What I’ve Learned About Weight Loss, Fitness, and “Dieting”

  1. Screen shot of my "goal" tracker page. It was more fun to look at during weight loss, but there's a lot to be said for two years of maintenance.

    Screen shot of my weight tracking page on Lose It. It was more fun to look at during weight loss, but there’s a lot to be said for two years of maintenance.

    Excuses are just that. Excuses. For years, while Christian pushed himself to run harder, faster, longer, I insisted I couldn’t lose weight. Weight problems run in my family. I have PCO, so my weight is a function of my condition. I don’t have time to exercise. I’m not capable of exercise because my knees hurt. I got really angry with Christian when he tried to point out that I was making excuses. (Love tells the truth, even when the loved one takes offense. That’s a blog post all its own. Another time.)

  2. What it takes to lose weight and/or maintain it may involve different regimens for different people, but they all have one thing in common: when you decide it’s a priority, you just do it. If you approach it half-@$$, of course it’s not going to work. So of course, that means…
  3. Weight loss and maintenance requires self-discipline. Not just self-control, as in stopping yourself from eating too much or the wrong things, but self-discipline. Meaning you actually have to drag your butt out of bed and go run or Jazzercise or weight lift, or whatever your chosen exercise is. You have to plan for it, make time for it, make it a priority. You have to stick to the plan. My plan involves calorie counting through loseit.com. If I get lazy about counting calories, the scales shows it. In other words…
  4. It’s a permanent lifestyle change, not a “diet.” “Dieting” doesn’t work, because it’s not sustainable. Whatever you do, you have to keep doing it for good.
  5. Counting calories is much-maligned, but if you do it smart, it’s a very healthy way to handle weight. You have to think about what the calories are, not just how many. Bread racks up a lot of calories. Plain old meat does not, amazingly enough. Even fat (i.e. butter) doesn’t add up as fast as I thought it would. If you pay attention to the balance of foods you eat–and they’re real foods, not “low-cal” fake food–calorie counting works and supports overall health.
  6. You never, ever burn as many calories as “They” want you to believe. Everybody knows I wear a Polar watch and chest band when I exercise and so people are forever asking me how many calories I burn, and they never believe me when I tell them. They think my monitor isn’t working. But I know it is. I know it is because I keep track of calories burned and calories consumed, and I weigh every day. If I was using more than my heart monitor tells me, I would be losing weight instead of holding steady.
  7. To illustrate: My in-laws’ treadmill wants to give me 3x the calories my Polar tells me I burn. LoseIt.com does the same. Jazzercise likes to advertise 600 calories in an hour. I’ve been doing this now for almost 2 1/2 years without pause, and I set a daily goal to burn a minimum of 300 in an hour of Jazzercise. 350 is a good day. And I work pretty darned hard to get those numbers. I’m watching the heart rate on my watch all the time. Despite that, I’ve had to cut calories from my LoseIt.com budget in order to maintain my weight. Which just goes to show…
  8. Every person is unique, and you have to play around to figure out what works. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of losing weight.

I am more fit than I have ever been in my entire life. I weigh less than I did when I got married. I weigh perhaps three pounds more than I did when I graduated high school. And I’m 40. I would rather plant my butt in a chair and write (or read) with every spare minute I have–and with four kids I use the word “spare” with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. But I have decided that health and self-image is a priority for me, and so I have made exercise and weight control a priority too. After all, it’s easier now than it will be ten years from now.

Not everyone is going to get back to their high school graduation weight. Thyroid issues, medical conditions, etc., definitely come into play, not to mention metabolic changes. And yet. It is all too easy for medical conditions and age to become excuses not to try. I know, because I made the excuses, too. But now that I’ve done the work I’m feeling healthier, more energetic, more clear-headed, and more in tune with both body and soul. It’s worth the effort.

3 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned About Weight Loss, Fitness, and “Dieting”

  1. Ann

    Congratulations on your weight loss and maintenance! It’s not easy. I know because I did it too–lost 116 pounds over two years, and have kept it off for almost three years now. Exercise is essential. I didn’t count calories, but worked with a nutritionist to learn how to eat better food. As you say, it’s life style changes that work, not “diets.”

  2. I read this from my phone yesterday so could not comment (as smart as smartphones are, my comments get eaten more often than not when I try to post them from the phone).

    I find maintenance to be even harder than weight loss. You’re right that it’s self discipline, but it’s a different sort of self discipline, i think. When there is the positive reinforcement of weight loss, it seems that it’s easier to stick with it (in my opinion). But when the goal is simply to remain the same, I have a very difficult time sticking with the tracking. I have never had a problem with activity — I have always been active. For me, learning that being active did not negate all the food I would eat was the biggest hurdle to overcome. And what I noticed as I lost weight was that I still wanted to eat a lot, I would just limit myself or distract myself with other things. And…once the weight was off, I still want to eat a lot and so I fluctuate further than I would like most of the time. It seems like I have this process of gaining 7 pounds, losing 7 pounds, gaining 5, losing 5, gaining 10, losing 10, over and over again. It’s very frustrating. I do hope that someday I can master myself in this area.

    Thanks for this post and congratulations on the maintenance — I find that is far more difficult than losing the weight in the first place!

    • I’m glad you came back so you could comment, Michelle! You know, I get lazy sometimes too, I’ll think, Oh, *tomorrow* I’ll get back on track with recording *every*single*calorie. More than once it’s taken a prolonged upswing in weight to get my head back in the game. But yes, it is a different kind of self discipline. No doubt about it. I keep toying with the idea of trying to lose another 5 pounds, just to see if I could, but the reality is that it’s not important enough to me.

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