My weight loss journey involves more than nutrition and exercise
As I embark on my journey to lose 40 lbs and hopefully help alleviate some of my arthritis pain, I’m using a few tools I thought I’d share with you.
First and foremost, I’ve accepted and confessed to myself that my number one problem is using food as a coping mechanism. So while I’m increasing my physical activity and decreasing my caloric intake, I’m also working on the psychological part: finding different ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. So the tools I’m using address mental health, exercise, and nutrition.
Tools for Weight Loss: Mental Health
A long time ago, I started reading the book Mind Over Mood, and at the time, it seemed helpful. I then abandoned the book for various reasons. I’m starting to read the book again, and I believe it will help me in finding healthier ways to cope with difficult situations and time periods. So Mind Over Mood is tool #1 for the mental health part of my weight loss journey.
Tool #2 also addresses emotional needs: I’ll be making a point of journalling for a minimum of 5 minutes a day. Writing is my escape, and it has helped me since I was a small child. Writing can be really therapeutical, so I’m going to prioritize those 5 minutes during my day.
Tools for Weight Loss: Exercise
The hardest part of adopting an exercise routine for me isn’t about the physical aspect—it’s about the emotional one. I worked for eight years as a Kinesiologist specializing in exercise for people with chronic illnesses. I know exactly what I have to do to adapt workouts so I can do them without creating further damage to my unstable joints… but it’s so hard to accept that this is what I have to do.
It’s hard to go from doing triathlons to calling a half-hour walk (while wearing braces) a workout. So I suppose the exercise portion of my weight loss plan is also emotional. I’ve finally accepted that I can’t work out like I used to (at least not right away, anyway). So I started with a simple goal: walk for 30 minutes 3 days per week for the first week.
I’m happy to say I’ve surpassed that goal and was able to walk for 30 minutes all 7 days last week. I also did all my physiotherapy exercises every day last week. The plan going forward is to add 5 minutes to the walk each week, until I’m walking for a solid hour, as long as my body can take it. I might also alternate some bike rides in there if I feel like it.
The only physical tool I’m using for my exercise, for now, is a physiotherapy band and stress balls for my physio.
Tools for Weight Loss: Nutrition
Now for the nutrition part. Firstly, let me say this: there are always people trying to tell me that I need to give up this or that nutrient to “cure” my chronic illnesses and/or to lose weight. This is one of the main reasons I don’t often talk or write about my chronic illnesses, and one of the reasons I left the fitness industry. Too many “experts.”
So let me clear from the get-go: when I get comments about what I should or shouldn’t eat, what exercise regimen I should adopt, or any other medical advice from non-medical professionals, I’m simply not going to answer those comments.
I’m a former Registered Kinesiologist and my sister is a Dietitian. I know good nutrition information when I see it (and it generally doesn’t come from lay people with no formal training).
There is a tonne of misinformation out there about how nutrition works, and the constant barrage of people telling professionals that they know more about nutrition and exercise than the professionals do (because they’ve read the “latest research”—usually on a blog) gets really tiring, really fast. <end rant.>
So, moving on. Despite what the credential-less “experts” have to say, weight loss, while a complex issue, comes down to one thing in the end: calories in, calories out. You burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight. Do the opposite, and you gain. Take in the same amount as you burn, and you maintain. It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.
While I know that counting calories is what every single weight loss plan is based on (despite the lies marketers tell you), I find it cumbersome and tiresome to try and calculate calories all the time. So I’m using a tool to do the job for me. Eatthismuch.com is a great website where you can enter your goals and how many meals you’d like to have in a day. It then gives you how many calories you need to reach your goals, and generates a meal plan with the exact calories you need. You can change things around and do all sorts of neat things with it, too. I’ll be using this website as I plan my meals for the weeks ahead.
If anyone’s wondering, I won’t be following a particular diet or restricting any particular foods. I’m simply going to eat the amount of calories I need to try to reach my goal by the end of December—which is a reasonable amount of time to lose the amount of weight I’ve set as a goal.
The only restrictions I’ll have are not eating meat, because that’s something I already do (not for weight loss, but for other reasons), and I might take cheese completely out, because I have no discipline around it (and because it gives me gas!) Otherwise, I’m eating normal food—yes, including sugar and carbs.
You can lose weight eating anything, as long as your caloric output is greater than your input. I don’t recommend a diet of Twinkies and Doritos, but the fact that you can lose weight on that diet emphasizes my point.
If you’re curious, I’ll mostly be eating vegetables, eggs, hummus, fish and yes, some bread will be included, too. And yes, there will be sugar in my tea, but not a lot of it—and I won’t be drinking tea every day.
I’ll check in about how my weight loss journey is going each Sunday during my Weekly Review. And no, I don’t need nutrition and exercise advice. If I do, I’ll go to a professional in the field of nutrition or human movement.
If you’d like to read some of my thoughts on weight loss, you can read this LifeHacker article, where I was quoted as an expert back when I was a personal trainer. You can also read some of my weight loss tips here.