My weight has been an issue for me for much of my life.
I was a stocky kid off and on throughout my childhood. Just before my senior year of high school, I was able to lose a large amount of weight, and that weight loss changed my life. I was thrilled with the way people reacted to the “new” me. I stayed thin in college, and early in my career and marriage.
Weight gain happened slowly for me, beginning after my wife and I had children.
I would gain a couple of pounds one year, then maybe another five pounds the next. I would occasionally lose weight for a role at the Muni, or a high school reunion, but then, right after the event, I would slowly gain all the weight back, and then some.
Before I knew it, 15 years had passed, and those pounds had added up.
Sadly, I had given up hope of getting my weight back under control. I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to be heavy, or to use the odious phrase from the young men’s department when I was a kid, “husky.” No more leading-man roles out at the Muni for me; now I would be playing the character parts.
Then last February, right around the time of the 2011 snowstorm, my wife’s friend introduced her to MyFitnessPal.com, a free website and cell phone application that helps you count calories and track your exercise and food intake.
My wife and I both decided to check it out, with no goals and no expectations.
I’m not interested in the “social network” aspect of the site, but where the application was enormously successful for me was in showing me how many calories I was consuming each day. Knowledge is power, and I was amazed by how much I was hurting myself by not facing facts.
MyFitnessPal.com makes it very easy to learn how many calories your favorite foods contain, and how many calories you are actually eating each day.
You type in your height, weight, age and activity level, and MyFitnessPal.com tells you how many calories you should be eating to lose weight or maintain your weight.
There’s a huge database of foods listed in the system, so you can easily enter whatever item you want to eat. In many cases, if you eat a lot of frozen meals, or prepackaged food, you can scan the barcode with your smartphone, and the nutrition information is downloaded to your personal MyFitnessPal.com chart. It is truly easy to use.
My wife and I were also surprised by how easy it was for us to follow this weight loss plan. It became a game trying to budget our caloric intake for the day. If I wanted more to eat, I could earn back calories by exercising. If I really wanted a chocolate chip cookie for dessert, I would have to walk for half an hour to earn it. Talk about motivation!
Two things made a difference for me: I didn’t give up things that I really liked, and I didn’t set an unrealistic goal for myself in the beginning.
I knew myself well enough to know that if I denied myself things that I really liked, like those chocolate chip cookies, or pizza, I’d eventually cave in and fail. I have tried restrictive diets before and they always worked for me, for a while. But I was never able to maintain such a radical change in my eating habits for the long haul.
I didn’t “go on a diet” this time. The trick, for me, was to just monitor how many calories I was consuming, and then stop when I reached my limit. Moderation was the key.
I stopped eating late at night. I gave up things that I “liked,” but learned I could live without, like wine, beer, French fries and potato chips. While I still eat bread on sandwiches, I stopped eating rolls, biscuits and breadsticks before a meal.
After a month of success with MyFitnessPal.com, I started walking almost every day. I knew that if I set wildly unrealistic goals for myself (for example, finding the time in my crazy schedule to work out at a gym for several hours a day), I would eventually give up. But I could find 30 minutes, or an hour, just to get outside and walk each day. It wasn’t taxing on my body, and I found I really enjoyed the solitude and fresh air.
I bought a pedometer to help me try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Sometimes I make it to 10,000, and sometimes I don’t, but it’s a goal.
The weight came off really easily at first, just because I got my calories in balance. By changing my lifestyle, I was able to accomplish my weight loss of 60 pounds without a huge effort.
The most important factor in my success, though, was that I was ready emotionally to do it. If you aren’t ready, no one else can make you lose weight. It has to be your decision. Perhaps because I didn’t pressure myself, or set those unattainable goals, I was actually able to make a change.
And the truth is, there has been no downside to losing weight under these circumstances for me, there have only been positives: my health is better; I have more energy; I look younger; I can wear clothes I haven’t had on in 20 years; I’m taking fewer medications; theoretically I’ll live longer and stay healthier longer.
My wife and I embarked on this journey together, and she also had great success reaching her more modest goal after six months of monitoring what she was eating. It was helpful having someone to cheer on, and someone to cheer you on as well.
I realize that many nutritionists, dietitians or personal trainers may not agree with my methods, and I’m not at all saying that this is the right way to lose weight, or that it is a way that would work for other people. You should always consult with your doctor before starting any kind of a weight loss program. I was just able to discover a version of “eat less and exercise more” that worked for me.
I know that this might read like a commercial for MyFitnessPal.com, but it really isn’t. I have no stock in the company. I’m sure that there are many other programs available on your computer or your smartphone that can help you keep track of your calories and would work just as well. This is just the one that I discovered, and it worked well for me.
I know how fragile a balance maintaining your weight can be, so as we head into the winter months, I’m concerned that I will lose some of my willpower, and that I may lose some ground (by gaining some weight). I hope not, because I gave away all of my old suits.
I have hit a plateau over the past few months, and realize that if I want to lose these last 5 to 10 pounds, it’s going to take more effort. But I hope that I’ve made some positive changes in my lifestyle and the way that I think about food and exercise, and that will help me stay on track and keep me focused into the future.
Gus Gordon has been the chief meteorologist at NewsChannel 20 since February of 1990. He and his wife, Claire, are the parents of two children, and are founding members of both Gordon Productions and Over the Moon Productions. Gus also produces special events at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.