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How I lost 30 pounds in 9 months & kept the weight off:

The time finally came when I realized I really needed to lose some weight.  I still remember stepping on the scale and weighing in at nearly 250 pounds and approximately 34% body fat.  I immediately got off the scale & weighed in again.  No denying it, I was too heavy & carrying way too much body fat.

Currently I weigh 215-220 (30 pounds lighter) with 17% body fat.  Since losing the weight I feel great, both physically & mentally.  It is amazing how much 30 pounds was dragging me down (joints hurt, pants always tight, sedentary lifestyle with lots of sitting at the computer & very little activity).  

Here are some keys to my successful weight loss & management:

1.  Calories.  Determine how many calories your body needs to maintain your target weight and start eating toward the target.  You can use the Body Calculator link on our website to determine this information.  For example, to maintain a bodyweight of 215 pounds, my daily calorie needs are approximately 2100 at rest and even higher with physical activity.  I personally keep a daily log in a little notebook recording calories consumed throughout the day.  Once I reach the "max" for the day I know to lay off the evening snack or have a smaller portion for dinner (or make sure I do extra physical activity during the day to burn the additional calories).

2.  Exercise aerobically every day for 30-45 minutes.  Generally I burn from 500-750 calories per session according to the "StairMaster" (workout machine).  When I first started exercising I could only go for 12-15 minutes or so every other day.  I found adding 1 minute to each session is an easy way to work up to 45 minutes without being excessively sore the next day.  Stretch before & after each workout session.  Stretching helps with muscle soreness & injury prevention. 

3.  Find an exercise you enjoy that does not stress the joints.  Initially I started running and found my knees & ankles hurt days later because of my heavy body weight pounding on the pavement.  I discovered  light jogging on the treadmill or using the stair-stepper machine gave me a good workout without hurting my joints the next day.  People often make the mistake of jumping in too fast only to wind up injured or so sore the next several days that they end up not following through with their exercise program.

4.  Set realistic goals & chip away at them every day. 1-2 pounds weight loss per week is realistic.  I was satisfied with 4 pounds weight loss per month while not starving myself during the process.  Sure everyone wants to drop the weight overnight, but considering 3500 calories = 1 pound, it just isn't realistic (or healthy) to burn off more than a pound or two per week.  Stay focused on your goal by exercising daily (yes daily) and not eating more calories than your target (as mentioned in 1. above).  My daily goal was to burn 500 more calories than I ate, therefore burning 3500 extra each week (1 pound per week 3500 = 500 x 7 days). 

Losing 30 pounds boiled down to controlling my eating habits by counting calories and exercising 30-45 minutes daily.  Here are some other tips you may find useful:

1.  Eat nutrient dense foods.  I now look at food as a means of getting my daily nutrients (fiber, protein, carbohydrate, fat, etc), while staying at or below my daily caloric equilibrium (caloric equilibrium:  calories consumed = calories burned).  If the food isn't nutrient dense, doesn't contain anything more than empty calories, I generally avoid it or adhere closely to the suggested serving size.  In the past I would eat an entire box of licorice or half a box of sugar cereal... my rational was, "it's nonfat so it must be o.k."  The problem was that I was eating excess calories (500-1,000+) & not getting much nutrition out of it.  Remember, excess calories are stored as fat (even if the food consumed is "nonfat").

2.  Measure out serving sizes.  I was very surprised to find a bowl of cereal is only about 1 cup (measuring cup).  In the past I thought a bowl of cereal meant a big bowl filled to the top (six servings or so).  Start reading nutrition labels and you will be in for a real shock when it comes to serving sizes for snacks such as chips, pretzels, ice-cream, etc.  The horror will pass with time though.  I find that I'm just as full after 5 minutes from consuming the smaller portion size while still maintaining my daily caloric goals.

3.  Try not to eat out more than once per week.  I was previously eating out at lunchtime every day & a couple times on the weekends.  My issue with eating out is that generally portion sizes are way too big, it is hard to determine how many calories are in each meal, and often the food is high in fat.  Currently we eat out (pizza) one time each week, but instead of an extra large meat lovers we opt for a medium veggie & salad.  It's actually pretty good!

4.  Eat small meals frequently.  I find I'm eating something small every couple hours (100-200 calories or so).  It almost seems strange to eat all the time & still lose weight (but again the issue is total daily caloric equilibrium:  portion sizes & activity level).  I find foods higher in protein & fiber tend to keep me fuller longer.  Certainly, foods higher in fat keep me fuller, but I'm pursuing low fat for health purposes.

5.  Weigh yourself periodically using a body fat scale.  I found one of these scales for about $35.00 at Costco.  You certainly don't have to use a body fat scale, but I find it useful since I lift weights and my goals include gaining muscle (while losing body fat).  I record my weight, body fat, and measurements (waist, legs, arms, neck) in a journal and periodically compare results from previous months.  It is very motivating when you can look back in your journal and note progress.

A healthy meal plan with the right calorie level and daily exercise can do wonders for your weight and health.  Please note that I do not have diabetes and all of the information presented above may not apply to you.   Speak with your doctor prior to starting an exercise program.  Good luck!

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