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Archive for the ‘weight loss’ Category

Setting Weight Loss and Fitness Goals

Goal planning is a critical aspect of losing weight and getting or staying fit. Without goals, you’re like a boat caught on the waves without a sail. Sometimes it’s okay to be adrift without any specific goal in mind, but usually if you’re trying to lose weight, you already have a desired outcome. What you may not have is a plan to get there.

Weight loss planning is a lot like driving from one place to another. You know your starting location, and your destination, and you need to plot a course to get there. Turn left here, turn right there, take the highway for four miles, take the exit, turn right, etc. Losing weight is a lot like that, wherein you have long term goals that you reach by setting and achieving shorter and shorter term goals.

By working backwards from your long-term goals to the current moment in time (your starting place) you can actually decide to get there, rather than just aimlessly hoping that you get to your goals.

img-finish-line

Most people start out a weight loss or fitness plan with a big overarching goal, like “I want to lose 40 pounds,” or “I’m going to work out every day.” These are great goals, but without planning the intermediate steps to achieve them you’re unlikely to make as much progress as you could with a good plan.

I tend to break my goals up into smaller, more achievable chunks that vary mostly by timeframe:

  1. Immediate
  2. Daily
  3. Short-Term
  4. Mid-Term
  5. Long-Term

Immediate Goals

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
– attributed to Lao-Tzu (604 BC – 531 BC)

Immediate goals are the easiest to keep because they’re the result of choices that you’re making right now. Exercising, eating right, goal planning, and logging your progress are all things you can just do. You want to go exercise? Go exercise. Your goal is to eat right for this meal? What’s stopping you? Being healthy is just one immediate good choice after another. Like walking from here to there – you put one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, you’ve arrived at your destination.

You don’t really think of something you’re doing now as a “goal,” but rather a choice. Sure. But those choices are going to be informed by, and support, goals that come to fruition in the future.

Daily Goals

Daily goals are a little more concrete and measurable. Exercise and calorie goals are daily goals. Your immediate goals will depend on your daily goals, and the results of how well you succeed at your daily goals depend on your immediate goals.

Your daily goals are things that you plan to do every day, or every n days (every other day, three times a week, etc.). You want to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes per day every week day, and then take the weekend’s off? Those are still daily goals.

There are a few goals that I keep track of every day:

  • Calorie Intake – 1800–2000 calories/day, currently.
  • Water Intake – My goal is to drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water per day, if not more.
  • Exercise – 2 miles on the treadmill in the morning, every weekday.
  • Steps – I break this out from exercise as it’s a slightly different goal, but because I wear a Fitbit I can measure every step I take. My current step goal is 10,000 steps/day, minimum.
  • Floors Climbed – Also counted by the Fitbit. My current goal is at least 20 floors/day.
  • Writing – I get up two hours earlier than I need to get ready for work so I can write a little every day. You’re reading the results of this writing right now. I tend to keep a dozen or so drafts on various topics going at any given time, and then when one starts to gain critical mass I’ll decide on a publication date and plan to work on that particular article every day until then. Since I usually publish on Monday mornings I’ll spend my morning work and reflection time on Monday editing the article I’m about to publish.

Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals are my weekly or monthly goals. They may be simple like “lose 1–2 pounds per week” or “maintain my current weight while on vacation next week.”

While immediate goals are immediately achievable (because they’re the result of choices), and daily goals are easy enough to achieve, short-term goals are trickier because they should be the result of your daily goals.

Think about the short-term goals as an extension of your daily goals. I use the phrase “short-term” rather than “weekly” or “monthly” – but let’s say that short-term goals encompass both of those.

One of my standing, repeating short-term goals is to lose 1–2 pounds per week. That’s reasonable, right? It won’t happen, however, unless I follow through on my daily and immediate goals.

Mid-Term Goals: A Bundle of Short-Term Goals

I don’t know if a “mid-term” goal is quarterly, bi-annual, or even yearly. It depends on how far out your long-term goals are. These will tend to be set by working backwards from your long-term goals, and will probably roll-up some short-term goals together. For example, if my short-term goal is to lose 1–2 pounds this week, and my monthly goal is to lose 5–10 pounds per month, then maybe a good mid-term goal would include a few weeks or months together.

For example, my current mid-term goal is to weigh under 275 pounds by the end of the summer (Labor Day). I actually set this goal a month ago, based on my projections from my current average rate of weight loss.

I’m keeping this as my next weight loss goal until I hit it, at which case I’ll probably keep to the same timeline but update the weight I want to lose by then. I just did this with another mid-term goal that I’ve already achieved. My company is having an event at the end of June and two months ago I set a goal to be under 290 by then. The only problem? I weighed under 290 by the beginning of June. So I could either check that one off and move to the next goal, or keep that date but now try to weigh even less by then. So that’s what I did. New goal: 280. Will I make it? I have about five pounds to go and one week to do it, so probably not.

Would it have been better to set the goal to 285 and hit it rather than just missing my new goal of 280? I don’t see how. You’re going to try to punch your goal weight in the face and you’re not trying to hit a spot on its face – you’re trying to hit a spot that’s six inches behind its face. You’re going to try to swing through your goal, not just make it. Punch through your goals.

How about a baseball metaphor? If you hit the ball and start running towards first base, you don’t have to reach the base exactly and stop – you can just keep running as fast as you can and run right over that base to be “safe.”

Charge at your goals like you’re William Wallace leading his blue-skinned Scotsmen into battle against the English[1].

Setting Long-Term Goals

One word of caution I’ll offer about setting long-term goals is to not focus on numbers as much as condition. In other words, while one of my long-term goals is to weigh under 200 pounds, my stronger long term goal is to maintain 23–25% body fat, to continue to eat healthily, and be more active. The problem with many people’s long-term goals, and the reason I think that a lot of people gain weight back after dieting is that they stop doing what it was they did to lose the weight once they’ve crossed the finish line.

The finish line never really comes. The race never ends. You just keep on going. That’s not as dismal as it sounds, and achieving goals feels great. Just don’t expect to ever be “done.” You may, however, eventually be done with setting mid-term and long-term goals. The other short term goals will just become your habits and you’ll go on to be a fitter, healthier you. I think I’ll happily trade the thrill of victory for the steady and ongoing success of being fit and not needing to lose weight anymore.

How to Set Weight Loss Goals

  • Write Them Down – Goals that you don’t record somewhere aren’t goals; they’re dreams. This isn’t a wishlist – these are things you are going to make happen. Write your goals down somewhere, whether that’s in a special weight loss goal journal, your calendar, or in a piece of software made to record weight loss goals.
  • Be Specific – You don’t just want to “lose weight” – you want to lose a certain amount of weight. You don’t want to “eat right” – you want to eat certain things, or stay within a specific calorie range.
  • Set A Timeframe – Goals are a statement of your expected condition at a certain time. Without setting a timeframe you don’t have a goal.
  • Make Them Measurable – If you can’t measure it, you can’t know when you’ve achieved it. Success means defining something that has a clear means of measuring your achievement.
  • Measure Them – Of course you’ve been getting constant feedback about your weight loss, so measuring your progress toward your goals is just a further extrapolation out from those stats you’re already keeping.
  • Be Positive – You can’t really plan to not do something. Or rather, whatever you plan to do, you’re planning to not do everything else. Rather than a negative goal like “Don’t eat poorly,” plan a goal that sets a positive tone “Eat a salad for lunch today.” You’d be amazed how more easily achievable positive goals are than negative goals.
  • Goals Are Actions – Sure, you can set a long term goal to lose 100 pounds, but most of your supporting goals will be action-oriented. Things you do. Walk everyday for 30 minutes. Limit your daily intake to 2,000 calories. Ride your bike to work at least 2–3x per week. Go to the gym after work every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Setting goals based on numbers on a scale are okay as long as you also set intermediate goals based on actions that will help you get there. You’re not going to lose the weight magically no matter how much you want to.
  • Start Small – You don’t need to set all of your goals in stone when you’re first starting out. Set a few small and easily achievable goals first. You never get off the couch and want to walk for an hour a day? That’s great. Start with walking five minutes per day, and then if that seems too easy, do more. You can always do more later. Don’t discourage yourself by biting off more than you can chew (excuse the pun) from the get-go.
  • Don’t Choke After Success – You set a goal to walk 15 minutes a day, and now that you’ve done your 15 you still feel like walking? Don’t stop just because it exceeds your goal. Your goals should be minimum effort or otherwise achievable without desperate measures. They’re easily achievable because you started small and built upon that solid foundation over time.
  • Be Realistic – You want to lose 50 pounds … before your sister’s wedding next month? Far be it for me to be a naysayer, but that’s probably not going to happen. You need to set your timelines forward from a measurable and realistic present. For instance, if you are losing 1–2 pounds per week, then you can kinda sorta predict how long it’ll take you to lose any number of pounds[2].
  • Treat Yo’ Self[3] – Establish a reward for achieving a goal that’s something to look forward to, and preferably has something to do with the goal. Have your eye on a new Fitbit? Set a goal to walk every day for a month, and reward yourself with a new tool to help you better track your progress. Your reward for doing the Right Thing should reinforce that right thing, or at least other right things. Don’t reward good performance with food, especially the unhealthy food that you’ve been avoiding to achieve this goal. Don’t make the reward something that slides you back past the goal line again.
  • Readjust. Realign. Resume. – You’re probably not going to achieve every single goal, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. When you drive you probably don’t even think about the thousands of tiny course corrections that you make constantly just to keep your car in the correct lane. You adjust your speed to ensure that you don’t run into the person in front of you. If you turn the wheel, or use your brakes, are you a failure at driving? No. Your fitness goals are a lot like that. You will need to make adjustments. It’s just part of the process. Nothing to get hung about.

When To Start

You thought about your goals, you have pencil in hand and paper in front of you, and now you’re ready to start, right?

Your starting timeframe is easy. How’s now? Is now good for you? Oh, you want to start later? No you don’t. You already have momentum just thinking about it. You don’t need to finish what you already have in your pantry. The starving children in Africa will still be starving regardless of whether or not you throw away that half-package of uneaten Ding-Dongs[4].

Don’t wait until next Monday. I know the beginning of the week seems a good time to start, but really anytime is a good time to start. You were going to start after your last birthday, or after the holidays, or after the new year started, or after some other special occasion, but didn’t because you were waiting for that nice round “start date.” There will always be a new special occasion. In fact, there are so many of them I don’t even know why we call them special.

Start now. There will never be a better time.

Example Time

So I set a goal in early May to weigh under 275 by the end of the summer. I weighed just under 300 pounds then, so I gave myself about four months to lose about 25 pounds. That’s doable… isn’t it?

Let’s work forward. If I lose one pound per week, over the 16 weeks until early September I’ll only be 16 pounds lighter. If I lose 2 pounds per week, then it’s easy to lose only 25 pounds.

So how have I been doing over the past few weeks, and is this level of activity and calorie budget enough to get me there?

Looking at my weigh-ins, it looks like I’ve been losing an average of 1.5 pounds per week, so projecting outwards in 16 weeks I should lose around 24 pounds, which is pretty close to my goal of 25.

I’ll call that one close enough.

Time to Reflect, Review, and Tweak

You should take a few moments each day to reflect on how you’ve done, where you faltered, and what you can do better tomorrow. I actually find it easier and am more consistent in it when I do my Clean Livin’ planning in the morning after I first get up, rather than just before bed. When I’m tired the last thing I want to do is beat myself up about bad choices just before I go to sleep.

In the morning you can start over, reflect on yesterday and plan better for today. Plus, if you weigh yourself in the morning then you can get feedback for how you did and plan to make better choices today. What’s done is done, but you can always do better if you know you didn’t do the right thing. Sometimes I’m going to eat a cheeseburger. I probably won’t regret it or beat myself up about it unless it’s becoming a regular habit. Then I’ll need to adjust.

How To Recover When You Miss A Goal

Goals are definitely more fun when you charge triumphantly across the finish line, fists in the air, head tilted back. Victory is yours. It’s fleeting, but for now, you get to enjoy that rush.

Falling flat on your face a few steps before the goal is a different feeling entirely. You set a goal, you set smaller goals to work towards that larger goal, but still you failed. Clearly, this is the end of the world.

You’re upset about the result you didn’t get because of the work you didn’t do. Let’s think about how we can fix that.

First of all, you should’ve seen this coming because if you were reassessing your immediate, short-term, and mid-term goals you could project that you’d be missing your goal if you remain on the same trajectory.

By how far did you miss the mark? It may not be that big of a problem if you set a weight goal for a certain date and you hit it a week later instead. You should revise your goals after that accordingly, but it’s probably not a problem. We’ll ignore for a moment the problems with setting goals for how much you weigh at any given time, as your weight will fluctuate day to day and weight goals, like the one I set for myself to lose a certain amount of weight by the end of the Summer, for instance, is more of a general target than something I’ll be depressed about if I miss it. I also try to set as realistic goals as possible, based on current data from my weigh-ins. I’ve been losing a consistent 1.5 pounds per week for the past eight weeks. Setting goals in the future, provided I continue with the behavior that got me to where I currently am, isn’t so much a goal plan as it is a projection.

If you miss your goals by a wide-margin there are two likely reasons:

  1. You stopped doing what you needed to in order to reach your goal, or
  2. You’re bad at math.

If you set a mid-term goal to run 20 out of every 30 days for the next three months and only ended up running 10 times in 90 days, then of course you’re going to miss your goal. Did you re-evaluate that goal after you missed most of your runs in the first 30 days? Was that much running an unrealistic goal for you to begin with?

It’s hard to say because when you’re starting out with setting weight loss goals everything seems unrealistic, and the work you haven’t done yet is easier in your mind than it is when you need to put rubber to the road and actually do the things you’ve planned to do.

So start small, with something you know you can do every day, like keep a log of what you eat, weigh-in, or walk for fifteen minutes a day, and build from there.

You may not notice the benefits of your new activities immediately, but over time they’ll compound. Every little bit helps.


  1. FREEDOM!  ↩

  2. Okay, nerd time. So weight loss tends to be logarithmic, where you’ll lose more at the start and it becomes harder to lose more weight the nearer you get to your “ideal weight.” There are a whole bunch of reasons for that, and you can solve some of the weight loss slowdown by re-adjusting your calorie budget based on your new percentage of muscle mass, body fat, and the ratio of your fat to lean mass. But it’s hard. You also tend to lose a lot of fluid you’ve been holding onto early in the weight loss game, and water weighs a little more than fat does (a pound of water is about two cups by volume – a pound of fat is about 2.13).  ↩

  3.  ↩

  4. When you throw away your junk food, rather than eating it or bringing it to work for others, don’t think of it as wasting something, think of it as reducing the amount of crap in the world by a little bit. You threw away the sugary cereal and potato chips? You’ve just made the world a little bit of a better place.  ↩

Keeping Healthy On Vacation

There comes a time when one’s livin’, no matter how clean the intent, is tested. A time when temptation is greater, every as-yet untasted morsel appears more succulent, routine is recklessly abandoned, and measuring progress becomes a chore too unpleasant to contemplate. For me, that time is while I’m on vacation.

It stands to reason. When you’re away from home or work you have less control over your environment, are probably not cooking for yourself, and the joys of discovering new foods or enjoying halcyon reminiscences too delicious to pass up.

Even the word “vacation” conjures images of freedom, excitement, and enticing new experiences. It’s a time you want to play instead of work, relax instead of be active, and let the tautness of routine slacken as the lassitudes of recreation multiply.

Or, if you’re me, you run yourself ragged walking around your vacation spot for ten hours straight without taking any downtime to relax, eating junk food from carts on the street as you go.

I’ve been making good progress managing my weight loss over the past few months, so the prospect of a vacation both excited and worried me. The wife and I visited New York City over an extended Memorial Day five-day weekend. New York is one of my favorite places to visit, and a big part of that is the food. Whenever we go to New York there are a bunch of things that we plan to eat that you just can’t get in Chicago, or at least it’s different enough that we enjoy the New York version:

  • Pizza – No one does pizza like New York City, especially at the few and far between coal oven establishments. You can debate which style of pizza is best but when you imagine pizza in your mind, you’re probably thinking of New York Style Pizza.
  • Bagels – There are a few places in Chicago to get passable bagels, but great bagels are so common in New York that it’s rare if they aren’t good. Also, you can’t really get bialys, the bagel’s weird denser cousin, anywhere else.
  • East Coast Chinese Food – Americanized Chinese food is available throughout the country, with various regional differences. New York Chinese food offers a nostalgia for the Chinese food of my youth in Philly.
  • Street Food – In Chicago it’s illegal to cook food in a truck and serve it (there are food trucks, but they have to prepare their food elsewhere and then sell the food from the truck, and there are so many restrictions that you can’t count on a truck having a permanent outpost, so they roam from place to place and post their current and upcoming locations on Twitter. Lame. In New York you can eat any kind of food you want, cooked in a cart or truck on the street. The same cart was there yesterday, and the same cart will be there tomorrow. There are some NYC staples like “chicken over rice” that doesn’t seem to exist elsewhere, and common stuff like falafel, kebabs, tacos, etc.
  • img-grays Papaya Drinks and Grilled Hot Dogs – I don’t know why this combination is only prevalent in New York, but Gray’s Papaya and Papaya King (and half a dozen lesser imitators) serve a combo of grilled natural casing hot dogs and a papaya drink that’s just out of this world, and a very cheap meal. Gray’s Papaya has a “recession special” that offers two hot dogs and a papaya drink for under $5.
  • Dirty Water Hot Dogs – Sure, Chicago may be the hot dog and sausage capital of the country, but there’s nothing like getting a dirty water hot dog (usually made by Sabrett) on the street, topped with mustard and sauerkraut.
  • img-shake-shack Shake Shack – The West Coast has In-N-Out, other cities have Fatburger, Five Guys, Steak & Shake, M Burger, and other local burger joints, but there’s just something about Shake Shack’s burgers that really draw the crowds. We waited about 50 minutes from the time we entered the line until we were actually eating a burger. I’m still on the fence about whether or not it was worth it, but it is a tasty burger. Shake Shack just expanded into Philadelphia, so I expect they’ll continue to open new locations.
  • Knish – Ah, the potato knish. I’m sure you can get them elsewhere, but the fresh round baked, not fried, knish from Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery on Houston are just not available anywhere else in the country.
  • img-katz Deli – Your city has delis too? Not really. You haven’t had a good deli sandwich until you’ve gotten some house-cured corned beef or pastrami from a reputable institution, like Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side[1]. Other cities have delis, and most supermarkets have a “deli counter” where they’ll sell you some sliced cold cuts, but none really do it like New York, and those that do call themselves “New York Style” delis.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a list of unhealthy but delicious things that are available in New York City, but there you go. I’m sure I forgot some New York City street food staples too.

When you’re trying to lose weight, though, walking around New York is like navigating a minefield. There are delicious and cheap foods everywhere and you have to walk by one of those carts every twenty paces. I think I did pretty well, considering.

How To Mitigate The Damage While Still Enjoying Your Vacation

  • Walk Around – Walking around a new place can be a lot more interesting than walking around the same streets over and over again at home. While walking alone won’t make up for an extra two thousand calories, it helps mitigate the damage caused by eating poorly.
  • Share the (Caloric) Load – If you’re traveling with a friend or partner you can reduce your caloric intake by sharing the foods that are higher in calories. Some things are easier to share than others, of course, and convincing someone else to go halfsies may take some doing.
  • If You Can’t Share, Spread It Out – A single hot dog and bun is like 300 calories (and not much more if your toppings are comprised only of low-calorie items such as mustard and sauerkraut or onions), so if you eat one and then have a slice of 300–400 calorie pizza a couple of hours later, you’re spreading it out over time, and hopefully walking off some of those calories in-between.
  • Don’t Spend More Than You Make – Just like when you’re home, you should set a budget and stick to it. I set my caloric budget while on vacation to the amount of calories it would take for me to maintain my weight. I figured if I could break even throughout the course of my vacation, I’d call that a “win.” It’s harder, however, to have an accurate calorie estimate of foods you don’t prepare yourself, so while away I tend to try to over-estimate everything as a worst-case scenario. Pizza isn’t going to be consistent between pizzerias, or even between slices from the same pizzeria. Do the best you can.
  • Choose Your Battles – Since you’re still operating under a budget (albeit a looser budget, most likely) you should be smart about how to spend those calories. When you consider the opportunity cost that eating one thing precludes eating something else (in terms of space in your stomach let alone calorie budget) be sure that you’re choosing to eat something that’s highly caloric that you’ll truly enjoy. Save up throughout the day for that one meal for which you’ve made reservations. Pass on the soft serve from the truck and walk the mile to the artisan ice cream shop you saw on TV. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just make sure that if you’re going to pound down the calories that you’ll actually be enjoying the experience.

Easier Said Than Done

So how’d I do?

On the morning of the day we left I weighed in at 290.8 lbs. The morning after we got back I weighed in at 298.0 lbs. Oops. Since I was counting my calories while away I knew that there was no way I ate an extra 25,000 calories over the course of a week over what I burned, so something else had to be accounting for the extra weight.

It took me five days to get rid of my vacation weight (and another couple of days to be sure I kept it off and I didn’t just dip below it due to water balance changes):

Day Weight (lbs) Delta (lbs)
23 May
(leaving for vacation)
290.8
31 May
(return from vacation)
298.0 +7.2
1 June 297.0 +6.2
2 June 294.4 +3.6
3 June 294.8 +4.0
4 June 292.6 +1.8
5 June
(back to pre-vacation weight)
290.6 –0.2
6 June 289.6 –1.2
7 June 289.4 –1.4
8 June 288.8 –2.0

Totally worth it.


  1. It’s the deli where Sally faked an orgasm (“I’ll have what she’s having.”) from the film When Harry Met Sally.  ↩

Drink Water

Of all the things you can do to help you lose weight, consuming mass quantities of water is probably the most important. It doesn’t matter whether you drink sparkling or still, bottled or tap, mineral or filtered, as long as you’re getting copious amounts of good ol’ H2O, you’re on the rocket train to Hydrationtown.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full

You never know what other benefits drinking water could provide. Maybe someone will want to trade the “good package” for a simple glass of water.

Our bodies are comprised of about 60% water, so it’s no wonder we need an intake of fluid in order to function properly. The average person can survive a week to ten days without food. Without water you wouldn’t survive more than 2–3 days, tops.

We’re not interested in mere survival and standard body functions, though. How does water help you lost weight?

Ways That Water Helps You Lose Weight

  • Tastes Great. More Filling – Water fills you up. If you drink a big glass of water before eating you’ll eat less because you’re full of water. It sounds stupid, but it’s effective. Water, which has no calories, displaces other things that contain calories.
  • Reduces Water Retention – This one’s counter-intuitive, but if you’re not properly hydrated your body will retain as much fluid as it can so all of your systems can function properly. Drinking more water actually makes you retain less water. Easing water retention by pumping plenty of water through your system means you won’t be weighing that excess water when you step on the scale. Reducing the amount of water you retain is the cheapest and easiest way to lose body weight.
  • Stops You From Confusing Hunger With Thirst – Your body can’t really tell the difference between being hungry and being thirsty. If you keep your stomach full of water for most of the day, you won’t feel as hungry as fast.
  • Gets Your Body Moving – Researchers have discovered that drinking a lot of water helps to increase sympathetic nervous system activity and constricts blood vessels, which prevents pooling of blood throughout your extremities.
  • Increases Your Metabolism – Drink water, burn more calories (slightly). Some will tell you that drinking really cold water will burn calories just warming it up, but really it’s not that hydration increases your metabolic rate as much as when you’re dehydrated your body slows it down in order to conserve water. By hydrating properly you’re making sure that your metabolism runs at a full clip as often as possible.
  • Lubricates Your Joints – Water helps your muscles contract and lubricates your joints (which is why athletes that don’t properly hydrate get muscle cramps). The last thing you need when you’re trying to add more exercise to your life is to have cramps from not drinking enough fluid.
  • Displaces Caloric Beverages – If you’re drinking as much water as possible, that means you’re probably replacing some caloric beverage with water, which in and of itself could save you a large number of calories depending on your drinking habits. Calories from alcoholic and sugary drinks (about 7 calories per gram of sugar or alcohol) add-up very quickly. Having said that, all non-alcoholic water-based beverages hydrate you, just none as much as pure water.
  • Helps Your Kidneys Take Out The Trash – I read quite a few articles (that I won’t link to) that said something to the effect of “drinking water helps flush impurities and toxins out of your body.” The problem with this mumbo-jumbo is that it’s sorta true, from a certain point of view. Your kidneys are like your body’s filtration system, and are responsible for producing urine and for depositing waste into it, so if you drink more water you’ll keep the crap from staying in your body and get it into your urine faster. If you’re interested in how your kidneys work, How Stuff Works has a pretty good explanation.

Urination: Your New Hobby

Let’s get this out of the way – if you drink a lot of water you’ll have to pee a lot. Think of this newfound activity as a hobby and use your bathroom breaks as a good excuse to get up and move around every hour or so.

Your urine should be mostly clear in color (except for the first pee of the day which may be cloudier). An easy test for how hydrated you are is to look at the color of your urine.

So having to pee a lot is annoying, especially when you’re out and about and have to rely on public restrooms. When at home or at work, though, at least drinking more fluids will get you moving a little between getting up to refill your water glass or getting up to go use the restroom.

How Much Water To Drink

The conventional amount suggested is eight 8oz glasses of water per day. The truth is that the amount of water you need varies per individual, amount of activity, how much you sweat, how hot it is outside, how much you exercise, your altitude, and all sorts of other things you can’t easily measure. Heck, you lose 1–2 liters per day, which is half of your daily water loss, just through breathing[1]. So we can’t really go strictly by volume.

The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking 2.2 to 3 liters per day, which is close to the minimum 1.9 liters (8 x 8oz) various health organizations suggest.

Another rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in pounds in ounces of water. So if you weigh 150 lbs., to drink at least 75oz of water per day (which is more than 8 glasses). That seems high to me, but again it really depends on the person. Maybe you need that much water. Maybe you don’t. So how much water should you drink?

You should drink as much water as you can. Drink so that you urinate frequently (once an hour or so is probably the right amount) and that your pee is clear instead of yellow (your first urination of the day may be darker). If you’re drinking a lot of water, peeing a lot, and your pee is clear, you’re probably getting enough water.

Food generally attributes about 20% of your fluid intake as well, as many foods contain water, so you’ll also get some hydration simply by eating, but not nearly as much as by drinking water.

How Much Is Too Much?

It is actually possible to drink too much water, although it’s really difficult to do so. When you drink too much water the electrolytes (salt and other minerals) in your blood gets diluted and your kidneys can’t process the water fast enough. You develop a condition known as “hyponatremia,” the most severe symptom of “water intoxication” caused by the overconsumption of water.

However, it’s not just the sheer amount of water that is a problem, but rather how fast you drink it. The kidneys of a healthy adult can process about 15 liters of water throughout the course of the day. If your kidneys process water linearly (and they don’t – they actually work harder while you sleep than while you’re awake) that means they can process about half a liter per hour, outside of what your stomach and the rest of your body holds. So you’re going to be hard-pressed to overdo your water intake unless you try to drink several liters at once.

As with anything, it’s better to regulate your intake and have a steady and constant amount of fluid going through you rather than trying to get it all in at one time.

For people with healthy kidneys the most common side-effect of drinking too much water is more frequent urination.

Diuretics

A diuretic, like coffee/caffeine or alcohol is considered to make you urinate more frequently and to dehydrate your body. That’s true, if you consume vast quantities of coffee or other caffeinated beverages. In practical use, though, you’ll get more hydration from the water in coffee than the diuretic effect of the caffeine can remove.

Alcohol is a different story, not because there isn’t water in a lot of alcoholic beverages (in beer and wine more than hard liquor), but because alcohol affects the kidneys and increases your rate of urination. For every 1g of alcohol drunk, urine excretion increases by 10ml[2] (for the duration that alcohol is in your bloodstream, which is a complicated matter that depends on numerous factors[3]).

Let’s put that into perspective. An “alcohol unit” is a standard measure for what constitutes a single alcoholic drink. In the U.S. one alcohol unit is about 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol (while a pint of water may weigh a pound, alcohol is a little lighter than water). A pint of beer is about 568ml. For our purposes we’ll say that our pint of beer is a standard lager containing about 5% alcohol by volume for a drink that’s around 200 calories. That means that there’s 22.4g of alcohol, which means that your urine excretion rises 224ml per hour.

Keep in mind that the diuretic effect of alcohol doesn’t just expel extra water from the alcoholic beverage you’ve consumed, but any water in your system. You can see why alcohol is said to dehydrate you.

Sparkling or Still?

You should drink water more than any other beverage, but carbon dioxide (CO2) contains zero calories, so if you like fizzy water, get a Sodastream or buy Seltzer.

Beware store-bought soda that isn’t flavored, though, as these are not all the same:

  • Seltzer – Just water with CO2 bubbles dissolved in it. 0 calories / cup.
  • Club Soda – Seltzer water with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) dissolved in it. Usually 0 calories, but often a lot of sodium is added as well. Some brands will use the terms seltzer and club soda interchangeably.
  • Tonic Water – Seltzer that has quinine added to it for flavor. It’ll protect you from malaria, and if you shine a blacklight on a bottle it’ll glow even though the concentration of quinine is very low. Actually, many cheap supermarket brands don’t even contain quinine anymore, instead opting for another chemical that has a similar flavor. Most tonic water also contains sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. For example, a 12 oz can of Canada Dry Tonic Water contains 140 calories, almost as much as a can of Coca-Cola (which has 160 calories per can).

Drink water or seltzer water. Drink the other two in limited quantities, and know that it’s not a health drink when you do. When in doubt, check the label or better yet, make your own seltzer.

Bottled or Tap?

Water Bottles

Either one will help you stay hydrated, but is bottled water worth the additional cost over plain ol’ municipal tap water?

Before we contrast and compare, consider that nearly half of all bottled water is actually sourced from local tap water.

There are some major disadvantages to drinking bottled versus tap water:

Cost

At an average cost of $3.79/gallon, bottled water is about 1,900 times more expensive than tap water, even when bought in bulk. Smaller single-serving bottles can be as much as five thousand times more expensive. At the airport or movie theater, twice that.

So the next time you buy a bottle of water, consider if its convenience makes it 5,000–10,000 times better than tap.

For what it’s worth, I buy bottles of water all the time when we’re out and about and prefer simple filtered tap water like Aquafina or Dasani (bottled by Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola respectively). Sometimes it’s just not convenient to carry your own refillable water bottle. When I do buy bottled water, though, I know I’m being overcharged for it, and resent it. You’re on my list, Regal Cinemas.

Quality

Municipal water quality varies from location to location, whereas bottled water quality tends to differ only by brand.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) did an enormous study a few years ago to determine the quality of various brands of bottled water, and published a scorecard on a scale of A-F, as in school. A few brands received a grade of B or C, but the majority received Ds and Fs.

The study’s conclusion was that while for the most part bottled water quality was on-par with municipal tap water, it was rarely, if ever, better.

Bottled water is often just filtered tap water, but filtering removes many of the valuable minerals in the water. One essential mineral that is missing from most bottled water is fluoride, which is added to most municipal water sources to prevent tooth decay. Of course, most toothpaste also contains fluoride.

Safety

Bottled water is regulated by the FDA whereas tap water is regulated by the EPA. The FDA is also responsible for inspecting bottled water plants, although according to the FDA web site:

FDA monitors and inspects bottled water products and processing plants under its general food safety program, not a specific bottled water program. Because FDA’s experience over the years has shown that bottled water has a good safety record, bottled water plants generally are assigned low priority for inspection.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) performed a study in 1999 to determine the quality of more than a thousand bottles of 103 brands of bottled water and found:

While most of the tested waters were found to be of high quality, some brands were contaminated: about one-third of the waters tested contained levels of contamination – including synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic – in at least one sample that exceeded allowable limits under either state or bottled water industry standards or guidelines.

The afore-linked-to EWG study on bottled water quality also lists several safety concerns:

Laboratory tests conducted for EWG at one of the country’s leading water quality laboratories found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water.

The types of chemical pollutants found were quite varied:

Altogether, the analyses conducted by the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory of these 10 brands of bottled water revealed a wide range of pollutants, including not only disinfection byproducts, but also common urban wastewater pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceuticals (Tylenol); heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes; fertilizer residue (nitrate and ammonia); and a broad range of other, tentatively identified industrial chemicals used as solvents, plasticizers, viscosity decreasing agents, and propellants.

Drink up!

Environmental Impact

There’s an environmental cost to getting water to people no matter whether it flows through pipes or is bottled and shipped on a truck, but consider the added environmental costs of bottled water over tap:

  • The bottles have to be manufactured.
  • The bottles are manufactured from petroleum (usually).
  • Many states don’t offer a return on five-cent deposit on water bottles like they do for beer and soda.
  • Because there’s no deposit, a lot of water bottles end up in landfills.
  • Even those bottles that do get recycled have costs associated with recycling the plastic.
  • Bottled water is often sold far from where it’s bottled, meaning that it has to be shipped on trucks, barges, etc. throughout the world. Consider also that water is heavy[4].
  • Local communities often get shafted by large water-bottling corporations who take their ground or spring water without repaying the community.

Considering that nearly half of the bottled water sold is tap water anyway… why not drink the stuff that’s better regulated, safer, and cheaper?


  1. The clock in the bedroom where I walk on the treadmill shows relative humidity, and after 20–30 minutes of walking on the treadmill the humidity in the room tends to rise by 3–5%, which I can only account for my breath making the air more humid.  ↩

  2. Cf. The diuretic action of alcohol in man  ↩

  3. Eating high-protein foods will slow the rate of alcohol absorption, but it won’t stop the alcohol from getting into your bloodstream. Also of note is that your blood alcohol level continues to rise even after you’ve stopped drinking.  ↩

  4. Not to be confused with heavy water.  ↩

How To Lose Weight

The most frequent question that I am asked when I tell people that I’ve lost over 150 pounds (so far) is “How did you do it?” The short and possibly glib answer is that I eat right and exercise. The truer answer is a bit longer and more abstract.

Before I can address the real answer, though, I’d like to rephrase the question to: “How do you change from being overweight and out of shape to being fit and healthy?” The real answer is easier to understand now: By becoming a fit person and then acting naturally. Your body will catch up.

Of course, that’s not quite it either. The real question is the follow-up “Well… how do you do that?”

It’s a decision. Losing weight is simple, but it’s not easy. I’ve struggled with writing this post because it’s hard to explain. I think I’ve found a shortcut, though. If you change yourself you’ll change your body. If you start to change your body, you’ll change yourself. Either way you’re going to be on the road to being fitter.

I could prescribe exactly what you should do – certain things like walk two miles a day, or track everything you eat, count your calories, and only intake so many per a daily budget. There are innumerable specifics that would likely result in your weight loss, at least temporarily – but that wouldn’t be useful to you in the long term because doing those things would be outside your nature, and eventually those habits that aren’t yours will fade away. You won’t keep up my habits. You have to make them your own. Losing good habits and re-introducing bad habits has happened to me, too. Any time you try to fight nature, even your own, nature wins every time.

Instead, I’ll offer this general bit of advice that will lead to your inevitable success. I believe this advice is pertinent to success in all things, not just weight loss or general fitness, but I’ll talk of it in these terms. In order to be a success, you must:

Make Things Harder Than They Need To Be

We live in a culture of convenience. Every product, service, program plan, diet, exercise regime, class, and so forth are meant to make your life easier. Work is treated like a four letter word. Companies are happy to take your money so that they can help you do less work. Unfortunately for you, you’ve been conditioned to be fat, dumb, and happy. I can’t help you with the latter two.

Losing weight is like swimming against the current. You have to fight against every impulse, instinct, societal convention, the food service industry, and even other people’s expectations. You’re basically a salmon, except that you don’t have a spawning ground to look forward to once you reach your goal. Although, if you get fitter along the way, maybe you do.

What does it mean to make things harder than they need to be? It means walking when you could drive. It means taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It means cooking instead of eating out or ordering in. It means taking ten steps when five will do. Squaring the corner instead of rounding it. Doing things yourself instead of relying on someone else (or a machine) to do them. It means when you come to any fork in the road you need to take the path that sucks.

Granted, I haven’t given up every convenience. I still use TV remote controls (given modern electronics you kinda have to – most TVs and media players don’t have many buttons anymore). I like to eat out sometimes (sometimes too often). I have texted my wife from a different floor of the house rather than go talk to her. Doing those things doesn’t make me any healthier, though.

If I know what the Right Thing is, and it’s not that hard to do, why don’t I do it all the time?

I fail whenever I try to deny myself something I want. I fail when I give into despair instead of acknowledging my setback and moving on.

How to Resist Temptation

Don’t.

img-neo

If you give up everything you enjoy you’ll never keep up with it. Oh sure, you can sacrifice what you enjoy for a while, but eventually your old habits, the things you want to do while you’ve been doing things you don’t want to do, will come screaming back with a vengeance.

You’re never going to succeed if you punish yourself to get there. The “yo-yo diet” effect of losing weight and then gaining even more back again (lather, rinse, repeat) is a common theme in most diets because they’re all about giving up stuff you like to eat. That sounds like a shitty life to me. No thanks.

Much better is to adjust your desire. Change what it is that you want. Remember that scene in The Matrix when Morpheus was explaining the nature of what being The One and how that works in the Matrix?

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.

A lot of weight loss advice I’ve read suggests getting rid of unhealthy snacks when you’re trying to lose weight – literally throwing them away – because if you don’t have them in the house, you can’t eat them, right? While there’s a certain logic in that, you can’t really fool yourself into doing the right thing if you really want to do the wrong thing.

If you’re trying to avoid the foods you really enjoy eating because you know that they’re bad for you, you’re doing it wrong. You can always eat the unhealthy thing later. It’ll be there. They’ll make more.

When you’re just starting out doing is almost as good as being. It’s hard to make new habits, but if you can keep the momentum going for a few weeks to a month you’ll start being what you’ve been doing. You’ll be the success you’ve been pretending to be.

When you’ve truly embraced Clean Livin’ you won’t need to avoid the bad foods because they will no longer be a temptation. I’m the guy who can eat a single potato chip. Fear me.

<Lawrence extinguishes a match between his thumb and forefinger. William Potter tries it and burns himself.>
William Potter: <screams> It damn well hurts!
Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Potter: What’s the trick then?
Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

T.E. Lawrence has met his match.
T.E. Lawrence has met his match.

Willpower

The word “willpower” comes up a lot when people talk about dieting.

Your body burns fat far more efficiently than it stores it. Metabolically speaking, losing weight is a lot easier than gaining weight. You just have to let it. As soon as you create a caloric deficit (eating less food than your body needs to power itself) you’ll burn fat (well, sometimes you’ll also lose some lean muscle mass, but we’ll ignore that for now). The system works if you work the system. Your body is burning calories just to keep you alive. You burn calories even while sleeping, although not nearly as many as being more active.

Remember Newton’s first Law of Inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. He wasn’t talking about a human body, but it still applies. Keep your body in motion.

The best part about Clean Livin’ is that it’s not a diet. It’s a means of replacing bad habits with better habits without missing the bad. Diets have a shelf life, like any fad. Diets have an assumed end date. I mean, you’ll just diet for a while and then you can stop, right?

Clean Livin’ means eating healthily and being more active… forever. Well, most of the time. Hey, why not try it just for this next meal. Just for today. See if you can do it through the end of the week. We tend to have an “all or nothing” mentality, especially where our diet is concerned.

It’s hard to do the right thing all the time. It’s much easier to do it at any particular moment it’s at the forefront of your mind.

Make The Right Thing The Easy Thing

There are some simple and easy things you can do to immediately improve your health that stack the deck in your favor.

Some “right things” that are easy to fit into your life:

  • Walking – Adding just 30 minutes a day of extra walking is usually pretty easy. You don’t even have to do it all at once. Take a five minute stroll around the block before you eat lunch, or walk to the store down the street instead of driving there, or hop on the treadmill for 15 minutes twice a day.
  • Easy Elimination – Cut out bad foods you won’t miss. There were a lot of unhealthy foods that I ate and didn’t even enjoy very much. If you choose to eat something that’s unhealthy, and it’s going to count towards your daily budget, at least make sure it’s worth it. If you eat unhealthy things you don’t even enjoy that much, cut them out! It’s easy to eliminate the foods that are just there for convenience (especially at the office when you may not even choose them) and spend those calories on something you’d prefer to eat. Make the most out of your calorie budget. Don’t squander those precious calories on something you consider less than delicious. For instance, I used to drink a few cans of Coca-Cola per day, and eat a bagel or muffin every morning. I’ll still have a bagel from time to time, but it was something I could eliminate and not even miss.
  • Easy Additions – Rather than concentrating on what you can’t eat, just start planning meals around vegetables, beans, and other high-nutrition food. By the time you get to the meat or fish you should already have a healthy meal. Then you can more easily reduce your portions.
  • Get Moving – Whenever you need to do something, ask yourself “Could I do this while moving?” Pace around while on the phone. Get up and walk around during commercial breaks. Use the bathroom on a different floor. Park at the end of the lot. Wash dishes by hand. Fold your laundry. Read while standing.
  • Cook – Buy real food from the outside aisles of the supermarket – fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy – and then cook it yourself. Not only will you know better what you’re eating while you likely eat healthier food, but you’ll also burn calories while cooking it. By keeping fruit on-hand you’ll also have a readily available snack for when you feel peckish.
  • Drink Water – Drink lots of water to flush out your system. Pound down that water. If you drink soda, get a Sodastream instead of buying bottled soda and make your own fizzy water. Replacing sugary drinks with water will not only hydrate you to help you lose weight, but water (even carbonated water) has zero calories. Plus, drinking a glass of water before, during, and after meals will fill you up more than you’d think.
  • Start Slow – You didn’t put excess weight on in a day, so it’s going to take time to take it off, too. Don’t make a thousand changes at once. Make a few small, easy to live with changes first and then add a few more in a little at a time, like when adding dry to wet ingredients while baking.
  • Shrink Your Plate – This one sounds stupid, but if you use smaller plates you’ll probably eat less, and it’ll look like you still have a full plate. I use 8" salad plates for most meals even if I’m already serving a fixed portion size. They’re a good size without being too small.
  • Write It Down – Before you start restricting your calories, just log everything you eat without concern for how many calories it all adds-up to. If you want to get a little helpful reinforcement you can share your food log with a dietician or even just post it on your blog. The simple act of writing everything down may make you think twice about what you choose to eat. Or not, but at least it’ll make you more aware of what you’re putting into your body. I tend to keep a log in a text file in my Dropbox so it’s available everywhere, but if you work better writing in pen on paper, Field Notes notebooks are small, cheap, and sturdy. The best note-taking system is the one you have with you.
  • Make Things More Delicious – Add some umami to your food to increase the flavor while increasing nutrition and decreasing overall calories.

Redefining Failure

Do or do not. There is no try.
Yoda

You can’t really fail at this. Even if you don’t do everything right you’re going to make yourself healthier just by paying attention to what you eat, attempting to be more active, etc.

Let’s say you set a goal to go to the gym every day after work. We’ll ignore that setting a goal like that is a bad idea, but you’re just starting out so you’re likely to keep it up for a couple of weeks out of excitement and momentum. Eventually, though, you’ll miss a day. Maybe you have to work late, or you’re meeting friends that night at the time you’d usually be at the gym, etc. You haven’t failed. You just missed that one time. It’s okay. Instead of beating yourself up about it, just go tomorrow.

If you find yourself always putting today’s workout off until tomorrow, maybe you need to find a new workout. Some activities are more fun than others.

Most important, though, is that you can’t change the past. You ate poorly for lunch? It’s not over! You can still eat better for dinner. Don’t give up because you slipped up. Doing the wrong thing is part of the process of doing the right thing. It’s built-in. You don’t need to feel bad about it. Just do the right thing next time. And the time after that, and the time after that you may screw up again, so pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on that bicycle.

What Success Means

Keep your eye on the prize. You’re doing this because you want something. Maybe you want to feel better. Maybe you want to look better. The key word in this is you. You can’t do this for someone else. You have to want it for yourself.

Start slow. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You can make small changes and those will compound like interest into bigger savings down the road. I don’t just mean a longer life (although there are innumerable statistics demonstrating just that) but a better life as well.

I guarantee[1] that once you make even a few simple changes that you’ll begin to feel better after only a few weeks. Looking better may take a little longer, but you have to be patient. Even small positive changes add up over time.

How To Set Goals

Let’s say you need to lose 40 pounds. So what’s your goal? It’s not to lose 40 pounds. Your goal is to lose 1–2 lbs per week, or to create a calorie deficit of 500–1000 calories per day. Your goal is to eat right for your next meal. It’s hard to plan far into the future, but it’s easy to plan for a few hours from now. Doing the right thing now means a payout toward your goal later.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be mindful about your overall goal – just that smaller goals are more realistic and also more likely to be goals you can achieve.

Beware of setting deadlines to your goals too. I was going to write “unrealistic deadlines” but deadlines in general are probably a bad idea if it’s a particular date and not a range. For example, saying “I need to lose 20 pounds by our vacation to Mexico so I can fit into this swimsuit” isn’t realistic. Losing four pounds in the next four weeks, though, is perfectly doable. The more you have to lose, the farther your finish line, and the further in the future, the hazier the goal. Work for now, plan for soon, and you’ll be prepared for the future.


  1. No actual guarantee or warranty is offered or implied. Cancel any time. Void where prohibited by law.  ↩

Plateaus

There’s going to come a time when you’ll stagnate in your fitness. You’ll stop losing weight (before you reach your goal weight), or exercise less and less frequently. You’ll stop tracking your caloric intake, or even stop thinking so much about food.

While losing weight and getting fit is simple, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. In order for your body to burn stored fat you have to create an energy deficit on your intake. In plainer terms, you have to expend more energy than you take in (in the form of food). We measure energy that the body uses in terms of calories (technically, kilocalories, but most labels ignore the kilo- prefix). Obviously, if you’re going to keep under a certain caloric limit you’re going to have to know how many calories are in the food you eat each day. On top of that, you’re also going to have to track it cumulatively so that you know when you’ve reached your limit. Ideally, of course, you’d also log your food before you eat it so you can make decisions based on your caloric needs.

Ohio: One Big Plateau
Ohio: One Big Plateau

Looking up a food in a reference to see how many calories it has before you eat it? Simple. Doing it every single day before every single meal? Not so easy.

I’ve found that when I track my caloric intake and stick to a daily hard-limit that I lose weight pretty consistently. When I get lazy, though, and stop actively logging everything: I either gain weight or stay the same.

For the last few months of 2010 through the early part of 2012 I remained relatively stagnant in my weight loss. Actually, to be completely honest, in the latter months of 2011 I actually gained about 15 pounds back. Ugh. I stopped logging my food because quite frankly, it’s annoying and a bit of a pain in the ass to do it all the time. It works, but it’s a pain.

Where I Went Wrong

I had some major life changes in that timeframe. I got engaged, and then 13 months later got married. My then fiancée and I bought a house. Having moved to a new neighborhood, we of course wanted to try out new restaurants that were within walking distance. Eating with a partner instead of eating alone meant that my ridiculous habit of eating the same meal for five days in a row because I still had the ingredients for it wouldn’t fly. All of these things are excuses, of course, for why I wasn’t losing weight. Obviously, my stagnation was my wife’s fault.

I kid. I have no one to blame but myself, and the worst part of it was that I was a bad influence on her, too. We decided to get a treadmill instead of joining another gym we’d stop going to after a few months (I’ll have to write more on gyms later), which turned out to be a fantastic investment. No longer will Chicago’s harsh Winters be an excuse to not walk.

Back to stagnation. I’ve heard that dieters often face plateaus as their bodies get used to their new diet. That’s fine, but I’m not on a diet. I’m just adjusting my eating habits and activity levels. So why have I stagnated?

Was it any of the excuses I listed above? Eh, I’m sure they all played their part, but really I stopped succeeding because I stopped working the system. It happened slowly over time. I started to guesstimate calories in a meal rather than look it up. Doing the math in your head is fine if you’ve already looked up the food and know its caloric intake – I still do this when eating out sometimes – but over time I stopped doing even that. Then of course the unhealthy meal every once in a while became more frequent.

The habit that didn’t break for me was being more active. I kept up other habits too, like weighing-in nearly every day and wearing my FitBit so I could track my steps. Of course, I stopped trying to hit my 10,000 steps per day goal. But I was wearing the FitBit all the time and at least tracking how little I sometimes walked on a lazy Sunday.

So those are the things I internalized and made part of who I am. Tracking calories? Not so much.

How I Got Back On Track

I got back into Clean Livin’, full-swing again when I got the results of the blood test taken during my annual physical. Everything was pretty much normal except that my cholesterol was high for the first time ever. Not super-high, but my LDLs was a little on the high side, and my HDL (good cholesterol) wasn’t as high as it should be. My doctor said that if I should adjust my diet and increase my exercise levels to try to correct my cholesterol naturally, and if I couldn’t affect results within three months that I’d have to go on a statin drug in order to correct it with medication. Immediately I made changes to my diet and started exercising more.

I was scared straight.

I’m now four weeks into doing the right thing and I’ve lost 15 pounds so far. I’m still not down to the lowest since I’ve been tracking it, but I expect to be soon.

Writing this is clearly an integral part of Clean Livin’ for me. I’ll keep you posted.

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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm just some guy who lost a lot of weight and studied up on nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to improve my personal fitness. The contents of this site in no way contains medical advice. You should visit your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet or activity. While I make every attempt to be as accurate as possible regarding current knowledge and scientific studies (please feel free to let me know when I'm wrong about something), and may from time to time post updates to correct inaccuracies in previous entries, the information on this site is provided "as-is" for entertainment purposes only. Don't do something stupid and then sue me. I'm just trying to help. Thanks.