Something’s lost, but something’s gained, in living every day.
— Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now
Losing weight is probably America’s #1 New Year’s resolution. It may also be the #1 failed New Year’s resolution. There is plenty of advice floating around about dieting and weight loss. Most of it, I’m told, works temporarily or not at all.
I don’t have advice to offer, but I have some experience. Over the past six months, I lost 15 pounds.
Here’s how I did it:
I got through 69 years without ever attempting “a diet.” But for many years I wanted to lose weight. I was sick of looking at the gradually expanding girth around my waist in the bathroom mirror every day and really disliked the idea of simply surrendering to it. Finally, at the age of 69, I had a “now or never” moment and decided “now” was much better than “never.”
There were other motivators (gastro-intestinal, cholesterol, etc.) and I thought weight loss, or more specifically a healthier direction for my food intake, might make a difference.
In other words, I was ready for a change. More than ready, eager. A permanent change. I never wanted to go back to the way things were. It wasn’t working.
I had a goal weight in mind but no deadline and I wasn’t in a hurry to get there, so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure. I also had a friend who wanted to lose weight. Mutual support helps. She was having success with Noom online, so I piggybacked onto that. I didn’t feel disciplined enough to follow their approach to the letter, but I checked with her on calories and paid attention to the three categories (green, yellow and red).
But first, I bought a scale. I hadn’t owned one in years and never weighed myself. Getting the scale was a tangible act that said I was serious about this. Weighing myself each morning reinforced the commitment. I kept track, writing it down, starting July 21.
Intentional changes to my routine followed — foremost was drinking more water. I have to force myself because I’m almost never thirsty. So I have to remind myself, and if that doesn’t work, my dieting partner nudges me. I feel better when I drink more water, but I have to go to the bathroom more often, especially at my age. So be it.
Next, smaller portions. Overeating was causing my G.I. distress, so I was highly motivated to eat less and, as they say, enjoy it more. I pay a price every time I overeat, so it’s not that hard to keep up my resolve.
I started saying “No” more often. No to chocolate, No to the second (or third) glass of wine, No to wine altogether as often as possible, No to a second helping, No to as many of the “extras” as I could. I wasn’t puritanical about it. As I write this, I’m coming off a night with friends where I didn’t say No enough, but it’s a good reminder to get back on track. When I weigh myself next, the numbers will motivate me.
I try not to get emotional about the weigh-in. I know the numbers will go up and down, especially since I allow myself some indulgences, so I don’t let it upset me. But if I go up 2 pounds, I feel much more determined not to go up 3, and, in fact, to go back down.
Eating more vegetables and less meat, less salt (and higher sodium prepared foods), fewer desserts, less bread, etc., all this is reinforcing because I feel better and I like feeling better.
Exercise is essential. Bike-riding and long walks in the summer and fall were critical to dropping weight. This month, the severe weather has kept me inside, so my progress stalled.
Fasting occasionally also helps. Nothing dramatic, just skipping a meal from time to time. After an indulgent evening, I often skip breakfast the next morning. Or dinner after a bigger lunch. I enjoy being hungry. It’s a clean, healthy feeling.
I have a weakness for sweets, but fruit and lighter confections like the meringues at Trader Joe’s help allay cravings.
Success is reinforcing. The numbers zigzag, but they have zigzagged downward overall. Finally doing this makes me feel good about myself by doing something good for myself.
I’ve lost about 15 pounds, going from the high 170s to the low 160s, and the difference is noticeable. Not in how I look because I wasn’t visibly obese. I haven’t been this light since college. Fifteen pounds may not sound like a lot, but pick up a 15-pound weight sometime. Not carrying that around is a relief. My knees are happier. I have more energy.
I even challenged my 8-year-old grandson, Bryce, to a race. He almost beat me, but I just loved running again. I don’t like jogging, but I love to flat-out run. I was lucky that I didn’t injure myself, but it felt great, even as my body was shouting, “You’re too old to be doing this!” For a moment, I felt young again.
There’s still a little girth to lose around my waist, so I remain committed. But this isn’t an obsession. It is, however, a permanent change, a conversion, and I’m not sure sustained weight loss is possible without that. I have no desire to go back to the “old days” of overeating and unhealthy habits. It doesn’t feel like deprivation.
I don’t know if any of this works for you, but I offer it in case it helps you firm up your resolve, heading into your weight-loss journey.
Sometimes loss is a good thing, and gain not so good.
But with loss, you just might gain a better feeling about yourself.