John lost 43 pounds over the course of 2009 and hit goal in November of 2009. He has maintained his loss for 6 months now.
Here are answers to the questions you (and I) posed to John:
1. What kind of weight issues have you had in your lifetime?
I have had from 20 to 40 lbs to lose ever since I was about 10 years old. I was always really poor in gym class, always picked nearly last for team sports. In adulthood I went through various phases of trying to lose/losing some/ gaining it back slowly; you know the drill.
2. What made you decide to lose weight?
I was inspired, about 2/3 by Lori’s lasting weight loss, and the other 1/3 by just wanting to not be another overweight American. I don’t have health insurance, so I’ve got incentive to get healthy on my own and reduce my contribution to soaring health costs.
3. What were your strategies to lose?
First, I recorded everything I ate using The Daily Plate (now part of livestrong.com). After four months of that (which really helped remind me of how many calories are in a lot of foods I encounter regularly), I starting using my own take on Weight Watchers points to keep a count. I just let 1 point = 50 calories (never mind about the fat and fiber part of the calculation — they pretty much cancel each other out). It just makes it easier to count. Instead of “gee, I had eaten 775 calories today, and dinner was 460, so… how much have I eaten now?“, I now just round everything to the nearest point and keep track of points in the notepad on my cell phone. So a 485 calorie breakfast is 10 points, lunch of 425 is 9, snack is about 6 points, and I am at 25 points for the day, easy. I’ve never actually been a member of WW, I just like the point system. Now I don’t even write my point total down at all, I keep it in my head. It is nearly always the same or very close because I have a very regular routine (10 points for breakfast, 8 for lunch, 6 for afternoon snack, 10 for dinner = 34 points)
Then there was the exercise part. When I started I was 213 pounds, and allowed myself 2000 calories or 40 points a day. (Today at 170 I get about 1800 cals on maintenance, plus exercise calories). Whatever exercise I did I got a credit for those calories burned. I started Jan. 1, 2009, so for the cold months it was mostly just walking, from 30 to 60 mins per day of fast walking. Starting in late March to early April I began getting in bike rides and running. I had never been able to run more than about 8 minutes at a time in my life, but I worked on it, alternating walking and running and covering 5k. I gradually increased the amount of running in spurts, from almost none, until the end of the summer I could run the whole 3 miles. Biking had been part of my life for many years, but I got more serious about that and took longer and longer rides with Lori. It is great for fat burning, and for burning enough calories to really eat something! I don’t know if it’s technically correct but I give myself 2 points extra food per mile of walking, 3 points per mile of running, and 3/4 point per mile of biking. I find giving myself credit for those points really gives me incentive to exercise.
4. What was the hardest part about losing?
I think the hardest thing for me is controlling what I eat for desserts and snacks after dinner. We tend to eat dinner by 5:30 and be done by 6pm, so that leaves a lot of time there to wander to the kitchen. Lori likes to stop eating after 8pm, but I find it works better for me to try not to eat anything until at least 8pm, then have something which keeps me satisfied until say 10pm and maybe at the most have one more small snack before bed. If I eat before 8 I am liable to keep snacking semi-continuously.
Also to help out my sweet tooth, I started keeping hard candies around. I can pop one or two after a meal instead of wanting a dessert right away. I have to be careful not to abuse them by having 5 or 6, but even when I do, at 20 calories each it is not a big sin. I will never vanquish my sweet tooth, I just have learned to work around it a bit.
5. What would you say is the key to your success in maintaining?
I think a regular day-to-day routine, portion control, and limited eating out have been the most important.
Most restaurants are in the business of making the food as rich and satisfying (to American tastes) as possible without regard for calorie-content or health. Everyone is on guard when it comes to fast food chains, but you also have to worry about casual dining eateries that I call collectively “T.G. McChiliganbee’s” (an amalgam of some places you can probably recognize), and just local mom-and-pop restaurants as well. You have to be so careful if you eat out on a regular basis. I think it is no coincidence that Lori and I reached our peak obesity at the time I was making a lot of money and we ate out daily at least, and often multiple times per day.
6. Do you have to work as hard as Lori does to maintain?
I’d like to say yes, but that could result in divorce. No I don’t. I don’t lift weights at all. She’d go on 5 or 6 mile runs (before her injury) while I do 3 miles max. I get close to 2000 per day, while she does not. It generally seems easier for men, but then again I have 2 uncles with serious weight problems, while my sisters have never had trouble with their weight, so maybe it’s genetic.
7. What has been the best part of losing the weight?
Buying new clothes and looking better in them. Feeling stronger and healthier is its own reward.
8. What do you for fitness? I know you ride a bike, but what about lifting? Do you love it like Lori does? (Editorial note here, Lori laughed and laughed at this question)
No I’m not a lifter at all, I don’t go to the gym. This spring is making me think I’d like to get a stationary bike setup of some kind at home, to stay in better shape over the winter. Up until now I have just switched to walking (outside) during the winter months. But it’s a looonngg winter here and I was surprised how much strength and endurance I lost this year.
9. Which is harder for you, losing weight or maintaining and why?
In the past, maintaining was always difficult, mostly because at some point I’d get at least a bit depressed and just stop caring. But I heard about a recent study that says that exercise is actually more important for maintaining weight loss than it is for losing the weight in the first place, and I am exercising a lot more this time around. Although I don’t much like running itself, I do notice and like the seratonin lift I get after finishing. I think that has helped me avoid the depression (along with an excellent e-book I found a few years ago, called ‘The Way Up from Down’, by Priscilla Slagle, a psychiatrist who suffered from moderate depression herself. It is available for free download at www.thewayup.com. She recommends a regimen of certain standard amino acids, tyrosine and tryptophan, plus vitamins.) This time I’ve gotten through Thanksgiving, Christmas, the SuperBowl, 4 days on a floating 24-hour buffet they call a cruise, and our Mardi Gras and Easter dinners with basically no gain (okay, 1 lb).
10. Favorite foods that fit into your healthy lifestyle?
I love breads, so I guess I will never be a low-carb dieter. Dark chocolate shall be eaten daily, by me, amen.
Love of food should be part of your motivation! If you let yourself go, someday a doctor is going to tell you not to eat this or that anymore. And you are going to be forced to give it up, and probably feel like sh** too. With control you can eat smaller amounts of the foods you love and take care of your body.
11. What are your plans now for future fitness or healthy living?
I have no desire to run marathons, climb mountains, or become an ironman right now, but I’ll let you know.
Eating wise, I will just keep enjoying a variety of foods and avoiding anything resembling guilt.
What is one tip you can give to someone who is struggling to stay on track?
Don’t remove favorite snacks from your house completely. But, never take the whole bag or box with you out of the kitchen (and don’t stand in the kitchen eating from it (ahem, Lori)). Get some very small dishes (we have a set of 4oz ramekins). Fill one up and put the bag away. Set it down and see if you can wait til the top of the hour before you eat it. Drink a big cup of tea or other non-calorie liquid with it. Enjoy!
Thank you, John! I am so proud of you. I am glad you are fit and healthy now because I want you to be around for a long, long time 😀