What started my weight loss journey was the decision to make a lifestyle change, which entailed a major diet change and adding exercise to my life. I also had to STOP making excuses. If you keep making excuses, the list below will never help you.
Picture: Alexander Dashewsky/Shutterstock
The purpose of the list is to illustrate what actions I took that assisted me in losing weight. People always ask me "how did you do it?" So I figured I might as well document how I did it — and I am hoping that one or two things will help someone with their weight loss journey! Now, please keep in mind while reading that I am not a nutritionist or personal trainer. I am just a person with knowledge that was gained through experience.
Prepare Breakfast at Home
What didn't work: Back in the day, I would wake up with enough time to just shower, shave and walk out the door. I would then pick up some type of fast food breakfast "meal" on the way to work. Typically, the visit would include leaving with at least two sandwiches and a large soft drink. With all those calories, this obviously helped me gain weight and eventually reach 160kg. If it wasn't a breakfast sandwich, it was doughnuts.
What worked: I started preparing and eating my breakfast at home. Yes, this meant I had to get up at least 30 minutes earlier than what I was doing before. I stopped visiting McDonald's, Burger King or any type of doughnut shop. This stopped me from consuming 600-800 calories before I even started the work day, eventually crashing later in the morning due to all the bad food I ate.
Nowadays, I eat foods that will give me energy, have complex carbs, fibre and protein, and I always keep the total nutrition value in mind. Over the years I went through phases of having some of these items before I left for work: 4-5 egg whites, two full eggs, oatmeal, steel cut oats with berries and veggie/fruit smoothies with my Vitamix blender.
You Can Do It! What I suggest to others is this: as soon as you wake up, drink 450-600mL of room temperature water (with lemon or without) and then eat some type of breakfast at home. Some examples are: 3-5 egg whites, 1-2 full eggs, fruit, steel cut oats, veggies or fruit with eggs. What to avoid: sugary items or breads. These type of foods do not have any nutritional benefits, will cause a energy crash, and they will not help keep you full. Fibre is key here, because it will assist with having a "full" feeling. Keep your calorie count in mind. Visit MyFitnessPal if you are not sure how many calories you need to eat on a daily basis.
Prepare and Bring Lunch to Work
What didn't work: In the 160kg+ days, lunch was about visiting a local fast food establishment and eating what sounded or looked good. Not too many veggies or fruits were involved in these meals. The number of calories was never thought about and extra cheese sounded good to me. Once in a while I would bring in leftovers, but I'm pretty confident it was not a salad.
What worked: I prepared my lunch at home and brought it to work in a lunch cooler. Yes, I still do this today, even if I have to carry it while taking the train and walking a mile to work. I have learned that the preparation part really doesn't take too long and at times it can be done the night before. The majority of the time, my lunch meal has been the same over the last five years or so. Nowadays, it typically is a salad (baby spinach, cucumbers and tomatoes) with chicken.
You Can Do It! Find what you like to eat (that is nutritious) and bring it to work. Do you like chicken, fish, meat? Can you have that with some type of salad (lettuce or spinach)? Add some fruit to it, and you will have a nutritional meal and a good amount of energy to finish the day. Basically, what I suggest is to make sure your meal has veggies and fruit, and you decide if you want to add meat or not!
What to avoid: Meals with a lot of carbohydrates, sodium or sugar. The good news is that whatever you bring to work should be better than what most restaurants have to offer.
Prepare a Workout Schedule
What didn't work: Not working out. I never ran before I started on my journey, and I rarely lifted weights during my younger years. The lack of movement in my early years is the reason why I was overweight for the first 25 years or so.
What worked: Setting a workout schedule and being flexible with it. At times throughout these years, I've worked out at a gym and then other times at home. Choose what is best for you and will help you succeed. When I first started, I determined what days worked out best for me and at what time of the day. I stuck with this, unless my wife and I had some type of obligation. If we had an appointment, then I switched around the time or day, but rarely skipped my workout. For a while I worked out after work, then I changed it up and I would wake up at 3.30am and complete my workout before my work day even began.
Today, I do a mixture — some days at 4.30am and other times at 7.30pm. My wife and son know what days I workout and what days I rest. The days I rest or workout in the morning, I read to my son at night. The nights I have to workout at night, my wife does the reading. I like to find a balance between my working out and my responsibilities as a parent. The main component of my exercise routine is running because I am a runner with many running goals. I've gone through phases where weightlifting days were just as important. However, for me, running is what helped me drop the weight quickly.
You Can Do It! Set a schedule. Determine how many days you want to commit to. Is it only three because you are busy with other obligations? Then do three. It's better than none. Can you do five? Then pick which days it will be, communicate it to your family and get going. Are you a morning person or night? Pick the time and start the journey. The time you do it versus someone else is not important, just do what works for you. Also, I truly believe after so many hard lessons (injuries), that your body and mind need to rest from exercise. So when you do have a rest day, rest it. Do not force some type of activity on that day. I also recommend you mix up your workouts. If you're a runner, add weight workouts and bike days so your body is building and using other muscles.
Prepare Some Goals
What didn't work: Not having any fitness or weight loss goals. When I didn't have any goals, I had nothing to strive for, I lost focus and I wanted to give up some days.
What worked: Setting weight loss or fitness level goals. I knew I wanted to lose at least 45kg, but I also knew I needed to break that into mini-goals. So every three months, I set a goal of losing 10kg. It gave me a good benchmark and pace to meet my goal of 45kg in one year (which I ended up losing in 11 months). The short term goals pushed me to high levels too. If I wanted to be negative 10kg by week 12, and in week 11 I had a total of minus 8kg, I did what it took to lose those last 2kg to be sure I met my objective.
You Can Do It! What are your goals? Do you need to lose 20kg? Do you want to do it this year? If so, then break it over the number of months left in the year, then set mini-goals. Have something to shoot for every 2-3 months. If you only have one goal, it will be hard to be telling yourself you are making progress. Meeting any type of goal feels great — which is why those mini ones are important to have. It doesn't have to be a weight goal either. It could losing a certain number of inches, it could be running a 5k, it could be anything you want — but make sure you have something to keep you honest with your progress.
Remember, this is a journey. It is OK to fail. What matters is that you get back up. You can't lose 50kg in 10 days, it is just not that easy. Let it be hard — you will learn so much about yourself and what you are capable of.
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Fred Lechuga is author of the weight loss journey website, Fat2fitFred. Fred lost over 70kg with lifestyle changes to his eating habits and adding exercise to his daily routine. He has now kept it off for over five years. The blog website includes stories about how he lost weight, kept it off and his running experiences. It will also include stories about other people who have succeeded with make dramatic changes to their life. He is now a marathon runner, with a PR of 4 hours, 11 minutes and a half-marathon PR of 1.50. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.