My Life as a Dog

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Then & Now

Me around 240 lbs in May 2008 / Me around 200 lbs in Oct 2011 

I've been thinking for sometime that it would be good to post a before and an after photo. The hard part is that I don't think I'm done so it's hard to do it now. But I have had several requests from friends and family asking me about what has worked for me to make the changes that I have. I posted it on Facebook and have been pretty surprised at the number of comments and likes that I have received. So I thought I'd combine the photo and what I've learned that has worked for me. Keep in mind that I am no expert and what works for me might not work for you. I've really just taken ideas from lots of sources.

Do What You Can Keep Doing / Don't Overdo it / Don't Punish Yourself
When I started out it was important for me to do things that I could keep doing. It's important to have some successes. If the first thing you experience in trying to make changes is failure, chances are that you will give up before you really even get started. So set smaller goals like drink more water, skip the french fries, or taking the stairs. Give yourself some specific goals and for a specific time frame. I would often set goals for a month. People would ask, "Well why not longer?" I don't think I ever answered it this way but really I think I wanted to do something that I knew I could do. Maybe if I thought that I was going to continue for a year, the ideas might be a little overwhelming. This way I was allowed to have successes.

Measure Your Progress
Initially I was tracking my calories. I had no idea how many calories I was eating and I had no idea as to how many calories I should be eating. I had heard of a great free iPhone application called Lose It! I downloaded it. It allowed me to enter some basic information about myself, set a goal weight, and then set how fast I wanted to lose weight. I didn't get all crazy. I told it initially that I wanted to get down to 210 lbs. I was 225 when I started and around 230-235 at my peak. I told the application that I wanted to loose 2 pounds per week. It then told me how many calories I should be eating to achieve this goal. Tracking all this helped me gain better perspective on what I should be eating.

This same application allowed me to track my exercise. I used it but I liked actually writing on a calendar in my bedroom. That way it was easy for me to see how regularly I was getting my trips to the gym in. And later when I started running I started keeping a spreadsheet with each of my runs listed. I would track the distance and the time. This allowed me to see progress and nothing is more rewarding than that.

Make Exercise a Priority
I really had to change the way I had been thinking about exercise. I mean I've had a gym membership for decades now and I would even use it. It wasn't until I started using Foursquare (another iPhone application) and I would see some of my friends checking into the gym early in the morning or multiple times a day that I realized that I wasn't really going to the gym that much. I decided to make sure that I was getting to the gym often. I didn't have a hard number of times a week but it averaged around four. But the more I've gone the more I want to go. I find myself trying to figure out when I can fit in the next run, etc... And now its not uncommon for me to go spin at lunch and then hit the gym in the evening for some weights or racquetball.

Challenge Yourself
In order to keep going its important to have successes and have new achievements. Whether it's trying to run a faster mile, lift more weights, or swim more laps, each new success will help you continue to motivate you to do better. Sometimes it's finding a new sport. More recently I picked up spinning a lot and revisited lifting weights rather than just focusing on running. It's nice to prove to yourself that you can do things that you thought were not possible. When I started running was really worried. I felt totally inadequate. I had never been a runner. I didn't want to look stupid on the treadmill at the gym. After watching The Biggest Loser and seeing their contestants run I realized that I really have no excuses. So I sucked it up and now I'm a "runner."

Develop an Identity
I think it's important to start to develop an identity that goes along with your new goals. Anytime I go to the gym I check in on Facebook. When I run outside I post it to Facebook. When I run a relay I post that information. As a result, my friends all know that I am a runner. Sure in my mind might not ever think I'm a "runner" because I might not run as fast or far as I would like but the reality is that I do run often so I'm trying to own that. Regardless, my friends and family all identify me as a runner now.

Make Public Commitments
I have used Facebook and blog for a place were I could make public commitments. I knew that if I started no longer checking in on Facebook to the gym that I knew people would start to ask or at least think to themselves that it seems like I'm slacking off. I wouldn't want that. Also it's great to sign up for races because it commits you to following through. I'm pretty sure had I not signed up for races so early that it would have been really easy to stop running altogether.

Make It Fun
Exercise shouldn't be a chore. Even though I struggle every time I run and feel like I can barely make it through my spin class, I have come to find it fun. I look forward to it. How does this happen? With spinning you can find fun instructors, the music makes it fun, and bringing new or old friends is always a good time. With running it's been fun to run with friends but when on my own listening to music and exploring a new path always makes it more enjoyable. While on vacation in Florida this summer one of my favorite experiences was getting up fairly early and going for a run around the lake and through Downtown Disney before the stores opened.

Learn to be Comfortable Where You Are Now
I had a lot of anxiety about running on the treadmill in the gym. I didn't want to look stupid. In all honesty I doubt anyone was even noticing me anyway. Just get on and do what you can do and take pride in the fact that you're doing something. I also had a lot of anxiety surrounding locker rooms and water activities where I would have to take my shirt off. I avoided them at all costs. As a result I missed out on a lot of things. For too long I had focused on only the guys at the gym that are super buff and that only made me feel fatter and less okay. The reality is that there are all shapes and sizes that go to the gym. There are even more shapes and sizes that don't. The point is that there is nothing wrong with you and going to the gym is a good thing. I found once I was able to be nicer to myself about my body then it was easier to lose weight.

In closing, I certainly am no expert on these things. I just wanted to share some of what I think has made a difference for me. Also I have not "made it." I still have lots of work to do but I realize that its a process and its going to be a part of my life for a long time and I'm okay with that. :)