Today on Facebook I posted this image, a screen shot from my iPhone showing my weight loss since August 4 (as tracked by my fantabulous Withings wifi scale):
A friend commented and asked if I'd share my "secrets", and I decided that was a good lead-in to one of the blog posts I'd promised to start writing.
This didn't exactly start out as a weight loss program. Instead, it started out with me and Gerald looking at our finances at the beginning of August, and realizing that we've been living just slightly above our means for too long...which means that we've been very gradually accumulating debt. Not something we were happy about--particularly since we're on the verge of having two kids in college! So, we spent some time thinking about how to reduce our expenses and get our debt paid down.
One obvious place to cut costs was to reduce the amount of fast food and soda we were consuming as a family. Over the summer, with me not teaching and Gerald not chauffeuring kids to and from school and activities, we've actually got enough time to shop and cook. So we started doing exactly that. And when you're cooking your own food, rather than buying it in bags from the closest drive-thru, you have more control over what's going into your body.
I started going back to the Rochester Public Market on Saturday mornings, which cut our costs and improved the quality of our food. Amazingly, it didn't take long before even the thought of fast food lost all of its appeal, and I found myself craving bizarre things like hummus and roasted zucchini (and if you know me, you know just how bizarre that last part really is).
Eating healthier saved us money, but it also made us feel better. So we decided we might as well get a clean start all around, and we started exercising--Gerald by walking, and me by either walking or using the elliptical at the RIT gym. The exercise and the healthier food made us feel more energetic, and we both saw initial weight loss that helped a lot in keeping us motivated. And the fact that my 30th high school reunion is the weekend of October 8-10 gave me a short term goal point--I decided that if I possibly could, I wanted to drop 15 pounds by then. I started at a record-high 144 pounds, which meant my goal was to drop below 130 by the reunion (as you can see, I'm almost there!).
Over the past several months, Gerald has gone from a 3mph pace on a 2-mile loop in the neighborhood to a 3.5mph pace walking 5-6 miles a day (on the treadmill, in the neighborhood, at the mall, or recently on the RIT campus). And inspired by him, I've gone from barely being able to do 30 minutes on the elliptical at a low resistance level to doing 30-40 minutes at a high intensity, usually followed by the stationary bike or walking on a treadmill. I also discovered Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred DVD, which allowed me to squeeze in a high-intensity 25 minute workout before I leave in the morning--helpful on days where I know I'm probably not going to be able to make it to the RIT gym. Again--easy, cheap, and sustainable.
The key for us was that these were sustainable changes. Once we'd identified foods that we all liked but that were still healthy, it became easy to just keep those regularly stocked in the house. I may actually do a separate posts on the foods that have become critical staples for us to keep around. And even on a busy day, it's hard to argue that there's not time for 30 minute walk (or jog, or DVD workout).
Because I'm a techno-junkie, I found a lot of tools that have been helping me along the way. Gerald had bought me the Withings scale in April, so I started doing a daily weigh-in. The visualizations the app and website provide are really helpful, because they show a trendline--that means even when my weight would vary up and down from day to day, I didn't get discouraged because I could see the steady downward trend.
I joined the sparkpeople.com website--mostly out of professional curiosity, since they're a remarkable example of how game mechanics can be applied to real-world activities in an effective way. But my professional curiosity turned into personal satisfaction, since their tools for nutrition and activity tracking (both on the web and on my iPhone) are really excellent. I find that my biggest problem with food is that I eat without thinking...polishing off leftovers from other people's plates, grabbing a high-calorie snack out of the vending machine, having one more martini. Once I found a tool that made it easy for me to record both input and output, and that clearly indicated where I stood on each in terms of my goals, staying on track became easier.
And I continue to adore RunKeeper, which tracks the distances that Gerald and I walk when we're outside, but also records my indoor gym activities--and lets me brag about them online, another good motivator for me.
Oh...and one other iPhone tool that's been very helpful, in a tangential way, is Grocery IQ. It allows us to all access a shared grocery list, making it easier to keep healthy foods that we like "in stock".
So the (very long) answer is...I didn't do anything particularly novel or creative. I would say probably the single biggest factor is that Gerald and I both committed to making these changes at the same time...that means nobody's sabotaging the process, intentionally or not. Getting the junk food out of the house was the first and most important step for us...and the rest has followed.