Looking back, my weight loss efforts have all had one thing in common: complexity. I tried to adhere to a regimen that didn’t lend itself to a non-stressed schedule, and to a detailed tracking of everything I ate that, while effective, was inconvenient and time-consuming. Every time I’ve tried anything like this, I’ve slipped out of the regimen and dietary tracking and gained weight back.
I’m always euphoric whenever I start a new weight loss plan, filled with motivation and certainty that this time, it’ll work. That’s why when my friend Mari told me once that she didn’t want to try to track what she ate because she knew she’d never keep it up, I thought, “That’s fine for you, but I will keep it up, and I’ll lose weight!”
I think I’m finally coming around to her point of view.
A person’s drive only lasts so long. Then, once it’s over, it’s way too easy to slip, or to just stop. You feel terrible, but it seems like so much work to get back into it that you give up. I personally tend to get bored with an activity after I’ve been doing it for a few weeks, and that makes it even harder to keep myself motivated.
Plus, an elaborate food and exercise tracking plan can be gamed. I’d work the numbers like crazy to try and fit in greasy food or sweet snacks. And exercise tracking never quite seems accurate; a tiny tweak of the numbers and the total calories burned can change by 100!
What I would like to try going forward is a simpler way of looking at food and exercise. Here’s what I’m thinking.
I would like to try to eat something every two or three hours. That something will just be one serving of one thing.
I’ve noticed that I tend to order a lot of different things at restaurants. This is because if I just have a lot of one food, I get bored. I’m going to try to use this to my advantage. If all I can eat at any particular moment is this one thing, then, paradoxically, perhaps I will eat less of it than I would if I also had other stuff to go with it. And even if not, I still will only be eating that one thing.
Under this plan, I will no longer eat big meals. When I go out to eat, I will order one a la carte item or side item. And I’ll have to get Sean not to make me a big dinner anymore–or eat the dinner he makes one item at a time over the course of several hours.
I will also try to eat more “good” stuff than “bad” stuff in any given day. I might get a chicken soft taco at lunch, but that’s cool as long as I’ve been eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy soups, etc. the rest of the day. I’ll try to eat more natural stuff and less processed stuff.
My hope is that since I’ll be eating every few hours, I won’t feel hungry, but because I’ll be eating smarter, I won’t be eating as much.
Instead of coming up with a specific exercise regimen, I will instead work towards the goal of 30 to 90 minutes of physical activity every day. This does not have to happen at the gym, and the time does not have to be consecutive. For example, I could do 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at lunch, and 15 minutes in the evening for a 45-minute activity day.
Compared to the thought of going to the gym for an hour each morning, this sounds like a piece of cake. I really feel like this is a sustainable model.
Under this plan, I won’t worry about the type of activity I’m doing or how many calories I’m burning. Instead, I’ll pick fun activities and then work myself as hard as possible.
In order to make this work, I will have to do some planning. To eat every few hours, I will need to pack or purchase four to five items each workday. I may try setting specific eating times, but ultimately I think it’ll be easier to just note the time whenever I eat and make sure I have something else within the next three hours.
Bananas, yogurt, and pretzels are some examples of the types of food I can pack, but I know I’ve gotten bored with healthy snacks before, so I will need to try to have more variety.
To facilitate ongoing physical activity, I think I will need to break down and start keeping exercise clothes and shoes at work. It can be something of a hassle to remember to bring things home to be washed, but packing and bringing workout clothes each morning is unsustainable. Ultimately, having at least the shoes there will ensure I have no excuse to skip that day’s physical activity.
So that’s the plan. Wish me luck!