When I was around 28, I gave a devotion at church on principles of success. I've long forgotten the details, but I remember the three main points: Vision, Action, and Persistence. Twenty years later, I still believe them to be valid. They were the corner stones of my plan to loose 50 pounds. My weight loss plan should work as long as you do not have any known or hidden medical problems - but the principles are sound and can be modified to meet your situation, with a doctor's advice if necessary.
A vision is more than a daydream. It is a concrete goal reinforced with the motivation to succeed.
I had known for a long time that I had allowed myself to become overweight but I planned to start working on it "first thing next week". Occasionally I would be reminded when a friend had bypass surgery that sedentary men my age dropped dead from heart attacks all the time. But, like many people, I kept putting off doing anything. There were three events that helped me change my attitude and become motivated to take action:
Weighing myself was an important step in my getting from a daydream to a vision. Being sufficiently motivated, I decided that my ultimate goal was to reach and stay at 155 because it was the weight at which I had felt my best. My mid-term goal would be 50 pounds in a year.
The first step in taking action is to formulate a plan. The plan can be modified as required, but it must take the long term view. Note: A crash diet can be dangerous and is not likely to keep the weight off. You have to make a permanent life style change. You probably can loose weight by eating nothing but grapefruit, but would want to only eat that for the rest of your life? If not, it is not a good plan.
Initially, my plan was a little vague. I considered my life style: I ate when, what, and how much I wanted. After I ate my evening meal, I parked myself in front of the TV, periodically returning to the kitchen to "graze". I quite often ended my evening with a bowl of ice cream. I decided that just about anything I did to change my eating habits would reduce my weight. I also realized that having smaller goals and work towards them would help me be more focused and motivated. Loosing a pound a week seemed like an achievable goal (that would be 52 pounds in a year).
About the same time I decided to loose weight, I read an article on the possible side effects of Aspartame - I was drinking 5 or 6 diet drinks a day. I had been experiencing some problems that I thought might be related, including an unusual craving for sweets, and decided to eliminate all Aspartame from my diet. I started drinking more water and learned to drink black coffee - regular soft drinks contain a LOT of sugar. Common sense made me begin to limit sweets in general (goodbye evening ice cream). Reading several articles revealed that the body treats all carbohydrates the same way it does sugar - if not immediately burned, they are converted to fat. As I learned more, I began to modify my diet, but I did not wait until I had learned everything I could before acting. (More about food on "details" page.)
I knew that I could loose a certain amount of weight by modifying my diet. But I also wanted to do something to improve my cardio-vascular system. I knew that I was in no shape to start jogging and aerobics did not appeal to me. I chose walking because it was an activity that I have always enjoyed. Walking is a reasonably safe and inexpensive way to improve health and loose excess weight when combined with sensible eating habits.
Having spent a lot of years taking it easy, I figured I should start slow and build up the time, speed, and distance that I walked. I also decided that it was important that I be consistent in walking - 4 to 6 days a week. It was January when I began walking, so I began indoors - at work during lunch and other places that I could walk at the pace I wanted for about 30 minutes.
There are a few things that I consider important for effective walking. Time: Less than 30 minutes of continuous walking doesn't seem to do anything for me. Over a period of several months I increased the amount of time that I walk from 30, to 45, to an hour, then, to an hour and 10 minutes at a time. Speed: I walk as fast as I comfortably can. I walk a lot faster now than when I first began because I knew that if I pushed too hard I could hurt myself. Your body will generally let you know when you are pushing to hard. Terrain: During the first couple of months I was walking for exercise, I walked inside. Before it warmed up enough to walk outside, I added climbing stairs - you can burn a lot of calories in less time climbing stairs. When I began walking outside, I found that including hills burned more calories than level ground - but it requires a different way of walking. (More about walking on "details" page.)
The one ingredient that separates winners from losers is persistence. History is crowded with people who quit and others who went on to succeed at the same goal doing the same activities. There are countless stories about people who found themselves discouraged to the point of despair, who persisted, only to discover later that they been at the brink of reaching their goal at their lowest emotional moment. Don't give up on a worthwhile goal.
I remember episodes in my life when persistence would have paid good dividends. As a music major, I was required to take piano lessons in college. I stuck with it long enough to give one recital before I left college to join the Navy. But I never spent time at the keyboard again. No one would want to hear me try to peck out a tune today. I have since discovered that with piano time spent playing different music is perhaps the most important aspect of becoming competent. I understand the principles, know where the notes are, can read music, but, because I quit practicing, I cannot play even the simplest piece.
Know this about using my weight loss plan: while you might have periods of continuous weight loss, there will be also be periods when you reach a plateau. Just keep going - if you are eating sensibly and exercising your body will eventually respond. The only times that I have been concerned about my progress is when I went a whole month without loosing any weight. When that happened, I revaluated what I was doing. I could increase my walking or change my eating habits. Not wanting to use more of my time walking, I modified my diet, cutting down some high calorie items, and continued on.
Success is a process. You are either making forward progress or you are shortly going to slide backwards. When you you have almost reached your desired goal, it is time to begin the process again. Decide where you want to be in another one, five, and ten years. Maintaining is easier than starting out, but it still requires vision, action, and persistence. In my late twenties, I successfully lost 30 pounds in 3 months and kept off for a year. I lost my focus while changing jobs and adjusting to a new location. I did not immediately put on 50 pounds, but because I quit following principles of success, I gradually lost control of my weight. Once I realized my condition, I begin to apply the principles I had discovered. The process has been very rewarding. I have more self-confidence, I am in better health than 20 years ago, and I am less worried about weight related problems.
If you want it, take action, and persist, then you too can succeed!
An unexpected benefit: When I was 19, I began experiencing a reflux problem that continued to bother me constantly thereafter. I got to the point where I always carried some antacid tablets with me. When Pepcid AC became available as an over-the-counter drug, I took one every night before bedtime. I was only able to sleep comfortably on my left side. I could turn on my right side for only a few moments and never on my stomach. I eventually had to raise the head of my bed.
Then, several months ago when my weight dropped below 175 (35 pound loss), I quit having to take anything for the reflux problem. Since then I have been able to sleep in any position and I have removed all elevation devices from my bed. This alone has made all efforts to loose weight and get in better shape worthwhile.
Some details about my weight loss
Questions or Comments?