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It's now officially 1 hour and 22 minutes into the new year and I'm convinced it's going to be a good one. My plan is in place, and I'm expecting to see downward movement on the scale on Monday.
For each new year, people often resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, or get more exercise. For me, New Years' Resolutions have always seemed a bit unrealizable. New Years' Eve is some arbitrary date in the middle of winter on which we expect our lives to turn around. When it comes to weight loss, I've learned you have to be ready to change.
That being said, if you have resolved to lose weight in 2010, please don't let me dissuade you from starting today. Here are a few things I've learned on my weight loss journey that may help you. A lot of this information is covered in-depth in old posts on my blog.
1) Have a goal. Make it attainable. The goal I set for myself of 100 pounds in a year may seem steep, but I have to lose less than 2 pounds a week for a year to accomplish it. The reason I chose to bite off such a large goal is meaningful to me. Since the second grade I have struggled with my weight. I chose an end result where I feel I will not be "fat" anymore. I know I'll still be considered overweight at 196 pounds, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
2) Know how many calories a day you need to consume to lose the weight you want to lose. There are several websites for this. Weight Watchers has some very good online tools, but it comes at a price. I would suggest going to meetings if you join. Another website (this one free) pointed out to me recently is SparkPeople.com. I haven't fully explored this site yet, but I do have an account. It will actually create a meal plan for you based on your height, weight, and a number of other factors. You just need to eat what it tells you to eat. I would like to figure out if there is a way to synchronize two accounts for two people cooking for each other so you make exactly the right amount of food. It also has a neat grocery list function.
Update: I forgot to include the link for the site I've actually been using. WebMD has a great Food & Fitness Planner. It's like Spark People but more straightforward.
3) Develop an exercise plan. You don't need to start running marathons right away. Take it slow. My exercise plan started as only 20 minutes a day, four times a week. For those of you who don't go to a gym that gives new members a free consultation, feel free to steal this routine (note: Before beginning a routine, make sure you are in good health. I am not a personal trainer or a physician.). My routine varies every other time I go to the gym. On day 1, I spend 15 minutes on an elliptical machine at level 7. Then I move to the treadmill, set it at an incline of 10 degrees and walk at 3 miles per hour. The first time I did this, I thought I was going to die. As you get better at this, you can add time or increase the difficulty level on the machines. On day 2, I warm up for five minutes. I prefer the treadmill exercise explained above because it really gets me sweating. Then I do as many push-ups as I can do, do a variation of the plank exercise where I push myself up while doing the plank (I'll find a video of this one of these days) for as long as I can. Then I do an exercise where I push my arms out and try to touch my knee to my elbow. I have no idea what this is called. If you know, please let me know. Again, I do these until I collapse. Then I go get a drink of water and start over with the push-ups. 3 cycles total will do you.
If you don't want my exercise regiment, there are plenty available online. A simple Google search should yield tons of results.
4) Wear warm clothes at the gym. Your body works much harder when it has to exercise and cool itself at the same time. You get a lot more bang for your buck when you wear sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt to the gym as opposed to shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt.
5) Don't worry what anyone thinks of you when you exercise. Oh sure that guy over there has biceps the size of Mount Rushmore. The girl on the treadmill has a size i (for those of you who aren't math nerds, i is the symbol for the square root of -1) waist. I feel self conscious around those people too. But do you know what they are thinking about? Working toward their own goals. They're not at the gym to show off, they're at the gym to work. They didn't get to the point they are now by judging everybody else at the gym, they got to where they are now by busting their humps at the gym.
6) Pace yourself. So many of us (myself included) wish we could be thin right now. We tend to get down on ourselves for being overweight. The mere fact that I'm doing something about my weight lifts my spirits and improves my body image issues. I'm still fat. But that condition is temporary because of actions I'm taking.
7) Be accountable to yourself and others. A friend pointed out to me that when losing weight, it's helpful to be accountable to someone else. A spouse or significant other might not be the best option as reminding you not to eat that piece of pie or that you haven't been to the gym in two weeks might be legitimate, but may be interpreted as nagging. I know I've had my feelings hurt when my wife asked me if I really needed to eat that piece of chocolate.
I do need to be accountable to another person. That's something I'm still working on.
8) Don't make excuses. I'm terrible at this one. I've actually caught myself making excuses mid-sentence. The fact of the matter is I'm human and so are you. We all avoid cognitive dissonance by self handicapping, rationalizing things we've done, or employing any other defense mechanisms we have at our disposal. Awareness of these behaviors helps negate their effects.
9) Don't weigh yourself every day. Your weight fluctuates from day to day and hour to hour. Weigh yourself on the same scale, at the same time of day, once a week. I've had weeks where I supposedly lost 6 or 7 pounds only to find it had all returned a few days later.
10) Help others on their journey. If you offer encouragement to friends, neighbors, co-workers, or anyone else who is also attempting to lose weight, you not only energize them, you focus attention on your own goal as well. Losing weight is tough. Very tough. Those of us on this road need all the support we can get.