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Five things you probably already know about weight loss

Posted on 11 June, 2008 at 12:24pm with 7 comments

A truism: engineers are often not the healthiest people around. We don’t sleep enough, we don’t eat right, we don’t get enough exercise and we’re prone to being overweight. Moreover, we neither have time nor the inclination to address our bad physical habits because we’re so often hyperfocused on the metaphysical, the intellectual or the technical. Inner self: very important. Outer self: not so much.

I myself grew up quite pudgy and have always been so. I was a stubborn mule about it too. Even though I knew it was unhealthy and I was unhappy looking the way I did, I refused to do anything about it, both out of laziness and the ridiculous notion that being concerned with my physical appearance was somehow shallow. For years I trudged on this way until I realized, as many people in my aging generation are starting to, that my lifestyle could go on forever, but my body certainly wouldn’t.

So earlier this year I made it a resolution that I was going to get myself to a healthy size and stay there. I signed up with a clinic specifically designed to treat obesity, and started a four month program over the course of which I lost about forty pounds. By no means am I out of the woods yet; any behavior change takes time, and I’m attending courses on weight maintenance for the next six months just to ensure I don’t return to my old Mountain Dew-swilling ways and gain it all back.

It has been an experience the likes of which I can’t adequately describe here (but I’m always happy to talk about it if you ask). But I have learned a few basic things that I thought I would share, as someone who’s been through it.

Five things you probably already know about weight loss (so no more excuses, right?):

  1. Reduce the number of calories you eat. I don’t care how you do it – give up sugar, give up fatty food, portion control. Whatever is easier for you. Your body only needs a certain number of calories a day to keep you going (approximately your weight in pounds times ten) and if you routinely exceed this number, it will start storing the excess energy as fat. Keeping a food diary is immensely helpful – I highly recommend
  2. Exercise frequently with low intensity. Find something easy and enjoyable that you will do every day for 20-30 minutes and do it. This will help keep your body burning fat for energy instead of muscle. Just don’t push yourself too hard or you’ll actually start burning glucose stores instead of fat, which will only make you feel hungry.
  3. Drink at least 2 quarts of water a day. Not only does it help you fight fatigue (a common symptom of dehydration), but it also serves to make the fat-burning process more efficient. Flavored water counts, but black tea and coffee don’t – and watch the caffeine.
  4. Eat lots of lean protein. White fish and white meats like chicken and turkey breast are low-fat and relatively low-calorie. Even better, they are loaded with protein, which will help you feel full even if you’re cutting calories.
  5. Don’t let yourself get really, really hungry. If you’re dieting, you will be hungry from time to time. What you want to avoid is the situation in which you let yourself get absolutely starving, and then start making bad decisions about food. Eat a healthy snack in between meals, or eat smaller meals more frequently.

I won’t lie and say that it’s easy, but it does get easier. 90% of the battle is education. If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend The New Fit or Fat and Thin for Life. Both are fairly technical and don’t have too much of the usual pseudoscientific nonsense.

And if you’re trying out a Wii Fit, let me know how it works for you. :)

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