November 26, 2013 by briantshock
I gained about 20 pounds right after college. I blame this mostly on getting married, since my wife made me eat three times a day, a frequency that was unheard of in my lifestyle at that point. No longer needing to walk for miles around campus, I also found myself without my primary form of exercise. I’ve since made a few small changes in my life that have seemed to help me out, and I’m just about back to my college shape (which was still not spectacular, but any improvement is a good thing).
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a paragon of good health. I still eat pretty poorly and get fast food maybe once or twice a week. That being said, I’ve managed to lose over 15 pounds and have maintained despite these terrible habits. If you are more health-minded and physically fit than I am (casting a wide net here) then please share your thoughts. These are just some fairly simple tips that worked out for me.
TIP # 1 – GET OUTSIDE AND TAKE A WALK
Your body burns a lot of calories just by existing. Any other activity you do throughout the day is only sweetening the pot. Unfortunately, my job keeps me on my ass all day, keeping my activity limited to walking from one cubicle to another. Still, any little bit helps, so I try to get up and take a quick walk in the middle of the work day, or in the evening if it’s nice out. Nothing too ridiculous, like maybe 15 minutes or so. You could also get one of those pedometers so you could get points or something while you do it. POINTS!
TIP # 2 – DON’T USE ARTIFICIAL SUGAR OR SWEETENER
Every once in a while I get the bright idea to cut out all sugars and sweeteners from my diet. This never lasts long because sugar is awesome and makes things delicious. But during my latest stint I happened to see an article on the effects of aspartame on the body, which seemed to support my ridiculous ideas. This is the artificial sweetener found in like every diet/no-cal/low-cal product out there. I never realized how widely used this was! I don’t know the exact science here, and I know new studies are coming out all the time about everything so I don’t want to get too preachy here. I’m sure in a few months we’ll read how artificial sweeteners keep us safe from the Borg or time travelers or something but for now I am comfortable with avoiding it.
It seems crazy but I feel like switching back to the full calorie, sugar-filled versions of things has helped. For example, instead of the low-fat yogurt I get the real stuff. I know soda is just sugar water and terrible for you, blah blah blah, but I don’t have many vices so this is fairly innocuous. Instead of a diet soda I’ll limit it to one regular soda, at most (usually a delicious Pepsi Throwback – made with real sugar, no HFCS here!)
TIP # 3 – COUNT THOSE CALORIES
This is critical, in my opinion. I think awareness is one of, if not the, biggest factors in weight loss. Exercise and building muscle is one thing (also one thing I can’t really speak on so I won’t touch that topic) but for straight weight loss it’s mainly a numbers game. You may know you’re eating something that’s calorie-rich but may not know exactly how much, or worse, you could be eating something you think is healthy but is in fact loaded with calories! I’m sorry Grandma, that chocolate pie you keep serving us is NOT healthy, despite “having dark chocolate” (but it sure is good)!
Everybody says you should keep a small journal with you and write down all of the food items you are consuming and count them up later. This sounds extremely tedious to me and there are a number of apps or programs you could use to make your life easier. I used the MyFitnessPal smartphone app, but I am sure there are many others that do essentially the same thing. It’s basically a huge database of food and drink items and their nutritional values, and you can search it for what you’ve been eating and add it to your own daily lists. You can give it your target weight goal, and when you hope to achieve it, and it will give you a target daily calorie count to try to hit. This can still be a little tiresome at first but once you’ve logged most of the common items you eat for a couple of weeks, you can start to ballpark the calorie count and it becomes a lot less easier.
Those are my tips! I realize I sounded like an advertisement in each of them, but I was just sharing how those worked out for me. Got any good health tips you’d like to share? Completely hate what I just said and want to refute me with facts and experience and common sense? Leave me a comment!