(My apologies for the inflammatory title. Just sharing the earworm, because I’m giving like that.)
Losing weight is hard.
Oh, sure, we’ve all given it a go. Whether it’s a New Years Resolution, a 30-day Bikini Challenge, or Every Freaking Monday of Your Entire Life, most of us have tried our hand at weight loss.
But most of us don’t make it to the finish line. Because losing weight is ongoing, tedious, exhausting work.
For a lot of us, it’s not unlike attempting a kitchen remodel. Witness the “before” shot of our kitchen when we purchased our short-sale house:
The appliances were older than me, the cabinets were practically wearing bell bottoms, and THE GREASE. <shudder>
The microwave was originally black, and not supposed to be…furry.
With a project like this, we look at the mess and decide we Must. Do. Something. Big.
So we start a complete overhaul, attempting to renovate our eating habits overnight. We tear out the chips and ice cream from the cupboards. We throw out our roomy, stretchy Thanksgiving Dinner/Chinese Buffet Pants. We plan out an exercise routine that would make Jack LaLanne (or Jane Fonda or Jillian Michaels – pick your generation; I’m old) proud.
But that’s the demolition part. The fun part. WHAM! BANG! CRASH! You rip out cabinets, you smash countertops. Big things are falling, huge changes are happenin’, you’re absolutely TRUCKING.
You got this!
And then, fatigue hits. You’re surrounded by debris and EXHAUSTED. You have twenty-seven cabinets to scrub, strip, and refinish. Each door has 6 holes to patch, because of COURSE new hardware doesn’t fit into old holes….and you don’t even have a place to wash a dish or nuke a bag of
What started as robust, vigorous progress has come to a standstill. You work all day – diligently – and see next-to-zero progress. Or worse, you find problems you didn’t know you had (mold? leaky pipe?) – and, even though you’ve been working your tail off, you lose ground and have more to do than you did when you started this whole mess.
Frustrated, you burn down the house and move.
Okay, no. Not really. (Although in the aforementioned kitchen, I won’t say I wasn’t tempted to invoke my inner arsonist.)
When it’s your kitchen, you can’t just give up working on it. You HAVE to get it to a place where you can at least open your fridge without a HAZMAT suit on.
So you keep going.
You can’t look at the project as four coats of paint on 27 doors each with six holes to fill and re-drill, because between math and paint fumes, you’ll lose your ever-loving mind. But you CAN fill one hole at a time, and repeat that until all the holes are done. (Which is – for the record – 162 times. But if you had told me that up front, I’d have whipped out the flamethrower.)
So, when we’re looking to make changes within ourselves – when we decide we’re gonna “get healthy” – maybe we need to use the same approach.
Instead of trying to bike ten miles tomorrow, maybe we should start with a walk.
Instead of twice-a-day workouts, maybe we shoot for a few times a week.
Instead of swearing off ice cream, wine, and pizza, maybe we could find ways to incorporate tastes of them into our diets, and/or discover healthier alternatives that we enjoy.
Instead of starving ourselves to death, perhaps we could just roll back the nachos and feed our bodies more actual fuel. (And chocolate is fuel for the soul, so don’t put it in permanent time-out.)
For some of us, the way to make permanent changes is to make small ones, tackling one step at a time.
Going back to the kitchen remodel here…In addition to the 162 holes on twenty-seven doors that needed refinishing, this particular kitchen was a nightmare of grease and grime. It took HOURS of scrubbing to get it clean. HOURS. HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS.
But I discovered that I had a decent floor under the uck. How’d I find it? One square at a time.
So how can we do this with our health journeys?
Well, we’re told “eat less and move more.” And we can take that in baby steps. Let’s look at “move more” for a sec.
Moving more doesn’t necessarily mean we have to set the elliptical to run as long as Gone with the Wind does. (Three hours and fifty-eight minutes. You’re welcome.)
But we do have the opportunity to pepper our days with microbursts of exercise. So instead of setting out to burn 500 calories….maybe shoot to burn 100. You have to burn off 3500 calories in order to lose a pound – so let’s do the math:
2 times a day X 100 calories X 5 days X 52 weeks = 52,000 calories.
52,000/3500 = 14.857 pounds
In other words, if you burned 100 calories twice a day for 5 days a week, you’d burn off nearly fifteen pounds in a year. That’s at least a dress size, yo. Time to go shopping!
And speaking of shopping…burning 100 calories isn’t terribly hard to do. I got this neat poster from the folks at Chobani. Have a look:
Full disclosure: The number of calories burned depends on a lot of things – your metabolism, size, age, gender, etc. I’m female, over 40, and not six feet tall, so I have to do these activities a bit longer to burn 100 calories. But that said, I can shop forEVER, so with THAT activity, I’m probably burning a McDonald’s Value Meal when I go long.
Anyway. The point here is that with exercise, the important thing is to DO it. Take small bites if you don’t think you can swallow it whole. Baby steps are still steps in the right direction.
Today, I had an appointment at the airport. Now, our local airport is freakin’ HUGE. I know it always seems like a long walk to get from security to my gate – so today I tried to measure it. I skipped the moving walkways and escalators and moved along, bobbing tourists and dodging families with small children as I hoofed it to my meeting.
Unfortunately, the GPS doesn’t work so well in the airport. (I swear I was not drunk….)
OK, I tried. I probably can’t trust the mileage on this jaunt. But I did learn that my hike took about 10 minutes each way – so by walking to this appointment, I got 20 minutes of brisk walking in. Not bad!
So – how about “eat less”?
Again, we don’t have to marry ourselves off to a diet of green leafy disappointment and broiled protein heartache. You and celery CAN see other people. You just have to use some discretion, obvs.
I’ve been watching my weight for 34 (yowza!) years now, and I use a few guidelines:
1. Don’t eat food you don’t like. If you’re cutting back, you don’t get too many calories to play with – why spend them torturing yourself? If you can’t stomach beets, QUIT BUYING THEM. For me, it’s cantaloupe. Probably one of the healthiest fruits out there, but it tastes like feet and swamp algae, so it is NOT going in my mouth, no way no how, even if eating it would save a kitten. Nope.
2. Don’t cut out foods you love. And don’t be shouting “BUT I LOVE ALL FOOD!” Nice try. Of course you do. But you probably have 3-4 favorites, right? If so, keep those in your diet. Not at every meal, or even every day….but you gotta have ’em, or you’re far more likely to abandon ship on your renovation. My list includes cheese, pizza, ice cream, and chocolate. And wine on occasion. And once or twice a year, a good hibachi meal. Forever is a long time, after all. It’s even longer if there’s no chocolate in it.
3. Decide where you can adjust. Here are my tweaks, corrections, and shifts:
* I generally don’t drink anything with calories. I’ve found I’d rather eat my calories than drink them. Years ago, I switched from regular soda to diet; since then, I’ve switched to herbal tea and water. I have coffee in the morning – but that’s medicinal. (Vitamin P for Personality!) And wine maybe once or twice a month – for dessert.
* I use low-calorie condiments. Mustard, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, and salsa are among my favorites. I don’t use any type of mayo or butter. (I actually find butter kind of terrifying.) Mayo was a little tougher – I mean, how does one make tuna salad without it? But about a year ago, I came up with an alternative:
- 1/4 c fat-free Greek yogurt (shout out to Chobani, since I stole your graphic) 🙂
- 1 tsp grainy brown mustard
- 3 good splashes of hot sauce
- Liberal sprinkle of sea salt
Mix it up and stir it into a can of drained solid white tuna (yes, buy the solid white. You deserve better than the greyish mystery chunks in Chunk Light. Trust me.) Mine also gets a healthy dollop of minced onion and pickle relish. It doesn’t taste like mayo, but it’s darn good, I promise!
* I try to cut back on added fat. OK, I know this is a no-brainer, but fat has nine calories per gram, so cutting back even a little bit helps. If a recipe calls for veggies cooked in 2T of oil, I know I can probably get away with halving that. With salads that call for olive oil, I can very often sub in fat-free Greek yogurt for the olive oil for a creamy version of the dressing.
And let me share a little experiment I did a few years ago. Have you ever seen people blot off the tops of their pizza slices with a napkin? Did you wonder if it could possibly make any difference?
I decided to find out. I own a food scale (I have this one):
So, I weighed a clean napkin, blotted my pizza slice, and then weighed it again.
The difference was 3 grams. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But at the time, I was eating four slices of pizza a week (half a large pizza that I’d split with the hubs). Math time!
3 grams X 9 calories per gram = 27 calories, X 4 slices = 108 calories.
108 calories X 52 weeks = 5616 calories, / 3500 = 1.6 pounds
Yes, folks, I saved myself 1.6 POUNDS over the course of a year JUST BY BLOTTING MY PIZZA.
If that doesn’t sell you on baby steps, I don’t know what will. Maybe new shoes? Or just the knowledge that if you keep plugging the small holes and scrubbing the small squares, eventually you’ll have a new kitchen:
Instead, I need to focus on the fact that while I might want new appliances, the cabinets are pretty solid and might just need a coat of paint. And I can continue to patch the doors, one hole at a time.
Special thanks to Chobani for inspiring this post!