Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My Journey of Redemption and Weight Loss


A lot of you who know me in person, or through social media, have been following my journey of weight loss of the past few years. Basically I lost between July 2013 and January 2015, 22 kilos, and I am till today maintaining this weight I achieved... Amazing? Indeed! Easy? Nope! Doable by others? Absolutely, if I did it, anyone can. But how, what's the secret? There is no secret. And here is my experience for you to learn about, get motivated from, and replicate with modifications to suite your specific needs and goals...

First of all, this is not a scientific method or an accredited weight loss technique, nor am I a dietitian or nutritionist or even a personal fitness trainer!! I am simply a guy like you, for reasons which I explain below, went on this weight loss journey, using techniques and methods that worked for me. If you have any medical conditions, seek professional advice before embarking on this journey. If you are skeptical about certain steps I did, do your own research and modify the steps as you deem appropriate. If you tried my steps and did not work for you, apologies for not being of any help!! Overall, this is my personal experience that worked for me, and hopefully it will give you some kind of benefit  :)

My most important component of this whole journey was the MOTIVE: The reason for doing this. For me it was REDEMPTION, which is not really related to weight loss. But it was so profound and strong. What do I mean though? In 2013, I lost the love of my life, we were no longer together, which devastated me, and left me empty from the inside. It was my fault, my weakness, my confused state of mind that cost me losing my soulmate. When she left, I wanted to discipline myself, teach myself a lesson, reform and rehabilitate myself, with the hope that one day, somehow, I can win her back. I needed a REDEMPTION plan. Of course weight loss has nothing to do with regaining the love of my life, but it was one of those things I lacked back then: DISCIPLINE. So through imposing this tough exercise and diet discipline, I was testing myself if I can stick to a plan, and be disciplined. It was just one part of a bigger redemption plan I put to myself. But it was so profoundly important to me, redeeming myself and regaining my love, that I took it so serious, with complete DEDICATION.

So for you, it might be much simpler (my life tends to be complicated, and so my motive is probably complicated in the same sense!!). Whatever your motive is, it has to be strong, profound, and genuine to keep pushing you and reminding you to stay dedicated through out the journey... So look inside you, look for your personal strong motive, write it down somewhere visible and keep reminding yourself of this motive... Looking good might be after all a strong motive for you!! So that's the first foundation of the weight loss journey...

Next, which is very important, is your GOAL: what is your desired outcome? For me, it was to reach my ideal weight and body fat percentage, which you can look up from different sources, and decide on a final target. For you it might be a certain weight, a certain shape, like building certain muscles or a six pack or flat tummy, or maybe just losing a few clothes sizes. Whatever it is, you need to set a goal. Preferably a certain weight figure should be set, because you will need that for the next components of the journey. So again, figure out your goals and write them down. Check... Moving on...

Now you need to decide on the METHOD: what technique are you going to use to reach your goals? I used something called the CALORIE DIET, and it is what I will definitely recommend to you. Simply put, this is a method where you are counting what you eat, counting how much energy you burn, and through a simple arithmetic formula, subtract the 2 figures to get a CALORIE BUDGET, your daily food allowance. For example, if you burn 2000 calories per day, and you want to lose weight, depending on how fast you want that, you will budget yourself 1750 or 1500 calories to consume per day. How do you get these numbers though? I answer that in the next component. The main thing here, to lose weight using the calorie diet, you have to eat less than what you burn on each specific day. Note that you will burn different amounts every day, and so your set budget will be a specific number below your burn figure, like -250 calories, or -500 calories. I will only talk about the calorie diet of course, because this is what I adopted, and I genuinely believe it is the most effective for the simple fact that you are not depriving yourself from a lot of foods, rather, you will become more conscious and more careful and more selective about what you eat. I will elaborate on this later on to understand more how it works...

Then comes the TOOLS: What do you need to help you achieve your set goals? To start with, you need to track how much you burn per day. I use Fitbit products. I am not an employee of Fitbit, and i do not own Fitbit stocks (although I think I should!!), and I am not getting paid to promote them. I am simply a happy client, who bought a Fitbit wristband in 2013, and used it to track my statistics, and it has been an amazing and successful experience till today. Fitbit has wristbands as well as other products that help you track so many vital stats that you need in your weight loss journey. Based on your movement, as well as the exercises that you perform and log into the Fitbit app, you will get your final calorie burn figure, which is the base to determine your allowance of food consumption. If you like or have other products that can count your calorie burn as well as exercise stats, then use it. Your call...

Next to tracking your calorie burn, you need to track your food consumption. For that you need 3 things. First of all you need a small scale to weight and measure your food portions that you eat at home. You might say this is too much, but believe, at least in the beginning of your weight loss quest, this is very helpful. I measure the grilled chicken portions I consume, I measure the yogurt or hummus I consume next to my chicken portion, etc. Measure everything you can measure.

To compliment this, and to be able to measure your food or calories consumption, all the food you eat should be measurable. Meaning, I only consumed foods that had a nutrition table that tells me the calories count, plus other measures like fat and protein and carbohydrates, etc. And once you become more used to reading those nutrition tables, you will become more picky about the foods you buy. I used to spend considerable time in the food isles of the supermarkets reading and comparing the different products and choosing the lightest among them.

Here are quick examples of how I changed my food consumption in a way that reduced my calories consumption significantly. Example 1, I switched from using regular sugars into sweeteners, like Splenda or Sweet & Low. This saved me a lot of calories. How? I am a heavy coffee drinker, and I put 6 sugars in my coffee. If I drink 8 coffees per day (my average) with 6 sugars in each, assuming 6 sugars amount to 300 calories, so by moving from regular sugar to sweeteners (which have ZERO calories), I saved myself and average of 2400 calories per day, which is massive!!

Another example, I switched from consuming normal breads into Weight Watchers breads (toast, bagels, English Muffin). Normal toasts would have on average 100 calories per slice. While Weight Watchers toast is 50 calories per slice. So if I eat 2 sandwiches per day using Weight Watchers bread instead of the normal bread, assuming each sandwich requires 2 slices, I am basically saving myself 200 calories (400 calories for normal bread vs 200 calories for Weight Watchers bread).

My last example is a practical one: We are all on the go these days, eating out most of the time. So to be able to stick to this weight loss journey, you have to plan for emergency foods. I used to eat Subway (the sandwiches franchise) whenever I find one close by. If I have to eat in a certain restaurant, I make sure to to take my time looking for light options, like grilled chicken or seafood, with less toppings or sauces, etc. Don't fall into the trap of surrendering to the place you are eating in. Every place would have light stuff. And by light I mean low on calories and fat. I used to stick most of the time, and still do, to eating in places that have their nutrition information available, like the calorie count for their items, and so I would pick what to eat based on this. As a last resort, I used to pack with me light snacks, like Special K products or Fibre1 products, and munch on these snacks until I can find a convenient place to eat in. Places like McDonald's or Pizza Hut or KFC became history for me, for the simple reason, most of their products have high calories and high fats (their info is available to the public). It is not easy as I said at the beginning. But if you that strong MOTIVE and you have the WILL to pursue your GOALS, you can do it, just like I did.

Now the last thing you need for the process of counting your calorie consumption is a Food Log tool. There are so many apps for our smartphones that we can use, like MyFitnessPal, Lose It, etc. Personally, and to be consistent with my previous tools, I use the Food Logging tool in the Fitbit app. So basically I am using Fitbit to measure my calorie consumption and calorie burn. Fitbit has a huge food database to use for logging your food, in addition to the ability to add custom foods based on the nutrition tables of those specific foods. It is something new to all of us, but once you start logging your food, getting used to measuring your food portions, and adjusting the frequency and size of your meals, you will become a pro in doing this. So, now you have in one place, in my example the Fitbit app, you have your goal set for losing how much weight in how much time, based on that you have your calorie budget. With the Fitbit app tracking your movement and recording your calorie burn, and you logging your exercises and workouts plus your food consumption, the Fitbit app will tell you how much food you can eat. That simple. So your job in this is to stick to that budget, and plan your meals accordingly.

I have to stress one important point here, and you can dig more about it to be more scientific if you wish: To be effective during this weight loss journey, you have to work on your METABOLISM. There are so many ways to do that, but I will share my experience, and feel free to work around that, or follow your own thing. So basically, the more you move, the more active metabolism you get. And the more frequent you eat, the more active metabolism you get.

Moving does not necessarily mean joining a gym, although that would be a good idea if you actually use your gym membership, and don't end up paying without going. But again, moving means simply moving. Small examples: whenever you are talking on the phone, make it a habit to walk around. When you are going up or down a building, use the stairs instead of the elevator (escalators do not count as stairs!!). When you want to buy something from the close by grocery store, go walking instead of taking the car. Any small movement counts towards increasing your metabolism. Of course, exercise is the best choice, but that does not mean that you can skip the previous tips I mentioned. For me, at the beginning of my quest, I used to exercise frequently, I used to take long walks around the city, I used to keep myself moving whenever I had the chance. No slacks!!

As for the part of eating frequently, well it is based on some scientific research which proves that point. I usually eat my 3 major meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), plus small snacks throughout the day. This of course entails that my main meals are smaller than what I used to have before, in addition to being more light and lean. The snacks can be fruits, snack bars (like Special K or Fibre1 snacks), or anything which is basically light. Remember it's all about your calorie budget. So the more active you are during your day, the more food you can consume. If you are having a slow lazy day, then your food consumption will be lower than the norm. That's why, make sure you keep yourself active in order to be able to eat more quantity, more frequently...

The last thing I will mention in this blog post, is that you need to create some kind of SELF MOTIVATION for yourself. Find out what will keep you going, pushing you to continue relentlessly, no slacking, no quitting. Going back to my case, I had a few things that kept motivating me. One, I became more disciplined, which was my biggest motive in the first place. So the more I felt I am disciplined, the better I felt about myself, and the more I was motivated to keep going. Second, I became an inspiration to a lot of my friends and family, following my progress and getting motivated to follow my steps. A lot started buying the Fitbit products, at which point I realized I should have worked for the company's marketing or sales divisions!! Just kidding of course. But seriously, the more people that I was able to motivate into getting into a weight loss quest, the more I was motivated myself. And the last thing that kept me going was me liking the new slim me!! I was going from Large size clothes, to Medium, to Small, all within a year. I went down from a Jeans size 34 to a size 29, within a year. I was not confident I will be able to go this far, but the more progress I saw, the more weight I lost, it motivated me to keep going further and further. Originally, to be frank, I set my goal to go down from 88 kgs to 72 kgs. I surpassed my expectations and crossed the below 70 kgs after 10 months. The rest of my journey, till reaching where I am today (65 kgs) was slower because I stopped being so accurate about logging my food. It kind of became easy for me to estimate the amounts of food I can consume, without the need to accurately log the quantities. It becomes part of your life style!!

So, to wrap up, here is my weight loss journey takeaways in a nutshell:
1. Find a strong MOTIVE to push you into doing this and committing to it.
2. Set clear GOALS in order to measure your progress.
3. Choose your method, and if you want to follow mine, it is the CALORIE DIET.
4. Get the TOOLS to help you in this journey. A food scale, a Fitbit product and app, a collection of foods that have clear nutrition tables, and log all your food consumption.
5. Stay ACTIVE, by exercising, walking, moving, or any other form that will make you consume energy.
6. Build SELF-MOTIVATION techniques to keep you going during the journey.

I hope I was able to share much of the useful information and tips to help you build your own weight loss journey. I will probably follow up this blog post with smaller ones, focusing specifically on certain steps or phases and examples and practical advice. Feel free to send me any questions you have, and I will try to address it the soonest I can...

Good luck to all of you who are serious about getting into a journey of your own. Hope you can achieve your goals, and I hope my tips would be of help.

Cheers to Fitness, Health, Discipline, Redemption, and LOVE...

The New Slim BISS