Starting the Journey to a Healthier Lifestyle

Since early adolescence, I have really struggled with my weight. It started with me justifying it as just having a little leftover “baby fat” and it grew to me being about 200lbs when I graduated high school. Now at 23, i’m flirting with 250lbs. Since getting into an accident last year, I have been suffering from severe lower back pain and nerve problems in my neck causing numbness all the way down my left arm. I’ve seen several chiropractors and doctors and after months of treatment, adjustments, spinal injections and pain medicine, it’ is time to take the advice given to me. I can’t live every day of my life in significant pain, I need to lose weight.

weight-loss

But Losing Weight is Hard

There is no way around this. If it was easy, obesity wouldn’t be such an issue in America.

Part of the problem is my diet. I’ve grown accustomed to eating take out much more than I should because of convenience. When ordering out, I almost never go for a healthy option, it’s always something like chicken fingers with french fries. I eat way to much fried foods.

The other part of my problem is exercise. I have never been a physically active person, and I accept that. In my day-to-day professional life, I spend most days sitting down, and have little interest in getting up and going to the gym, or a walk around the block at that rate. Any sort of serious exercise is out of the question because it would make my back hurt even worse, so I choose to do nothing at all.

The Road to Better Health

I need to set realistic goals. I didn’t get to this weight over night or even in a few months, I have spent more than a decade accumulating this fat, so  I can’t expect to lose it overnight. If I set a reasonable goal of losing 2lbs per week, I can be under 200lbs by the end of the summer and hit my ideal weight by the end of the year (i’m not honestly sure what that is yet, probably between 160-175lbs).

Here’s the plan

I need to start by eating better, plain and simple. Instead of taking an all-or-nothing approach to eating healthier foods, I want to try something a little more gradual. Essentially, I need to eat less fried foods while eating more lean meats and vegetables.  To do so, I want to start by simply making a goal of adding vegetables to every meal, and cut back portion sizes of fried foods (or eliminate them). This will leave me feeling just as full, but I can still satiate my cravings if necessary.

I then need to eat take out less. Instead of ordering all time time, just cook at home more. If I keep mostly healthy ingredients in my apartment, then i’ll eat mostly healthy meals – it’s as simple as that. Plus, it’s hard to eat fried foods at home without a deep frier.

Breakfast

This meal goes mostly by the wayside for me. In my head, i’d much rather get up and go straight to work instead of spending time cooking. I really like eggs, so the goal for breakfast is to simply cook them every morning. As a modification from my normal meal, instead of eating cheese with eggs i’ll skip that and add some diced peppers.  If I eat 2 eggs instead of 3, and replace the volume with low calorie and nutritious peppers I can feel full and have a good breakfast for well under 300 calories.

Lunch

Lunch will be one of the hardest meals for me to figure out. Since I’m usually at the office every day, I often go for what is quick and easy – which isn’t usually healthy. My plan here is to try to bring in lunch more which would consist of leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, choose a healthier lunch option out (like sandwiches or a salad, but NO fried foods), or get something from the healthy food place that I like – SnapKitchen.

Dinner

The key to victory with dinner is to cook more at home rather than eating out. I genuinely like eating lean meats and vegetables, so if I can make a conscious effort to eat at home more I think that i’ll naturally eat more healthy. Common dinners for me could include stir fries, pot roasts, and fish. One thing I want to emphasize here is eating more vegetables because, normally, I will just eat a giant portion of meat and skip the vegetables altogether.

Snacks

I am going to inevitably want to eat snacks during the day. While I normally make bad decisions when choosing snacks, if I plan ahead of time I can add snacks that will add nutritional value. Here are some ideas:

  • Hummus with Pita Chips or Carrots/Celery Stalks
  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Cheese (like string cheese)

The idea here is to pick things that I like that will add nutritional value instead of just adding empty calories with something like a bag of chips.

Foods to Avoid/Limit

While I want to say that I’ll just simply stop eating things like fried foods, it’s never going to happen. I would be miserable and end up abandoning the diet in a very short amount of time. I want to make a long-term lifestyle change and doing so means that I will need to eat mostly healthier foods. I do need to be aware of things to stay away from:

  • Soft Drinks – I don’t drink that much of them but they add 0 nutritional value.
  • Potato Chips/Doritos/Fritos
  • French Fries – I love these things, too much. Try to limit eating fries to 1-2x per week.

Exercising

Unfortunately, this section will be short as at this time I am so limited in what I can do. I have the Basis band, which allows me to track daily activity, and I usually walk very little; like 2,000-3,000 steps a day. I think gradually growing this number form where I am now to 10,000+ steps a day will put me going in the right direction.

Usually, when I get the 2:00 tired feeling, I usually go and play a video game for 30-45 minutes. The logic is I can either be miserable until the feeling passes, or can do something mindless and entertaining. Instead of playing League of Legends, I want to start going for a walk. Even if its something around the block at first, there is no reason I can’t walk for 20-30 minutes in the afternoon.

Once I get to the point where i’m walking 10,000 steps a day, I should have lost weight and be in a lot less pain. I then can meet with some experts and come up with a more advanced exercise plan for me to actually strengthen my back/core and put fat loss in overdrive.

Sleep

This is a huge challenge for me. I have slept horribly my entire life. My plan here is to start with a rigid schedule of getting up at 8:30 every morning to be in the office by 10. That will give me plenty of time to get ready and make breakfast. This should mean that I try to get to sleep by 12:30am. The goal will be to eventually get up at 7am or earlier.

Keeping Myself on Track & Accountable

The first think I need to understand is that i’m going to mess up, it happens. But when I do go to McDonalds and eat a crappy meal, I need to not give up and feel defeated – I just need to keep eating healthy. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful girlfriend who is also more than willing to be my moral support along the way.

I’m also going to start logging my food intake/activities every day. I’m not sure of the medium yet, but I would live to find/build a tool that I can use to analyze my food and exercise data, and track it over time. I know MyFitnessPal exists, along with Google/Apple health. I’ll try some things and see what works best.

Weekly blog updates. While I know at this point nobody reads this blog, i’m sure that people will see these posts eventually. If I write a post every week about my progress (short, but honest), it will help me stay on track. I would hate to publish articles saying I ate junk all week and gained 5lbs. That will hopefully help me accountable as well.