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Losing Weight and Loving Beer


I wish I could share a secret technique to losing 40+ lbs in the span of three months, while drinking no less than 7 beers a week.  I'd feel a lot better about having put myself in the position to make this claim, if the only way out was to become a joyless obsessive and eat nothing but kale between shifts on the treadmill.  It hasn't been that hard at all.  I've eaten cake and ice cream on both of my kids’ birthdays, and basically lived what I would have labeled a good life before I committed to dropping a few pant sizes.  I don't feel like I've given anything up.  Maybe french fries…  Those could come back in moderation later.  I'm just doing a better job of applying the simple guides to weight loss we've all heard before.  I'm eating less and exercising more.  There's still room in my nutritionist approved diet beer.

The exercise part isn't entirely new.  I liked to run about half an hour on weekday mornings, unless it rained, or the snow was fresh, or my little kids decided to join me and we'd have a splendid time going about 5 houses down the street to a koi pond.  In theory, I used a rowing machine to make up for cancelled runs.  I'm busy.   It didn't always pan out. I also do occasional long bike rides, including riding centuries for charity.  I'd take some grief from buddies spending hundreds or thousands to trim a few ounces from their bike's weight, simply because I could make my ride so much easier by just shedding 10-20 lbs from my body.  The thing is being a weekend warrior doesn't really trim the waist line.  It's one high impact day, typically followed by a high impact celebration.  Balance is great.  It just doesn't promote change.

My change here is that I've ditched the excuses and try to total 60 minutes of exercise a few days a week in addition to consistently hitting my 30.  The thing I'm really doing differently this time, and evidently doing reasonably well, is focusing on eating less.  I've recently read that weight loss is at best 20% exercise, and 80% calorie restriction.  Prior fruitless efforts had been largely exercised based with, a soft “better behavior” goal on the food front.  Now I’m all about smaller portions and more rabbit food.  Nothing I hadn't heard a million times before.  I wasn't missing the mark by much, but I was a bit of a mullet dieter.  After 10 years enjoying the party in the back, I'd put on enough weight to buy a nice suit and not need to have alterations to the pants waist.  Horrifying.

After one meeting with a nutritionist, I made a few simple changes.

1) I started counting calories with an app.  The recommended app was MyFitnessPal.  It's popular, and has a sizeable database filled with calories.  I haven't tried any others, and really stopped using this after I formed my new habits.  I don't need more excuses to play with my phone.  I was encouraged to aim for ~1800 calories a day.  Being an overachiever, I shot for 1200-1500 cal, noting that a beer would be 2-300 calories of that goal.  Basically, instead of eating half a delivery pizza splitting with my wife, I'd eat 2 slices now.  Similarly, I shrunk the non-vegetable portions of my meals.  When eating out, I started ordering salads or something with a side of greens instead of fries.  I haven't completely given up the burger.  I guess I haven't done everything my nutritionist suggested, but I do make a point of trying more of the menu.

2) I switched my yogurt brand from Chobani to Siggi's.  I also stopped adding granola, and started dropping chia seeds to give it some crunch.  The philosophy here is that added sugars and sweeteners a problematic both behaviorally and metabolically.  If we spend too much time nurturing our sweet tooth, we won't really develop a broad and nutritious diet.  The other piece, is that the body won't burn fat if it has easy access to sugar.  Carbs count as sugar too.  I'm saving them for my beer.  Granola is sweet and fatty and is thus out of my life.  Chia seeds are fiber and protein.  The fact that my 3 year old doesn’t raid the chia seed bag and spill it all over the kitchen floor is only a bonus, I swear.

3) Lunch transitioned from leftovers or a meal out with coworkers to salads with some protein usually an egg.  My blue cheese dressing brand shifted from full-fat Ken's to the nutritionist recommended Bolt-house Farms yogurt based dressing.  Most of my calorie cutting occurred at my noon meal.

So here's a sample meal plan

Breakfast: Yogurt, 1 tsp of chia seeds.  black coffee
Mid Morning: black coffee
Lunch: Salad (spring mix, cucumber, tomato, egg, blue cheese dressing)
Snack: (try to skip, sometimes nuts.  I try to go for things with shells to slow myself down)
Dinner: grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, side of pasta or chick peas.
Desert: Usually skipped, sometimes a bit of cheese.
After the kids go to bed: 12-16 oz of delicious beer, including hazy stuff with added sugars.

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