- Posted May 9, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your 'Aha' weight-loss moments
Then my sister and her family visited and her camera buff husband took pictures of every moment of every day of their stay in Hawaii. It had been a long, long time since I’d seen a photo of myself without a shirt (and aloha attire apparently hides the waistline quite nicely). Good lord…who IS that old fat guy? That’s not “chunky”, that’s obese.
I bought a scale…oh my. 5’7” tall and 210 pounds.
It wasn’t long before the aforementioned blinders were removed and I did an honest assessment of the blob that was hanging over the top of my board shorts. The “holy trinity” was in full bloom: too much booze, too much food, too little exercise. I’d traded an active lifestyle for a desk job years ago. But what could I really do? Two jobs and multiple non-profit obligations already took a huge chunk out of the week and I really do enjoy time with my wife, so where would I fit in time for healthy things? The answer came on a Monday as I was sitting at my desk making a pastrami sandwich disappear, looking out the window at a beautiful Hawaiian day. I looked in my hands at the hefty (and seriously delicious) lunch and thought, “That can change”. I looked outside, realizing that I hadn’t left the office between 8:00 and 5:00 in decades. I thought about how my day had started, sitting with a cup of coffee watching the morning news. I’m an early riser, so there was ample time to see the whole news cycle blow by at least twice. Hadn’t I just discovered the time I was certain I didn’t have?
I did some research and decided against the infomercial-driven quick weight loss route. I’d seen too many people get thin in a hurry and then rebound right back into their old pants. This needed to be a sustainable strategy. I also believed that too big a “go for it” would drive me away. Exercise to excess and be too sore and miserable to continue, starve myself and be too miserable to continue = failure.
The knees really are a problem, so climbing stairs was out. An experimental stroll around the block proved to be no problem and a plan was born. Three changes were made to my lifestyle with simple requirements: no ongoing damage to an arthritic body, no huge loss of already limited hours in a day and don’t overdo it (this last is in direct opposition to the way I normally do things):
1. Lunch fix #1: lose the sandwich. I replaced it with fresh, raw fruits and vegetables and a boiled egg (you still need protein in your day). Lots of it, enough to fill me up for the afternoon. Sure, carrots and celery get a little dull, but strawberries and papaya get envious stares from co-workers eating a plate of pasta. There’s also no afternoon slump.
2. Lunch fix #2: go out and play. Consuming a pound or two of healthy food takes only 20 minutes, so I added a 40-minute walk to the lunch hour.
3. Morning fix: exercise while the coffee is brewing. Work to a limit, but not to a strain.
The fat guy in the photo had to start slow. The walk was not much more than a mile. The morning exercise topped out at 20 crunches, 20 curls with an elastic band and 20 “push-ups” (done against the wall, standing an arm’s length away and leaning forward to push back to an erect position; my shoulders aren’t all that great either). The first few months were a little disappointing, but the subtle changes started to present themselves. A couple of extra notches on the belt, a little more spring in the step, the watch band and wedding ring not so tight. I didn’t make massive diet changes at dinnertime, but tried to be a little more aware of portion size. Weekends were for “real” food, but I found that the better I felt, the less I wanted potato chips. The weight loss leveled out during the holidays, but then started to creep back down once the turkey was gone. The scale told me that I was dropping 2-3 pounds each month.
20 months later, slow and steady progress has changed the morning stats: 120 crunches, 120 curls and 60 push-ups at the level of the kitchen counter. The lunchtime walk is now 2 miles in 30-32 minutes. A t-shirt and socks in the briefcase and comfortable walking shoes stashed in the desk are now part of the arsenal.
The work has also changed the body: 5’7”, 160 pounds, a reduction of 50 pounds (nearly a quarter of the starting weight). A 36” waist is now 31”. Bring on the new pants and belts. Blood pressure is now typically 100/75 with no medication. The joints have rallied, not having to haul around all that tonnage, and activities like surfing are back on the weekend agenda. Rather than having a target weight, I just made the lifestyle changes permanent and let my body decide what size it should be and it leveled out almost exactly at the 160 pound mark. My belts are still getting a little long, but that’s due to the exercise, and the lunch and walk are now just part of how I live. Another little benefit: eating groceries instead of restaurant fare is great for the budget.
There was one glaring mistake, however. I set out on the journey without consulting my physician and making a schedule for monitoring my health and progress. This came hammering at me when my blood pressure, still being lowered by medication, took a dive. I had been having little dizzy spells and had assumed that my hectic schedule had been dragging me down. When the combination of my healthier heart and unnecessary medication hit the tipping point, I crash-landed and my BP dropped to 70/30 all at once. I had a nice ambulance ride to the emergency room (or so I was told; I was incoherent at the time) and corrections to my medicine cabinet were made.
My morning and mid-day routines continue, which I intend to make a permanent part of my life. No gimmicks, no quick fixes, just smart and simple decisions mixed with a dose of perseverance.