Since many of you no doubt have New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, I thought I would recount my own recent experience with that topic, in case it might be of use to anyone.
I was always skinny growing up. In high school, mission and college I was 6’5″, 180lbs., and was a string bean. I was the kind of kid who would lift weights and drink protein shakes, but nothing worked; I couldn’t gain a pound.
(I remember once doing a session at the temple. When it was time to don the apron, I wrapped the strings around my back and doubled them forward to the front to tie them, as I always did. This high priest was sitting next to me, saw what I was doing, got a disgusted look on his face and under his breath muttered “show off!”)
Since my weight was so stable, I just forgot about it and lived my life. As I grew older, my rabbit-like metabolism began to slow a little bit, and I finally cracked 200 lbs., for which I was grateful.
One day I was taking the elevator at work, and I noticed someone in the mirrored doors of the elevator, and I wondered who that was. And I soon realized the guy with that beer gut staring me in the face was me! My self-impression had never included having a beer belly, but there it was. It wasn’t huge by a lot of standards, but given my self-image as the skinny kid it looked enormous to me, and I didn’t like it at all.
Soon after that I went on vacation, and my wife purchased and read a book that had just come out by Pamela H. Hansen, Running with Angels: The Inspiring Journey of a Woman Who Turned Personal Tragedy into Triumph Over Obesity (the amazon link is here). I’ve never met Pam, but her sister Chris is a dear friend of mine, so I was interested to read the book. And I found it very inspiring. I figured that if she could lose more than 100 pounds, I could lose whatever (much smaller amount) I needed to lose.
So when I got home I decided to make some changes. First, I went and bought a good digital scale (I didn’t trust the analog one in our bathroom; I think it runs about five pounds too light), and weighed myself to get a baseline. I was 247.5! I was totally shocked that I weighed that much; I had had no idea. (I had not previously been in the habit of weighing myself.)
I realized that a big part of my problem was that at my former firm there was an attorney’s dining room, so I was eating a buffet all-you-can-eat lunch every day. And I had become more sedentary; after I finished my LL.M. at DePaul, I no longer had a need to make long walks across the Loop to go to classes. So my first two resolutions were to start bringing my own (healthy) lunch, and to go on long walks as part of my lunch break.
I also stopped drinking pop at work, switching to water.
I bought some dumbbells, and started doing a strength workout three mornings a week (just doing stretches and crunches the other days). And when my building opened a fitness center, I joined, which made my walking more regular (weather no longer being a factor), more intense, and longer.
I realized that often I was eating out of habit, not because I was genuinely hungry. I started to pay more attention to portion control. And I stopped eating desserts after most meals as I used to do, making desserts a real and only occasional treat.
Very quickly I brought my weight down to about 230, which I was happy about. I sort of hit a plateau there for a long time, but then I made some more small tweaks (such as being more careful about what I ate when I went to the movies), and the weight started to come off again.
Before the holidays I was at 217 (right now I’m about 220 because of the holidays; in a week or two of my regular routine, I’ll be back to 217). So in three years I’ve lost about 30 pounds. And I’m at a great place now; I think my body looks as good as it ever has, and I’m very happy with it. The beer gut is gone, I have better muscle tone, and I no longer think in terms of losing more weight, but of just trying to maintain the better habits and lifestyle choices I’ve put into place.
So, for the benefit of those who are struggling to lose some weight in 2009, what are your experiences? What has worked for you, and just as importantly what hasn’t? What advice to you have to share?