That's me six months ago (July 2010)
Many colleagues and friends have recently asked me what my secret to weight loss is as I have managed to lose 60 pounds in the last 6 months. The funny thing is looking at their faces when they hear my response: “There is no secret.” The truth is we have all heard what we have to do to be healthy and fit from our doctors, teachers, friends, media, etc. To make sure everyone is clear about it I will restate the formula:
Proper Diet + Plenty of Exercise = Good Health
The face I typically see to my response is one of disbelief which is then followed by another question. “What’s the key to success?” My answer to that is pretty simple. It consists of three things:
- Planning and Preparation
- Consistency and Determination
After telling the story over and over again, I realized that I was inspiring a number of friends and colleagues to start their own journey to good health. This motivated me to start a series of blog posts to share my journey along with its challenges and my successes and failures in hopes that it will inspire others to also begin their journey.
In this post, I will cover the secret formula and the keys to my success. I will refer back to them in future posts which will cover the details of various nutrition, exercise, and other facets that have occurred during my travels down this road.
Before we begin, I want to share with you what my road has been…
My Road to Fitness… So Far
That's me today! (March 2011)
Six months ago I went to see my doctor for a regular check up. I already knew I had some health issues. I knew I suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. I knew my cholesterol and triglycerides were borderline. I stood on the scale and saw my weight being the heaviest I had ever seen it. I was 276 pounds. At only 5’9″ tall, I finally accepted the fact that I was morbidly obese. I then heard the same thing from my doctor that I was used to hearing… “You need to lose weight.” “There are serious health risks associated with your weight.” Something happened. Not sure what it was. But something changed. That’s when I decided I was done being fat.
My journey had started later that day and that journey continues today. So far, it has been incredible. It hasn’t been easy. At first, there were more bad news to deal with. A fitness assessment showed me that my “body age” was that of a 46-year-old man (that was 14 years older than I actually was). That “body age” had also been confirmed about a year prior by a Wii Fit that suggested I was 42. The fitness assessment also showed that my body fat percentage was almost 40%, I had very little strength, almost non-existent flexibility. I knew prior to the assessment that I was out of shape and not in the best health. But I didn’t know it was as bad as the assessment said it was. I was discouraged and I knew it was going to take a lot of work to fix. Thankfully, I found that my family and friends were supportive of my decision to make a change. Even better was that my loving wife decided to join me in the journey.
Today, I am 215 pounds. I have an insane amount of energy compared to what I did six months ago. My waist size has been reduced from a size 46 to a size 36. My cholesterol is back to normal. My triglycerides are in check. I am out of the danger zone for serious health risks associated with weight (I also quit smoking, but that is another story). It get’s better. My “body age” is now about the same as my actual age. My body fat is now under 25%. I am still on the way to make it even better. And all I have been doing is following the same formula and same principal keys to get where I am which I will tell you about next.
The Secret Formula
Before I dive into what I consider the keys to my success, I want to talk a bit more about the secret formula for good health and fitness that everyone is looking for. I want to rephrase it a little. More than anything else I want to take the word “diet” out of the formula. If you are like me, you probably cringed when you read that word in the formula. I really don’t like that word. When I think of “diet”, I think of a temporary plan of sacrifice during which I will eat food I don’t like and feel like I am starving most of the time. The next thing that comes to mind is the date the diet will end. This mind-set has made it difficult for me to follow any diet in the past as I always found myself struggling to stay motivated and to always look for a reason to cheat. In my mind, I haven’t been on a diet for the past six months and from here on out I won’t use that word again. So here is the new simplified formula:
Health = Nutrition + Exercise
Done. Simple. Easy. Right? Well, simple is correct. But, it’s not so easy. It’s not hard either. But, it does take work. And that will lead into what I consider to be the keys to my success.
Keys to My Success
There are three facets to my success. These facets are simple and are all equally important in my opinion. They are:
- Planning and Preparation
- Consistency and Determination
We will visit each one individually and I will briefly share what I have done to date along with some of my challenges to date.
Planning and Preparation
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
I don’t know who coined that phrase. But, it is the same phrase that I think about every day before I start getting ready. Ready for the day and ready for the next. I am constantly planning and preparing. I suppose you can’t really prepare for anything without a plan. Or maybe you can, but then are you truly prepared? In any case, every day I plan and prepare multiple times a day.
So what do I plan for? I plan the two main ingredients in the formula for health. I plan my nutrition and my exercise. Then I prepare them.
Let’s discuss nutrition first.
I will probably dedicate the next post in this series to the topic of nutrition as I feel it is the most important part of the health equation. At least three times as important as exercise. But for the context of keys to success, I typically plan my nutrition for the day, week, and month. I plan the budget for the cost of groceries and supplements. I plan how much of what I need to eat. Then every night I prepare what I am going to eat the next day.
Next is exercise. I plan my exercise plan for about 8 to 12 weeks periods. Then I break down the week into days. The days into actual exercises. Then I prepare by creating a spreadsheet with the exercises I am going to perform that I take with me every time I go to the gym. I also make sure I prepare my gym bag with the right clothes, shoes, and equipment I need. I also schedule my work out times in my work calendar so I get the reminders I need (and block out time for myself) when the time to execute comes.
It is not that hard to plan and prepare, but it does take some work. You have to read and educate yourself. Depending on my goals, I have to learn about how to modify my nutrition to reach those goals. I need to research how much, what types, and what sources of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats I need to consume at what frequencies. I then need to make sure I prepare all my food at least a day before. This keeps me from having to run out for fast food and deviate from my nutrition plan (which does happen and we will talk about really soon).
Consistency and Determination
So after planning and preparing, the time for execution. Truth be told, that even with planning and preparation the execution is not always smooth. Late afternoon meetings at work happen and I have to bump a workout. Or I packed enough food for the day expecting that I would be home in time for my evening meals, but had to work late and now I have to deviate and eat some fast food (which is another discussion for some other time as I don’t really know if going without eating is better or worse than eating food that is not in your nutrition plan). Other unexpected challenges happen too! Getting sick or injured. Having to travel unexpectedly. Social engagements happen.
This is where consistency and determination come in. The more determined you are (along with how well you have planned and prepared) will make you more consistent. The more consistent you are the more success you will have. Now, I am not advocating what we all become super health nuts that do nothing but eat and drink the exact same thing everyday and only participate in healthy activities. But healthy choices should become the rule rather than the exception. You should opt to go work out in the evening to relieve stress from work rather than go to the bar by yourself and drink your self into a blissful stupor. Again, I am not telling you never to consume alcohol as that would make me a hypocrite because I do enjoy a beer or six or twelve myself. I am just saying make the alcohol consumption the thing that happens once to a few times a month rather than the work out being the thing that only occurs once to a few times a month.
I encourage you to find that balance. I think that family and social engagements are also extremely important, but be determined to make yourself and your health a priority so that you take the time to eat right and get exercise regularly.
I think that support will from friends and family (even from colleagues) is important. I don’t think I would have the success that I have had so far if it were not for my friends and family. My wife and I support each other everyday in this journey. We help each other plan and prepare. We help each other stay consistent, determined, and motivated. Being able to share those highs and lows is important. Hearing encouraging words from friends and colleagues is such a powerfully motivating force that I find hard to describe. It feels great when somebody tells you that you look great. That you appear more energetic. I am so very thankful for all the support I have and I believe that the more support you have in your journey the better your chances at success really are (not to mention how fast you will get there).
There is so much more to talk about. I know that I want to cover many other topics in detail. But, I would love to hear what other topics you would like me to discuss or which ones you would like to hear about first. I would also love to hear what questions you may have. So, I am going to leave you with a list of things I would like to go into detail about until next time:
- Nutrition (Food and supplements)
- Exercise (Cardiovascular, strength, other sports, and activities)
- Information (Where to get it, how to look for it, how to tell if the source is good)
- Weight Loss