Achievement Unlocked: Personal Fitness

Today marks the 365th consecutive day I have been improving my fitness. I am proud to say I’ve lost over 30 pounds. I weigh (much) less than when I graduated from college. I weigh less than when I got married (only a little). In fact, I cannot remember when I last weighed what I weigh today.

I am in the best shape of my life, ever.

Long time friends, colleagues, and my family all know that I was always a little overweight. I took my share of teasing and ribbing as a kid (you know who you are…), was pretty shy and introverted for most of my adolescent and young adult life, and have lost and gained and lost more weight in the last 30 years than I can calculate.

Some of you will remember in the late ’80s I purchased a Soloflex Muscle Machine. Naysayers told me straight away, “Don’t waste your money. You won’t use it.” I proved them wrong by using it for many years, religiously. I lost a lot of weight then, and became more fit. But I did not put any particular focus on what I ate, so my fitness gains were fragile. Then I got married.

Marriage is a different lifestyle from living alone (to say the least!) and my eating and exercise habits changed. That is to say, I exercised not-at-all, and I ate what I wanted. I gained some weight. Eighteen (and counting) years of marriage will do that, because “life happens”. And when you’re in the thick of it with your spouse, and your kids, and your job, and everything else, finding time for fitness and to eat right is difficult.

So what was different this time around?

A year ago I realized that what I was doing for fitness was not enough. I was (barely) maintaining my less-than-ideal (over)weight status, not reducing my weight. And my diet was sub-optimal: we ate out frequently which meant that any gains I might have made during the week were erased over a weekend. No progress, and it didn’t really make sense to me as to why.

I, along with some co-workers, started using an app called MyFitnessPal to monitor and log what we ate. Experts say it takes two weeks to form a new habit. Early on I had to remind myself to log what I was eating. But fairly quickly, it became part of my daily routine. And I quickly realized what I had been doing wrong all these years.

MyFitnessPal can be configured according to your weight loss (or gain) goals. So based on how much you’d like to lose per week say, 1/2 a pound, and on your current weight, it calculates how many calories you can consume. The app also allows for calories burned from exercise, which increase the total calories you can consume.

Seeing the calorie counts daily, I realized that my 5 days per week of exercise was allowing me to eat as I liked and maintain my weight during the week. But on the weekends, when I wasn’t exercising and I was eating out, I was consuming far more calories than I was burning. I knew I had to up my game.

I have a treadmill in my basement, and I was getting up at 6am on weekdays to use it. A long time ago I decided that if I was going to be able to exercise at all, I was going to have to find the time. I found it at 6am, when everyone else is sleeping. To up my game I started getting up every day to exercise. I now exercise seven days a week. But that is only half the story.

The real motivator for me has been MyFitnessPal (and several other apps and technologies that help me track my fitness and nutrition progress.) It keeps me honest with myself.

It is worth noting what I didn’t do. I didn’t join a program like Weight Watchers. I didn’t buy special food. I didn’t deprive myself. I simply counted calories. If I wanted to go out for a nice meal, I did (while doing my best not to cave totally to my food desires…). If I wanted to have ice cream with the family, I did. The trick with food, really, is portion control and knowing what you’re eating. MyFitnessPal actually makes that easy. When you see that you’re eating 2 servings of something, rather than just 1, you understand.

We hear it all the time: diet and exercise. “Diet” doesn’t have to mean “go on a special diet” or buy special food. It can absolutely mean “don’t eat so much” and “eat more of the right things.” Similarly, “exercise” can mean taking a walk around the block daily. You don’t have to join a gym or buy some equipment for your home. Just get up and start moving, every day.

Diet and exercise. That is all it really takes. And the desire to make a change.

One Comment

  1. Linda says: