In January, I found myself in urgent care and shortly after, the emergency room with a cardio work up and a bunch of serious folks concerned about my sky high blood pressure (180/150s, folks). Nothing makes shit more real than EKG leads on your chest at 33 years old. I made myself hospital bargains (I’ll really get on the healthy train and never eat sugar again) followed by hospital promises (if the universe lets me go home, I will change my life dramatically, go to church, whatever). We were terrified. 33 year olds aren’t supposed to have heart problems. True, I was a few weeks post op for an unrelated surgery, and true also that earlier that day I’d spoken to nearly 300 people, my biggest crowd yet. But all morning and even after my presentation, I couldn’t shake this nagging, sinking, heavy chest pain and terrible nausea. The real problem was both simple and hard to admit: I weighed too damn much.
Eight hours later, I was finally cleared to go home, which was welcome, given that just a few hours before that, they told us if I went home AMA, I might have a stroke. That gets your attention. Real shit.
That was my health wake up call. I looked more seriously at the treadmill in my bedroom. Amazon Prime delivered not one but two blood pressure monitors. It was time to start losing. 100 pounds of weight would get me a little below my ideal target. And hopefully earn me no more ER visits. Ever.
It took two more months of thinking about it for me to start, because as you know if you’ve ever tried weight loss, you can’t start til you’re really ready. Really ready. So on March 17, I began. Today, I’m 50 pounds lighter. Healthy changes kept me off blood pressure medicine. My heart is in it to win it. The struggle has been legit, pound by pound. I’m not by any means an expert, but here’s what the first 50 pounds down taught me:
1. Everything you like to eat has 800 calories. Cheesecake, burgers, pizza. When you’re losing weight, meals should typically be in the 250-400 calorie range. Do the math.
2. Buy the equipment, the gear, the workout clothes, the gym membership–stare at it. Roll your eyes at it. You’ll use it when you’re ready.
3. Use the time you work out to get outside. If you’re heavier than you want to be, chances are good you may also be wrestling with some depression. Sunshine helps all of the above.
4. Weigh more often than you want to–every few days at minimum. This keeps you in check. Reality is a great motivator.
5. When you hit a plateau, double up on your exercise and aim for 9-11 fruit and vegetable servings a day. For me, doubling up on exercise is a run or elliptical or circuit training in the morning and then something simple and quick later, such as a walk around the block, weights while I watch tv, or 5-10 minutes of crunches and squats. And filling up on all those fruits and vegetables leaves little room in your diet for the crap that’s keeping you at plateau weight.
6. Go clothes and accessories shopping when you’re losing your resolve. Get nice shoes. And look back at the clothes you have and want to wear again and haven’t worn in a while. It helps you put the donuts and chips down.
7. Don’t think about working out–just do it. However you can. Some days your work outs will be shitty. Other days, they’ll be great. But don’t think about what they’ll be. Put your shoes on before you’re ready.
8. Drink water. Sparkling, seltzer, club. Put fruit in it to flavor it. No more full sugar soda, juice, or other calorie laden beverages, unless you’re treating yourself.
9. Find a sport and own it. Running, swimming, walking, volleyball, tennis. Read about it. Follow news about it. Think of that community as your new friends. Work up to doing something competitive in that community. For me, it was a personal half marathon course because my race was cancelled 36 hours before.
10. Find samesies foods. Want berry pie? Try a cup of berries with whipped cream and a sprinkle of granola. Similar but healthy enough. Carrot sticks in salsa at Mexican food. Pickle chips in ketchup instead of fries. Pizza toppings on half a bagel. Healthier options give you the craving satisfaction without harming your overall efforts.
11. Invest in an active hobby. For me, it’s been a theme park pass so I can go walk the park whenever I want. Entertaining and extra calorie burn. For others, it’s knitting or crocheting to keep hands busy or refinishing furniture or taking photographs that get you outside. Even walking a mall you enjoy to window shop beats sitting at home.
12. Make really small changes. Like swapping your work chair for a bouncing ball or parking far out to walk a few extra hundred feet.
I can say honestly that while not every day has been easy, every day has been worth it. 50 pounds is a big deal. Life changed for me. It’s not a stretch to say that this is the most impactful change I’ve made in my life this year–and the most rewarding. What keeps you motivated to lose weight? I’d love to hear!