Health & Fitness

What’s your secret to losing weight? Readers weigh in on 30-day challenge for shedding pounds, changing habits

30-Day Challenge: Staying Motivated

Katherine Benbrook of Cycle In in Carmichael explains how to keep your focus as you embark on your fitness and weight loss journey.
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Katherine Benbrook of Cycle In in Carmichael explains how to keep your focus as you embark on your fitness and weight loss journey.

We’ve reached the end of January and, depending on how your New Year’s resolutions went, it was either the most excruciating 31 days of your life or the start of a meaningful new journey toward improved health and happiness.

When we launched this new 30-day challenge series at the start of 2017, losing weight was an obvious choice for the inaugural story. Getting a grip on your eating habits, your fitness routine and the way you feel about your body is a major step toward personal improvement.

The goal of our initial 30-day challenge was not to solve everything and forget about it; the idea was to make changes you could sustain. That’s why sensible eating usually wins out over fad diets.

We asked for your personal take on losing weight, and that’s what many of you told us. Some readers figured it out years ago and dropped us a line to pass along their wisdom and encouragement to others. Some are still figuring it out.

Janice Joe wrote to describe how she finally won the battle after years of yo-yo dieting.

“I would eat when I wasn’t hungry or just because I liked to eat, so I started to just eat until I was full,” she wrote. “Second, weigh yourself daily. If you gain a little weight, cut back. Be hydrated. Sometimes we might be thirsty rather than hungry.”

I called Joe to hear more. At 5 feet 3 inches tall, she was 135 pounds at her heaviest. Now she’s 110 – less than when she got married.

“I had always heard these things that if you lose 10 or 15 pounds, maybe your health would be better. I tried different things. I would lose weight and I would gain it back,” she said.

Asked for her best advice, Joe said to think long term. Don’t fret if you have a bad day and eat poorly. Get back on board the next day. And be sensible rather than extreme. If you cut out everything you love to eat, you probably won’t be able to stick with the diet.

“I realized I can like food, but I don’t need to have another piece of cake or another serving of something,” Joe said. “I had to be able to say no. I don’t need to go overboard.”

That’s not the kind of advice that’s going to get her a million-dollar diet book contract, but it’s an intuitive alternative to fad diets, pills and gimmicks.

Esther Loveridge wrote to say she has been at it for six months and, inspired by a book that’s as much about long-term health as it is about weight loss, has cut out meat, dairy and all animal products.

“I got a head start because I began my journey in July 2016. I have been following plant-based eating after reading ‘The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss,’ even while traveling in China for 21 days! In less than six months, I have lost 52 pounds, which is getting me closer to the recommended 70-pound loss my doctor said I would need to lose to even be considered for a knee replacement. Weight loss was my original goal, but now my good health is a super side effect.”

If you saw my story last August about how many health advocates are prescribing improved nutrition instead of more medications, you’ll understand what she says here.

“I am no longer taking pain meds, sleeping meds or cholesterol meds. My blood sugar has gone down from a high of 111 to 91, my blood pressure has been reduced and my energy levels are high. I am so happy to be feeling young at 73 years of age. I eat steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast and add a wide assortment of fresh vegetables, fruits, brown rice, a variety of beans and, of course, potatoes and yams throughout the day.

“Eating out is a challenge, but restaurants with salad bars and plain baked potatoes help keep me on track. I keep staples on hand – make my oatmeal, rice and beans in bulk for easy reheating. Visiting local farmers markets has been a new adventure for me and I enjoy selecting in-season foods. Going to the gym about five days a week keeps me active. I love to swim.”

Nancy Gould emailed on behalf of her husband, who has experienced a major transformation. His example shows 30 days is just the start – but it’s enough time to make key changes.

“My husband has lost almost 80 pounds in less than two years. He began his diet … i.e. lifestyle change, taking one day at a time. He figured he could at least attempt it for a week, then two, then three, sort of like you wrote about in your article. And, just as you stated in your article, the new eating habits he developed became permanent.”

She adds: “My husband went to the doctor for a regular checkup one day and weighed in at 245 pounds. The doctor looked at him and said, ‘You’re fat.’ She looked at me and said, ‘You make him lose weight.’ Yes, like I had the power do that. He often brought up the fact that he wanted to lose weight, but the will was never there. The will has to be there.

“Here is what he did. He pulled his laptop out at dinner one evening and Googled everything we were eating to see how many calories he was ingesting. He counted calories. That’s it! He did this every meal and then I joined in. We soon were familiar enough with calorie counts and the portion sizes he could eat to stay within a 1,200-to-1,500-calorie diet and then he just kept at it. He didn’t exercise, he didn’t pay for special food, he didn’t buy books on how to lose weight. He simply counted calories. It was a no-brainer.

“He cut out all starches, potatoes, rice, noodles, just because they were high in calories and it was hard not to add butter. He ate only chicken or fish with a big serving of fresh vegetables. (No mayo, no butter or very, very little.) Snacks consisted of apples or other fruit, mostly apples. He soon tired of just chicken and fish and the fun part started for me. I ran across some recipes that called for ground turkey, low-fat cheeses, broth-based soups loaded with all sorts of good veggies and chicken. All low calorie.

“Soon he realized this wasn’t a diet. It was a lifestyle change. He has been doing this for two years now.”

Gould ended her email by touting an extra benefit to the weight-loss journey.

“BTW … he is now 62, thin and gorgeous! Just sayin’ :-).”

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob