There are many reasons to want to lose weight, get healthier, and change our physical appearance. I remember one of mine like it was yesterday – it went something like this:
“Man, look at you. You need a bra.”
The above is one of the many comments and observations endured while I made my way through elementary, middle, and eventually high school. Several of my tormentors attended the military academy where I spent my school years, but it seemed the words could come from anywhere. Or out of nowhere.
I was a well fed Italian American boy, who showed no signs of stopping the culinary carnage as I ate my way through the kitchens of my mother, grandmother, and assorted relatives.
There was always a plentiful bounty of food – especially on a Sunday. Unending pasta choices, sauced with my grandmother’s jarred tomatoes, complimented by stacks of braciole (beef roll ups) and meatballs. Chicken cutlets, glistening with oil straight from the oven. The Sicilian street food arancine, a family favorite.
I was always instructed to eat more, to stave off the impending malnourishment that would be encountered once I ventured into the outside world. Of course, there would never be any of that.
To say I packed away a little extra weight would have been putting it nicely.
Eventually, the school yard taunting fueled a fire to get better, and – with the help of one Sly Stallone and the movie icon that would bring him his first taste of fame – I managed to shed the majority of the excess to resemble a fit, healthy teenager.
I ran laps around the suburban neighborhood of my younger years like my life depended on it – because in truth, it did.
Supplemented with grueling abdominal work and the release of my teen rage upon a canvas heavy bag (cue the Rocky theme), the damage to each and every one of my fat cells was unmistakable.
The fat dude in the school boy uniform, with pale blue shirt and dress grays, was gone. In all, 40 to 50 pounds just melted away. More than likely for good.
And more than 35 years later, I’ve managed to keep the weight off. To be transparent, I’ve had other issues to address – higher than normal blood pressure, ever increasing glucose levels, a self imposed lower back problem (all of these on the mend) – but even with that, the bathroom scales have never been tipped again in favor of a sneaky path to obesity.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills
The secret to taking off weight and keeping it off is simple, but it’s never easy. This time of year, it’s a focus and a question mark for many. There’s plenty of misinformation, and ideas that may have worked for someone else – but might not be your cup of tea.
This post is not the product of a health and wellness expert – but if there is one thing I can lay claim to being expert at, it’s moving through struggles with weight and trying to focus on a better way, within this balancing act called life.
There’s a plethora of information out there, which seems to reach critical mass the first couple of months of every year – but the most “back to basics” tips you can use will, in the long run, be the most helpful. Here’s a few of my favorites:
- Remember that the word “diet” should not be part of your vocabulary – what you’re shooting for is lifestyle change. Albeit one small step at a time.
- Eat healthy foods that you actually enjoy eating. For me, this includes fruits like apples and bananas, eggs, chicken breast, turkey, and green veggies cooked with garlic and olive oil.
- Go for natural foods every time, not stuff in a box. Just because the box has words like “lean” and “healthy” on it doesn’t make it so. In other words, be wary of food marketing. Educate yourself.
- Eat only pastas that end in the letter “i” – just my humorous way of saying it’s not necessary to give up foods you love. Not even close. Just use common sense, smaller portions, and leave the gluttony behind. I still enjoy my pasta – but I eat the portion size now that you might see in an Italian trattoria, not an American restaurant.
- Exercise. Your first move: push the plate away.
- And please don’t use the “got no time or money” excuse concerning exercise – you can do it all with 15 minutes of calisthenics, right in your living room, basement, or garage. Everybody’s got time for that.
- Avoid drive-through windows like the poison center they are. If you must do the drive-through, get the salad.
- Salads don’t mean boring eating, either. You can add to them with lean proteins, nuts, and berries to make them filling and tasty. Just limit your intake of fatty dressings (I like olive oil, sea salt, and lemon).
- Track your meals for a week. You might be surprised what you put in your body.
- If you decide to go the route of a stricter eating plan, pick a “cheat day.” Mine is Sunday. On that day, have yourself some pizza and ice cream. Just don’t eat a whole pizza and a gallon of ice cream.
- Use the stairs. Please. Leave the elevators for the elderly and the handicapped.
- Exercise. Try walking. You have all the equipment you need. My wife is going with me to the gym, and she started out just walking on a treadmill. Then she started walking fast. Then walking fast up inclines. Then she started lifting. See? Baby steps.
- Eat sweet potatoes instead of white.
- By the way, have I mentioned fruits and veggies?
- Sugar has been just about eliminated from my diet. There are some things I will not give up – I need sugar and cream in my delicious, home brewed coffee. But that’s about it. You can reduce it too.
- That means limited, or no, soft drinks. Total sugar bombs. You’d be surprised at the caloric content here.
- Ask yourself: Would a caveman have eaten this? Cavemen ate meat they killed and plants that grew on trees or in the ground. They didn’t have Pringles and Doritos back then.
- Consume alcohol moderately, or not at all. Red wine (my favorite) is a good choice if you must.
- Exercise. You should, without question, pay attention to what you put into your mouth. Intense, frequent exercise can cover a multitude of sins if you fall off the wagon of the particular eating plan that you’ve put into place.
- Having said that, I remember a quote that sticks with me: “90% of the fitness battle is fought – and won – in the kitchen.”
- I like this one as well – “It’s not what you eat between Christmas Day and New Years. It’s what you eat between New Years and Christmas Day that counts.”
Bonus Tip: Exercise some more. Make it fun! Outside of the gym, I’ve walked, jogged, sprinted with my dog (he’s 16 now – he can’t sprint anymore), played touch football with my son and his friend, did jumping jacks, and calisthenics. I jumped rope recently for the first time in years. Wanna sweat? Try jumping rope for 5 or 10 minutes.
Like this article? Please share on your favorite social media channel. Or better yet… read some more, with the related content below. Are you a “resolutionist?” Would these tips help you? Let everyone know by leaving a comment!