Over the last few months I have gone through some increased understandings about the importance of knowing the DATA as we make important decisions. How often do we ignore what the numbers tell us when it comes to our health? We can get on the scale or have high blood pressure or even elevated cholesterol and seem to think if we keep eating and exercising in the same way somehow things will magically get better.
I had someone tell me the other day that they wanted to lose weight but were not prepared to change their eating habits. Thinking if they just exercised a little more, that late night bag of potato chips would be okay. It is a little bit how I used to think. I didn’t think weighing myself was important or paying attention to those signs my body was telling me that I was not as healthy as I should or could be. I had all these perceptions about a healthy lifestyle that as it turned out wasn’t supported by data or more specifically what my own body was telling me. I needed to learn to be a better listener.
Actually life is the same way. It gives us signals that what we are doing is working or not working. We need to pay attention to the information we are getting and make the changes needed to get the necessary results. When I went for my physical in December I went in thinking that my doctor won’t be happy. I was right, he wasn’t. Going in my perception was that I had gained a little weight and maybe would need to lose 10 pounds to get back to my slightly (my perception) overweight self of a year ago. I never believed a person should weigh themselves. My perception was I had gained weight. The data I used of needing a bigger pant size as a 36 waist had led to a 38. Shirts were a little snug. So in reality what could a scale and the rest of my data the physical would give me tell me that I didn’t already know.
Well when I hopped on a scale it was a shocker. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would get so heavy. Trouble was although my body was telling me what I needed to know I wasn’t listening. My energy level was down, a little more moody and my knees were sore. I told myself that was more caused by stress of the job, getting older and a busy schedule. As we often do we rationalize things so we don’t need to change our behaviour. The scale, the elevated cholesterol and now for the first time ever high blood pressure. The data told the truth where as my perceptions allowed me to rationalize the truth to make me feel things were out of my control. They were caused by outside sources and out of my control. Thinking like that gave me permission not to change. Just to keep on doing as I was doing.
The scale woke me up to the truth. If I wanted different results I would need to change. I would have to take control. The result was in three months I lost almost 50 lbs and now here I am six months later weighing in at 176 pounds which is exactly 50 pounds less that day I hopped on the scale in the doctor’s office. I didn’t do any crazy fad diet just used data and changing what I did. Here are the five simple tricks….
1) Decided to pay attention to the Data
I used a program called My Fitness Pal to help me collect data and set goals. Counted calories, set eating and fitness goals and put a plan in place based on the data. Not all food is created equal. Although some may say My Fitness Pal is time-consuming and doesn’t provide enough detail about the food we eat for me it provided that balance so I could monitor my intake of protein, fat, carbs, sugar, salt and those essential areas like Vitamin A, C, potassium and iron to name but a few.
It also allowed me to set fitness goals and track not only my calories taken in but burned as well. I set manageable weekly weight loss goals that I kept track of a daily basis using the data of calories consumed and energy burned.
This calorie counting gave me the information so I understood the impact of my exercise and food I was eating.
2) Avoided late night or binge eating. Ate what I need not necessarily what I wanted.
It is so easy to have that late night snack. For the first two months I spent breaking that habit. It wasn’t easy as my impulse was to eat something when I was hungry even if it was at eleven at night. At times I did give in but when I did I looked at my calorie intake for the day and calories output. Calories burned versus calories consumed. I then chose a snack based on what my body said I needed rather than what I craved or that late night impulse high fat or sugar food.
3) Made my lunch everyday
Paid attention to what I ate. Foods that kept me fuller and are nutritious. When I didn’t bring a lunch I would either not eat which made me binge at supper or if I went out the choice of healthy alternatives was limited. My prepared lunches and food for the time I was at work made it easier to stick to my fitness goals.
4) Ate more often but in smaller portions
I haven’t eaten off a big plate for six months (other than when going out). Basically controlled portion size. Ate what I needed not what I wanted. Plate size makes a difference. We seem as part of our human nature to want to fill our plates no matter the size of the plate. The smaller plate allowed me to do that but it didn’t take as much food.
I also had a healthy snack in the morning usually a banana in the morning and then some ‘Greek Yogurt’ in the afternoon. Not allowing myself to get to hungry but also not gorging myself. I paid attention not only to what I ate but how much. I then had to record everything I ate into My Fitness Pal so there was accountability to what I was doing. I got to see my results everyday.
5) Worked hard and stuck to the Plan
There is no quick fix. It requires a plan and then to stick with it. It has been hard work and I still have a goal. I am no longer using My Fitness Pal but still use what I learned about food and exercise to maintain that healthy lifestyle. I built-in exercise into my lifestyle. I found how much better I feel going for that walk or in the cold months going on the treadmill was great. Many days I didn’t feel like it but did discover if on those times I chose just to do ten minutes, then I stuck to it. It was getting started that usually stopped me before so I needed to change my mindset. Exercise became part of my schedule, my lifestyle. I am not a jogger, so walking was my choice. When on the treadmill I increased intensity by increasing incline and I do monitor my heart rate when exercising so I use data then as well.
Now that I am where I need to be I continue to weigh myself weekly and will not let my weight get above 180. If it gets close I know I have slipped and must get back on track. I haven’t stopped eating any of the foods I like, actually never did, but do so in moderation and as part of my overall lifestyle. I pay attention to what I put into my body and am aware of the cost of some of the high fat, high calorie foods I may crave. Is it easy? It wasn’t and still isn’t but it is getting easier. My thinking has changed, I am a little smarter about foods and know some of my perceptions on healthy eating and exercise have become more refined.
I just turned 55 and I feel better and healthier than I did 15 years ago. Knees no longer hurt, I can easily walk over 10 miles in a day, without getting tired or sore (good shoes make a difference). I am wearing pants that are size 32 waist and they at times can be loose. Even my neck size has decreased. My blood pressure is great. I have more energy and mood swings are gone.
There are lots of weight/diet plans out there and in the end people will find what works for them. I chose to go with a healthy diet that paid attention to what my body needed as well as made exercise part of my life. I chose to change my lifestyle. I chose to take control of my health. For me it worked.
If people realized food was for sustenance rather than pleasure, they’d be more healthy. The healthier you get the more the body will reject foods that are not good for it. Incredibly , I craved green leafy lettuce and a protein Good for you on the weight loss. It is amazing how one feels when they shed unnecessary weight.
You are right. It is like retraining your taste buds. No need for refined sugar or added salt either as you learn to use more natural and flavourful ingredients. Thanks for the comment and it does feel great.
Congratulations on your weight loss, James. That is a fantastic achievement. If people adhered to the phrase ‘eat to live’ rather than ‘live to eat’, I think obesity wouldn’t be a factor. Eating certain foods at a particular time is another part and helps with the digestion process.
You are exactly right…it was a great learning for me. Eating the right foods at the right time and in the right amounts has certainly made a difference. Diet is so important and exercise is just a part of it. Thanks for the comment. I have been really happy to see how well your writing has been doing. Keep up the great work and I love your blog.