This morning as I sat down to write this post, I did so armed with the lavish breakfast made possible when I’m not getting up at 5:30 AM to work.
It was a veritable feast; kidney and cannellini bean chili with beef, served over baby potatoes, topped with three well seasoned and perfectly cooked eggs-over-easy. The crowning glory to this succulent indulgence was a heaping handful of colby jack cheese.
It. Was. Delicious.
It was also extremely healthy compared to the meals I ate 365 days ago. In that bowl was more vegetables than I used consumed in the span of a week. If you noticed, I also eschewed any processed carbs. No crackers crumbled in, not served on top of a cinnamon roll (it’s a Midwest thing).
The me of 2018 would have laughed, then reached for an entire sleeve of saltines.
I mention my breakfast because in 2019, I lost 68 pounds.
I documented it and everything.
At the tender age of 35, I lost the equivalent of an Irish Setter.
I managed this feat without the assistance of my metabolism. That mangy curr vanished in the dead of night on my 30th birthday, never to be seen again.
At a time in my life when I should be starting to lose my personal war with entropy, I have somehow managed to turn back the clock. I didn’t accomplish it using a fad diet. My thinning wasn’t the by-product of gastrointestinal surgery. 2019 was the product of near-fanatical devotion to three simple daily goals. Goals that I will now share with you, in the hopes they help you should you so choose to make 2020 your own.
Please bear in mind that I said simple, not easy.
Numero Uno — Get. More. Sleep.
This is perhaps the most difficult part of my weight-loss plan. It’s a war I must wage against myself every evening. I am, by both inclination and preference, a night owl. I LOVE the quiet, peaceful hours of the late evening and early morning. I sleep best in a silent house with the sunlight barely visible through drawn curtains.
In a perfect universe, I would work from the moment my family goes to bed until they awaken, take my son to school during the wee hours of dawn, sleep during the rest of the day, and have the window of time betwixt the two to spend with the family.
Sadly, I don’t live in a perfect world and neither do you. In the world we actually live in, I’m forced to get up at FIVE FREAKING THIRTY in order to be at my dairy on time to accept the morning’s delivery.
I loathe that life has forced me to become a morning person just to survive.
I mange to get in bed by ten. Most of the time. Some nights I stay up till midnight. Because I’m a rebel. My wife calls it being ‘stubborn’ or ‘asinine’. You see? Rebel.
It’s aggravating. Every single fiber of my being wants to blast past ten in the evening to a night of blissful silence and isolation. Then I find myself in bed and curse my new routine.
On my days off, I sleep like a greedy miser who’s only love is the back of his eyelids.
Sleep is something you have to make time for, often at the expense of personal preference or other activities. It sucks. I’m trying to be a writer, and the bulk of my time off is devoted to unproductive sleeping.
It’s mandatory. My life has improved dramatically since I started getting enough sleep to function during the hours I am awake. The more research piles up, the more the truth is made inescapably clear; get enough sleep or suffer from your lack thereof.
Losing weight would be impossible if I skipped this part of my routine.
Part the Second — Eat Like Your Life Depends Upon It.
Again, something so simple and it couldn’t be any further from easy even if you strapped it to a rocket.
In the end, I had to be brutally honest with myself; I have to eat like it’s the only thing separating me from a horrible, painful, slow-motion demise.
Because it is.
At the start of 2019, I weighed 300 pounds. I am 5’ 7’’. I could not do several very basic life-functions without assistance. I almost couldn’t get up from the floor. Walking up a flight of stairs winded me. My blood pressure was 180/130. Resting.
I was going to die early and awful. It’s a horrible thing to have to tell yourself, but sometimes the bitter medicine is the most restorative. Diabetes and/or heart failure were knocking at my door and breathing down my neck. They hung over every activity, haunting my even the blissful quiet of my evenings alone.
So I gave up comfort food.
I took it slow. I knew from past experience that cold-turkey was just setting myself up to fail. So I would make a change, singular, then take the time to adapt to that change. Once that change became routine, it was time for the next. Rinse and repeat, ad nauseum.
Therefore, when I tell you that in 2019 I did the following…
- Cut out soda entirely
- Stopped eating added sugar and most sugar in general
- No longer eat processed carbs (bread, pasta, crackers, etc.)
- Have more than quintupled my vegetable intake
- Drink exclusively water, coffee, or tea
- Eat out 99% less (once a month vs. 10+ times a week)
… I don’t want you to run screaming for the hills because everything in your life is now kale and ashes. It’s not.You don’t have to spend your entire non-working life in the kitchen in order to diet successfully. You can throw yourself wholesale into cooking if you so choose, but even if you’re as terrible at it as I was it’s still something you’ll be able to do.
What you don’t have to do is everything all at once. While you’ll need to accomplish a list similar to the one above (depending on your doctor’s advice and your dietary requirements), it’s something you can and should ease into one determined step at a time.
Yes, there are success stories where people slam the brakes on their life and turn everything around in one dramatic weekend, but for every one of those there are thousands more who’ve wrecked their hopes and dreams by trying to move too fast.
Eating healthy isn’t a race. It’s a marathon. It’s trench warfare, fought every single day against the most determined and intractable foe you will ever face: yourself.
Take the time to master each new weapon in your arsenal before you reach for another.
Speaking of other weapons, allow me to show you the last trick of my weight-loss trade.
The Final Act — Lose Who You Were In Your New Habits
This is where nearly everyone trips at the finish line. Myself included, on two rather notable and tragic occasions. I’ve lost significant amounts of weight on two separate occasions. In 2019, I had a rather major plateau which lasted a significant chunk of the year because that’s how long it took me to figure out that this was the real linchpin of the whole weighty affair.
Who you were is what got you to where you are. For me, sitting around eating fast-food like cooking a meal would give me cancer led inexorably towards my 300 pound problems.
The habits and lifestyle you had before aren’t working. You have to find new ones.
Notice that I didn’t say ‘Just go to the gym, ya nerd!’ Advice like that is bad, for lots and lots of reasons.
Seriously, what does that style of advice accomplish? Tough love can only take you so far. Sure, some of you might actually show up at the gym more than once. I doubt it, though.
What I want to do with this article, with my whole life really, is give advice that actually freaking works. So instead of telling you to just go to the gym knowing that you won’t or can’t, I’m going to give you the advice it took me 15 years to take;
Find a new, ACTIVE lifestyle which has a community for you to join and burn the majority of your prior habits upon their alter.
Remember the gym? Gyms have classes for beginners, because that’s 99% of their clientele. Find a class for an activity that aligns with what your doctor recommends (Yep, even in this, especially in this, you need to consult a physician) and give all of yourself to it.
Buy their tacky t-shirts, join the Facebook group, make friends with anyone and everyone you can. Do all that is within your power to commit to this new source of physical activity.
BECOME THAT HARDCORE BIKING NERD!!!
You know why? Devoting yourself to bike riding with your biking buddies is going to get you off the couch and out your door on days when no other force on Earth stands a chance.
Weight loss is a nightmarish struggle against every bad habit you’ve ever formed. For me, most everything that once gave me comfort and almost all of my activities were the root of my recurring weight issues.
Bear in mind, while you’re working like mad to lose weight, your body is reacting to your efforts like you’ve begun lighting a cigarette while wearing a suit made of gasoline.
You aren’t going to overcome the active resistance of your body with half-hearted measures. You aren’t going to make it over the finish line unless you’re willing to leave behind parts of who you once were.
For myself, I have thrown myself into my work without hesitation or reservation.
I run a dairy.
For those who aren’t familiar with what that entails, allow me to enlighten you;
Go grab a carton of milk. You know the one, the half-gallon of almond milk you drink so that you don’t clear a room without warning. Maybe that’s just me, but I digress. Heft that sucker about. If it’s empty, fill it to the brim with water. Move it about at the limits of your reach.
Now imagine doing that with six of them because that’s how many come in a box. I get a hundred boxes a day.
I heft those about for eight hours straight. Every. Day.
My days off are spent preparing for work. I treat my job like it’s the only thing keeping my feet glued to the surface of the Earth. I know it’s not important work but I force myself to find joy in doing a hard and necessary job with distinction.
That’s my commitment. While there are many like it, this one is my dairy. I work my whole life around my job because it is my job which is keeping the 68 pounds I’ve lost at bay. It’s my job that is doing the heavy lifting that I couldn’t find in the gym or in yet another office environment. It’s my job that will allow me to cross the finish line that I’ve set for myself of 200 pounds.
It’s also the furthest thing from what I used to do. I spent 15 years in office work, now I sling milk and juice around like the Devil is nipping at my heels.
Weight-loss requires some sacrifice.
That’s the Blog Post, Folks
Weight-management is something that you’ll have to do for the rest of your life.
I’m sorry, but that’s the harsh reality of our lives.
Even when I finally manage to hit my goal and stare down at the scale to see 200 staring back up at me, I won’t be done. I’ll never be done. There isn’t a happily ever after. There’s just the work of getting enough sleep, watching my plate like a hawk, and devoting myself to an activity that keeps my body in line.
I take solace in that fact.
It comforts me to know that no matter how much I learn along the way, there will always be room for improvement.
The Unsheathed Quill