Just as important as the commitment to being healthy is to come up with a plan to get you there. Consider what you'd like to accomplish and then start thinking about what it will take to get you there. When I sat down with my personal trainer, we began a process of determining a challenging yet realistic goal.
Step 1: Know your body composition
How much fat and how much lean muscle is contributing to your weight? If you don't know how much fat you're hefting around, how do you know how much you need to lose in order to achieve a "normal" body fat percentage. The table below give the normal ranges for men and women:
So in October 2013, I weighed around 290 pounds. We measured my body fat percentage at 35.3%, so doing the math, 290x.353 = a whopping 102 pounds of fat! Ignoring water, that makes roughly 290-102 = 188 pounds of lean muscle. If you don't know how to measure fat percentage, check this out.
Step 2: Set an overall goal
The goal isn't to lose all of the fat, obviously, just to get down to a normal body fat percentage. So let's say I wanted to get down to the lowest "average" percentage for men, 18%. So at my target weight, I'd be at 18% body fat. We also assume I won't lose any lean muscle along the way, which may or may not be realistic (for me it was, I only lost 2 pounds of lean muscle). So my 188 pounds of lean muscle represents 82% of my target weight, if that makes sense. So my target weight equals 188/.82 or 229 pounds, let's round to 230 pounds. Great, so I only need to lose 60 pounds! That seemed like such a lot of weight to lose at the time, but I was committed. Nothing was going to hold me back. Oh yeah, you also need a timeframe. Healthy weight loss takes place at about 1 to 2 pounds per week. So at 2 pounds a week, 60 pounds would take 60/2 = 30 weeks. Wow. But if you think about it in terms of months, it's only 7.5 months. Just think, it took me about 30 years to put on all that weight, and less than one to take it all off - not too shabby. So with a start date of October 15th, 2013 the goal would be June 1st, 2014.
Step 3: Set an initial goal
You can't eat an elephant all at once. Hmm, perhaps a bad metaphor. Anyway, if I made my first goal to lose 60 pounds, I think I'd get pretty discouraged with how long it was taking. Better to set some interim milestones, the first being a 5% weight loss. That's challenging, but doable in a fairly short amount of time. 5% of 290 is about 15 pounds, at 2 pounds per week is about 8 weeks, or 2 months.
Ok, we're all set - we know where we are starting, and where we are headed, and how long it should take to get there. Just having the goals defined doesn't get us there, however. Now we need a nutrition plan and an exercise plan.
To be continued...