How I Lost 40 Pounds in 3 Months and Stayed Healthy
My Cholesterol and Heart Disease Scare
It was a cold autumn afternoon when I got my physical exam results from my doctor. My blood tests came back with dangerously high numbers for my cholesterol and a few other things, but all I could remember was the doctor saying, "Lose 30 pounds, or I'll have to put you on medication." This was like an alarm bell going off in my head. My father always had high blood pressure and very bad cholesterol levels and has been overweight for as long as I can remember.
Being 5' 9" and generally unfit, I was not really overweight by any means, but the high cholesterol levels were indeed warning bells. So I decided to set my goal and lose the 30 pounds the doctor told me to lose, to go from 186 to 156. I wasn't sure how long it would take or how I was going to do it, but for my health and for my family I had to try.
Here are the rules I lived by that got me through this weight-loss process the healthy way.
My Weight-Loss Program
After a week of researching and finding out everything I could about the healthiest ways to eat, I got started.
- My diet involved watching the calories I ate every day and eating "live" foods, meaning fresh foods that are not over-processed or over-cooked.
- I concentrated on salads and other types of vegetables and complemented them with either fish or chicken. So white meat, not red meat, and lots of vegetables and fruits.
- I also cut out all sodas, beers, milk with coffee, and all "snacks" that I would normally have during the day.
- I ate a really good breakfast, a decent lunch, and a light dinner preferably no later than 7 pm.
- Ah yes, I drank lots of water!!
Rules to Help You Stay on Target
Achieve your weight goal by following these simple rules.
1. Set a Meaningful Target and Commit
Make sure your objective is meaningful and commit to it—no matter what!
Whether it was your doctor or your partner telling you to lose weight, or even it was a matter of "needing" to squeeze yourself into that new swimsuit you got for summer (tennis shorts for me), like most things in life you need to set a goal and commit to it. This applies to the target weight and the time at which you will reach the target weight.
- As part of this initial process, try to think also what it means for you and for your family's overall well-being. Did you know every pound you lose means you take four pounds of stress off your knees? What about being able to take longer walks hand-in-hand with your loved ones, as well as playing ball with your kids in the park? Be around to watch them grow up!! Fill your mind with all these positive images when you are setting your goals and I guarantee you will have the commitment to follow through.
- The old adage, "If you don't plan for success, you plan to fail," is very relevant here! But don't worry, I'm not your drill sergeant and I will guide you through the process the way I did it.
2. Set Manageable Weight-Loss Goals
Set a reasonable weight goal that will be challenging, but not so challenging that you need to stop eating altogether or donate a limb. That means breaking the goal down into manageable steps.
- Example: I knew I wanted—had—to lose about 30 pounds and start working out to build a better body shape. So I set a target of losing the 40 pounds in three months, which breaks down to 13.3 pounds per month, or approximately 3.3 pounds per week. Now that doesn't seem like a lot when it's just around 3 pounds per week, right?
- How did I figure the ultimate goal? Well, apart from my doctor telling me, I checked online on several health sites and read up on the healthy BMI (body mass index) for my age, gender, and height. With this new knowledge, I concurred with the doctor's request and set my goal at 40 pounds in 3 months.
- My research also looked into the best types of food to eat to maintain a healthy body without gaining weight, as well as studying up on the easiest foods for the body to digest.
3. Use Apps to Help Measure and Track Progress
Yes, I have a smartphone. In fact, I'm writing this article on one. :)
So, here's the part where I say "there's an app for that!!" (borrowing from a famous fruit company). I was able to find three very good apps that really helped me understand my food choices, told me the caloric content, and kept an ongoing record of my meals, snacks, and most importantly my weight, which I entered religiously every morning.
The apps I have used are:
- Lose It!
I'm not affiliated with any of these apps or their developers but I have found them to be invaluable in helping me learn about what I can eat and what I should avoid.
- Both Lose It! and MyFitnessPal offer an online web-based platform as well for sharing information and recording your activities. Being a loner, I mainly stuck to using these tools to set my target weight and record everything I had consumed in terms of calories in order to help me reach my goal.
- Fooducate basically turns your smartphone into a barcode scanner and gives you a review of the food you just scanned according to how "healthy" the product is, including calories per serving, ratings, and alternatives you can consider.
I had weaned myself off coffee, so in the morning I had:
- a large glass of tea or hot water with a teaspoon of honey
- and porridge (oatmeal cooked with water, not milk)
- or 2 slices of wheat toast, lightly buttered with margarine.
For lunch, I had:
- an egg white omelet (2 eggs) with some spinach,
- or vegetable soup.
For dinner, I had:
- a small fillet of fish, pan-fried, with a small lettuce, tomato, and chopped-celery salad with lemon juice, instead of salad dressing.
- On Friday evenings I would have a chicken drumstick instead of the fish.
Sounds pretty boring and bland, but it worked for getting the weight off. This may not work for everyone.
Between the main meals, I would have some fruit or peanuts. The idea is to have small amounts of food regularly to get the body used to a routine of regular food intake so it does feel the need to store the food as fat.
I was very focused on counting calories. I found that over time I started to know how much to eat to reach my targets. I also found that I didn't need to be so strict every day. If I went over one day, I tried to have less the next.
I notice that folks go to the gym to "workout" and then overeat afterward, so it's a moving target that people need to track and adjust depending on their activities and use some common sense.
If you use the apps I mentioned, you will notice that (and this is common sense, really) if you do any form of exercise, you will have to eat more then your allocated calories for that day. You are burning more calories doing exercise, so accordingly you will need to eat more to compensate or you will fall over from lack of food. This is an important point to remember!
My Weight-Loss Experience
Here's what I went through during the first few months of my diet:
The First Month
- The weight seesawed up and down, and I was hard-pressed to lose even half of my target weight. I was not gaining, but I was also not losing at the rate I wanted to. This was partly my body wondering why I was eating fewer calories and attempting to store the food for "emergencies."
- By about the third week of the first month, I had lost about four or five pounds—still not spectacular, but I noticed that the seesawing slowed down and eventually stopped. This means that my body realized that it was not being starved and that there would always be food, but just less of it. The body adjusts to that nicely and the weight then starts to plateau off.
- At the end of the first month and during the second month, I monitored my weight every day and continued to track the calories I consumed.
Second and Third Months
- During your second and third month, you will notice your weight consistently going down. In fact, you can feel you are in control of your diet and not the other way around. It's a great feeling when you notice that perhaps your jeans that have always been a little tight are now a little loose and it's time to throw them in the dryer to shrink them a little.
- You will also notice at this stage that when you go to restaurant (and yes, you can go to restaurants, just calculate the calories you are about to eat first), that you cannot eat as much as you did before. You'll end up taking half the meal home with you. That's when you have made real progress. You body has adapted so well to your new way of eating that it stops you from eating too much.
Changing My Eating Habits
Over time I noticed that I felt better and had more energy when I focus on a more vegetarian type diet and cut out dairy products and other processed foods. I also cut out the usual snacks and soda, which was kind of easy to do once I took a look at their calorie content and then tried to figure the amount of work I would need to do to burn off those calories.
It's important to note that cravings cheat meals are normal. Although this diet is not very strict, you should follow it religiously. However, when you have cravings, rather than falling into an eating binge, set aside one meal a week to eat anything you like—within reason. Calories are counted for that meal as well and spread over the week. The rule is that if you have eaten too many calories one day, you have to eat less the next day, and vice versa.
This is not a science, and everyone is different in how they react to having less food and different foods in their diet. During this process, you have to listen to your body and try to make note of foods that you like and don't like, and also which foods seem to make you gain weight more quickly.
For example, fresh fruits contain natural sugars that can give you some energy in the afternoon and they are easily digested by the body. On the other hand, a slice of pizza with pepperoni and cheese in the afternoon will probably put you to sleep as the body goes overtime to try to digest all the flour, cheese, and meat.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Think about using fitness apps to will track your exercise activity and, if you're inclined, share and compete with your friends. This has been proven to be a great way to get really motivated and support each other to reach your goals.
Wearable trackers and smartwatches are also great to help track your fitness. You can connect them with almost any device you have, and access heart rate monitoring and notifications by email and SMS. You can even use the device to make and answer calls, like with the Apple Watch.
Wearable Trackers and Smartwatches
As mentioned above, the activity tracker features have more or less included built in heart rate monitoring and we see smart watches getting smarter. This means you can get even more from your device. Keep an eye on the Samsung and Apple smartwatches' new features, which are coming very soon.
- I tried both the Jawbone UP and UP24 for several months and they are very good minimalistic activity trackers as they do not have a display and you operate one button for different settings/modes. Everything is referenced on your device.
- Another excellent product is the Fitbit Flex, which is similarly minimalistic and comes with an excellent app from Fitbit! I used an earlier version but once I started using the UP24 found that the features suited me the most. Each to their own so I would suggest checking it out before making a decision.
- Now if you are really looking for a wearable activity tracker that can double as a smartwatch Samsung has the Samsung Gear 2 and the Samsung Gear Fit. These work directly in parallel with the latest Samsung Galaxy S 5 / S 4/S III / Mega / Note II / Note 3 with the new Samsung S Health app.
As you can see, you have plenty of options, from the bare minimals to the full-on smartwatch with all the interconnectivity and alerts you will ever want.
Keep fit, keep safe, and keep healthy—all from your wrist!
How to Lose 40 Pounds in 3 Months
- Understand your goal(s) and make them tangible.
- Make a plan.
- Set a weight target and when you would like to reach it.
- Go slow at first to see how your body is reacting to the dietary change.
- Use available online and wearable tools.
- Use your iPhone with a couple of free apps to find out which diet to use.
- Reward yourself with a special meal once a week.
- Enjoy life and the food you eat.
As a last note, if you do have any dietary issues you should check with your family doctor before you drastically change your eating habits.
How to Calculate Your Body Mass Index
As part of my research, I calculated my body mass index (BMI). This is a weight-to-height ratio, calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. It's used as an indicator of obesity. There are very good calculators available online to help you figure out your BMI.
Avoid Fad Diets for Long-Term Weight-Loss
It can be hard to find reliable information about how to lose weight so that the weight stays off. The best resources use hard science, not trends, to come up with information. One resource is the Weight Control Information Network, which is part of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It's a site that offers the latest research for losing weight. Check it out!
© 2011 Aikonia