What I Have Learned About Weight Loss

Breathe

I’ve been on a health and weight loss journey for the past year.  In that year I have lost over 30 lbs, gotten off Metformin, a diabetes medication, and gone from not being able to run a block without breaking out into a cold sweat to being able to run 4 miles with no adverse affects.

I have learned a few things along the way.

1.  Be patient.  This is probably the hardest lesson to learn.  We all want instant results.  But I didn’t gain the weight in a day or in a week and I won’t lose it that quickly either.  Nor will you.  There are many fad diets out there.  Juice diets, shake diets intermittent fasting, etc.  They almost always promise quick results.  They almost always cost money and almost always are not worth it.  They may help you lose weight initially but when you come off them if you go back to your old eating habits you’re just going to gain that weight back again.  All I did was join a site called MyFitnessPal.com and log my calories.  Every day.  It sounds like a chore but in truth it just takes a few minutes a day.  It keeps me accountable.  I keep track of what I’m eating.  More important, it works!  And it doesn’t cost me a thing.  It taught me so much about my eating habits and how to keep my eating under control.

2.  A bad day shouldn’t derail you.  We all have bad days where we just want to binge.  If you have a day like that just pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start again tomorrow.

3.  It’s all about calories.  If you burn more calories than you eat you will lose weight.  It’s pure science.  If the weight isn’t coming off there may be a prevalent medical condition that is derailing you.  If you aren’t losing weight but you’re convinced you’re doing everything right get yourself checked out by your doctor.

4.  Weightloss is a simple process.  But it isn’t easy.  It takes determination.  Discipline. Patience.  Have I said that word already.  You will learn.  Patience is key.  But if you want it badly enough you will achieve it.

5.  Dieting is simple.  Keeping the weight off is the challenge.  This is the journey I’m about to embark on.  I’ve lost the weight.  I’m determined to keep it off.  Never go back!

6.  The most effective way to diet is not to go on a diet.  Sound confusing?  How many people do you know who go on a diet?  Then come off the diet and go back to their old eating habits and wonder why they’re gaining weight again?  If it’s your old eating habits that caused you to gain weight then of course you’ll regain the weight if you go back.

7.  The scale can lie!  When we want to lose weight we want to see the number on the scale drop like a stone!  Sometimes we hit a plateau and the scale stubbornly refuses to budge.  Don’t get disheartened and give up.  Look for other signs of success.  Look for NSV’s (non-scale victories).  Even when the number doesn’t drop other things are happening.  Maybe your clothes are fitting better.  Or getting looser.  Maybe your collar bones are starting to pop out, or your hip bones.  Maybe you find yourself able to do things you couldn’t do before.  Walk further or run without getting out of breath.  These are all signs you are on the right track.  Just keep doing everything right and the scale will start to drop again.

Through the past year I have learned a lot about myself.  I have patience and if I want something bad enough I can achieve it.  That’s very empowering.

Before And After

before and after

Sometimes when you look in the mirror it’s hard to see just how far you have come when you’re looking to lose weight.  The best way to really judge your progress is take photographs.  If you’re starting out on a weight loss journey I’d advise you to take several photos before you start.  It’s always good to have something to compare.  The photo on the left was taken in 2009 when I was at my heaviest.  The photo on the right just a couple of months ago.   Here I can really see the difference.  I’m almost at the weight I want to be.  It’s time to start maintenance.  I have made a vow to never again look like I did in the pic on the left.  I wasted 20 years of my life looking like that.

Never again!

The past year has certainly been eventful.  Getting off diabetes medication.  Losing over 30 lbs.  Getting fit.  Running.  And this is just the beginning.  I intend to start lifting weights more now.  I’ve lost the weight.  Now I want to tone myself up and get myself in better shape.  The weight loss journey may be ending.  But the healthy lifestyle is just beginning!

When Your Need Is Greater Than Your Want?

 

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the health journey I’m on.  About how far I have come in less than a year.  And how much easier it has been than I thought it would be.  As a teenager I was a skinny little thing.  People used to try to fatten me up and just give up!  Then in my mid twenties I started to gain weight.  I didn’t notice at first.  Then when I did notice, I didn’t find the will to do anything about it.  I feel like I wasted two decades, the best two decades in my opinion, being overweight, when apparently I didn’t need to be.  Because when I found the willpower to actually change my health it came easily.  Okay, I shouldn’t exactly say easily.  After all, I’ve put a lot of sweat and effort into my transformation.  No tears, though!  But as I gained the weight I always thought it would be too hard.  I made a few half-hearted attempts to lose the weight.  I’d go on a diet.  It always ended in failure.  I just couldn’t find the motivation to see it through.

Then in December 2014, while sitting in the doctor’s office, I faced a tough choice.  My A1C was 7.2.  The doctor wanted to put me on a second medication.  I’d already been taking Metformin since 2008.  When Christine and I researched this second drug and found it’s strongly linked with causing liver damage I knew I had to make a change.  I vowed to never take this drug.  Up to this point I’d only wanted to lose weight.  Now my want had become a need.  And it turned out to be pretty simple.  Not easy.  Not with all the running miles I put in.  But it was simple.  I started walking, walking led to running.  And I counted calories.  I’m so glad I joined MyFitnessPal.  It’s a great app that lets you track your calories.  It even lets you track your exercise.  It definitely made my efforts easier to log.  Losing weight comes down to one simple equation.  Calories out have to be greater than calories in.  In other words to lose weight you have to be eating less calories than you’re burning.  Exercise is a great way of boosting your calories out.  Running especially burns a lot of calories.

I guess the bottom line in all this is need will always trump want.  Wanting to lose weight through reasons of simple vanity wasn’t enough to motivate me to succeed.  What ever you attempt to do in life will always be much more successful if you NEED it more than you WANT it.  Need is a great motivator.  And when it’s a health need, that’s the greatest motivator of all.  From being on the verge of taking two drugs for diabetes, I’ve been off ALL medication for ten months now.  I stopped taking Metformin in April 2015 when I realized my fasting sugar was actually getting too low.

If that visit to the doctor hadn’t taken place, if he hadn’t decided to put me on a drug that could potentially harm my health even more,  I might still be overweight.  And I might still be on Metformin.  Now I’m fitter than I was even in my twenties.  Now I’ve dropped from size 40 pants to size 32.  My weight is more or less where I want it to be.

I still have a need.  My diabetes is under control.  But I’m still diabetic.  I don’t think that will ever change.  We went out to eat Saturday night.  I ate more than I have been recently.  I also had fries.  My sugar two hours later was 168.  Which isn’t bad.  A year ago it would probably have been 200 or higher.  My fasting sugar was 91.  Which a year ago I would have been thrilled with.  But it’s a sign of how far I’ve come that I wasn’t happy with that number.  These days my fasting is always in the 70’s and low to mid 80’s.  Now, 91 is still just about at the normal range.  But I wasn’t happy.  So yesterday I made conscious efforts to eat less, to eat healthier.  My fasting this morning was 75.  Much better.  But it served as a reminder that I have to be vigilant.  That I still have to be conscious of not over eating and I still have to be active.  It’s easy to imagine that if I spent a week eating like that my sugar would be into the 100’s.  It’s all good, though.  It just reminds me I still have a need.  And as long as that need is there I will have all the motivation to keep on this healthy lifestyle.

Whatever you want to do in life, whatever you want to achieve, make sure your need is as great as your want and you can achieve miracles.  Just like I have.

The Highs And Lows Of Weightloss

Breathe

Since nearly being put on a second medication for diabetes in December, 2014, I have been on a journey to better health.  They say the hardest part of starting on any major journey is the first step.  But when the motivation is high enough that first step is the easy part.  The harder part is staying on course.  I’m a member of a site called MyFitnessPal.com.  It’s where I learned about calorie control.  It’s where I became inspired to take running more seriously.  I’m active on that site every day.  It keeps me motivated.

On the MFP forums I often see posts from people who are ready to throw in the towel because the scale hasn’t moved for a week.  Or two weeks.  It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re not seeing results.   I recently hit a plateau and I learned the value of patience.  Even when the scale isn’t co-operating, you will still see results in other areas if you keep doing the right activities.  My weight stayed the same for about a month.  Seeing the scale stay the same day after day is tough.  But I’m still losing inches.  I’ve dropped from size 38 pants to 34 and even those have become loose.  Then two weeks ago, after a long frustrating month, I dropped a pound.  Then two days later, another.  Then another.  In fact I’ve now lost four pounds since my plateau came to an end.  I guess sometimes your body has to catch up with itself.  After losing nearly twenty pounds in a couple of months, my body needed time to drop any more.

Two things I frequently read on MyFitnessPal have helped me keep my calm and stay on course during my plateau.

Weight loss isn’t linear. 

Meaning you aren’t necessarily going to lose weight in a steady and predictable way.  Weight loss happens in fits and bursts.  You may have to wait a week or two and then suddenly you might lose a few pounds in a short time.

You didn’t gain the weight overnight so you won’t lose it overnight, either.

We live in an increasingly instant results driven society these days.  People simply don’t want to wait for anything any more.  But some things can’t be rushed.  Sure, you could jump on whatever the latest fad diet is and maybe lose a few pounds.  But you’re more likely to gain most if not all of it back over time when that fad diet ends.  Part of the problem is people tend to go on diets.  Meaning they take steps to lose weight and then go back to their old habits when they’re satisfied.

But it’s those old habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place.  So doesn’t it follow that returning to those ways will cause you to gain those lost pounds back?

Anyone can lose weight.  But keeping it off requires a new mindset.  You have to be prepared to make changes.  You don’t have to cut anything out.  Eating in moderation, eating within a certain calorie limit is often all it takes.  If you can learn to do that then you have more chance to keep your waistline trim.

Getting active also helps.  I had a good month in July.  I ran my first 40 plus mile month.   I average 3 to 3 and a half miles per run now.  I did manage to run four miles for my best run.  I’m a runner for life now.  Getting off my diabetes medication is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.  My fasting sugar is averaging in the 80’s, even in the 70’s some mornings!

If you’re struggling to lose weight don’t be a slave to the scale.  While we all want to lose the pounds, just pay attention to how you feel.  How your body looks in the mirror.  How your clothes are fitting you.  Those little non-scale victories are often sweeter and more rewarding than seeing you’ve lost another pound.  My collar bone has become more prominent.  My face is thinner.  My legs are thinner, and they now have muscle definition.  A few months ago I couldn’t run a block without being winded.  Now I can run three to four miles and I’m not really out of breath.  My heart rate after running is averaging between 150 beats per minute to 170.  It used to be near 200.

It helps when your partner is on the journey with you.  My wife was inspired by seeing my success and she also joined MyFitnessPal.  She has lost several pounds and we go to the gym together.  Having a support system makes a huge difference as we can motivate each other.  She has a love / hate relationship with the Elliptical machine at the gym.  She is doing great.  She has already lost a few inches and is at her lightest in about thirteen years. She has lost a total of fifty pounds since her heaviest.  We’ve both made a vow of never again to gaining so much weight.  Losing weight and getting healthy together is a wonderful way to bring us closer together.

Bottom line, the scale isn’t the only indicator of weight loss.  It’s the one we all obsess about the most.  But getting into better health brings about all sorts of extra benefits.  You’re on a journey.  Savor every milestone of this journey.  Celebrate every success, not just the pounds lost.

Added Benefits Of Running

Watching The Sunsetdeer06-02-11_0935sunset boatwater sunset

Besides the obvious benefits of running, fitness, weight loss, getting off medication, another advantage is getting out there and seeing something of the world.  These photographs I took are just on my doorstep.  They are all moments I would have missed if I didn’t go out for my run.  There is a beautiful world out there.  Go and run it!

You Want Me To What???

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Suggest to most people that they would get any kind of benefit from running and this is the response you’re most likely to get.

“You want me to what???”

Yet you can derive so many health benefits from running.  You can even get off medication in some cases.

I did.

Last week I went to the doctor for a check up and my A1C was so good he told me I don’t need to take Metformin any more.  Metformin is a drug I have been on since August 2008 to treat type two diabetes.

All I did different was lose some weight from watching my calories and take up running.  Now my heart rate is down, my blood pressure is perfect. 110/70, and my blood sugar is under control.

All because I took up running.

As we get older we seem to develop a serious aversion to running.  We only run when we absolutely have to.  Yet look at children.  Their natural instinct seems to be to run.  They must be really impatient to get to where they want to go.  And sure, they have more energy since they are young.  I know I was the same and I’m willing to bet you were, too.  Running is a natural instinct.  When you’re young you go out and play.  You play sports.  You play tag.

You run.

Then when you become an adult you put away such ‘childish’ pursuits.  You ‘get serious.’  You get a job.  You sit behind a desk all day.  Then you go home, eat dinner, put your feet up and watch television.  For the most part.  After a while your fitness drops because you don’t run.  So when you end up having to run, to catch a bus, to catch up with someone, because you’re running late, you get out of breath.  And you tell yourself you can’t run any more.

Because you’re out of shape.  Because you haven’t run for so long.

Your body is a machine.  You get out of it what you put into it.  If you neglect your car, if you don’t put enough fuel in the tank, your car eventually runs out of gas.  The human body is the same.  If you don’t exercise enough the body weakens, your fitness level begins to decline.  To add to this, the average diet these days  is mostly junk. Fast food.  Fatty foods.  Excess sugar.  As you age, health problems begin to plague you.   You might put this down to getting older.  But aging is only part of the issue.  If you work on your body, the way you might work on your car, you will get more mileage out of it.  You only get one body.  Isn’t it time you looked after it better?

My victory over diabetes didn’t come easy.  And it didn’t come at all until I changed my attitude to myself.  Until I started to look after myself better.  I’m still a work in progress.  I could still improve my diet further.  But I’m active most days now.  I run four or five times a week.  I’ve also started working with weights.  Because I’ve gotten serious now about my health.  Because I’ve come to realize that I only get this one body.   It’s time to start looking after it better.  I read some running magazines.  I read about people running marathons in their 60’s, in their 70’s.  Even in their 80’s.  Those stories are so inspiring.  Those stories happen because those people understand what has finally sunk in to me.  Look after your body and you can have a long and healthy life.

So now I’m off Metformin I intend to stay that way.  Now that I live a healthier lifestyle I have more energy, more vitality.  I get more out of each day.

I’m somebody who couldn’t run half a block to catch a bus without being out of breath and breaking out in a cold sweat.  Now I can run three miles.  I’m not that fast, but I can work on the speed later.  I’m slimmer, fitter, healthier and generally happier.  Running is still not easy but is anything worthwhile ever easy?

I run because I can.

I run to be fit.

I run to keep the weight off.

I run to stay drug free and keep my blood sugar levels under control.

What about you?

Winning The Fight With Diabetes

blood test results

I’m having a pretty good week!  The kind of week that you wish you could bottle so you can enjoy it when things aren’t going so well.

First of all my fitness is coming up.  Previously I was struggling to run a mile.  On Tuesday Christine and I went to a gym.  I ran three miles on a treadmill.  That’s the first time I’ve run so far in one go probably since I was a teenager.  Yesterday I ran two and a half miles outside.  Running on a treadmill definitely seems to be easier.  I guess because the treadmill is moving and so does part of the work for you.  The frustrating thing is I know I could have run the full three miles or maybe more because I still had the legs to go further.  But I developed a twinging pain across the bridge of my right foot around the two mile mark.  It got worse around the two and a half mile mark, enough to stop my run dead.  Even walking was painful for a while.  I think I’ll have to invest in a better pair of running shoes.

But the biggest news of the week is I’m officially off my diabetes medication!!!

As I’ve written in previous blogs, I was diagnosed a type two diabetic in August 2008.  I’ve been on Metformin ever since.  I’ve been battling the disease all these years.  Sometimes I would be okay, other times my sugar would be raging out of control.  By January 2013 my sugar was raging.  My fasting sugar was averaging 170.  It would surge well over 200 every time I ate.  Nothing would make it come down, other than a long walk.  Even then it would soon surge back up.  I’ve already blogged about how a shake called GC Control lowers my sugar every time I drink it.  I still drink one or two a day.  I always will.

In December my A1C was 7.2.  The doctor prescribed a second medication.  I forget the name of it but I was supposed to take it in the morning.  It can also mess up your liver.  We checked the side effects.

Uh Uh.

I was done.  I was determined I wasn’t going to be put on more medication.

It was time to get serious.

The Wellness company we shop with came out with a new vitamin and supplement pack called Peak Performance.  It has been shown it can lower the markers doctors check when you go for a visit.  Blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol etc.   The photo above charts the differences in our health markers between December 2014 and June 2015.  Improvements all across the board!  It certainly seems to back up the results of a recent study on the effects of Peak Performance.

You can read about the proof on this website:

http://www.freiburgstudy.com

We had been taking them for a few months already.

The past winter was brutally cold.  I more or less hibernated.  But as soon as spring came around I was out there.  I started walking, graduated to running.  My fasting sugar came down from the 120’s.  I started averaging 70’s and 80’s.  I even stopped taking Metformin as my fasting sugar at that time started dropping to the low 70’s and even upper 60’s at times.

I knew something good was happening.

Last week I had a blood test and Tuesday it was time to go to the doctor to see how I was really doing.

My A1C was 5.8!

It hasn’t been lower than 6.8 since I was diagnosed a diabetic.  The doctor seemed almost as happy as I was.  Especially when I told him I had even stopped taking Metformin for the past two months.  He told me I don’t need to take Metformin at all.  So it’s official.  My diabetes is well under control.

I’m winning the fight!

I know I can’t get complacent.  I don’t think of myself as “cured.”  If I let my efforts slip, if I fall back into old habits again things can turn around in a hurry.  But since it was my old habits that got me there in the first place, why would I ever want to go back?

I love my new life.  I love the way I feel.  I love the way my legs look.  The products I take are helping but the effort still has to come from me.  They don’t make running any easier.  It still takes hard work, dedication, determination.  I have all that in abundance.

I’m diabetes free right now and I’m determined to stay that way.

The Lies Of “I Can’t!”

attitude

“I can’t.”

Two words that have the most power to hold us back.  Even more powerful than someone else saying to us, “you can’t.”  Because when someone tells us this it lights a fire in us to prove them wrong.  We don’t accept when someone else tells us what we can and can’t do.  But when we tell ourselves that, it becomes absolute.  We believe it.  So we just don’t do it.  Or even try.  How often do we tell ourselves we can’t do something?  A lot more often than we say we can do something, I’m sure.  We tell ourselves:

“I can’t lose weight.”

“I can’t walk a mile.”

“I can’t run a mile.”

“I can’t give up chocolate.”

“I can’t hike up a mountain..”

“I can’t flap my arms and fly to the moon.”

Okay, that last one is a bit of a gimme.  But the others?  If we really want it we can achieve it.  Sometimes it just seems too hard, or we have tried before and failed.  So we tell ourselves “I can’t”, because it’s just easier than trying.

Or trying again.

But guess what?

“I can’t” is just the cap we put on ourselves until the day we discover we can.

Here are some of the “I can’ts” I told myself in recent months only to prove myself wrong.

“I can’t run more than one lap of this park on one of my walks.

Until the day I ran the first lap and the last lap.

“I can’t run more than two laps of this park on one of my walks.

Until after upping my walk from twelve laps to fifteen, I ran the first, fifth, tenth and last laps.

“I can’t run two laps consecutively.”

Until the day I ran the ninth and tenth laps and then went on to run the fourteenth and fifteenth laps.

“I can’t run a mile.”

Until last Thursday, when I ran my first mile.  And then I did it again today.

After I posted on Facebook on Thursday about running my first mile,  a friend asked me if I had any thoughts on running the New York marathon.  The old me would have immediately thought “I can’t run a marathon!”  But I didn’t even think that.  I’m 47 years old.  I might have thought I’m too old to think about running a marathon.  Except I’ve read a few WordPress blogs from people in their 50’s and 60’s who are writing about their first marathons.  I’m learning to stop telling myself “I can’t,”  I’m realizing that “I can’t” is just a prelude to “I can.”  So, why not think about running a marathon.  I’m not saying I AM going to run a marathon.  I’m a LONG way off being ready for that.  But at least I’m not saying “I can’t.”