Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Weight Loss: Getting Into the Mindset

So, I've been unhappy with my weight for a few years now. I've been doing nothing but complaining about it, but not really changing anything. Or...I would change one thing for a week or two - not see any results from it - and then revert back to what I was doing before: complaining.

In the beginning of the year, my wife and I made a New Year's Resolution to actually lose some weight and do it seriously, not just say it.

I will say that as of that day in January, I felt that things were going to be different that year for us and that we would actually do it, but at the same time, I was not yet convinced that that's what I really wanted to do. Realizing that it was going to be a hard road, I wasn't convinced that I wanted to take the plunge and actually make changes. I wanted to lose the weight, but with little work involved.

1) The first thing that we decided to do was cut certain foods from our diet.

At the time, my wife was still breast feeding and had a few more months of it before she was going to be able to get on a real diet. I, on the other hand, was perfectly capable of making any changes I wanted to. So, the first change that we made was something simple and easy: we cut down our simple sugars. This doesn't mean we cut out sweets entirely or anything like that. The changes that we made were even more simple.

  1. We stopped eating white rice and switched to brown

  2. We stopped eating white bread and switched to 100% whole wheat

  3. We stopped eating potatoes and switched to sweet potatoes

  4. We cut back on desserts

That was it! That was the first change that we both made to our diet that was safe for her to do while she was breastfeeding, yet wasn't too difficult for us.

For me, I did the first phase of the South Beach Diet. For those of you who don't know very much about the South Beach Diet, it comes in phases. The first phase is two weeks long and you cut out ALL carbohydrates entirely. No rice, no bread, no potatoes, no fruits, no sugar, no sweets, etc. It's pretty much purely a vegetable and meat diet for the first two weeks. I'm not gonna lie to you - these two weeks are difficult! BUT!! It's definitely worth it.

So, I went on this diet for the first two weeks. My wife wasn't able to yet, so she kept eating carbs, but definitely made an effort to cut down on them. During this time, I dropped about 8 pounds. This is what got me my kick start on weight loss. I realized that it can be done and it wasn't as difficult as I thought. I mean, don't get me wrong...losing those 8 pounds was hard on me mentally because I was so used to eating rice and bread with everything. So, having to cut it out cold turkey was definitely difficult. In order to make it through these rough two weeks, I just kept the goal in mind: lose up to 10 pounds in your first two weeks.

I knew a guy who was currently doing this diet at the same time as me and the last time he did it, it worked for him like a charm, so I thought, "Well...if it worked for him, then it should work for me too. So...I'll do it!"

The second phase in the South Beach Diet is slowly adding GOOD carbs back into your diet. Things like wheat bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits, etc. You're not supposed to go all out and eat like a mangy dog on these carbs, rather, introduce them back into your diet s l o w l y. Maybe adding one meal with a carb per day for the first two days, then adding two meals for the next three days, etc.

At this point, surprisingly, I just decided to sort of give up and go back to eating carbs, but NOT the simple kind of carbs. I decided to make a complete switch to whole grain carbs and sweet potatoes, but I would just start eating carbs the way I would normally eat carbs and not introduce it slowly like the diet said to do. I know this seems counterproductive, and honestly, it might have been. Maybe if I had stuck with the South Beach Diet for the time that you were supposed to stick with it, I probably could've lost more weight. But as I said before, it was incredibly difficult to give up carbs or only have one meal per day that had carbs.

Anyway, this went on for a few months. I was able to keep the weight off for the most part. Obviously, you're going to fluctuate from day-to-day, but it wasn't too bad. The thing that really set me back was my dad coming in town. Up until this year, my dad only came in town maybe once a year and we only visited him once a year in Hawaii. In 2010, however, there was a change with his work schedule, location, and the economy that allowed him to work on the mainland about once a month or so. Every time my dad came into town, we would all eat more than normal, more often than normal, and I would do less exercise than normal. At one time, we came back from Hawaii in April and I had gained all my weight back from the South Beach Diet and THEN some. I was upset about this.

It's during these times that you realize that being upset and failing is actually what causes you to be even more motivated the next time. Keep in mind that this journey is a process. It's not easy, but it's very natural to try and fail, then try harder and fail again. But keep in mind that as you try and try harder, the amount you fail is either less, or less often - until you've finally reached a point where you are fed up with it and your drive for success is stronger than your will allows for failure.

When I came back from Hawaii in April, I was upset that I had gained all of the weight back. I thought I was fed up with it, but I wasn't...If you had asked me at that point in time, I would've told you that I was tired of being chubby and I wanted to be thin and fit again. What does that sound like though? That's right...complaining. Four months after we had made our New Year's Resolution, I was still complaining. Even after I had moderate success with the South Beach Diet.

Well, nevertheless, when I got back to California from our Hawaii vacation, I started going back to the gym. I had only canceled my gym membership less than a year before, so I was frustrated that I now wanted it back, but knew I probably wasn't going to be able to get the same rate.

In any case, I decided to use my work gym because it was in the building I worked in, so it was convenient, fast, and cheap. I started going to the gym and saw a few pounds of weight loss, but then I plateaued. I wasn't sure what to do because I had already made the simple sugar change - I hadn't been eating refined grains for a few months now, lost a few pounds, and then plateaued...

"Are you serious?" I asked myself... "Why am I plateauing after only a few pounds?"

Keep in mind that if you're going to the gym and lifting weights and you're not seeing any results on the scale or even worse, if the scale goes the other way, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Here's why. It is possible to build muscle while also losing fat. Although the myth about muscle weighing less than fat is not true, it IS true that muscle takes up less mass and space than fat. So, if you're lifting weights, doing cardio, and eating healthily, and you're still not losing weight - this could just mean that you're losing fat and replacing it with muscle at the same rate. This means that you could be maintaining your weight while losing fat and building muscle and because muscle takes up less space than fat, you could start losing inches off your waist, arms, legs, etc.

With all that said, if you're goal is to lose weight, then focus on the cardio training. If you're goal is to build muscle, then lift! However...if your goal is to lose weight, you also need to make sure that you're lifting as well. I'll explain why later.

After asking the gym manager a few questions about the best exercises to do for weight loss, she encouraged me to find out what my Resting Metabolic Rate (RBR) is. This is one of the keys to why some people have it easy to lose weight and why others have it incredibly difficult. Obviously, I'm not a scientist, but with a few minutes of talking with her and another 10 minutes of research online, I found some very important pieces of information.

Your body burns calories throughout the day whether you're doing anything or not. Obviously, if you're up and walking around, you're going to be burning more calories than if you just laid in bed all day (which is exactly what you're RBR is). If you were to lay in bed all day, what is the rate at which your body would burn calories? This is your RBR (it makes sense if you think about it). It is important that you know this number because this is the number that you should not go below when it comes to eating the correct amount of calories. Your RBR is the minimum number of calories that your body needs just to function and do the basic internal activities. It's ok to go below this calorie count for a few days, but you should not make a habit out of it as it is dangerous for your body. After all, what good is losing fat if your body has now turned against itself and starts breaking down the muscles for energy consumption because you are not eating enough food?

Find your RBR.

The main point in my conversation with the gym manager was just that weight loss is a very simple formula. Weight loss is a "Calories In / Calories Out" type of transaction. What she meant was, if you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat every day. This may sound difficult, but keep in mind that you have your RBR to fall back on! Here's what I mean: If you look online with the link above and find out that your RBR is 1700 calories / day, then you understand that your body will burn 1700 calories per day if you were to just lay in bed. Now, since nobody simply lays in bed every day (except for extreme conditions), you already know that simply by being awake, you will be burning that many calories. So, let's say you eat 2300 calories one day. Now, subtract your 1700 from 2300 because of your RBR and you will find that you are left with a net calorie count of 600. This means that you need to find a way to burn off those 600 calories that you ate because your body already burnt off the other 1700! WOW! Not so hard, huh?

Now...just think about what you can do if you decide to cut your calories and eat ONLY your RBR amount on a daily basis...what you would be doing is burning more calories than you're eating every day simply by being awake! That's awesome. To make things even more crazy, what would happen if you decided to go to the gym every day and do a mere 30 minutes of cardio or a 30 minute walk around your block? You guessed it! You'd have negative calories for the day! This is ok because you are still eating the amount of calories your body needs in order to be able to operate. Everything more that you burn is targeting those fat cells!

So, you're probably saying to yourself, "Yes, this all sounds good, but how do I get MOTIVATED to lose the weight?"

Honestly, start going to places or hanging out with people who are more fit than you. Think about it: if you are a musician would you rather play with people who are much worse than you, or people who are better? If your goal is to be a better musician, your answer is that you would rather play with people who are better than you because it gives you the drive and the opportunity to learn. In the same way, if you are a sports player, are you wanting to play with people who are worse than you or better? Again, if your goal is to be a better player, then you will naturally want to play with people who are better than you so that you can learn to be better. It's the same thing with getting in shape.

At the end of July, my wife and I took a vacation for a week in San Diego. We visited the beach, went to the pool, and hung out in the gaslamp district. It's depressing, but all of those places are where you find people who are more fit than you. All it took was a week there for me to really get fed up with my body the way that it was. I wanted to make a change.

So, after a few years of trying different diets, attempting to go to the gym, trying to eat healthy, etc., I only now was very serious about getting into shape and not only was I concerned about getting into shape, but I actually wanted to make a lifestyle change so that not only was I fit again, but healthy at the same time.

Shortly thereafter, I started to have these epiphanies about weight loss. My wife and I started to take Hydroxycut and saw some weight loss, but I was concerned from day one that we were going to gain it all back as soon as we came off of it. So...we stopped. Then I realized a few things...

1) The only person who can get me to lose weight is me.

I know that sounds cliche and simple, but it's true. Think about it. It doesn't matter if you hire a personal trainer, if you don't have the drive to work out on your own, you won't lose weight. So, it needs to come back to me if I want to the lose weight.

2) If I don't lose this weight now, it's only going to be that much harder later the longer I wait.

I saw the people walking around on the beach with their shirts off or in their bikinis and I realized that I am young NOW. If I EVER want a body like that, I needed to have it NOW because I'm only going to have this body for maybe another 15 - 20 years, before age really starts to show all over. I realized that if I wanted to have a good body, this is the time to have it. Not 15 years later.

3) I have been wanting to lose weight since 60 pounds ago.

I started looking through older pictures of myself and as I was looking through them, I was remembering that "when I took this picture, I thought I was fat." And that was 60 pounds ago! Now...I'm 60 pounds heavier than this picture and here I am saying the same things. I should've just lost the weight back then. At least then, I would've only had to lose 15 pounds rather 75!

All of these thoughts started streaming through my mind and I realized that now is the time. I was truly fed up with the way my body was. I didn't want it to be that way anymore and I had already let it go on for FAR too long. This was the time. There's no more "Let's start on Monday." That mindset was gone and it's "Let's start right NOW!"

As of now, I have lost around 18 pounds and am feeling great about myself. My jeans that used to be so tight, I couldn't wear them, are now too loose! My shirts are getting baggier and my belt is on the smallest hole. I realize that it was a struggle to arrive at this mindset, but I'm glad that I did because now, I feel like I have gone through a life changing process about my weight and it has even moved into just plain care for my body. We only have one body. We only have one shot. Take care of it. If you don't like it, change it. You're the only one who can!

1 comment:

Bingle said...

wow, jaress. inspirational. i still find it hard to believe that you were 75lbs overweight though! congrats on your weightloss so far. i stopped eating red meat and pork jan 1st of this year and have lost 17 lbs. its funny, i didn't eat THAT much of it before. keep us posted!