I’ve been overweight my entire life. When I was born, I weighed 8 lbs 13 1/2 oz. The average birth weight for that year was 7.1 lbs. I maintained my large stature as I grew, never shedding the fat as I matured. While I may have started life on the heavier side, I cannot, and will not, blame my genetics for my size and overall health, as my mother was thin at my age, as are my siblings today. Instead, I have to admit and accept that I am overweight due to a lifetime of choices. I won’t hate on myself and wallow in what has gone before. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on the current facts. I am an adult with no medical roadblocks. I’m almost 5’9″ and weigh 188 lbs. It’s my life, my body, and it’s time I took control. It’s time to get fit and shed those 40 lbs my body doesn’t need.
For me, a healthier life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about making better choices and being mindful that your body is a long-term investment. The longest and most important one you’ll ever make. Health is a broadly encompassing term involving weight, nutritional balance, water intake, physical ailments, mental stability, emotional happiness, cardiovascular capacity, muscle mass, etc. Taking them all on at once can seem like an impossible task. Luckily, these factors have a tendency to intertwine – something I am striving to do this year. Each is important and significant, and I won’t ignore any aspect as I take on this journey.
Health has become increasingly important to me in recent years. Partly, I think it’s to do with getting slightly older, instilling the sense that the time for action is now. Another factor is that I’m in love, and I want to be around for a very long time. We have dreams of traveling and being active long into the future. I’ve given myself the challenge: one year, and I am done with weight loss. 365 days to get fit, strong, and be ready for the rest of my life.
Step One: Control the Diet
One of my main goals this year is to shed the extra pounds that I carry around. As 90% of weight management is down to diet (the remainder being exercise, genetics, etc.), this is the single critical factor that will get me healthy.
I have no interest in following a diet regime, such as keto, paleo, or flexitarian. No matter how you balance your macronutrients, the basis of weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. Following a specific meal plan isn’t going to be a good long term strategy for me. I don’t want to see something on a menu and be unable to order it because it contains a potato. I have no allergies or dietary issues, so while these regimes are a must and work for some people, it’s not what I am looking for.
I will, however, be following the calories in, calories out, AKA the CICO model. I will also make food restriction a little easier by following a plan to lose 1 lb a week rather than attempting a more rapid weight loss strategy. To do so, I need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories a week (3500 calories is equal to around a pound a fat).
To achieve the required deficit, I know I need to cut out my vices that have lead to my sustained weight. These include having things in the house, like cookies, chips, and candy. I have little willpower, so the key for me is to not buy them in the first place, rather than portion control.
It’s easier to say no once at the store than to say no repeatedly to something in your cupboard.
My meals will center around eating a lot of carbs. While this diet may not be the standard convention of late, I find carbohydrates satiating, and foods such as rice and potatoes are low in calories for how filling they are. I will, of course, bulk up my meals with vegetables! I get plenty of protein from items like pasta, fish, and beans. I suspect I will have to increase this when I build some muscle, but that’s a fair bit in the future!
By following the CICO method, I hope I learn to control the number of calories I am consuming. By logging everything I eat, I hope to become more knowledgeable about the nutritional content of the food I consume and its effect on my body.
Step Two: Intensify Fitness Regime
While exercise alone won’t contribute much to weight loss, it is essential for my second goal of improving my fitness. I’ve made a few strides in this department already.
During the summer, I took up cycling. I’ve slowly been increasing the miles and intensity of my rides. I have seen a vast improvement in my fitness in just these few months – highlighting how low it had reached during the pandemic.
Before March, I was a gym member, and I was going around three times a week. Looking back, I have to admit that I could have worked harder during those sessions. I would ride a stationary bike for 45 minutes and then do a circuit of weights. It sounds good – a decent amount of exercise. However, I don’t think I ever pushed myself to the limit. Giving it my all during my workouts is an improvement I’d like to see in myself in the forthcoming year.
One great attribute I have is determination. Once I set myself a goal for a workout, I tend to keep going until it is done.
For example, if I say I am going to ride 10 miles, I will ride 10 miles. My issue is always starting that workout. I’d much rather watch Netflix or nap than exercise.
Here are some methods I see for getting a good workout while the pandemic rages on:
I’ve heard that it doesn’t matter what exercise you are doing, you won’t stick with it if you don’t enjoy it. Cycling is something new in my life that I have come to love. However, it will be challenging to get out on the bike as the weather turns extra cold (it’s literally freezing outside today, and I think I see snow). I found that out a few weeks ago when we experienced 40-degree weather! The wind chill made it a highly unpleasant experience.
Fortunately, during the summer, Shira and I got an indoor spinning bike for free (it was left by the dumpster!), so I have an all-weather option available. The problem is, compared to outdoor cycling, riding a bike in the house isn’t especially thrilling. I’ve put something on to watch on my iPad, but the struggle is real!
This is, however, a year-long endeavor. Therefore, cycling will be a significant component in my fitness program once the weather warms up. To date, my farthest outdoor ride has been 13 miles. There is a lot of room for improvement.
Thanks to Apple’s new platform, I will have three months of free workouts to deep dive into this winter. While it may be hard to accurately assess the impact of a product that I have yet to use, I sense that these workouts will play an essential role in my short-term fitness. The reason is the proposed variety. I can do a spin class one day and get some flexibility by doing a yoga class the next. I’ve lost a lot of flexibility in recent years, so this is important to me too.
The platform’s diversity will also work more muscles than my chosen cardio of cycling. My core, arms, and back will greatly appreciate being worked with some of the workouts Fitness+ will offer.
Once it launches, I’ll be better equipped to know how it will fit into my life.
- Virtual Reality
If you don’t own a virtual reality system, you are probably skeptical as to how a gaming system can improve your fitness. However, some games demand that you move, duck, and jump incessantly. When I play Holopoint, Holoball, or Sprint Vector, my heart rate climbs. By the time I am done playing, I am near panting with sweat dripping off me.
My thighs and arms ache. I usually stop playing, not because I am bored, but because I don’t have the fitness to continue.
It’s been a while since I have bought a VR game, and there are new titles for me to try too. Adding this “fun” aspect to my health plan will be useful for the mind and body.
Step Three: Sleep Well
Sleeping well is essential to a happy, healthy life. I’ve had trouble staying asleep during the night for years. I manage to fall asleep reasonably easily. However, around 4 AM, I tend to wake. How long it takes me to fall back asleep determines my fatigue level throughout the day.
Due to my work schedule, which has me working until 11 PM, it is hard to have a great sleep schedule as I like to rise early. My alarm is currently set for 8:15, so if I get to sleep by midnight, I should be set. However, I typically fall asleep closer to 1 AM. Perhaps this is a long-winded way of saying, I need more sleep, and I don’t know how to get it.
You might be wondering why I wake up at 4 AM. It’s the cats. We have five of them, and around 4-5 AM is apparently mid-sleep zoomy time for the kittens and Severus. This then gets the perfect sleeper, Toodles, up, and she joins in. Toodles sleeps between Shira and me, and losing the feeling of my fluff ball next to me disturbs me more than the other cats running around. So, I toss and turn, listening to the cats chase each other, while I try to drift back to sleep. Sometimes, it’s just a lost cause.
It is not the quantity of my sleep that requires addressing; it’s the quality of it too. My primary issue is the mattress we sleep on. It’s not high quality. In the summer, we purchased a mattress from Nectar, only to be utterly disappointed in the product. We are working on returning it – don’t get me started on this process. So, we are sleeping on Shira’s budget mattress right now (yes, it’s better than our Nectar). Consequently, I have pain in my lower back most days when I wake, and my right neck and shoulder haven’t been pain-free since the beginning of time.
Due to my short, restless sleep, I am fatigued most of the time, feel lazy, and procrastinate. It’s a vicious cycle as I then beat myself up for the lack of productivity and using my time wisely.
We aren’t on earth for long, and I doubt in my dying days that I’ll be thinking about that great nap I had years ago!
Sleeping better sets each day up for success. I do not underestimate its importance.
Step Four: Mental Toughness
Mental toughness will be essential to successfully completing my quest for a healthier life. Forming good habits and deconstructing damaging ones takes a daily effort and mindfulness.
When reading about health journeys, mental toughness isn’t typically something that comes up. But really, weight issues are mental issues. We know what is needed to lose weight, we understand how excess calories affect us, how exercising is the way to be fit and live longer. We all know it’s better to cook a meal fresh than to microwave a processed one. Yet we don’t. The obesity charts construct an undeniable picture of data demonstrating this fact.
Mental toughness for me will be to change two mindsets.
- Digging deep to motivate myself to exercise daily will be a challenge for me. I’m too quick to come up with a “justifiable” excuse not to. “It’s raining” “I don’t feel good” “I overslept, and I don’t have time.”
- I have a tendency to indulge in foods that are not good for me. I’ll go the entire week eating sensible meals centering around rice and vegetables, only to blow that work on a pizza, an Indian take out, or a delicious portion of sweet and sour chicken. Such a cycle maintains my weight but isn’t conducive to my goals.
Mental toughness also involves seeing the big picture.
Thinking outside the moment. It might seem painful to do another set of mountain climbers, and I may feel deprived not having a piece of cake while I slowly chew on a grape. Once put into perspective of a lifetime of feeling healthy, it’s nothing. The same applies to the scale. It might not move as fast as I like, but if I stick to counting calories and working out, it will go the way I want it to.
I honestly don’t have a plan as to how I will change my mindset. I’ll have to use all my determination to keep me on the right path until good choices feel natural.
I will be using a series of apps, my smartwatch, and my very passionate and motivating girlfriend to help me through this journey. I live in a technological age, and I believe that dipping into these resources will set me up for success. Further, there is nothing like the support of a loved one to help you when your mental toughness wains or to applaud you for hard work.
- Calorie Counter
There are many apps that I could use to help me track my food intake and set a calorie goal. Back in 2012, when I last seriously attempted to get myself in shape, I used the app LoseIt!, one of the most popular apps out there. I’ll return to this app. If you want to add me as a friend (please do, I need accountability!), my username is CallieCycles.
Strava is one of the most popular apps for tracking rides, runs, walks, really any activity where you move outside. When I began cycling, I used this app to log my times and distances. I like it because it will show me my progress over time and compare it to others. Competition motivates me! I can easily absorb data that shows how fast I went today compared to last week. Strava tracks the weather and other riders automatically too.
Now that I have my Apple Watch, you may argue that Strava isn’t needed for the level of riding I am doing. Honestly, I may agree. However, one more app that motivates me isn’t a bad thing. It is also easier to have it open on my phone and see the time elapsed, distance, and average speed in front of me while riding, instead of looking at my wrist.
Finally, Strava tracks segments during your ride. You can make your own segments too, if you subscribe to their premium membership. Segments are fantastic because you might want to push yourself up a hill and go all out for that and nothing else. You can see your time on that single flat-out part of the ride. It’s motivating to see that you took the incline faster this week. If you want to add me as a friend, then I am Callie B. Scott.
- Water tracker
I haven’t talked about water intake yet.
Hydration is vital and has many positive effects on your wellbeing. The positives are wide-ranging, including lubricating joints, better sleep, regulating body temperature, and assisting your organs in functioning properly.
Like calories, I need to use a tracker to ensure I keep myself hydrated. I have these water bottles that worked really well at keeping me hydrated in the past. They have markers to help you hydrate between 9 AM and 6 PM. with my altered work schedule, it isn’t as useful as it used to be.
Therefore, I got myself the app Water Tracker for my Apple Watch. It’s good because it tracks all drinks I ingest, including coffee, soda, carbonated water, and adjusts the fluid volume accordingly. By that, I mean 350 mLs of coffee counts as 310 mLs toward your daily hydration goal.
It’s effortless to add my latest beverage from my watch too. Previously, I was logging into my Fitbit app, but I would forget or not remember to drink until the end of the day, by which point it was too late. Now, water tracker reminds me throughout the day, so I am always on top of it.
- Apple Watch
My family gracious bought me an Apple Watch SE for my birthday. I’ll be using this device to motivate me to exercise, move, and stand daily. Closing the rings each day will ensure I am burning enough calories to reach my deficit and keep my fitness levels up.
My watch will also play a factor once Fitness+ is launched too.
For each time I can motivate myself to work out or eat right, there are at least three occasions that I would give in without support. You cannot do anything alone in life that is worthwhile. The same will go for this journey. I am fortunate that I have the unwavering support of my loving girlfriend. I know that I can’t do this alone. If I could – I would have already!
Competition is essential, and it does get the best out of us. Whether it is trying to catch up to a faster competitor or just desperate to not be left behind. I have several friends who are far more active than me, and I will use their great habits to motivate me.
Foreseen Challenges In The Month Ahead
The month of November seems a difficult month to be on a fitness journey. The holiday of Thanksgiving and the weather turning cold both pose challenges for me in the month ahead.
I’ll have to keep an eye on the prize to avoid falling into the habits that have landed me in this position to start with.
For this American holiday, I will be going to my girlfriend’s family once again (assuming COVID tests come back negative and we’re allowed to travel!) There will be two festive meals for me to navigate – first at Shira’s father’s and then the next day at her mum’s. Luckily, they are both mindful of what goes inside their body, so their dishes may not be overly calorific. I cannot rely on that, however. After all, the average American eats between 3,000 to 4,500 calories during this meal.
My tactic will be to eat mostly the lower-calorie offerings and then only taste the more decadent dishes. I agree that sounds easier said than done. I will struggle with this. Overindulging and overeating are two of my weight gain strategies! I need to be mindful and stop eating when I am satisfied. Say no to seconds. Keep within my calories budget. It’s just a meal. It isn’t worth putting on a pound in weight.
It’s not these meals alone that will provide struggles. The seven-hour car ride there and back will also be problematic. To keep me awake and to fight boredom, I tend to snack during longer road trips. On our most recent excursion to the city, we bought Subway sandwiches to eat during the journey. Great plan, except I also ate candy and chips and then had pizza at night that I didn’t need. Avoiding snacking on a car ride is the easiest obstacle to tackle – don’t put any snacks in the car, and don’t buy any at the gas station. Still, it’s a challenge and something I need to be mindful of.
Having lived in Houston in recent years, I’m not really used to weather hindering outdoor activities. In fact, the winter was typically when I could finally go outside in Texas – it was too hot to venture out during the summer months. Now that I live in Buffalo, NY, I have the opposite problem – it will soon be far too cold to go outside.
Exercising indoors will be a challenge for me. I am no longer a gym member due to the pandemic, and exercising at home isn’t something I can often sustain. I will have to use my newfound mental toughness to ride the stationary bike or put on a YouTube workout video.
My motivation and plan for weight loss are not unique. I suspect it is actually mainstream. After laying it all out – weight loss and reclaiming a healthy body seems so easy. Eat right and move. That’s all there is to it. The rest? It’s noise, it’s a distraction, it’s obstacles. It is time for me to get myself ready for the rest of my life, a happy, healthy, long life. I’ve given myself a year to do this, which is a SMART goal.
I’ll update you on my progress to hold myself accountable. I’m like most people. I don’t want to fail. This time, I won’t.