It occurs to me that, with my tendency to share stuff like my monthly weigh-in results, it probably makes sense for me to say a bit more about what it is that I actually do that helps me make progress with losing weight.
As I said in the earlier post, I exercise, and I pay attention to my portion sizes when eating. I also keep watch on my eating disorder, which is comfort eating tied to depression. If there’s one area in all this where self-control is a part of my regime, then that is it: nothing else will do when it comes to being aware of my desire to eat to “medicate” the bad feelings, and choosing not to do that.
On portion sizes, this is a mixed bag. Comparing what I eat now to what I ate regularly when I was merely holding steady at a maximum weight, on some things I have reduced by a third. On other things, it’s closer to 10% and on others it varies between “not at all” and “a fair chunk”, depending on how hungry I feel and how delicious it looks/smells/tastes. The upside is that “how hungry I (don’t) feel” is now more important than “how delicious it is” – meaning that when I have had enough, I am now in a place where I do not feel tempted (or only a little bit) by the thought of having more/another helping. Part of the success of what I do is just about getting used to the changes, I think, as well as being more aware of my body.
I promised myself that I would deny myself nothing, and I would not force anything on myself: Maria Von Trapp wrote that “diets end up as eating what you like with a bad conscience” and that struck a chord with me, so I decided to save myself the bad conscience! (Especially as a bad conscience mixed with depressive comfort eating seems like a counter-productive combination…) No food is forbidden, no food is required, what I feel like eating, I eat. What I don’t I generally won’t. It is purely about how much.
I take a similar approach to exercise. The idea of exercise for its own sake just leaves me baffled and is unsustainable. I get bored, give up, do something more interesting like reading a book. Team sports is one way to motivate myself, but I don’t really have a team and, besides, the advice is always, “Don’t play sports to get fit; get fit to play sports”, which boils down to exercise without reward or purpose until I’m “fit enough”. Fortunately, there are some activities that I do enjoy independently. At the top of the list is air guitar. Although I usually swap instruments through a song, so air microphone and air drumkit also feature heavily. With a little thought, some good aerobic moves can be worked into a routine. I’ve also got some handbooks on learning kung fu, so some of the basic exercises in those go well to the heavy metal or rock music that my air guitaring requires. With warm-up stretches and 20 arm curls on each arm with a 5kg dumbbell, 15-20 minutes of air guitar kung fu aerobics works up a heavy sweat. My routine at the moment is get out of bed, go straight into my stretches and then put the rock music on. 20 minutes later, in the shower and get ready for the day, invigorated by the exercise and the wash. Now, I am not punctilious about this – I skip it some mornings – but it is the basis of a routine.
I don’t drive, so most of my travelling requires walking – either directly to my destination, or to the bus stop. While walking quickly does not raise a sweat like the air guitar, it is still regular low-level exercise and burns calories, and I do a lot of it. I also go to the supermarket 2-3 times a week. The shopping typically weighs 4-5kg. Guess what? I do 20 arm curl reps on each side as I walk back from the supermarket. It just slots neatly into the daily/weekly business of life.
To me, this is about being sustainable and happy weight loss, not dramatic or target-driven. The steps described may seem small but they fit around the requirements of my personality and what’s going on in my life, to work for steady month-on-month progression. No guilt, no denial, no suffering (yeah, my muscles ache after a hard rock-out session, but that’s the GOOD kind of pain, because the means of getting it was rewarding in itself). Instead, fun, happiness, self-awareness. While weight loss is a goal, at this stage it is more like a welcome side-effect of the other things.