How is today different from all other days? This morning the scale was 30 pounds below what it was in August. Nobody has noticed that I look like a stalk of bamboo. And whether the weight will stay off, I don't know. Still, 30 pounds in 80 days - not bad. I owe it all to public humiliation. Not that anyone reads this blog. But the act of weighing, tracking and displaying has psychological power. Every few days I input my weight into a Google spreadsheet and update the annotated timeline. When it goes down, the world smiles. When it goes up, imaginary fingers wag. The result has been surprisingly effective.
Until my mid-40s, I didn't have to work to get skinny. My weight would creep up to 210 or 215 pounds. I'd go out and start running again. Make a token sacrifice like quitting soft drinks. Soon I'd be back to the low 180s again, with the belt a couple of notches tighter.
But that era is over. It became impossible to burn enough calories to offset those Coca-Colas and Dipsy Doodles, and I'm too old (and too heavy) to run even 30 miles a week without getting injured.
Here are the rules that worked for me.
The Good Stuff
- Breakfast is free. Eat a good one. No Cinnabon, but don't worry about oatmeal, bacon, eggs and buttered toast.
- There's nothing wrong with half-and-half in your coffee. Or heavy cream, for that matter.
- Know what's nice before bed? A big spoon of peanut butter.
- Weigh yourself every day at the same time. (Cheating is OK. Just be consistent about it.)
- Make a chart. Look at it. Obsessively.
- If you weigh less than the day before, no need to do anything. You're golden.
- If you weigh more, keep that thought in the back of your mind during the day. Be careful about portions. Walk home from work. Spend more time hungry than full.
- Eat a little, see how you feel, then eat a little more. No seconds without a wait.
- Eat until you're 80% full. Don't eat again until you're 80% empty.
Eating and Avoiding
- Eat: Oatmeal, apples, salads, diet soda, rice, any kind of meat, poultry or fish.
- Avoid: Potatoes, sodas, desserts, anything with Bisquick.
Living in Manhattan requires a good bit of walking. I took a two-day bike trip, a few long walks and short runs, and had to fast for a day before a colonoscopy. But that's pretty much it. Once I got momentum, it wasn't that hard.
One habit I had to break: scarfing down cereal and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches late at night. The solution: that heaping tablespoon of peanut butter before bedtime.
But the key to the change was measuring, displaying and reacting. I could have used a spreadsheet, but the visualization gadget was more fun. And the results weren't bad at all.