Little break in the writing and reading content today to talk about a small improvement I’ve made in my life that I wanted to share…
Namely, how I’ve figured out how to shed some unneeded pounds without doing anything unhealthy, and without going insane.
I’m not suggesting anyone needs to lose weight to be happy and I’m not telling anyone they need to lose weight, by any means. This is something I’ve wanted to do for me for some time now, and I’ve finally managed to do it, so in case anyone is in the same boat, I wanted to share my tips.
So, me: I’ve never been super overweight. But I have generally always weighed a little more than I’ve wanted to (and a little more than average for my height). I have a slow metabolism and it takes me ages to gain or lose weight–meaning, anything I do now I won’t see results for months down the line–and it’s always just been this small nagging thing that’s been there my whole life: I just want to lose a little weight.
I haven’t been successful in the past because 1) I don’t have a ton of free time to exercise 2) I don’t like exercise 3) I don’t have a ton of self-discipline when it comes to exercise and 4) I have very little self-control when it comes to eating and drinking what I want.
I mean, I’m generally good at not buying the foods that make me gain weight. BUT, if something delicious is sitting there in front of me, I’m incapable of not eating it. I like good food, I like good booze, pasta is my favorite thing in the world, and food and drinks are one of my main ways of soothing myself, rewarding myself, de-stressing myself.
Yet over the past few months I managed to lose weight doing two small habit shifts, one having to do with exercise, one having to do with food.
1. How to make aerobic exercise something you look forward to
Since discovering yoga several years ago, I haven’t given it up, but an hour of yoga doesn’t generally burn tons of calories. (I know there’s more aerobic yoga you can do, but I like–and need–the strengthening kind.) So I needed to supplement it with running or something similarly calorie-burning. Problem was, I don’t like running, so it was hard to motivate myself to do it.
Then there’s the elliptical machine.
I like this machine because 1) it’s low impact and I have a history of knee injuries and 2) you can do stuff while working out on it, namely read and watch videos. I would read on the elliptical machine, which works for a little while, but then I would always start to get bored about 30 minutes in and need to stop. I needed noise to help me through it. So I started watching Netflix, but then it got hard to find shows I was into enough to distract me. Then I came up with an idea.
I had been wanting to do a Buffy rewatch for a little while, but stopped myself because I’ve seen Buffy SO MANY TIMES. That’s when I came up with my brilliant plan: I could watch Buffy–but ONLY when I was on the elliptical machine.
It was a game-changer. I would wake up on Saturday and instead of wheedling over whether or not I wanted to go down to the gym, I would think about how excited I was to watch the next episode of Buffy. Then once I was there, I’d stay on the machine for 1.5-2 hours, squeezing in all the Buffy I could. 1,000 calories burned, all while doing something I loved.
(Note: It helps tremendously that I have a gym in my building now, so I can just wander on down to it whenever I have time. If we ever move out of this building I think I’ll just buy an elliptical machine, because it’s made such a huge difference.)
2. Set weekly calorie goals … but don’t start your weeks on Monday
I discovered My Fitness Pal a couple of years ago. It’s an app where you input everything you eat and your exercises, and it gives you weekly tallies. I’ve found this useful not only for tracking calories, but for tracking nutrients (as a vegetarian I’m always needing to make an effort to get enough protein). I liked it because it tracks things weekly instead of daily (same way I track my writing!) so if you mess up one day, you can make it up the next without stressing.
Easy, right? Well, no.
I would start my weeks off fine on Mondays, staying under my calorie goals so I could eat a little more on the weekends. But I still always, always went over on the weekends. “I’ll succeed next week!” I said to myself, for over a year, while continually failing to do just that.
Then I had an epiphany: ending my week of calories on Thursday instead of Sunday.
Weekdays are easy for me, food-wise. I eat the same thing for breakfast (a piece of fruit or hard-boiled egg), have a general idea about lunch (make it myself or go to well-trodden places near work where I know the calorie counts) and usually make my own dinner, so I can keep the calorie counts down.
Weekends are harder. They involve restaurants and brunches and booze and friends, and things tend to come up at the last minute that I can’t plan for. So I’ll end up overindulging. And as I mentioned, I’m not good at saying no. Put an omelette and a mimosa in front of me, and I will silence my inner dieter and consume them both.
But if I start off my week of calorie-counting on Friday, I don’t have to spend the weekend worrying about over-indulging. I eat what I want (within reason), then when Monday rolls around, I can see how many calories I have left for the week, divide by four days, and plan my weekday meals accordingly (and also see where I need to squeeze in some exercise.)
(Some may scoff at the idea of counting calories but it’s become something of a game to me, a little personal challenge. And making yourself aware of what you’re actually putting into your body really does help you change your habits, for the better.)
These two things combined have helped me lose weight over the past couple of months in the way nothing else ever has. They’re easy to stick to, don’t negatively impact my life, and are actually making me healthier.
Do you have any simple secrets to staying healthy? I’d love to hear!
Amazing image found here