing enough exercise.
Attitude boils down to the answers to two questions:
- What do I want?
- What am I prepared to do to get it?
If you can’t answer the first question with specifics and the second with “whatever it takes” as a starting point, the journey will be difficult. Your attitude to losing weight should be manifested by setting goals. Your goals should be 'SMART'—specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound.
It's absolutely critical that you set goals for yourself and that you write them down and review them as often as you can during the day (and particularly before you sit down to eat). Your goals should state what you want to achieve and the time frame in which you will achieve it. Include statements about what you will (and won't) be doing in order to achieve your goals. Define your goals in a way that is meaningful and inspiring to you. If you struggle with accountability, share your goals with someone close to you who will support you in achieving them. Don’t share your goals with people who will sabotage the targets you set. Weight loss is an individual journey. Do it for you and only for you.
Keep your goals realistic. I set out to drop twenty kilograms in 24 weeks, which is a little under one kilogram (two pounds) per week. Could I have done it more quickly? Probably. But I felt it better to be the tortoise than the hare in achieving permanent change in eating habits.
This is the one that I least looked forward to and I’m guessing it will be the same for most of you. It’s probably time to say goodbye to most things you’ve come to love—cakes, lollies, chocolate, ice cream, chips, hamburgers...you know the list. All of these things need to go or be severely curtailed. As is often repeated, you are what you eat. Filling yourself full of crap food leaves you looking and feeling like crap.
This article isn't designed to deal with nutrition or dieting in specific terms. The only advice I'm prepared to offer in this area is:
- Most people know how to eat well but don’t.
- The foods you hate are most likely the foods you need more of.
- Keep yourself hydrated at all times.
- Watch your meal and portion size.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with your diet.
In my odyssey, my weight loss started almost immediately. I cut back on processed foods, cut out all “junk” foods, and reduced meal sizes. As I progressed, I moved to change my carbohydrate ratios to reduce the level of simple and starchy carbohydrates, while increasing the amounts of complex and fibrous carbohydrates I consumed.
I now engage in intermittent fasts as a mechanism to further control my weight. I do this by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day twice a week (never on consecutive days). The science behind intermittent fasting is emerging. Suffice it to say that I find it effective. Brad Pilon has an excellent book on intermittent fasting for those who want to explore this topic further. Be wary of eating everything that isn't nailed down when you complete your fast, should you choose to try it. It's easy to undo all your good work very quickly. And yes, you can exercise while you're fasting. I exercise close to the end of each fasting period to burn fat and suppress my appetite somewhat before I start eating again. This is my “trick” for ending fasts and not overindulging.
Given the nature of the website, this is something we should all be familiar with. Exercise is an important component of weight loss, and more particularly, for keeping weight off. My approach to dropping weight from an exercise viewpoint was simple:
- Don’t do too much of one thing, but do something every day.
- Look for ways to increase your “indirect” exercise each day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away from the office and walking. You get the picture.
- When in the gym, focus on conditioning work (after your strength work for the day is done).
Being a former basketball player, I took myself to the local courts a couple days a week and ran suicides. Yes, it reinforced why I hated doing them when I played, but the effect on the body and cardiovascular system was pronounced. Nothing good comes for free.
On those days that my legs hurt too much to sprint, I did interval sprints on an exercise bike. Riding with high resistance for 24 seconds, reducing the level for another 36 seconds, and completing 15–20 intervals is more than enough to get the heart pounding. Add a two-minute warm up and a one-minute cool down and you can be done in 18–24 minutes.
Most of us instinctively know what to do to lose weight, but not all of us are prepared to do it. Drinking the "Kool-ADE" (attitude, diet, and exercise) of weight loss might at least get you started. Losing weight is simple, but it isn't easy. It can be done. The rewards in terms of your health, appearance, and compliments from those who can’t do it, make it all worthwhile.