What I’ve Learned So Far

Today we have some “in the trenches” knowledge dropping (aka – a guest post) from from boot camper, Jackie Dunleavy.

Jackie is a professional classical singer, a software trainer and mom who’s lost 45 pounds since February. Check out what she’s learned (so far) along her fitness journey.

10 Things I’ve Learned

About 10 months ago, I began a commitment to become fit, get healthy, and lose weight. Like many, this was about the 97th time I had tried to do this. But this time turned out to be different. I actually HAVE become fit, gotten healthy, and have lost 45 pounds. What made me successful this time? What factors contributed to losing weight and sticking to a habit of better living and exercise? While pondering the answers to these questions, I came up with 10 things I know now that I didn’t know (or didn’t want to know) a year ago.

1.    You have to get real with yourself. In order to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than you expend. It’s just math. It’s really that simple. Of course, you need to make sure the calories you eat are quality calories. And YOU thought you’d never need to know math!

2.    Daily calories are just like finances. Stick to a budget. Don’t overspend. Don’t waste your allowance on cheap or poor quality goods. If you do splurge, make sure you account for it in your budget.

3.    “Listen to your body, and respond with love.” If you spend a few moments in quiet reflection, you’ll hear your body tell you it wants to be healthy and fit. It does not want to be tired, lethargic and too bulky to move. Your body has been with you since the beginning, through thick and thin. Doesn’t it (i.e. Don’t YOU) deserve to have the best life possible? Doesn’t it deserve to feel great and be full of energy? If you really listen to your body and respond with love, you’ll come up with your own list of what your body deserves.

4.    Magical Thinking? – Guilty! I realized that magical thinking was one of the factors keeping me from successfully losing weight. If you are overweight and answer “yes” to any of the following questions, then, YES, you are probably a Magical Thinker:

  • Do you “diet” without keeping a food journal?
  • Do you workout and think that means you can eat whatever you want?
  • Do you eschew a formal “diet” because you “know” you eat good food and don’t eat junk food?

5.    If your goal is to lose weight, here’s the only formula that works – the holy trinity of weight loss: exercise + diet + counting calories = success
If any one of these elements is missing,you might lose a few pounds, but you will not have long-term success. And each time you fail, you confirm to yourself all the horrible things you’ve been telling yourself – things like you’re a loser, you don’t deserve to be fit, weight loss just isn’t “in the cards” for you…sound familiar? Like many people, over the years I’ve done one or two of these things and lost a few pounds. But I never got close to real success (which, in my case, was losing nearly 50 lbs and significantly changing my body and health) until I got REAL with myself and committed to these three things at the SAME TIME.

6.   It’s OK to start slow. Yes, you have to commit to the holy trinity of weight loss, but not all at once! Set a goal to begin each one by a certain date. Give yourself time to master each one and build it into your life before acquiring the next one. When I started, I tackled diet first. I chose to use the 17 Day Diet and did that for two months before I felt comfortable enough to add the second factor – exercise. I decided to do exercise slowly, too, starting with a “couch-to-5K” running app that was very slow, safe, and easy to follow (eight weeks later, I ran my first 5K!). Later, I added boot camp class, two – three times per week. This helps increase my cardiovascular health while also building strength – strength training is a MUST to prevent injury as a runner (side note: if you are female and over 40, you also need to strength train to maintain your bone density – you can start losing bone density after 30). One month in to my new exercise habit, I added the third factor – counting calories. I dusted off my food scale hidden in my kitchen cabinet for years, and started weighing and measuring. I used (and continue to use) the MyFitnessPal.com app and website. There are many apps and websites out there, and they make the task of logging your calories SO easy. But an old fashioned notebook works just as well for all you Luddites!

7.    Give yourself TIME. For most of us, it took years (or maybe a whole lifetime) to gain all the weight. It will take SERIOUS time to take it off. But remember, you are not just losing weight – you are trying to change your habits, lifestyle, and ultimately, transform your life. That takes time and may seem daunting. So divide your long-term goal into several, smaller goals. Some examples:

  • In two months, I want to have an exercise habit of three times per week.
  • By April, I want to begin logging my calories every day.
  • In the next two weeks, I will identify a diet that I want to follow. I will begin the diet within a week after identifying it.

Throughout your journey, keep setting doable, short-term goals. Each time you achieve one, you’ll feel more confident about your abilities and build momentum toward your long-term success.

For your long-term goal, give yourself a year. The Year of You. I used the New Year as a motivator, but there’s no reason to wait until next January. Do you have a birthday coming up? Anniversary? Break-up anniversary? There are many significant dates in our lives – dates that are important to us. Pick an important date and use that as a motivator.

8.    Variety is the spice of life. Don’t let yourself get into a rut on your weight loss journey. This is very important for both diet and exercise:

  • Diet – make sure you are eating a VARIETY of good foods. If you eat with the seasons, this will be a bit easier. Eating the same food every day will lead to diet boredom (a big factor in diet failure). But also, you’ll soon find that your weight loss slows or stops. Your metabolism is designed to be as efficient as possible. When you eat the same thing every day, your metabolism gets SUPER efficient. You really have to challenge your metabolism and keep it guessing to inhibit its ability to be super efficient.
  • Exercise – same as your diet. Doing the same work out every other day is BO-RING! And before too long, your body will no long feel challenged. Vary your exercise to keep your muscles on their toes, so to speak. That is the only way to improve and get stronger. Skip the elliptical one day and call up a friend to go for a bike ride. Or come to boot camp class with me! One of the reasons I love boot camp is because it’s different every class, and they change the exercises constantly so that your muscles are always challenged.

9.   Losing weight will make your life easier. We all have stress in our lives and there are things that we all do that make our lives even more stressful. If you could, wouldn’t you like to reduce or eliminate some of that 10stress? Wouldn’t you like life to be easier? Here are some ways that losing weight will help with your daily stress level:

  • Clothes Shopping – so much easier when you lose a few pounds! You have more options to choose from. And going into the dressing room is less traumatic.
  • Food Shopping – when you follow a diet, you know what you can and cannot eat, so decisions are easier to make. You only shop the perimeter of the supermarket, so shopping takes less time.
  • Work outs easier – the more extra pounds you have on your frame, the harder it is to move your body around. The good news is that, very quickly, as you start to lose weight and increase your fitness, it gets easier! You’ll still want to work hard in your work out, but you’ll feel like you can get to the same level of intensity more easily. As the pounds come off, you’ll feel stronger and stronger.

10.   Don’t do it alone. This is a journey you are on, my friend. You will have high times and low times. Successes and setbacks. If you enlist the camaraderie of your friends, family, and acquaintances, you’ll have a support team to help you celebrate the successes and lift you up during the setbacks. Your support team will help keep you accountable in your goals. Furthermore, you’ll help your support team members in their journeys, and through your support of them, you’ll motivate yourself. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. So pick up the phone, use your favorite social network, join a class like boot camp – whatever works. Just reach out, check in, and keep us posted!

Wacky Jackie!

Wacky Jackie!

Jackie blogs at JackieWackySticker.wordpress.com.