Since last October, I’ve lost roughly twenty-five pounds. Possibly a few more. If I go by my doctor’s scale, I started at about 215 pounds. Today, I weighed myself, and the my own brand-new digital scale reported 189 pounds. I had hoped that by now I’d be down to about 170, and that remains my goal. That would be about ten pounds under my highest weight in college.
In my first semester of college, I put on the classic “freshmen 15”, entering school at a robust 165. Though not the best food in the world, the UMass dining commons offered plenty of it. Seconds, thirds, and desserts at every meal, pizzas at night, mass quantities of beer, and more made matters worse.
Towards the end of the semester, I went shopping for a new pair of pants, and I found I could only fit into a 33-inch waist — this after years of wearing 32-inch Levi’s. That was it, I said to myself, and something clicked. During the spring semester, I resolved to drop the 15 and get down to 155 by summer, and I succeeded.
My method was simple: No snacks. No eating after dinner. No second helpings. Sticking to that while living in the dorm and the late night pizzas, the beer, the snacks, and other byproducts of our Dionysian behaviors. By the time I returned to school that fall, for the first time in my life, I could walk around shirtless without embarrassment.
They say that you will never look better than you do at 20, and for me, that certainly applied. I would go on to lose another ten, actually, but not for the best of reasons. My girlfriend at the time broke up with me, ripping the heart from my chest and stomping it on the ground. My distress would compel me to shed another ten pounds.
So, at twenty years old, I started my adulthood at 145 pounds, and from that point, I gained more or less a pound a year up until last year, also typical for most American males. More accurately, I put on about 75 pounds in 32 years — more than two pounds a year.
Every time I crested another decade mark in pounds, I shrugged it off as temporary. I would begin exercising… soon. I would go on a diet… next week. That piece of cake would be my last for a while… until someone presented me with another one three days later. Driving around and looking for and eating in diners didn’t help, of course, but I didn’t feel I looked all that bad.
Then, I started to get little warnings from my body. I began experience difficulty bending over to tie my shoes. I developed sleep apnea. I couldn’t run much further than a couple hundred feet without back pain. I just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
And of course, my clothes didn’t fit so well anymore. I have a beautiful suit jacket in my closet that’s size 38 that I couldn’t wear anymore. Never mind 33-inch waisted Levi’s. I had to wear “Comfort Fit” 34s.
Then, one day while accompanying my mother to a doctor’s visit, I spied a body mass index chart on the wall that gave me some very bad news. My weight put me into the morbidly obese category. While I know of the ongoing debate about those numbers, the thought slapped me in the face. I should not weigh more than 200 pounds — not at five feet, eight inches. According to the CDC, I should weigh no more than 164 pounds(!).
At my own doctor’s office, they finally weighed me without my shoes on and in shorts, and it said 215 pounds. I didn’t want to believe it, but the scale at my gym was telling me much the same thing. My home scale erred by fifteen pounds less, so I tossed it.
Then finally something clicked. I woke up one day last October with a simple thought: I would be a lot happier if I weighed 170 pounds. Not my lowest weight ever, but a lot less than I am now. Something then clicked, and the diet began.
Since then, a few people have noticed the loss and asked me how I did it. I told them that it is my “Don’t Be Stupid” diet. While many theories abound around this topic, weight loss is generally an arithmetic problem. Burn more calories than you consume, and you will lose weight. I don’t claim that it’s easy. A healthy diet regimen requires a serious commitment to a change in lifestyle, but even after a couple of weeks, it gets much easier.
I track my calories using the Lose It app on my iphone. I also use the Moves app to track my walking and biking. I cut back on snacks. I don’t eat after dinner. I don’t have second helpings. I do go to the gym or exercise at least three times a week, and there I burn about 500 calories on the bike, treadmill, and/or rowing machine. To keep me on those machines, I watch a high-intensity TV dramas like “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad” on my iPad. In fact, I promise myself that I can only watch them while at the gym which motivates me to go.
I also cut back on my beer intake, although the hot summer made that difficult. Nothing feels better on a hot day than a cold beer, but I try to limit that to one or two days of the week. I have started to drink a lot more water. If I’m good most of the week, I give myself permission to binge a bit on the weekend.
I gained five pounds over the summer, especially after a week’s vacation in Maine and despite bringing and using my bicycle, but I eventually dropped it again.
Basically, I have no gimmicks or secrets to reveal. Move more, eat less. Stick to it. Don’t be stupid.
I want to drop another twenty, and with the holidays coming up, I know I face a major challenge, but I didn’t gain anything last year so I know I can do it.
Just losing twenty pounds have brought me some nice dividends. My clothes fit better, of course, but many aches and pains have disappeared. I also can fall asleep without my CPAP machine, although my wife reports that I still snore without it. Still, I consider that progress. I would like to stop using that device entirely.
Mostly, as one who rails endlessly about the obesity problem in this country, I feel good that I put my money where my mouth is. I still can’t fit into that suit jacket, but when I do, I hope it’s still in fashion.