All that said, I'm now more than 100 pounds lighter than my January 7th weigh-in, so I guess it's official. Heck, it's gotta be official: I even have a virtual badge from LoseIt to commemorate it. I've lost over 100 pounds in a little under 8 1/2 months. Wow. And truth be told, I didn't set out to lose 100 pounds, I wasn't thinking I'd be able to get particularly close to the century mark, nor did I think I wanted to. My original goal--one that I wasn't really sure I could reach--had me more than 30 pounds heavier than I am now. I had no idea how far I'd go in this journey from obesity to fitness. It's amazing what can happen when we set out on a course and, rather than plotting our own destination, just follow the path to wherever it might lead.
The 100-pound mark seems like a good time to reflect a bit and share a few lessons learned in the hope that some of these will serve as encouragements or light bulb moments for some of you reading.
(FYI, This post isn't intended to be super-detailed. If you're trying to get started along a similar journey as mine and want something more comprehensive and prescriptive, I'd recommend starting with my "tips for beginners" post and the other posts to which it links.)
LESSONS I'VE LEARNED
I can't out-exercise a bad diet. For that matter, I can't even out-exercise a *good* diet if I eat too much. For example, on Sunday, August 4th, I did one of the two or three toughest runs I've ever done. The rest of the day, having run that hard for that long, I felt that I didn't need to pay attention to my portion sizes as closely as I normally do, culminating that evening when we had people over for dinner and I got extra helpings of salmon, asparagus, and avocado salad. Those aren't exactly foods that are bad for me, but the net result from the seconds at dinner and the extra snacking (on healthy foods,
Dietary fat is not my enemy. Prior to doing my own research and then experiencing steady weight loss while eating a diet that isn't low in fat, I'd long been conditioned to assume that all fat intake is bad. I've learned that it simply isn't true. I'm no longer remotely afraid of healthy fat from sources such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, chia seeds, flax seed, avocados, olive oil, and dark chocolate (among other items). I limit saturated fat in my diet, but no longer do I worry or even think about overall fat intake. I've found that just focusing on keeping saturated fat under 25g per day works very well for helping me make healthy choices regarding dietary fat.
Carbs are not my enemy either. Similar to the above, for a while I bought into the anti-carb hype. But now as an active exerciser, I'm seeing no reason to run away from carbohydrates. To the contrary, I use them as the primary fuel for my workouts. That said, I'm careful to consider the source of the carbs. I've found that if I get the vast majority of my carbs from whole grains, fruits, legumes, and non-starchy vegetables, weight management is not an issue.
Walking on a treadmill with a steep incline is vastly underrated and under-publicized as a top-notch cardio workout. This is a new one to me, just learned in the last couple of weeks due to recovering from minor surgery and not being able to run. There's more detail on it in another blog post, but suffice it to say here that I am able to get average heart rates from walking on the inclined treadmill that are extremely similar to the average heart rates I achieve on some of my toughest runs. Steep-incline treadmill walking is an outstanding and low-impact cardiovascular exercise, one that I intend to keep in my regular routine long after I'm cleared by my physician to run again.
I don't have to eat food that I dislike or that is bland to lose weight. I've gained all of this fitness and lost all of this weight by eating foods that I really enjoy, and I'm not eating anything that I don't enjoy.
There's not one "ideal" diet for health and fat loss for me. Those 100+ pounds came off without my using any one prescribed diet plan, and in the process of researching various ones, trying several for a time, and interacting with people who have used plans that I haven't, my observation is that there are a bunch of ways to skin this cat. I lost weight on this journey when I was focusing on lowering carbs. I lost weight in this journey when I was focusing on lowering fat. I lost weight in this journey when I was balancing carbs/fat/protein at a 40/30/30 ratio. Over time, I concluded that my weight loss in this journey wasn't because of some magical diet plan, but because I was burning more calories than I was taking in. So now I just make sure that I get enough protein and fiber, that I don't get too much saturated fat and sugars, and the rest seems to take care of itself. Now, months removed from having stopped trying to work any specific plans, I eat too much dairy and grain to consider the Paleo diet, too many carbs for low carb/ketosis type diets, wayyyyy too much meat to ever think about going vegeterian or vegan, and I don't have the time or patience to prepare or eat 5 or 6 small meals a day like many recommend. But over time, I've come across or read stories about different people who have achieved wonderful health and fitness results, and the list covers each one of the aforementioned plans, some of which are darned near polar opposites.
The "best" exercise type for me is the exercise type that I am willing to do consistently. The gym to which I belong isn't anything special; it's pretty mediocre, actually. It doesn't have a power rack at all and it's lacking in a few other types of equipment. Most of my runs are in my twisting, winding subdivision. In a perfect world, I'd love to have a better gym, go to a nice circular regular running route, try CrossFit, and to do more HIIT, Tabata, deadlifts, sprinting, and other exercises. However, my mediocre gym is 1.1 miles from my front door, and my running warmup starts on the sidewalk right in front of my house. If I had to take extra time to go farther away to exercise, I would exercise less. So for now (and perhaps forever,) my mediocre gym and sub-par running route will have to continue to suffice. They've served me pretty well up to now, I suppose.
Encouragement from friends, family, and even strangers goes a long way. Friends and family have been great, as have people who read my blog, follow me on Twitter, post on the Facebook page, or send encouraging words in other ways. It makes a big difference. Just knowing that people are watching has gone a long way to help keep me accountable. So as my final word for the day, thank you to you, dear blog reader. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to encourage me along this way. If there's any way that I can help or encourage you, feel free to let me know.