Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Todd P.: Sure thing, Coach!

Todd P. played football in high school, so when he decided to do something about his weight, he realized that to succeed he needed a player-coach relationship.

“I knew I hadn’t done anything about it before because no one was making me do it,” he says.

So, in 2005 Todd told his wife he didn’t want a tie or another shirt for Father's Day—he wanted a coach. “Help me find somebody who can help me lose weight,” he asked.

Although he was sincere, Todd, a salesman who works for an agent of a moving company, knew that he hadn’t entirely bought into the deal. “I asked my wife to do it for me because I was lazy,” he says. “And, I thought, ‘Now it’s off my back and she can’t blame me if it doesn’t work out… oh, and hand me another hamburger.’”

Todd’s wife presented him with a list of three personal trainers and he chose Derek Curtice, the founder of SimpleFit in Memphis. Even then, Todd wasn’t fully on board.

“I weighed about 280 lbs. Derek asked what my goal weight was, and I said I didn’t have one. I thought I could buy into losing maybe 25 or 30 pounds,” Todd recalls. “So Derek said, ‘Great, 200 pounds it is. Let's lose 80.’ And I’m thinking to myself, ‘This guy is crazy.’

Yet when Derek knocked on his door at 5 a.m. a few days later, Todd let him in. Todd says that at that moment he became committed to his weight loss “hook, line and sinker.”

The two worked out together for an hour three days a week, starting with simple squats and crunches and gradually adding in resistance bands and weights. Even after Derek left, Todd says he would work out another 20 to 30 minutes. On alternate days, Todd worked out on his own, following a 45-minute routine Derek created for him.

At the same time, Todd changed his eating habits. Making these changes was hard. “I traveled a lot in my job and I never ate breakfast,” Todd says. “By lunchtime, I’d be starving, so I’d really pound that all-you-can-eat buffet. If I was home, I’d have a bag of Cheetos before dinner, fall asleep watching TV and wake up at 10:30 for a glass of whole milk and chocolate chip cookies.”

It was also while traveling that Todd observed the habits of his co-workers and bosses and felt the stirrings of a desire to help himself.

“My bosses and I would plan to meet up at breakfast, and they’d get up early to work out. Meanwhile, I’m just wanting to sleep in,” Todd recalls. “But sometimes I’d go try out the treadmill—when no one was there—but after five minutes, I’d be thinking, ‘Forget this!’”

These habits and half-hearted attempts had their predictable effect. Todd gradually found maneuvering through life more difficult. Climbing two or three flights of stairs to meet with a client, Todd says he would have to walk around in the hallway for a few minutes so he wasn’t huffing and puffing when the client answered the door.

But now, Todd buckled down and gave it his all. Incredibly, in just a little over 10 months, Todd battled his weight down to 172 pounds—a loss of 105 pounds.

Today, at age 38 and maintaining at 175 pounds, Todd considers himself fortunate. He’s pleased that his life insurance carrier no longer considers him a high risk but has moved him into the “extremely preferred” category. But more importantly, he has a new outlook on the future.

“I want to be here to play with my son, and my son’s children. Derek and I would talk about family and he’d always say, ‘Do you know what a tremendous gift you’re giving to your wife and son? You’re going to be around for them,’” Todd says. “Derek more than gave me back my life. He gave me a new life.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's not right... but it worked

I'm feeling a little guilty here. I just found out that dieting the wrong way sometimes works!

Over the winter, I gained about five pounds after pulling a hamstring and not being able to swim my laps, or even take a walk around the block. I tried to adjust my eating to reflect my inactivity, but obviously I didn't try hard enough. When you're exercising, you can have a few treats without moving the scale. But not when you're a couch potato.

In the last month or so, I've lost three pounds by sticking to a better diet and exercising what little I could. I went to a conference and walked off at least one of those pounds. But I was still above my magic mark... the number that means success to me. 130. I just couldn't get under it! Every time I got near it, the scale just went BOING! and bumped me up again.

Last week, I was working really hard and didn't want to take time out to exercise, so I made a vow to myself to eat NOTHING. Let me tell you... I am STARVING! I think about food every minute of the day. I hate it. It feels like backsliding to me. When I'm maintaining my weight, I hardly think about food at all. Now, I can't seem to stop thinking about it. Especially chocolate.

But, you know what? My abstinence worked. I saw that magic number pop up on the scale yesterday at the gym. Is that the ticket for me? Starve myself and skip exercise? I did see that Time magazine article about how exercise makes you hungry, so you just end up eating more. Could be true.

I'm hoping to find myself under that magic number the next time I go to the gym. My laps are going better, although a weak flutter kick is still all I can manage without pain. I want to get back to a good balance of healthy eating and moderate exercise, though. While my short-term "plan" worked, I can't see myself going on like this indefinitely. Hunger stinks!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My top 10 tips

Over the last few years, as I've lost weight, and talked with others who have lost weight, I've heard some common themes and familiar phrases. I'll call these my Top 10 Weight Control Tips. Catchy, huh? Maybe not, but listen in on this advice from those who have succeeded.

1. When your moment of reckoning comes, don’t shrink from it.

The question that fascinates me most is, “Why did you do it?” Most people, although not all, can point to a single moment in time that forces them to face their dilemma. This moment is sometimes referred to as a “triggering event.” I had my own, the horrible photo of me walking my child to kindergarten.

2. Remove the word “diet” from your vocabulary.

“In this country, when we think of diet, we think it’s something we do for 16 days, and then we can go back to the way we were living,” says Dr. James O. Hill, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry. The fact is that permanent weight loss rarely results from a short-term fix.

3. Make weight control, not weight loss, your goal.

Once you’ve taken the emphasis off short-term fixes, it’s time to take the long view. Maintenance of a healthy weight should become a top priority for life.

4. Resolve to look to the future.

Many people exhaust themselves losing and regaining weight on one plan after another. You may have failed a few times, too. But whatever you’ve tried in the past, and for whatever reason it has failed, put it out of your mind. “Don’t let the past dictate your future,” says Eric McLaughlin, a personal trainer at Jim White Fitness in Virginia Beach.

5. Gear up to take on society, not just yourself.

To succeed, you have to take responsibility for your own health. Yet it’s too simplistic to lay the blame for overweight solely on the individual. Our entire society is set up to encourage a life of sloth and overindulgence. There's a fast food joint on every corner, and it's so easy just to pull in. Especially if you've been "dieting" by skipping meals. And why on earth would you walk anywhere?

6. Listen to your body and the voices in your head.

Listening to voices in your head is generally frowned upon in polite society. But actually your inner voices have some very valid things to say. For example, Nancy Clark, a Boston-area sports nutrition specialist, advises people to consider one simple question before they pick up something to eat. “Ask yourself, ‘Does my body need this fuel to sustain itself?’” she suggests.

7. Banish your dread of exercise.

Of the 7,000 people who have logged their weight loss onto the National Weight Control Registry, the overwhelming majority report adopting a lifelong habit of exercise. Only 9 percent of people said they had lost weight and maintained their loss without exercise, “You might be able to do it, but the odds are against you,” cautions co-founder Dr. Hill.

8. But don’t count on exercise alone to lose weight.

It sounds contradictory, I know. But don’t throw up your barbells yet. “Exercise alone will not cause you to lose weight,” confirms dietitian Nancy Clark. “You have to create a calorie deficit.” Simply put, you create a calorie deficit when you expend more calories than you take in.

9. Realize that eventually new habits take hold.

Early in my blog, I mentioned a study showing that sticking with a diet--any diet--is a better predictor of weight loss than the method used to achieve it. How long it takes for new habits to become second nature varies. But as habits do become established, people often find that eventually, even when the will wavers, the brain balks.

10. Help someone else along.

Part of the allure of a twelve-step program is to help someone else in the same way you’ve been helped. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs,” the Twelfth Step reads. And many successful weight loss seekers live that truth.

“When I went to my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting, people greeted me and everyone said, ‘Please come back,’” remembers Atiya M., who lost 60 pounds. “And I thought ‘Oh, I’ll be back.’ I just knew.” Today, Atiya is both sponsored, and a sponsor to others.

Friends helping friends, parents helping children, spouses helping each other. It's a boost not only for others, but for you, too.