Sunday, January 13, 2013

Successful Weight Loss Starts With A Logical Plan - Part 5

Wrapping things up, it takes a good plan that you can abide by to successfully lose weight, plus a good deal of patience. Weight loss does not occur overnight and is best accomplished at a slow, but consistent pace.  There are way too many visions of painful exercise and eating icky food in the weight loss world, tempting those who are overweight to turn to the Marketers who offer get-skinny-quick schemes and promises of magical results with no effort.  Buyer beware!

Sorry, it's going to take some effort on your part, but when you approach it scientifically and methodically without taking on too much too soon, your chances are greatly improved.  And yes, it will take motivation on your part - weight loss doesn't happen by itself in the background.  So take baby-steps by adding a little bit more exercise each week while consuming a little bit less food each day. 

And focus on each new level of change as being permanent, meaning you won't be going back.  And its okay to stick with that level for awhile before pushing on to the next milestone.  Too much too soon can easily doom your efforts. If you get yourself in a position where you can't wait to "finish" so you can return to normal, you will be in trouble!  The goal is a lifestyle change you can live with forever.  Going back means getting fat!

Learn all you can about proper weight loss by doing some reading.  My goal through this website, my postings and the Eat Slow Walk Fast book is to provide weight loss education that is not product driven.  And mine is but one of hundreds of great sites that seek to provide information, tips and motivation for weight loss success.

As a quick reminder, I was a semi-lazy, meat and potatoes guy who figured out how to lose 50 pounds in five months, followed by another 20 pounds over an additional five months.  And I have kept that 70 pound total off my body for six years.  Statistically, I am a rare individual, but I attribute my efforts to the basic concept of lifestyle change which is summed up in four simple words: EAT SLOW WALK FAST.

If you want to chat, feel free to contact me at

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Successful Weight Loss Starts With A Logical Plan - Part 4

How many times have you asked yourself "Why Can't I Lose Weight?"  As I said in Part 1, the simple answer is: "because you don't know how".  If indeed you are having trouble with this task, don't feel ashamed as the statistics support you!  The fact of the matter is that the majority of those who try to lose weight are unsuccessful, especially in the long term (meaning it all comes back!)

The sad thing is that the concept of weight loss is pretty simple and there are plenty of sources of legitimate information that explain how to lose weight and keep it off.  However, most humans being who they are, prefer to look the other way and seek out "quick fixes" and "easy solutions", neither of which really exist, unless of course you believe all the marketing messages being thrown at you by the makers of literally thousands of weight loss products.  (They profit - you lose - but not in the pounds category)

If your goal is to find such a product/device/pill or whatever, then there is no need to keep reading this post, because you won't find it here.  Just bookmark it for the future, so after you have exhausted a ton of money and endured endless hours of frustration, you can come back and focus on the proven recipes for weight loss.

So on to the focus of Part 4 of my series on "Successful Weight Loss Starts With A Logical Plan".

EXERCISE! - How does that word make you feel? Tired? Queasy? Uncomfortable?  Does it render visions of mindless calisthenics, dreaded high school gym classes, stomach cramps, and painful joints?  Or perhaps thoughts of "I would rather have a root canal than have to work-out".  You see, that is the problem with that word, because for most people who aren't engaged in some form of regular exercise, it is perhaps the most negative of all words in the English language, right up there with colonoscopy, diarrhea and taxes.

But, the process of exercise is a requirement when it comes to weight loss.  Remember that the key is to burn more than you eat - each and every day!  Just eating less won't cut it. You have to have both parts of the equation.  So you must overcome the negativity associated with the word to even have a chance at success. Luckily it may not be as hard as you think.

The thing about exercise is that it comes in many forms, not just focused work-outs or activities like jogging.  To be successful with exercise you need to find activities that meet the following criteria:
1. Fun - so you will enjoy it.
2. Easy - so you will actually do it.
3. Accessible - so you can do it anywhere, anytime.
4. Simple - so it fits into your daily lifestyle
5. Trackable - so you know how much you are burning

FEAST - Well believe it or not, I wasn't trying for that acronym, it just kind of evolved, but since it did, it does tie in nicely, because you are far better off to FEAST on physical activity than on food.

For my FEAST, I chose walking.  I know that sounds really boring to a lot of you, and on the surface it could be.  But it does fit all the criteria and since I travel frequently for my job, it works wherever I go.  To keep it fun, I choose interesting routes so I get the best scenery.  Yes, I do live in a beach community, so I do have some great walking sites, but even when I travel away from home, I scope out great walking opportunities and follow through.  Plus, I walk airports - a lot.  Beats sitting around in a crowded gate area staring at strangers.

Now lest you think walking is wimpy, its not.  In fact, studies have shown that fast walking burns as much calories as medium running, and its a heck of a lot better on your knees.  Of course, its highly unlikely you will start off in the "fast" walking category, but its something to shoot for.  BTW, I walk 5 miles or more everyday and at speeds up to 5 mph... but I have been doing it for a while.  

To get started, buy a pedometer and focus on 10,000 steps per day - great program, and very easy.  You can learn a lot more about walking on this site and by reading the Eat Slow Walk Fast book.  Too much detail to cover in a blog posting. 

So you don't like walking - fine - there are plenty of other activities such as running, swimming, aerobics, gym classes, tennis, golf, etc.  And there is nothing wrong with mixing it up.  For example I do a lot of Stand Up Paddleboarding which is a real workout.  The key is to be consistent with calorie burn every day!  That's why its important to choose activities that fit the FEAST criteria, so that you actually can do them every day.  If its too hard to work it in, it won't get done.  "The more excuses you use, then less you will lose!"

And one other thing, whatever forms of exercise you choose, you want to make sure you can continue with it for the rest of your life, because weight management is a long term thing!  As well, your forms of exercise should be measurable (trackable) so that you can be sure you really are offsetting your food calories with the proper amount of exercise.  Harvard Health Publications offers a nice chart to help you figure things out.

Going beyond focused exercise activities, start modifying your daily habits to get more calories burn in just through routine activities.  For example, avoid escalators, elevators and moving sidewalks as much as possible.  Look for the sign that says STAIRS.  Stop looking for parking spaces near the entrance of buildings!  Look at the opposite end of the parking lot, where I bet you won't have to fight for a spot.  The one exception being bad weather, though in such conditions you actually get in even more exercise by having to sprint from the far reaches of the lot.

If you work at a desk, find excuses to get up and walk around at least once per hour.  Schedule more face-to-face time with colleagues - in their office - instead of using so much email, as again it will force you out of your chair.  I have a tendency to make conference calls outside in the parking lot, using my cell phone.  I have walked up to three miles in a routine phone meeting.
Summing it all up, successful weight loss revolves around the concept of burn more calories than you consume!   Find some fun and creative things to do that burn calories and get moving today! And of course, each and every day from here on out...

Stay tuned for the Fifth and Final part of the series coming up....

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Successful Weight Loss Starts With A Logical Plan - Part 3

Weight loss has two components - calories in and calories out... put another way, eating and exercise.  This is not a situation where you choose one or the other, you need to manage both to be successful.  So let's take a quick look at the eating aspect.

How many times do you eat each day?  Three? Why?  Most likely because you were trained that way from a very early age.  Interestingly enough, we more likely to eat because its meal time rather than because we are hungry.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating starvation, as that is not an acceptable weight loss tool, rather I am just pointing out how we humans tend to fall into routines that can be very hard to change.
How many times have well-meaning parents and grand parents told you to eat everything on your plate or encouraged you to have a second helping.  Our culture is such that overeating can be seen as confirmation of good eating habits and even more bizarre - a compliment to the cook!  Sadly, we have become a society of over-eaters...
It's been said that the stomach pouch (not the fat you have accumulated around it) is roughly the size of one or two fists.  Now ball your hands into fists... not very big are they.  So if that is the reference for normal stomach size, then you don't want to eat food that is any bulkier than that.  In other words, the food on your plate should not exceed that physical area.  Sure your stomach will stretch when you OVEREAT but what good is that, as most of the extra stuff may convert into fat, cause you don't need it to sustain your body's energy requirements.
Of course, the size of the food is not directly proportional to the amount of calories.  You could eat some standard-sized portions that are heavily loaded with calories.  For example, the Big Mac has approximately 560 calories, yet the burger fits within the two fist category.  But throw in medium fries and a (non-diet) soft drink and that bumps up to about 1140 calories.  By the same token, the additional food and drink also exceeds the two fist rule, so you can see where reducing how much you eat can have a real affect on calories consumed.
But why bring in so many calories to begin with by choosing unhealthy food?  Simply replacing the soft drink with a diet drink or better yet water, takes a couple of hundred calories off the table.  Switching to a small fry will help even more and avoiding this particular sandwich will make a huge difference.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking - you really don't want to give up the foods you like and neither did I.  So what did I do about food in order to lose all of my weight?
First things first - baby steps!  I didn't try to do too much too soon, rather I made changes gradually.  The first was simply eating less of all the regular stuff.  My simple trick was to eat as slow as I possibly could, pausing between each mouthful to slowly chew and swallow the food.  As soon as my stomach started to signal that it was getting full I stopped eating.
Unfortunately, my head said - eat some more.  So I begin a battle of willpower.  I didn't throw out the uneaten food, rather I stared at it and allowed it to get cold, which eventually turned me off to the idea of eating the rest of it.  This helped me reduce the AMOUNT of food I took in at any given meal.
I then begin to look a lot harder at the calories contained in the food, and focused on limiting my food intake to 1200-1500 calories per day.  (That Big Mac Meal would have pretty much covered me for the day...).  Yes I counted calories, which I know turns a lot of people off, but it helped me keep things under control.  Too much to cover here, but I provide a lot more details in my e-book, including daily breakdowns in my early going.
In addition, to help keep the calories under control, I also started eating packaged meals from the grocery store like Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones and Healthy Choice.  They actually make some pretty good stuff that will fill you up.  It wasn't a total conversion, but those meals helped me out, especially at lunch.  Typically at dinner, I stuck with normal food, but focused on keeping the calories and portions under control.
At no time did I force myself to eat stuff I didn't like, nor did I starve myself.  However, there were occasions then (and still today) where I didn't eat a meal because I wasn't hungry. Of course when I say that I get assailed by well-meaning Nutritionists who insist that you can't skip meals. (So many of them have never been overweight and don't really understand what we are going through...) I know what they are getting at, but I also learned that eating because of a certain position of the hands on the clock just doesn’t make sense.  Eating should be about fueling your body… period.   
To sum it all up, you must learn to take control of your eating habits with a focus on reducing portion size and decreasing caloric intake.  And somewhere along the way, you will want to start looking at healthier food choices.  But don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much too soon!  Baby steps are the key.  It took a long time to gain all the weight and its going to take a long time to lose it all, so be patient and focus on making lasting changes that make a difference and that you can live with forever.
So much to learn, so little space here.  If you want more information, with real life experiences, check out the Eat Slow Walk Fast Book.
Next stop is exercise, which is not a dirty word, when done creatively.

To be continued…

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Successful Weight Loss Starts With a Logical Plan - Part 2

Onward and upward, unless of course you are looking at a scale... So assuming you have gotten past the marketing hype of the 101 gazillion different guaranteed solutions available to you in the marketplace and have done a bit of research into the methods utilized by people who were successful and losing and keeping it off, you are ready to start laying out the ground work for your plan.
I know, I know - you want to lose as much as you can as fast as you can, so you can hurry up and get it over with.  Duh!  That's not how it works...  Proper weight lose is done gradually and consistently with a long term focus, because keeping it off can be harder than losing it in the first place.

The first step is to establish some reasonable short term goals based on reality not emotion.  Sure, you might want to lose 100 pounds over the next year or 20 pounds in two weeks, but that really means nothing, as you are just tossing out numbers based on dreams and desires.  The quickest way to sink your ship is to fail miserably in terms of your goals, simply because they were unattainable, not necessarily because you were ineffective.
When I first started out, my Doctor advised me that 2 to 2 1/2 pounds per week was safe and realistic.  Anything beyond that was a mistake, as quick weight loss usually leads to quick weight gain because its unsustainable.  Plus, too much too soon is not good for the body.  And to be honest, it takes quite a bit of effort to even reach that goal.  Moreover,  because since it does take significant lifestyle change to reverse the weight gain trend, a successful plan starts with baby steps and ramps up from there.  You may not even reach the 2 pounds per week mark initially, but if you stay on track with a system that makes scientific sense and is "doable" by you, you should be able to get there pretty quickly.
Though you must stay focused on not overwhelming yourself with too much too soon, you do need to start thinking about healthy foods and turn this into a goal as well.  For a meat and potatoes guy like me, moving away from burgers and fries was not easy, so I just stuck with eating LESS in the beginning.  But as I progressed, I gradually begin to push away some of the icky stuff and focus on better ingredients for the body.  The concept of improving cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, reducing sodium, etc. all became important aspects of my goals. 

What the heck, I decided I wanted to live forever and had better start thinking like that with everything I was doing if I wanted to be around for awhile.  No guarantees of how long life will last, but why not do everything in your power to be able to enjoy it for as long as you can...
Back to the weight goals.  If you can get to a level where you are dropping 2 1/2 pounds per week, that will yield about 10 pounds in a month.  Using simple math, you would lose 50 pounds in five months - I did.  But nothing is that simple, as you will hit plateaus which will require you to modify your system...sorry! 

The sad truth is that as your body loses fat, it burns less calories doing its daily routines, thus you have to decrease your caloric intake while increasing your caloric burn in order to keep things moving in the right direction.  Eventually you hit a point where it all just kind of evens out and you are probably done.  At that point you will have to re-evaluate what you are doing and make changes to your plan if you want to lose more weight.
Another thing to be aware of is that muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are building muscle through exercise, you may be losing fat, but gaining pounds.  That drives me crazy because I am such a numbers guy, but my Doctor put it into perspective when she told me to focus more on how my clothes fit, than on the scale. 
And finally, track your progress!  Initially, you may want to keep a daily diary where you track every detail about what you eat and how you exercise.  Might sound tedious - it can be - but when you throw in a couple of innocent snickers bars during the day (at 275 calories each) that can ruin your plan if you are trying to limit yourself to 1200 to 1500 calories per day. 

This is extremely important for those times when you DON'T hit your weight loss goals.  Don't fall into despair and declare that your can't lose weight no matter how hard you try.  Chances are you cheated somewhere along the way, which is the real cause for your shortcomings.  Always remember that caloric content is not directly proportional to food size.  Big calories can come in small packages, so you have to be on constant guard as to what is going in your mouth!

Is this starting to sound "unfun"?  Sure, its going to take some changes on your part, but as you will see, there can be some fun aspects as well.  In fact, since this ultimately needs to be the basis of a new life, you absolutely have to inject some fun along the way.  If you want to see what I went through, presented with a lighthearted twist, you can read the Eat Slow Walk Fast book available for Kindle at Amazon.comIt also contains all the details of exactly what I did to lose those first 50 pounds (in five months), things that I still pretty much use today to keep the 70 pounds total that I lost from coming back...and its going on six years now.

Next we will address the food aspects of a realistic plan...

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Successful Weight Loss Starts With A Logical Plan - Part 1

Happy New Year!  Are you ready to lose weight...again?  Whether is a first time endeavor or another attempt after previous failings, its the time of the year where people seem to think that they can make it happen.  Erase all the past clutter, and start fresh!  Nice concept, but actually its just Tuesday and yesterday was Monday... so don't get all excited about it being a New Year as the real method of success for you in terms of losing pounds will revolve first on method and second on resolve.

If you have ever read any of my past posts or book, then I will sound like a broken record when I say this: The key to successfully losing weight is to make a sustainable life-style change that you can live with forever.  So the starting point is not jumping into something on the first day of the new year, but rather finding something that is logical, scientific, sustainable and tailored to you.  And that is my focus in my five part series in which I will NOT promote any product or solution, but rather have a frank discussion about weight loss tactics with references to studies, etc. where you can get more information.
The average person "blows it" when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off because they fall victim to the marketing messages being thrust on them every day from literally hundreds of different companies hawking their wares. 
"Lose weight while you sleep!"
"Drop 10 pounds in five days"
"Lose fat without dieting or exercise"

The sad reality is that weight loss is a $42 Billion industry and because so many people are making so much money off of your desire to lose weight (and corresponding lack of knowledge), they aren't about to give it up.  Where do you think the money comes from to pay for Celebrity endorsements?  And did the product they were promoting really generate their weight loss, or were there hidden factors such as working with a personal Trainer?  Oh yeah, and how many of them gained back the weight? 

Please! Examine products on their own merits, not because of who is promoting them... If you want to be successful, model your efforts after those who have been successful, rather than those who are endorsing products for profit. (Here's a great place to start: National Weight Control Registry)

But anyway you cut it, the stats point to the huge failure of most products,  as less than 30% of people who try to lose weight actually do.

That's not to say that all weight loss products, concepts, plans and systems are scams, they aren't.  But even with the best solution, if you don't arm yourself with facts and a long term plan, you probably won't succeed.

The first and foremost concept is that if you burn more calories than you consume, you will ultimately start burning off fat.  By the same token, if you take in more calories than you burn off, your body tends to convert that into fat and store it away for future use.

Certainly there are other factors at work here, but if you arm yourself with this basic premise - burn more than you take in - you will have the foundation to develop a plan that works for you.

The second key concept is that it takes a combination of food management and beneficial exercise to lose weight effectively.  You really can't have one without the other. (That was a key mistake I made in my early attempts...and failures.)

The third aspect is that in order to keep the weight off, you must adopt a long-term strategy.  Whatever it is that you do to lose the initial weight needs to be something that you can continue forever.  Otherwise if you quit doing whatever it was that made the weight go away, you can pretty much guarantee, the weight will come back.  Thus, you don't want to lock yourself into some costly or distasteful program right from the start.

Ask yourself this question: can I wake up every day and happily continue on with my new lifestyle plan?

The fourth factor is that as you lose weight, your metabolism will change such that it takes an increasing effort to generate the same results.  When I weighed 297 pounds I burned more calories when walking one mile than I do at my reduced weight of 227 pounds.  Thats because it doesn't take as much energy to perform physical tasks, because of the reduced body mass.  This is one of the things that leads to plateaus in weight loss - you reach a point where your efforts are breakeven, and thus the weight loss stops.  Plateaus will require you to adjust your program if you want to drop more pounds.

It's also worth mentioning that muscle weighs more than fat, which means that as you get more fit, you could see your weight increase even as you are reducing your levels of fat.  Once you are rolling, focus as much on how your clothes fit as you do on the numbers on the scale.

So how do you develop a plan that works for you?  Start by doing some research from sources such as the National Weight Control Registry which has no ulterior motive to try and sell you something. 

Then take the FOUR FACTORS above and apply them to any program you are considering to see if it makes any sense at all.  And always read the small print, which usually says that any such product must be used with proper diet and exercise...

But at the same time, you should realize that you have the tools at your fingertips to build your own program without investing any money at all.  So lets take a look at some ideas to get you jump started on an effective weight loss strategy.

To be continued...