11 Things I’ve Learned After Dropping 20 Pounds in Eight Weeks.
We’re not meant to sit behind a desk all day.
Running a design company means I’m sitting at a desk a lot. Recently, I’ve been trying to make a lot of small changes that will hopefully add up to one big change—feeling good about myself. I’ve been working out and eating better for a couple months now and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way. I am by no means a personal trainer, nutritionist, or dietician, so be advised that my tips below do not constitute as medical advice and you should consult your doctor before making major dietary changes.
With all that being said, here are my eleven lessons learned in eight weeks of living a healthier lifestyle:
- You can better your health without becoming a nutritionist. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know much about food. All I can tell you is what I was eating before: fast food, restaurant food, and huge portions of other crap. All I’ve changed is how much I eat and which items I order from the menu. I switched from cereal with milk to oatmeal every morning and I started to be extremely conscious about what goes into each meal. I’m not on any particular diet except the one where I eat approximately 500–600 calories in the morning/afternoon, 700–1000 calories for dinner, and don’t put anything into my body that seems like a bad choice.
- You have to motivate yourself. There is no magic pill. If you really want to lose weight, you can do it. A lot of us actually fear the process of change and the responsibility of self-discipline. One of my favorite quotes is from a man named Jim Rohn, who states, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” Putting restrictions on your diet seems limiting, but instead it is quite the opposite: I am now free from the control of what my body was incapable of. Self-discipline has changed my body from being hurt, tight, and weak to being flexible, strong and useful. Instead of feeling winded while carrying a heavy box, I can now carry it above my head without flinching. I used to have severe sciatica from a compressed nerve in my lower back and now I am doing squats and deadlifts like I did in high school.
- A body in motion stays in motion. Throughout this process, there came a time where I no longer wanted to be in a seated position. I would say it was around week 3 or 4 of working out. I now enjoy standing, walking, running, pacing, stretching or lifting weights. My life used to revolve around sitting in a chair, and while I still sit a lot, I actually really dislike it these days. I would much rather be up and moving. I never thought I would feel this way but once your body expects activity and movement, it’s hard to feel motivated to sit for long periods of time. It is a shift in thinking and it happens when you change your lifestyle.
- If you don’t do it now, you won’t do it later. Sticking to a regular schedule is critical to achieving your goals. Everyone has an optimal workout time. Mine is from 8am-10am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Figure out what yours is and make it an immovable object. Prioritize and protect that time above all else, because if you don’t prioritize your own time, someone else will do it for you.
- Find a workout buddy & push each other outside your comfort zone. I’ve been going to the gym with a friend who helped make me feel comfortable using the machine weights and got me into a routine. Within a few weeks, I started researching new programs and we started the StrongLifts 5x5, which we’ve been using ever since. It’s simple, burns fat, takes less time at the gym, and pushes us every workout. A buddy helps push you when you don’t want to push yourself. When you feel tired or kinda sick or have a headache, the pull to get to the gym so you don’t miss a workout or fall behind is quite motivating in itself. Not to mention the competition that can develop between one another. That’s one of the reasons CrossFit has become such a huge phenomenon: social motivation and accountability. It’s easy to work on yourself when everyone around you shows up to help you reach your goals.
- Change up your workouts regularly. One of the biggest issues with going to the gym is getting your body too comfortable with certain workouts and losing effectiveness. If you’re always running on the treadmill, try switching to the rowing machine for a few weeks. If you’ve gotten into a cozy routine on the elliptical, start swimming for a few weeks. Your body will burn more calories and be in better shape overall. I like to do the elliptical but I think I’ll be moving to the treadmill to work on my running game for a few weeks.
- Don’t drink your calories. This is one thing I’ve heard over and over and over and over throughout my life. I think this might be the hardest thing for most people to deal with. But if you’re drinking a Diet Coke here and a Gatorade there, those calories are going to negate large portions of the workout calories you’re burning.
If you’re drinking calories in the form of meal replacement smoothies, that’s great, keep it up. I’ve been drinking the occasional smoothie from Smoothie King and it is a great way to get some protein and have a tasty snack instead of a heavy lunch.
- If you sit at a desk all day, buy a FitDesk. I go to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but that isn’t all the exercise I get throughout the week. When I’m working or in a meeting, I like to use my FitDesk to stay alert and burn calories at the same time. I can ride for 30–60 minutes multiple times per day and burn upwards of 500 calories easily. All while working. Seriously, the FitDesk is a desk worker’s best friend.
- Drinking black coffee isn’t so bad. I used to load my coffee up with the most amazing French vanilla creamer by CoffeeMate, but since I’ve been trying to lose weight and follow the “don’t drink your calories” rule, I add creamer to maybe one cup out of every 6 or 7. I won’t lie, sometimes I crave a little something sweet, but adding 30-50 calories worth of creamer every few days is something I can live with.
- You can go on a diet and still eat a regular dinner. Now, “regular” is relative. If you’re used to eating a pie of nachos with cheese and sour cream for dinner, then you probably need to make some dietary changes. But if you can learn how to cut calories through portion control and avoiding some of the toppings that we’re used to layering on our food, you can eat the same dinner as everyone else but save upwards of 300 calories easily.
For example, if you love Chipotle like I do, instead of getting a burrito with sour cream, ditch the tortilla and sour cream. It will quickly drop the calories from around 1200–1400 all the way down to 800–900. It doesn’t sound like a huge difference for one meal, but throughout a week, those smart cuts will add up to the 3500 calorie deficit needed to lose a pound of fat.
- Excuses kill dreams. Everyone makes them. I still do. But every time you and I make an excuse, we sabotage our goals. Even bigger than making excuses is enabling excuses to direct our lives. That’s why accountability and support are so important. It’s easy to tell yourself, “Oh, I don’t need to go to the gym today, I went yesterday.” While doing it once seems harmless, every time you do it you give yourself permission to do it again. It’s self-sabotage. If creating a habit means doing the same thing over and over again until it becomes routine then destroying a habit means making excuses to avoid doing it. Every time you make an excuse that breaks your routine, you slowly start to kill your habit, eventually reverting to convenience, pain, and, ultimately, regret.
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