Losing the weight for the New Year

A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions. Just this morning my local gym was full of people. At 5:30 in the morning! Normally at that time its me and two other people…and I suspect it will return to that group size again by January 31st.

Yup, that was this week.

But that’s being judgemental. We all know that you will fulfill your New Year’s resolution! You are waaaay better than all those other slobs.

Maybe. Since many of you will make resolutions to lose weight, you should know that I did just that a few years ago. I was weighing in at 225 to 230 pounds. While I would pass the tape test for the Navy, I hated it. For the longest time, I just accepted that I was big, or big boned, or had some fat gene, or some other excuse. And then one day, when I got taped yet again during our semi-annual physical test, I just got mad, and I told myself I would lose weight. One year later, I stepped on the scale at a physical test and didn’t get taped. I nearly hugged the young Petty Officer who was weighing me. It was probably awkward.

So if you said you’d lose weight, read on, because I will walk you through how I made it happen.

Step 1 is admitting that you are overweight and if you don’t fix it, it will kill you. Plenty of people want to lose “5-10” pounds, but that’s hard because your body is happy to sit at your current weight, and your entire schedule makes you that way. Admitting that you are fat, and that it will kill you if you don’t fix it, helps you make the hard choices about changing your habits.

Seriously. Fat will kill you.

Once you admit you’re fat, step 2 is learning how to cook. When I was well over 200 pounds, eating out was a regular thing. I wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a burger, fries and a drink. But eating out is terrible on your diet. You don’t pick ingredients. You get lots of added sugar. It’s more expensive than cooking, which means you buy cheaper crap food for when you do eat at home. Eating out kills your diet, no questions asked.

So learn how to cook. Make a meal plan for the week, buy groceries and stick to it. I used to make a big plate of lasagna and cut it up for lunches during the week. It’s harder to say “I’ll just grab a burger” when your lunch is already packed. When you eat out, skip the appetizer. Also, drop the soda habit. Seriously. It’s empty calories. You get nothing but high fructose corn syrup and other garbage ingredients in soda. Drink water: its free, fills you up and is actually good for you.

Once you start cooking a bit and cutting down on eating out, its time for step 3, actually exercising. Don’t bother with “calorie counting” for exercises. You’ll be dismayed at how few calories you actually burn on a run. Unless you’re a marathoner, you’re not going to burn that super-sized McDonalds off in a 1 mile run. But exercise isn’t really about burning calories during that run. It’s more about building muscle. Just resting, muscle will burn more calories than fat. Exercise boosts your metabolism, so you burn more calories during the day than previous, couch-potato you burned. Plus, with more muscle, you’re more likely to stay active. All those little gains are what makes exercise important in the long run.

So to actually start, get outside and walk. Then get some decent running shoes and jog. Then run a bit. Then, and only then, get a gym membership and start weight lifting. Running or using the elliptical machine might seem like a good idea, but it’ll only get you so far. Lifting weights will build that long term muscle you need. That goes for the girls and the guys. If you’ve never lifted weights, ask for help. Almost every gym has a weight lifting class. Once someone helps you build a routine, download an app to keep track of your exercises and weights. I happen to use Simple Workout Log, but you can use whatever works for you.

The last bit is the simplest and hardest: rinse and repeat. Every day, tell yourself that being fat is going to kill you. Every day, watch your diet, even for those little sugary snacks. Every day, get a bit of exercise in. That’s how you chip away at your weight. That’s how I dropped 30 pounds. It wasn’t overnight, it wasn’t magic, and it didn’t involve a pill. It took discipline and constant little battles to eventually win that large war.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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