When You Fail

Winston-Churchill-2-12“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“Never, never, never give up.”

(All quotes above from The Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)

First, my apologies for no post last week; mandatory overtime at work is taking its toll, but should end by October.

One of the biggest challenges for me and I would think anybody else trying to change their eating habits (or any habits for that matter), is how to handle failure.

A Weight Watchers leader a few years ago told the group: “if you have a flat tire, would you respond by slashing the other three tires?”  It was a perfect analogy. In the past, if I overate by consuming more than I meant at a meal or going over for the day, my reaction was to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and eat whatever I wanted for the rest of the day…  and that giving in made it harder to get back on track the next day, too.  Soon, nothing was left of my diet plan but the memories.

There are two things to do when you fail: first, plan out beforehand what you will do if you fail, and second try to minimize the damage.

There have been about three ways that I have “failed” so far: #1, eating more than I supposed to, #2, planning a meal and not having what I planned available, and #3 just dumb mistakes.

A good example of #1 was when we had pizza ordered in.  Everybody has their “trigger” foods; for me it’s pizza and calzone.  For my wife it’s cookies.  She’s not bothered by pizza, I’m not bothered by cookies.  I knew how many slices I could have, I just wanted more.  How do I beat it?  The simplest way is to not bring more than I can eat at one time into the house.  I can split it with my wife, or I can order a small, or I can eat it there if that will help (I can leave when I’ve eaten as much as I should).

#2 is the one that happens the most often.  I plan my meal in MyFitnessPal, we get where we’re going… and they don’t have what I was going to order.  A variation of this is that they have something else, a limited time offer usually, that I really want.  There are a couple of solutions to this: first, make sure you have a “backup” menu plan, and second don’t be afraid to step out of line and take the time to re-calculate what your menu will be.

I have a perfect example of the 3rd cause of failure: one day a couple of weeks ago, I was having dinner at Panda Express, and had figured out my dinner calories so that it used exactly 100% of my calories for the day.  This doesn’t happen often, and I was thrilled!  I completed the meal, and with a triumphant flourish, I popped the fortune cookie into my mouth.

…It was at that moment that I realized I hadn’t counted the fortune cookie.

It ran me over 40 calories, I think.  I felt pretty stupid.

One way I’ve handled running over is to deduct the extra calories from tomorrow.  It’s not a solution that can be used regularly, but for the occasional screw up, it can help both control your intake and control any guilt you may feel about the extra calories.

The point with each one of these is that a plan in advance, combined with an intent to limit future damage will help keep your diet on track, even when you aren’t.  Just because the other team scores, doesn’t mean you’re out of the game!


Exercise Won’t Help You Lose Weight

5dd5d33266d8a331169b1fcf1bfa321dI’ve been thinking a couple of weeks about this post.  Yes, my headline is designed to shock and agitate… but (generally) it is factually accurate.

I must start by saying the obvious: exercise IS good for you.  Exercise is good for your heart, your lungs, even your brain.  Exercise helps strengthen and tone your muscles.  Exercise is a stress reliever and an anti-depressant for many.

Having said all of that: exercise won’t really help you lose weight.

I used to say the way to lose weight was to eat less and exercise more.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you don’t burn more than you put in, it turns to fat.

However, it turns out science isn’t on my side.

I have ten articles from ten different sources, but they all basically say the same thing, so I’ll put them in a list at the bottom of this article.

What scientists have found, time and again, is that exercise isn’t a great tool when you’re trying to lose weight.

The obvious question is, why?  Truth be told, scientists aren’t 100% sure, but there are some basic (and logical, when you think about it) reasons exercise doesn’t help with weight loss:

First, the amount of exercise required to burn any significant amount of calories is monumental.  If you’ve used one of those machines at the gym that guesses how many calories you’ve burned, you’ve likely experienced the frustration of walking for 90 minutes and burning maybe 100 calories.  For that amount of sweat, you expect a bit of a better return!

Second, and related to the first, is that many of us will eat something high calorie and say, “I’ll work it off tonight at the gym.”  The problem is, if you’re eating a 1,500 calorie entree, you’re going to have to exercise for 18 hours or more to work it off!  Of course you’re not going to do that (nor should you!), and so the extra calories stay.

The third problem is similar: you exercise for a half an hour, so you “treat” yourself with a high calorie reward…  and it’s often quadruple the calories you’ve burned off.  The net result is a gain instead of a loss.

Fourth, exercising can make you hungrier!  You are burning SOME calories when you exercise… and when you’ve already been limiting how much you take in, exercising can turn a moderate craving into an irresistible drive to consume large quantities of your favorite food.

Exercise is wonderful for many reasons… but losing weight is not one of them.  (KEEPING weight off, however, is a different story.  More about that on another day.)

See you next week; check out these links!

Mashable: You can’t ‘outrun’ obesity
Dr. Briffa: Exercise boosts the metabolism?
The Guardian: Why exercise won’t make you thin
Newswise: Only Effective Way to Lose Weight is to Eat Fewer Calories
New York Times: Dieting vs. Exercise For Weight Loss
American Physiological Society: exercise does not induce negative fat balance
Daily Mail: How exercise can make you pile on the pounds
New York Magazine: The Scientist And The Stairmaster
Science Daily: Exercise alone does not help in losing weight
British Journal Of Sports Medicine: exercise — shifting the focus from body weight

Humiliation, Even In Success


Me, this week

I had a small but significant success last week: I discovered I needed a size smaller pair of jeans!

To put this in perspective: I’ve been aware of having a belly since age 10. I have NEVER bought a smaller pair of ANYTHING.

I wasn’t 100% sure I would need a smaller size, but my current jeans were falling off of me.

Being a size 50 waist has meant getting my clothes at the big & tall store, or Walmart.  Neither Target nor J.C. Penny’s have had my size in a couple of decades.

For jeans, Walmart has been the dependable and inexpensive way to go and feel comparatively “normal.”

When I realized I was likely about to go down to a 48, I couldn’t wait to go get a new pair.  (Besides, my old pair really WAS worn out.)

Upon arriving, I was shocked and disappointed to find nothing at first over a 44 waist. I found a 46, but didn’t expect it to fit.

Suddenly I was having to face the possibility that, even after losing 21 lbs, I was too fat for Walmart.  It sucked all the energy out of what was expected to be a celebratory purchase.

I finally found two pair of 48s, both however 32 length when I needed a 30.  Didn’t matter; the waist fit, and I can take it to the tailor.

It was a painful reminder that, although I’ve made excellent progress and am headed in the right direction, I’m not yet one of the “cool kids” with a normal waistline.

One of the biggest challenges (besides not eating more calories than allotted each day) is the slowness of the weight loss. If you’ve read my previous posts you know this is intentional, but it doesn’t change my emotional side’s desire to look “normal” today.

I am 325 lbs today. In a year, I will be 300. In two years I will be 275. That’s less than I ever weighed while going to Weight Watchers… But it’s still really big! In 2018 I will still weigh 250 lbs in August… 225 lbs, four years from now… STILL considered obese.

Finally, in 2020, I’ll be 200… “only” overweight.

I look forward to not getting stared at when I’m out, not having children say, “Mommy, he’s fat!”

Until then — hey, at least I lost 3/4 lb this last week. 🙂

I try to remind myself: it took me 35 years to get this big; it won’t kill me to take seven years to get back down to the right weight.

Next week, I plan to discuss exercise and its impact on weight loss… and how much you should be beating yourself up about not exercising. (HINT: not much!) See you next Tuesday!

Rules Of The Road

There are absolutely a million “tips & tricks” for weight loss out there… and looking at those who try them, I can tell you 99% have absolutely no effect on how much weight you lose.  One of my challenges over the years has been trying to figure out what will help me lose weight, and what will only frustrate me.

As a result, my “secrets to weight loss” are ridiculously simple: eat less, and exercise more.

If I want to eat a double hot fudge sundae (maybe deep fried, if we’re at the state fair), I can do that…  HOWEVER, that may be the ONLY thing I’m able to eat that day, depending on the calories…  so I have to choose wisely if I don’t want to feel really hungry by nightfall.

The other key for me has been to not try to lose too much at once.

In the past, I was going to STARVE myself.  I knew EVERYTHING I had been eating was WRONG, and so I would go from double bacon cheeseburgers and fries with ranch dressing to a petite grilled chicken breast, whole grain wild rice, and a glass of water.

Not surprisingly, my metabolism panicked and shut down.  I could GAIN weight eating less than I had last week or last month.

One of the things I discovered when I began counting calories was  that one day I would eat WAY too many calories, then the next day eat very little…  then a ton the next day, and back again.  The result was my metabolism would shut down after I didn’t eat very much… then I would double or triple the calories I was putting in.  Just evening out the number of calories each day would have helped.

Weight Watchers is an excellent program, and I recommend it.  My only problem with it was that they wanted me to lose 2 lbs a week…  an admirable goal, but too difficult for someone who eats to deal with stress like myself.

The MyFitnessPal app (free) I mentioned last post allows me to set my calories to lose 1/2 lb a week. That’s workable…  in fact, some days I’m shocked I haven’t eaten up to my calorie limit!  I still get hungry, but not impossibly so.

This also allows me to go shopping for “treats.”  I have 600 calories left?  What trivial food have I been denying myself because the energy return wasn’t great enough?   Pizza bites, sugary snacks, Fritos and green onion dip…  it all is on the table when I have leftover calories.

I used to believe there was “good” food and “bad” food… and I certainly I don’t advocate tobacco, or poison ivy…  but numerous media outlets including  The Daily Mail  and NBC News have cited reliable studies finding fat, even saturated fat, isn’t the health risk we used to believe, and salt isn’t the enemy it was once believed to be, according to studies cited by The Huffington Post and KFOR-TV.

Two of my biggest “don’t” rules go hand-in-hand: I DON’T ever not attempt to record what I consume in a day, no matter how far off the rails I go; and, I DON’T go over my calories EVER for ANY reason.

I’ve found with myself, if I give my self an inch, I’ll take a buffet.  A little cheat here and a little cheat there, and pretty soon I’m eating what I was eating before.  I have to hold myself to this if I’m at a party, ill, or suffering a loss like a death in the family or loss of a job.  Other plans allow a cheat day, but I don’t find that helpful.

Finally, I don’t let the scale determine my success.  If I know I’m staying under my calories (but eating as close up to them as possible), then I need to soldier forward, knowing eventually the scale will reflect what I am and am not putting in my mouth.  Like a game of Tetris, as long as I can make the food “fit” the day’s calories (as tightly as possible), then I have “won” for the day.

This has been extremely helpful over the past two weeks when I temporarily plateaued after seeing weight fall off…  just this morning I finally lost another pound.

Thanks for reading!  See you next Tuesday.


Hello!  My name is Gene, and I am a chronic over-eater.

I grew up in a family of over-eaters. From at least age 10, I was overweight, and by the end of May 2015, I had ballooned to 347 lbs.  I can’t say that I tried every diet out there, because I always knew fad diets were just that: fads, and no real path to permanent weight loss.

The only way (and you will hear me say this over and over again) to lose weight is to eat less than you have been and burn more calories than you have been.  Eat less, and exercise more.  There’s really nothing else to it: not time of day, not adding “secret” ingredients to your diet, not leaving out entire foods, not whether or not you drink water with your meal…  NOTHING else matters, other than eat less and exercise more.

(We’ll actually discuss in a week to come the fact that exercise, while good for you, is not actually a great weight loss tool…  in other words, eating less is really the entire “secret” to weight loss.)

I have tried, over the past 35 years, eating less and exercising more. I have been to Weight Watchers, which is an excellent program, but was not a permanent solution for me.  I have been angry, I have been hurt, I have been confident, I have been afraid.  Time and again, I have gone back to eating whatever I want, as much as I want.

For reasons still unclear to me, I have begun to lose weight. I’ll explain what happened in the weeks to come. There are tools I am using (like MyFitnessPal) that have absolutely contributed to my ongoing success, and in future posts I’ll explain what they are, how I use them, and why I believe they work for me.

I have searched, as my weight loss adventure has begun, to find others who are losing or have lost weight slowly.  I’m shooting to lose 1/2 lb a week, and as a result it will take about 7 years to get all 200 lbs I’d like to lose, lost.  My searches have turned up almost nothing.  If I’m looking to lose 30 lbs in 30 days, there’s an article and a video about that… but “lose 24 lbs in 365 days!” is apparently a headline nobody thinks will sell.

That’s what has pushed me to start this blog.  I can’t be the only one slowly taking in less calories than they had.  I can’t be the only one who might be inspired to start losing weight when reading about small, practical steps most anybody could take to improve their health. And, I can’t be the only one who doesn’t want to hear about grapefruit diets, white diets, or fasting diets.

Additionally, I want a record of what it will be like to move from a lifetime of morbid obesity to a healthy weight at age 52…  both to encourage myself along the way, and to be able to look back at the end and remember what I’ve been through.

You should find a new post from me every Tuesday, discussing my successes, my struggles, and my methods.

If you’re just passing through, I hope you’ll find at least one piece of practical advice or bit of encouragement to take with you.  If you’re joining me long-term on this journey: welcome!  Let’s do this.