A Small Pat on the Back (or Is That the Belly?)

As is often the case with many people who gain weight as they get older, I went from a high school graduating weight of 180 lbs to a “freshman fifteen” (okay, forty!) that took me up to around 220 in undergrad to a lifestyle in Calgary that was full of drinking beer, eating out and devouring lots of junk food that took me up to around 250 lbs. That’s the weight which has been, with some slight variations, pretty much around what I’ve weighed for the last ten years or so.

Until this year that is. Without a lot of fanfare or a big announcement, I made the decision earlier this year to try to make a few changes in my life to lose some weight.

I’ve always known on an intellectual level that I should lose weight – for my health, for my energy, for how I’d look and feel in general. But I have a lot of sympathy for people who can’t break bad habits – cigarettes, booze, drugs or what have you – because it was hard to make the leap to making the idea of getting healthy again more than just an something I thought sounded like a good idea into something that was a real and practical good idea.

But back in the summer, knowing that we were booking a trip for Hawaii, less than 12 months after our trip to Cuba and looking at those Cuba photos where I realised I looked more like my 60-year old father-in-law than my 30-something brother-in-law, I decided to make a no-pressure attempt to lose weight just to see what would happen. I would cut out much of my carb intake, greatly reduce the amount of junk food and alcohol I was consuming and try to get a bit more exercise, starting with making sure that I got out for some regular walks. (Part of the “no-pressure” aspect of my attempt was that I’d allow myself to cheat a bit on weekends – I could have a couple beers watching Hockey Night in Canada but maybe not half a dozen. If we went out, I could buy a small bag of chips but I wouldn’t polish off a big one. And so on.)

As I type this today, I weigh 225 lbs and have lost about 30 lbs since mid-July when we got back from Newfoundland (a last “hurrah” of sorts with lots of beer, deep fried fish and fries and other indulgences during that trip!)

This weight loss is without any major commitments to following a particular diet, vastly increasing the amount or type of exercise I do or subscribing to any fads, herbal remedies or other “quick-fixes”. (Or as my doctor exclaimed when I was into to see him on a different matter – “Have you lost weight? Wow – great job!” then after I told him how, he added “That’ll even be better because it’s sustainable. Many people I see who lose weight don’t keep it off because their new diet is too radical of a change or is too difficult or whatever.”)

(On that note, I find it interesting that my doctor noticed my weight loss right away not having seen me for months but family and co-workers I see regularly haven’t noticed unless I mention it. I guess that’s similar to people who rarely see Pace commenting on how he’s changed or grown when I don’t notice this in the same way.)

Anyhow, as I said, I didn’t talk about my attempted weight loss a lot at the start or as it was happening because I didn’t want to draw attention to it and frankly, I wasn’t sure if I’d be successful (I know some people do make a big announcement as a strategy to help keep them focused and/or put pressure on themselves but I decided to go a more subtle, personal route.) In fact, I even refused to call it a “diet” or to have a specific goal in mind of how much I wanted to lose which also helped keep it low-pressure and more of a gradual change.

There are numerous reasons I’ve been successful (and hopefully can continue losing weight until I get down to around 200-220lbs) but I’m always conscious that I could easily re-gain the weight quickly (Shea helpfully reminds me that once your fat cells are “stretched”, they’re eager to regain their former size! Er, that may not be her exact scientific explanation but that’s what I got out of it!)

Anyhow, I thought I’d list the reasons I think I’ve managed to lose weight in case anybody else was curious:

Our Baby’s Growing Up & So Was My Belly
The big impetus (it’s all about the willpower) was two things – looking at Pace and realising that I didn’t want to die of a heart attack when he was 10 or 20 or 30 if I could help it. As I already mentioned, the other thing was looking at pictures of me in Cuba – looking more like my somewhat heavy-set 60-year old father-in-law then my physically active 30-year-old brother-in-law and knowing we were going to Hawaii, deciding that I didn’t want those beach pictures to look the same. In fact, wanting the pictures of me on the beach in Cuba and me on the beach in Hawaii to provide as much contrast at the pale face ones of Shea, Pace and I flying to Cuba are with the same shot in the airplane on the way back of three bronzed, glowing folks.

A Librarian Who Walks Instead of Reads at Lunch?
I spent most of my first 2.5 years at RPL in the staff room reading during my lunch breaks. One particular co-worker invited me to walk with her earlier this spring and we’ve gone out a few times since. After 2+ years at RPL, I realised that maybe a good use of my noon hour is to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise instead of sitting in the staff room reading (I have lots of time for that on the bus to and from work each day.) As I ranged further and further, I realised Wascana Lake isn’t that far and that if I push it, I can do it in the hour I have for lunch (which will likely get even quicker as I get healthier).

Her and I used to disagree about low-carb. I was a believer that ultimately, you need to take in less calories than you use to lose weight – although as usual, Shea’s right about this. She knew low-carb as a great way to do weight quickly and so I decided to go with it since the point is that carbs turn into sugar whereas proteins and veggies are fatty and get processed differently (or something) and leave you less hungry whereas carbs can make you crave eating more. She’s also been a saint in planning and preparing meals that are lots of meats, salads and so on (eggs for breakfast instead of toast & cereal) that have really helped.

Shea’s Folks
Shea’s folks were sort of the guinea pigs for trying to move to a low-carb diet and each of them managed to lose a good bit of weight by cutting out a lot of carbs – bread, pasta, etc. – as well as junk food before I decided to give it a go.

Reddit’s r/LoseIt
There are a few communities on Reddit dedicated to weight-loss (r/keto for extreme low-carb folks, r/paleo is similar) and r/LoseIt is inspiring because the numerous before and after pics posted by others can really help you visualize your own success better than just imagining it. Seeing actual photographic proof that people can lose 25, 50 or 100 pounds is awesome.

This is an app that I saw jogger friends using on Facebook and decided to try for my walking. It uses GPS to track exactly where you go and how far/fast you go then uploads the info to a central web site. This allows you to see daily, weekly and monthy aggregate numbers and can give encouragement (It tells me that I’ve gone walking 64 times for a total of 235km covered. I also love seeing the progression from 3km walked in July to maybe 30 in August to between 40-60km in each of September, October, November and December!)

Heavyset Librarians
I was at an early planning meeting for SILS where a lot of librarians from across the province were in attendance as well. During a break, a colleague and I were talking and this person asked me: “Do you notice something about most of the people in that room?” “No, what?” I replied. “Every single person in that room is overweight.” It was true (including this other person and myself as well.) It wasn’t a major decision in why I decided to try to lose weight (and I’m not saying all librarians are overweight!) But it did stick with me that there’s perhaps something in our lifestyle or our personalities as librarians (maybe just a Saskatchewan thing?) that makes us more susceptible to being overweight (I realize this is a pretty gross (pun not intended) generalization and this is probably the type of observation that would be true of lots of groups in today’s overly obese society. Also, that this person’s observation just happened to be true of that particular group that had assembled on that particular day. But anyhow, that observation has stuck with me for some reason and was probably in the back of my mind as I thought of all the cakes and cookies and doughnuts that we tend to go through at the library for farewell parties and branch anniversaries and whatnot.)

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  1. From Head Tale - “End of the Year Questions” Meme on 31 Dec 2011 at 9:00 am

    […] What was your biggest achievement of the year? Without a lot of fanfare or gimmicks, I’ve lost 30 lbs in the last six months by simply deciding to eat a bit better and cutting out a lot of carbs and crap.  I would love to […]

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