Weight Loss Tips From A Former Fat Guy
10 Weight Loss Tips From A Former Fat Guy Who Stayed Lean For Decades
By James Fell
I looked at the photos from our summer vacation and said, “When did I get so fat?” And the answer was, “university.” University was where I got fat. It was the freshman 15 factored by three.
Although I’d always been lean growing up, at the age of 25 I was just on the cusp of hitting “obese” on the BMI chart. Both my parents became obese as adults, and I could tell things were going in the wrong direction. I never exercised, ate poorly, drank too much … I needed to change some things.
Many lose weight and then regain it, but I lost weight and kept it off for more than two decades. I also added a bunch of muscle and kept that too. Between my personal experience and years of working in the fitness industry, these are the top ten tips I’ve learned about losing weight and keeping it off.
1. Learn to love exercise
You cannot force yourself to do something you hate day after day, week after week, year after year. You’ve got to experiment and find “your thing.” Then learn it, embrace it, get good at it, do it with friends, and perhaps even let it define you as a person.
2. Learn to love movement
There is a difference between exercise and movement. The exercise I mention above is the structured physical activity that is done mostly for the sake of sweat, although it’s good to enjoy that sweat. Movement is “non-exercise activity thermogenesis,” which is physical activity that is not exercise. It is movement that has a purpose other than fitness, but is often based around accomplishing a task. Learn more about it here.
3. Focus on achieving short-term goals
It’s the things that you do each day that lead to achieving your long-term weight loss goals. Perhaps print off a new exercise calendar each month and stick it to the fridge, and relish in ticking off each exercise regime as “done.” Learn more about setting and achieving fitness goals.
4. Consider using vanity as a motivator (but not too much)
I’m a champion of body acceptance, but know that you can love your body and still desire to improve it. And yes, this includes improving the way it looks. But it’s best if you want to improve it for yourself, not someone else. I may have originally been on a quest to look better for my wife, but it quickly became about what I wanted.
Vanity is one of those things that can go off the rails if it’s your overarching driver. Physique competitors have done some pretty horrible things to themselves to achieve a certain aesthetic. Nevertheless, a simple desire to be happier with what you see in the mirror, especially when coupled with a desire for improved health and fitness, can be a powerful motivator.
Again, use this one with caution, and don’t buy into the marketing hype of what the media pushes on us about the “perfect” body. It’s about striving to look YOUR best in a way that you’re happy with and can sustain.
I could be leaner, but I’d hate what I’d have to do to achieve it, so a modest amount of abdominal definition is good enough for me.
5. Decide that you’re not yet in the best shape of your life
I once wrote about a quest in the LA Times to run a 10K in under 40 minutes. I didn’t quite do it, but perhaps one day. After that failed quest there was the sub-four hour marathon quest, which I achieved, then the Boston qualification, which I also achieved, and maybe one day there will be an Ironman, if I can learn how to swim properly. I may be 47, but I’m not ready to slow down yet.
If you’re getting on in years and you were a super athlete as a youngster then this may not be a realistic goal, but you can decide that you’re going to keep improving and reach a new physical peak for your age.
6. Eat breakfast
It’s a myth that eating breakfast “revs up your metabolism.” However, it does set the stage for not overeating later in the day. When you eat breakfast, it helps control your appetite because you don’t stave off your hunger until later in the day. There is a phenomenon called “night eating syndrome” where people who skip breakfast, and often skip lunch, end up losing all control of their hunger and keep eating from dinner right until bed time. When you eat properly spaced meals throughout the day you can eat a moderate-sized dinner and then stop eating after that. You don’t have to eat it immediately upon waking, and fasted exercise can be used as a way to delay breakfast (discussed here), but you’re still eating a considerable meal to break that fast to make sure you don’t inhale the kitchen later in the day.
7. Focus on “satisfied” rather than “full”
It’s pretty rare that I ever feel unbutton-the-pants kind of full. I used to all the time in my younger days, but even after Christmas dinner (which I always cook, and it’s really yummy) I usually don’t need to loosen my belt. There is an old adage that says, “Eat until you are eight-tenths full.” I live this, because stuffing yourself doesn’t do much to reduce hunger at the next meal. You’re just taking in a bunch of extra calories you don’t really need.
This is something that takes practice. If you love stuffing yourself, eating until “satisfied” will take practice, but eventually, it becomes the new normal where you don’t have to think about it too much.
8. Try going to bed a little hungry
Remember what I said about eating breakfast? You don’t want to let yourself get too hungry during the day because it makes you overeat at night. However, the one time it is okay to be hungry is when going to bed because then your appetite resets itself overnight. If you can resist eating a few hundred more calories as an after-dinner snack and go to bed a little hungry, the pounds fall off. This is one of the most powerful weight loss strategies I know. However, don’t go to bed so hungry that you wake up in the middle of the night needing food. One trick I employ to avoid eating late at night is a hot cup of herbal tea. You can also try brushing your teeth to make yourself think, “I can’t eat anymore because I already brushed my teeth.”
Also, this isn’t something I recommend doing every day. Great weight loss benefits can be had by only employing it a few times a week.
9. Get most of your calories from the grocery store
Eating out is a major cause of obesity because of the high-calorie and processed nature of most restaurant food. The portions are huge and it’s super yummy so you want to eat it all. Plus bread basket, and appetizers and booze menu and dessert menu … About 95% of what my family eats I buy at the grocery store and prepare myself, and that keeps us all lean.
And so on the rare occasions that we do eat out, I can go big and not have to worry, because sometimes you just want to eat a steak the size of your head.
10. Focus on low-caloric density foods
Eleven ounces of spinach has the same number of calories as a single Oreo cookie. Focus on eating foods that have a big volume and are satisfying, yet contain fewer calories. Vegetables often fit into this category, and so does fresh fruit. Highly refined foods with added sugar and added fat don’t.
There are no miracle cures in the above, just a lifestyle approach that I’ve learned and adapted over time to become something that I like doing and can sustain. I’ll give you one bonus tip: I’ve made the decision to fight a valiant delaying action against age. I want to look and feel way younger than I actually am right up until the day I become worm food, and I’m willing to work for it.
Realize that sustained weight loss is something you have to work for, and that it’s worth it.
Good luck on your journey.
James S. Fell is a syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. Visit his site at www.BodyForWife.com for a free weight loss report. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.