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How I Lost 30lbs For Free

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Friday, September 23, 2011
Omron HBF-510W Scale
In earlier posts I had written about a rough period in my life where I gained a lot of weight. I worked hard to lose around 40lbs.

Unfortunately, things got in the way and I lost my way. My work increased and changed in some ways and I wound up spending most of the day sitting in front of a computer. Around October of last year I had trouble fitting into one of my favorite pairs of jeans and it really hit home.

That's when I got back into the habits that helped me lose the weight the first time around. After going through it a second time I made some changes to how I went about things and it's made it easier to keep up with this time.

I'm coming up to one year since I started and realized this has been the longest I've kept regular exercise part of my life. Maybe some of what I learned can help others. This wasn't a massive weight loss, the pounds didn't magically disappear overnight. There were some ups and downs and I slipped a few times.

The good news is I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything. I still eat some bad foods from time to time and I'm not working out every day.

No fad diets, no expensive equipment, not even a gym membership. Just the tried and true eat less and move more philosophy.

None of this really cost me anything. That's because I had some of the equipment I used but not all of it is essential and most are cheap or free.

Keep Track of Your Progress

It will help motivate you as well as let you know if you need to make any other changes. There may be small fluctuations in the wrong direction but the key is that the long-term results are heading where you want.

I started getting back into exercise around October. I knew what my starting weight was and that's about it. The chart of my weight-loss at the top of this post starts at the end of January after I lost around 10lbs. The weight-loss at the end of the graph seems steeper than it actually was. Though I was losing weight faster, it's mostly that steep because I wasn't tracking my weight as often. The main point of that spreadsheet was to track my heart rate data but I had problems with my heart rate watch for a couple of months and didn't update my weight in the spreadsheet as a result. I'll get into the problems with the HRM in another post. Let's just say I wish I would have spent a little more for a Polar Heart Rate Monitor

A good rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. That's not fast enough that you will really notice it so it's important to keep track of your weight, resting heart rate and other measurements to know that what you're doing is working.

Most people already have a bathroom scale they can use to track their weight. The one I have isn't great. Probably not as accurate as other ones but it's consistent.

Been eyeing a Omron HBF-510W Full Body Composition Monitor with Scale but haven't purchased one yet. It seems to be one of the most accurate scales on the market today and has all the nifty bells and whistles for measuring body fat and such.

Start Slow

Over exerting yourself can do more harm than good and can kill your motivation to continue. Start with a comfortable schedule and ease into it as your fitness level improves.

One thing I've learned since I started using a heart rate monitor is that if I take even a couple of weeks off my heart rate gets into my target zone even at a low intensity. If try the pace I had before I stopped my heart rate would be too high and I'd get tired long before I wanted to stop.

When I first started working out again I started like I did the first time. I walked. That's all I did for the first couple of weeks. I'd find time each night to walk at least 30 minutes and do this 3-4 times per week.

After my cardiovascular system started to shape up I'd add in some higher intensity exercises. Whenever it was difficult to stay in my target heart rate zone at my current intensity I would ramp it up.

Moderate exercise can improve your immune system but over doing it actually weakens it. That's probably what happened the first time I tried P90X.

Make a Schedule

Know what exercises you're going to do so you don't procrastinate while thinking about it.

Include different exercises in your schedule. Doing the same thing over and over can be tedious. Find a few different exercises you like and schedule them for different days. A mixture of both indoor exercises and outdoor exercises allow you to take advantage of good weather days.

What seems to work for me is to schedule an activity for every day of the week. I know that I'm not going to be able to exercise every day but the reminder on my calendar has me thinking about fitness frequently. I try to get in at least 3-5 workouts a week.

My calendar has a mix of biking, nordic track, strength training, hiking/jogging. Most of my workouts are about 45 minutes but I also schedule 2 longer workouts a week. One long bike ride that's tougher than my normal ride and one longer hiking/jogging trip. I usually only get one of the longer workouts in a week.

In addition, I'll throw something completely different into the mix. Maybe join a friend doing something they like to do or something new I've seen.

My schedule isn't chiseled in stone. If it's pouring out and I had biking scheduled I'll just doing something indoors instead.

It's important to do things you can enjoy. For me, running on a treadmill isn't fun but running on a trail in a nice park is enjoyable.

Walking, hiking and jogging don't really cost anything and I already had a bike. If you don't own a bike they don't cost a lot, especially used or you can substitute another exercise.

Strength training is done with push ups, chin ups, dips using a desk or chair and adjustable dumbbells.

Check Classifieds for Cheap or Free Exercise Equipment

It seems that nothing depreciates faster than exercise equipment. You can find great deals on used exercise bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, etc online or at garage sales.

A few years ago I picked up a Nordic Track ski machine for free on Craigslist. Some cleaning, some oiling and some greasing and it was working like new. It's also one of the highest calorie burners out there and they last a long time.

You can find a lot of stuff that's barely been used and is in great shape. So many people buy things they never use and then get tired of looking at it. The equipment doesn't need to have all the latest gadgets, it just needs to get you moving and sweating.

Drive Less

Your ability to do this will depend on where you live but for me this was pretty easy. If I'm going someplace in town I walk. Driving doesn't save that much more time for local trips. Convenience store, dry cleaners, pharmacy, hardware store even most trips to the market are now on foot.

If it's a town or two over I'll try to take my bike.

Not only do I burn more calories, I save a lot on gas!

Find Ways to Move More

Little things can really add up. 
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Use the bathroom on a different floor and take the stairs.
  • Use a rake instead of a leaf blower. 
  • Mow your own lawn.
  • Walk to the next bus stop or subway station.
  • Park further away from your destination and walk.
  • Stand and pace when on the phone.
  • Drop and do a set of push ups or walk around the block after a stressful task.
  • Standing around waiting? Do some calf raises.
Don't always choose the easiest, quickest, most efficient way of doing something. Choose what will do you the most good.

Add a dozen ways each day to burn just 5 calories and that turns out to a loss of over 28,000 calories a year. That could mean losing an extra 6 lbs.

Eat Better

I don't follow any particular diet but there are some small changes I've made when I started to eat healthier.

Replace white bread with whole wheat, white rice with brown rice. This little change isn't major but it seems to make a big difference.

Eat a bigger, healthier breakfast. It's been drilled into our heads all our lives. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Took me decades to finally believe it and follow that advice.

Cut out sodas. When I was a kid, all I drank was cola. I hated water. I still drink soda but it's very infrequently. Instead I drink a lot of water.

Eat a lot more fruits and vegetables. These are less calorie dense so that they help fill you up and they're packed with nutrients.

Very little fast food. Except for the occasional pizza or take out I rarely eat any fast food. I haven't been to a Burger King or McDonald's in years. When I do eat out I try to find healthy options on the menu or keep portions small.

I don't feel like I'm depriving myself. I still have cake, pies, ice cream, cookies, etc. Just less frequently and smaller portions.

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

Eating about every 3 hours helps keep me from feeling hungry. When people are hungry they tend to make poor food choices and overeat.

I actually eat more when I'm trying to lose weight and get fit. Not a lot more but I'm expending more calories. It's a good idea to know what your basal metabolic rate is and  adjust it with the Harris Benedict Equation to get an idea of what your normal caloric intake should be.

I've had to add some energy bars (mainly Clif Bars) and protein shakes to my diet to keep my calories up.

Drink More Water

When I was a kid, if you told me I'd be drinking as much water as I do now I wouldn't believe it. I hardly ever drank water.

Water has 0 calories, 0g of fat and is important for your body. It helps regulate body temperature, helps with digestion, detoxifies your body, prevents dehydration and more.

A lot of times people confuse thirst with hunger. Stopping to drink a glass of water instead of eating, then waiting 20 minutes can help you determine if you're really hungry or not.

It usually takes 20 minutes for your body to recognize that you're not hungry any more. Drinking water while eating a meal will help fill you up as well as slow down your consumption to help prevent you from overeating.

Cold, charcoal filtered water is fine for me. No need spending money for something that's pumped in every home for little or no money. An insulated travel mug or Polar Insulated Water Bottle helps keep it cool at my desk or on the go.

That's it! It's not as bad as all the words above indicate. It didn't transform me overnight and I still have some more I plan on doing but it's easy for me to follow, the weight is coming off and I feel better than I ever have.

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