With apologies to NPR’s excellent Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! program for the blog title.
A frequent topic here will likely be weight loss. About 9 months ago, while I was walking up some stairs, I told myself “This is ridiculous. I don’t want to be fat anymore”. Since then, I’m having a fair amount of success and it feels good. When you lose a significant amount of weight, people will ask you about it. This was something that I was not prepared for and something that is not easy for me. Small talk is not one of my strengths and my answers tend to get into the philosophical.
There are 2 typical questions I get asked and how I tend to answer it and how I’d like to answer it if I was a chatty person.
How much weight have you lost?
Answer: I don’t know.
This is the most common question I get. Obviously. However, when I set out on my journey of weight loss, I didn’t care about pounds. My measure of success was 1) ability to walk a flight of stairs without being winded; 2) pant size; 3) how happy I was to look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t, and haven’t stepped on a scale. When I went to the doctor, I asked him to not tell me my weight. I have no idea how much I weighed when I started, nor how much I weigh now. So I can’t even do the calculation.
This response tends to go one of two ways. Either a longer conversation about why I don’t know or the inquisitor gets insulted. Yes, I’ve offended people by saying “I don’t know”.
How did you do it?
Answer: Um. How serious are you for this answer? Because I’ve got a few.
My first answer to this is: “I stopped eating like an idiot.” Sometimes I’ll add a little more: “I stopped eating like an idiot and I exercise a bit more.” For people who have never had a problem with weight, that is normally a sufficient answer. Because, to be fair, it is true. The formula for weight loss isn’t complicated: calories out > calories in = weight loss.
But for individuals who are fighting, or want to fight, the weight demon, the question has a lot more meaning to them. Those individuals –my peeps– ask the question with a hint of pride or hope in their voice. Occasionally, it is almost a cry for help. These are the difficult ones. For me, and I’m not a doctor, dietitian, nor physical trainer so I can only speak for me, the parts that I think would be helpful are difficult to explain. But it is three part answer.
First is to do it. Fuck you Nike for your corporate branding of an excellent self-help phrase. Action is better than talk. Action is better than planning. Commit then take action. Maybe that first step is a single push-up in the morning. Maybe that first step is parking one row further away in the parking lot. Make that action trackable. Then track it.
Tracking it is key. Get a pocket notebook and a pencil or pen (pens are awesome) and document your action. Sure you can use your phone and some app but I suggest getting a folder and pen you’ll like to look at. Item memory is what we want. When we pull out our kick-ass notebook with a sticker we like on it and a bitchin’ pen, we know we are documenting success. Write down what you eat. Write down any exercise. Write down your thoughts on your progress.
If you aren’t having thoughts about your process, you haven’t committed. There are many thoughts we have about our journey: Did you eat one of the cookies that someone brought to the office? Why or why not? Your friend is having a birthday, why it is okay to have a few bites of cake. Why did I feel hungry a 1430 after being successful for so long?
Next is find a system that works for you. This is where people who have never had to fight with weight control get it wrong and tend to become flippant. It can be difficult to find a plan. But we are on a journey and we can explore to find what is best. While we give our plan some time, we aren’t afraid to change our plan if we aren’t getting results. If it is too difficult for us maintain discipline. A big don’t here is to treat any plan as if it were a religion.
Personally, I primarily do 3 things: 1) intermittent fasting; 2) decrease sugar intake by, well, a lot; 3) Commute by bicycle as often as I can. I’ve just started adding an exercise routine in but am still in the trial and error phase.
Finally every night before we go to bed, we reflect on day. We pull out our journal and mark successes and we mark failures. Record that in a second journal. My personal reflection is a conversation to myself. Sometimes it is as small as an affirmation that I am on the right track. Sometimes it is a multiple page rant to myself about why I failed.
Important to note that we don’t lie to ourselves when we document and reflect. We are honest, brutally so, with ourselves. We don’t hate ourselves. We are on this journey because we love ourselves.