The Saturday Skinny: Weight loss isn't easy, but small changes can make a big difference

By: Don Chaddock, Managing Editor
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This online column started as a way for me to share my story and hope it would inspire others. It has not only done that, but it’s taught me a valuable lesson: Practice what I preach.

This column helps hold me accountable for my decisions. Am I always perfect? Not by a long shot. Something I hear frequently is, “You never falter.” I often stumble on my path but I appreciate those moments because they remind me why I should make healthy choices. My stumbles have become less frequent as my new healthier habits have become second nature.

Halloween treats

Halloween has always been a rough time for me as I do have a sweet tooth. With kids and trick-or-treating, as well as the candy in my home, temptations are everywhere. How do I handle it now? Well, I may choose a small piece of candy just to satisfy the craving without over indulging. Maybe my 4-year-old, dressed in his pilot costume, offers me a Tootsie Roll. One small piece won’t do much damage but a handful (or more) will temporarily sabotage my healthy eating plan. I must remain vigilant against such slips.

Moderation is the key. I still enjoy a treat now and then. A giant malted milkshake? Nope. A small scoop of frozen yogurt? Yes. Eating four slices of pepperoni pizza? No. Eating one slice of thin-crust pizza? Yes.

Schedule time for yourself

I find it’s easy to lose myself in work, obligations and taking care of small children. So, where do I fit in the picture? I make sure I carve out at least 30 minutes for myself everyday. That usually means I hop out of bed at 4:30 a.m. so I can have some quiet time. On days when I happen to be alone, I will go for a hike, walk or do some light weights. Maybe I’ll cook up some veggies, make garlic mashed cauliflower or roast sweet potatoes.

Mentally preparing myself for the day helps me make healthier choices.

Pace yourself

Weight loss isn’t a sprint, but a marathon without a finish line. There may be a goal weight, but once it is reached, then it’s time to maintain that weight by not falling into old eating habits. My menu stays the same, despite having lost 116 pounds. Now is not to time to return to pizza, burgers, French fries and sweets.

Dropping your caloric intake to levels which leave you hungry most of the day is not my philosophy. By eating five to six times daily, I keep fire in that stove, so to speak, and continually burn calories. I also stay active, moving around the office or taking quick strolls up the street to stretch my legs.

What do I eat? I stick with fresh fruit and raw vegetables, avoid breads and starchy foods, and limit my lean meat to 4-6 ounces each day. I eat plenty of brown rice, black beans, quinoa and lots of mushrooms. My mom asked me why I eat mushrooms because she simply didn't see the point. Simple: Low calories, very filling. I buy raw sliced mushrooms and use them to top salads, add to omelets or take in my lunch to steam (with a little drizzle of soy sauce).

Exercise is important

I try to include this note in most of the Saturday Skinny columns because it’s true. Exercise is critical to weight loss. In order to burn calories, get your body moving. As I’ve heard on many weight loss shows (such as “The Biggest Loser”), if you aren’t moving, you aren’t losing.

When I feel like I can’t do 20 more curls or 10 more over-head lifts with a hand weight, I ask myself, “Is this all I have or can I push myself just a little harder?” Usually, I achieve those extra lifts and curls. My self-doubt can easily overpower my drive if I allow it to happen. Pushing a little bit harder each week is a personal goal.

Drink water

I try to let people know what worked for me and not preach about what they should or shouldn’t do. When it comes to beverages, I am a firm believer in water. Avoid soda, alcohol and calorie-laden drinks. I never order specialty drinks in a coffee shop anymore because they contain lots of hidden calories. I go for a plain old cup of coffee with a splash of non-fat milk (no sweeteners).

Little changes add up to a lifestyle

When I factor in the changes I’ve made to what I eat, what I drink and how much I move, it all adds up to a lifestyle change. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. Piece by piece, I’ve rebuilt my health and a body I haven’t seen since my 20s. I’m in better shape at almost 43 than I was at 23.

Recap: When my youngest daughter was born, I had just turned 41 years old and I tipped the scale at a whopping 303 pounds. At 6-feet tall, it was far too much weight for my frame. I was uncomfortable, depressed and couldn’t believe I had let myself go to such an extreme. When I was younger, I jogged regularly but a car accident sidelined me from my favorite activity. Since I could no longer run, I did nothing, but continued to eat as though I was as active as I had previously been. The weight came on and over the next 20 years, I struggled. For me, diets didn’t work. Why? Because diets end, but life continues. What I did on Dec. 30, 2010, was make a conscious decision to lose this weight.

I had to make one simple change: my lifestyle. It sounds easy, but it was very difficult. After 10 months, I had lost 20 pounds. I wasn’t happy with my progress and then it hit me – I had to work for this healthy lifestyle, it wasn’t just going to happen on its own. Through hard work and determination, I lost another 96 pounds over the next year, bringing my total weight loss to 116 pounds.

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