I received the following plea from one of my blog readers last week:
I'm 51yrs old, weighing in at 280lbs at 5'9"...how do I get back down to at least 200 solid..I used to have it. I know it's in there somewhere underneath all that fat..HELP!
I asked if I could share my response, since questions like this are common. I followed up asking for more detail, which I included in my response below.
So you gained about 80 pounds in 10 years, about 8 pounds per year. Which boils down to overeating about 100 calories per day. I know it probably wasn't linear, but you can see how subtle weight gain can be, it sneaks up on us and all of a sudden we realize we're fat.
For me I realized I was fat...and had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic heartburn, and sleep apnea. All things that getting healthy could address. I looked at the rest of my life and asked which guy I wanted to be, the fat one who spends a lot of money managing health issues and lives a limited life, or a healthy one who is able to be active and be there for his family. But I really didn't know where to turn and like you, didn't have the energy to have to put together a eating and exercise plan.
I don't necessarily have a one-size-fits-all plan for eating well and exercise. And motivation...well, it's nice when it's there, but you can't spontaneously generate it, and it's not something that someone else can give to you. And even when you have it, it is short-lived. Having to decide each day what to eat and how to exercise is...exhausting, mentally. To the point where you tend to give up after a few weeks. Sounds a bit hopeless, doesn't it?
From my own weight loss experience (I lost about 80 lbs over 10 months), and from what I have learned since, the only successful long-term strategy relies on creating a series of healthy habits, which comprise a healthy routine. When something is a habit or routine, you don't have to worry about it anymore. I know that doesn't sound like magic or like something new, but it works. If you have a plan for better eating, then you've oriented your life around it and have made it easy to follow. Rather than looking in the fridge at 9pm and pulling out a carton of ice cream. You know what kind of exercise you're going to do, and again you've scheduled your day around it to make it happen. So you don't have to wonder when to fit it in.
You can take it all at once, or adopt each habit individually. I did the former, but I was desperate. Most people find it easier to make a single change at a time, and once it becomes a habit, adopt another. And by change, I'm not talking about going on a diet. It's more like - how can I modify the way I eat in some small way, but permanently? So if you have 3 sodas a day, cut it back to 2. Or fit in an extra 4 glasses of water a day. Or many other small changes that you'd think wouldn't have much effect, but done over time will stop the weight gain and reverse it. Remember, you only ate an additional 100 calories per day...that's like half a snicker's bar.
For exercise it can be the same. Just decide what you'll do when. If you've been sedentary, start by walking. Or in your case where you know your way around the gym, renew your membership and resolve to go a couple of times a week for 1/2 hour...initially. But go at a time when you know you won't need to reschedule or be interrupted. I get up around 5am to get my gym time in - and I never get interrupted for some reason :-) Sure, it's a bit of a sacrifice, and a bit scary at first, but after a few weeks you start looking forward to it and missing it if you ever skip. But I don't need to think about how I will fit in my exercise or how I will eat, I've made those decisions so I don't need to use willpower or motivation. It's my comfort zone. That's the goal. And it's not too hard if you take it one step, one habit at a time.
So your homework is...decide which habit you will adopt first. I don't care if it's diet or exercise-related, you get to choose. But remember, whatever you decide to do you need to make a plan around it to make it easy so that it can become a habit. The goal isn't to lose weight, it's to become healthy. And you know the reason why.
If you're looking for an easy workout to start with, consider this one. Or look through the others on my workouts page.
In terms of eating, here's the closest I've come to describing a healthy eating plan. I know it might seem easier when someone just gives you meal plans, and you can certainly look for those. But some of what we're trying to do here is educate you on the principles of clean eating so that you'll understand how to do that for yourself in the long run.
Tim (aka Shrinkinguy)
BTW you're NOT too old. I turn 53 this year and am in better physical shape than I was at 35. It's more of a mental game than a physical one.
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