If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
I have been trying to reduce my weight for several years now without much success. This has been one of the most difficult personal goal for me to accomplish during the last several years. Like with countless other folks around the world – my goal will often start with a new year resolution that usually lose its steam somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd month. Loosing weight/getting fit is the most common new year resolution that people find it hard to keep. Like a yearly ritual, earlier this year – I committed myself (again) to the cause. This time though I saw the success that had eluded me all those years. Finally, I was able to shave off 5 inches from my waist line and weight 35 lbs lighter to get on the right height/weight category. To top it off – I have been maintaining it now for several months.
Here are my reflection on why I succeeded this time around as compare to various past not-so-successful attempts. They are not that much different from how one would approach accomplishing goal in professional environment:
1. Learn from the past: Set up realistic goal that can be accomplished.
Failures of the past turned out to be (as always) not all lost cause. They provided an insight into what was not working and what was working. They also provided me healthy dose of realism, at the onset, to ensure the level of commitment that is needed to accomplish the goal. So I knew getting in (like everything else that need to be accomplished in life) that it will not come easy and it will take time (months) to accomplish it. It helped me develop patience – not to walk away early and helped me develop a multi-prong approach that included diet; exercise; and discipline.
2. Discipline: Change old habits to develop new behaviors.
Probably the hardest part as an individual is to change your own long-standing behavior. And to develop new long-lasting habits it is important to develop discipline around those new behaviors you want to learn. I am a foodie kind of guy and I love drinks in social setting. It is hard to say no to a good food and probably harder to say no when drinks are offered. It is much hard to say no when your loved ones and great friends are on the other side offering you that extra food or drink that you love with that innocent look on their face.
However to reduce weight – one has to develop a healthy discipline around what you eat and how much you eat. At the end of the day – loosing (and maintaining) weight is a math problem around how many net calories you intake in a day. For normal people like me – Calories are easy to eat but it take quite an effort to burn those extra calories. Drinks are equally culprit in adding up your daily calorie count. So this time around – I learned to say no (smilingly); or just walk away; or pace myself to a slower speed than everyone else in a social setting that allowed me not to have any extra intake where people persist feed for one more round.
Also, being regular at exercise is important to develop good metabolism and physical strength while loosing weight. You don’t want to lose weight by starving that make you physically weak or feeling tired all the time. As I have always enjoyed sports and have been playing some sport regularly all my life – this came natural to me to keep up with a sport/exercise routine that I enjoy.
3. Measure what need improvement:
I believe in measuring what matters. Thus far though I avoided applying it towards losing weight/getting fit. Thanks to the mobile revolution now there are several good apps for it. So I downloaded couple of smart apps on my iPhone that I started using it on daily basis (actually several times a day) to count every meal that I ate; as well as calories I burn due to exercises or playing some sports. These Apps were of tremendous help in keeping tab of how much calories I was eating every day.
More importantly Apps helped me made a calorie literate person and closed the knowing-doing gap. This may be a known science that people already practice – however relating food size portion towards how much calories I was eating towards my daily goal was not well understood by me. Also, I started weighing myself regularly at the same time during a week. It not only helps understand the progress – it also become an early alert system to course correct (particularly during the holiday seasons) when you start to gain weight. Key here turned out to measuring regularly – which is now part of my regular routine.
4. Adapt to the changing environment:
Other challenge for me was to adapt to my traveling nature of job that usually comes with various dinner/drink late evening sessions as part of every day life. So how to keep healthy balance while at home versus while traveling became part of the discipline to develop. I tried not kill myself to keep up with the same food/hours/etc. I went with the flow and adapted to find the right food/drink necessary to maintain the overall goal. Eat salad during lunch hours if you know dinner is going to be heavy. Also, I focused more on the portion size than what kind of food I was eating. It generally worked well for me. I switched to drinking more water over other soft drinks. It is more likely that you will see me carrying water bottle in my hand during those evening sessions when everyone is queued up for free drinks. Or I will be pacing my wine much slower while others are gulping it down.
5. Celebrate successes: Have fun along the way
Knowing loosing/maintaining weight will be a long haul process and I was not ready to live like hermit by avoiding all food/drinks that I enjoy. So I focused more on portion size (based on type of food/calorie) that allowed me to eat everything. Also I celebrated small successes along the way with mouth savoring food or drinks – preferably with low-calorie option, if available. It made the long journey fun and provided me the necessary encouragement to keep going rather than fall prey to the temptation when you deprive yourself too hard of all good things one can enjoy.
6. Develop operating rhythm in personal life: You are what you regularly do.
Being fit is a life style choice that don’t happen instantly. One has to develop healthy life rhythm to make it part of your daily behavior. Overtime, these rhythm become second nature and necessary to maintain what you worked so hard to achieve.