It’s pretty easy to tell it’s a new year. Sure, there’s the date on the calendar, thereby messing up most of the checks I write for about a week, but the other clues are the magazine covers - diets, diets, DIETS! And it’s not just magazines, I have no doubt that every talk show, morning show and news program for the next week will have an infinite number of stories about HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT. Annoying, right?
Well, at the risk of adding to your annoyance, I’m going to share another diet story – MY story. In the coming weeks you will hear from lots of celebrities - Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Janet Jackson - about their weight loss success. I'm not a celebrity, so I thought you might want to hear from a regular girl from Wauwatosa. I was really torn about doing this, but if there’s a chance that it might inspire just one person to get a little healthier this year, it seems worth the risk.
A year ago, I was a different person….a larger person…about 50 pounds larger, to be exact. Then something happened. I was playing tennis, which I’ve done for the past 6+ years. I LOVE tennis. I’m addicted. And yet I found that I was really huffing and puffing on the tennis court. I was very frustrated not being able to get to the ball.
Then on January 27th, 2011, I signed up for Jenny Craig. (I think they just call it Jenny now. Doesn’t matter. Same program.) No, this is not a commercial for that. You can sign up for anything – Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem – it’s all a similar premise. Monitor your food intake and increase your exercise.
To be honest, I was skeptical. This was my third time doing Jenny Craig. I had also done Weight Watchers and Nutri-System. Four times I lost a lot of weight and each time it came back. But I decided this time to change my goal. Sure, there was a weight I wanted to reach, but my new goal this time was to lose weight and keep it off. In other words, I’m never “done.”
I chose Jenny Craig because I like their food and I’m not much of a cook. Plus, I preferred their one-on-one “counseling” to group or online sessions. I needed to go in every week and step on a scale in front of another person. This is what motivates me.
It was NOT easy. As you may know, I have a dining out column. I go out to eat on a fairly regular basis. I was going to have to dial WAY down on the portions and start making better choices.
I was going to have to work out more often. Three sessions of moderate tennis were not enough. I needed to move and sweat…regularly.
My biggest challenge was my metabolism. For those of you that have reached middle age, you may have found, like I have, that the metabolism slows down. Or should I say, shuts down?
Somehow, with all of these changes, I did it. The pounds came off SLOWLY, but eventually they came off.
September arrived and three big things happened: I hired a personal trainer, I joined two online diet/fitness sites and I reached my goal weight. Until then, I still thought my chances of keeping the weight off were, pardon the pun, slim. I always knew that weight training was important when getting older. Bone density diminishes as we age. I also knew that although I could hit tennis balls hard, I couldn’t do even one push up. Seriously. I finally convinced my husband that we would both benefit from personal training and in September, we met the crew over at Excel Personal Training. We each got our own trainer and started doing twice weekly sessions.
Then my son introduced me to two online sites that he used: Fitocracy and Calorie Count. Fitocracy is an online “social media” community where you log your workouts and get points. The more you work out, the more points you get and the higher levels you achieve. People follow you, you follow them and sometimes there’s a little friendly online competition. It was created by video gamers and it’s quite fun.
Calorie Count is an online way to track your food intake. Along with a website, they also have smartphone apps, so no matter where you are, you can record what you are putting into your mouth. (There are others, including Daily Burn.) THIS has made a HUGE difference for me. In the past, after I have achieved a goal weight, I did fine for a while, but eventually old eating habits came back. Now, I really think about whether I really want to snack. (I’m a “bored” eater.) Somehow, it keeps me honest. You can also track your workouts so you can see whether your fitness output has been offset by your calorie intake.
Look, I’m not saying I’ve got it figured out. I’m really lucky in that I have time to do a lot of workouts. But time is both a blessing and a curse for me. (Remember I said I’m a bored eater?) I will say that I choose to work out now when I didn’t before. I choose to make better food choices. To me, that’s what the difference is, DECIDING ahead of time that when I have lunch with the girls, I’m ordering a salad with dressing on the side. Or DECIDING that tomorrow morning, I’ll get up early and drag my butt to the gym and get on the elliptical or go walking at the Petit Center when the weather is bad. I'm trying not to allow myself to make excuses.
Yes, I slip up. Yes, I splurge sometimes. But I’m staying on track thanks to monthly weigh-ins at Jenny Craig, daily tracking of my food intake, twice-weekly weight training, tennis and points I earn on Fitocracy. Somehow, all of this together is working…so far. But honestly, going public with this is a little scary for me. I feel like I’m jinxing my success. When I cleaned out my closet of larger clothes, I stored them in the basement in fear that I’d need them again someday. Maybe I’ll take a huge leap of faith and donate them.
So that’s my story. Wishing you a healthy, happy 2012.
Update: I wrote this a year ago and I'm happy to tell you that I've not only maintained my weight loss, but I'm holding at 60 - 65 pounds less than I was when I started. Is it hard work? Yes. Are there days when I fail? YES. But every day, tracking my calories in and my calories burned are simply part of what I do.
In 2012, I started running. I ran a Quarter Marathon in June. I still run occasionally. I also walk...a LOT. This past summer, I've walked a half-marathon - TWICE....just to prove I could do it. Nothing feels more empowering than reaching a fitness goal like that. NOTHING.
My way of losing weight and maintaining that weight loss isn't for everyone, but I'm certain you can find one that works for you - if you want to. That's the secret - resolve. Just simply decide it's what you'll do. I promise it will be worthwhile for you.