I recently decided that I needed to do something about my weight, which had been creeping up on me. You can only fool yourself for so long "Hmmmmm these pants must have shrunk in the wash".
Then there was the day I was suiting up for my first bike ride of the season. As I squeezed into my bike clothes I looked in the mirror and exclaimed "Ach! Ich bin ein bratwurst!"
The deal breaker was when I went to urgent care for a minor shoulder injury.
The tech who was checking my blood pressure asked "Have you considered going on medication for this?" The number was somewhere between "Not good" and "Call the Paramedics".
OK, this is a problem. My livelihood depends on me passing a physical every six months and I don't need the feds getting on me about my blood pressure. I was pushing the FAA limit, which is not a healthy blood pressure mind you, just what they'll let you fly with. I really didn't want to go on medication unless there was no other option.
I decided to see what I could do on my own before bring the pharmaceutical companies into the mix.
So what to do? I have a lot of things working against me:
I've always had a stocky build.
I spent my entire Air Force career within 10 pounds of my maximum weight.
High blood pressure runs in my family.
I work very abnormal hours.
When I'm at work I don't sleep very well.
I spend a lot of time on the road where healthy food choices are hard to come by.
I love food and I love to cook.
Now before I go further, let me state that this is strictly what worked for me (it's all about me!).
People can get a bit touchy about this subject. Diets are almost like religions these days. If you find one that works for you, great. Everybody's different. If Paleo or South Beach or Atkins or whatever made your life work, wonderful, just don't feel like you have to evangelize me.
I'm not trying to convert anyone here. I'm just passing along what I had success with. Your mileage may vary.
So here it is. Major Kong's revolutionary diet plan.
Quit feeding your face and go get some exercise!
Yep, just old-fashioned portion control. Nothing sexy. It takes some discipline but I've got plenty of that. It's old school but that's just how I roll.
Of course it's not quite that simple. I had developed some bad habits over the years that needed changing. You may not have any of these. Like I said, everyone's different.
Here's some of the things that I found that I had to change:
1. Slow down.
I used to eat much too fast. It's easy to do in our fast-paced world. You've got to meet that deadline so you inhale your lunch and get right back to work. The problem is, it takes a while for your body to figure out that it's full. Eat too fast and it's easy to eat too much.
2. Don't eat until you feel full.
This is related to #1. I find that if I walk away from the table still a little bit hungry, within 30 minutes I won't be hungry any more. It seems to take my body a while to get the message that it doesn't need to eat any more.
3. Don't eat food just because it's there.
You're talking to a lifetime member of the "clean your plate" club. I think most people my age were brought up that way. Now if I have extra food on my plate, I'll put it in the fridge. It'll still be there tomorrow.
It's tough on the road. Restaurant portions today tend to be huge. In the Midwest especially, people tend to equate "big plate of food" with "I got my money's worth". I hate to leave a half-eaten meal behind but my health has to take precedent. Sometimes I'll get it boxed and try to give it to a homeless person on the way back to the hotel.
4. Don't eat because you're bored.
This was a big problem for me. In my line of work there are many hours spent sitting without a whole lot to do. It's so easy to start snacking just out of boredom. I have to stop and ask myself "Am I about to eat this because I'm actually hungry or am I just looking for something to do?"
5. Stay hydrated.
I'm not sure how true this is, but I've read that thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger. I try to drink more water now. I figure it can't hurt. I probably needed to drink more water anyway.
6. Make healthy choices when you can.
This is easy to do at home since I do all the cooking.
Out on the road things get a lot tougher. Many of the places we stay are out by the interstate where the options are: chain restaurant, bbq joint, fast food place, sports bar, chain restaurant. You're just not going to find a great vegetarian lunch counter off I-75 in Dayton. If you know of one let me know.
I do the best I can and try to handle the rest with portion control. If I have to eat crap I'll at least eat less crap. It's not perfect, but what is?
7. Satisfy the craving but with moderation.
I don't like to give things up. That's just how I am. I do find, however, that eating a very small amount of something I'm craving will "scratch the itch". French fries? Sure, but just a few. Don't eat the giant bag they give you at Five Guys. Chocolate? OK, I'll have one very small piece. Just enough to get it out of my system.
8. Try to get more exercise.
Easy to say, tough to do. Especially when I'm on the road. Hotel workout facilities range from really good to minimal. It's hit or miss. When the weather is nice I try to get outside and walk for an hour. If the weather isn't cooperating the hotel probably at least has a treadmill.
At home I have more options, at least during the months of good weather.
I also found that I would make excuses for myself. "I'm too tired", "It's too hot/cold/windy outside" or "I'll make it up tomorrow (sure I will)". I have to try to resist that sort of thinking. The longer I go without exercising the easier it becomes to not do it. In aviation we talk a lot about building habit patterns and this definitely needs to be part of my habit pattern.
9. Stick with the program.
The problem with diets is that once you go off it you tend to put the weight back on. I have to stay with the plan, well, indefinitely.
As a result of this I dropped 35 pounds plus a couple inches off my waist in a little over two months. And my blood pressure? It's gone down 30 points at least, solidly in the "normal" range.
Plus I look good in bike clothes now. No, not really. Nobody actually looks good in bike clothes.