By David Cummings
It’s funny how it’s the little things that seem to make clear what you have known all along, but refused to acknowledge. On March 20, 2011 I bent down to tie a shoe lace that had come loose — and I couldn’t. I literally stood there stunned. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoe. It was at that moment that I realized that I had to do something about my growing weight problem.
There is no way to beat around the bush. It sucks to be overweight. It really sucks. It sucks almost as much as smoking. When I quit smoking, I started gaining weight. A lot of weight. About an extra 150 lbs. Then the shoe tying incident happened and I knew that I needed to do something — anything — to get my body healthy again. It hasn’t been easy. Far from it. It’s been a constant struggle, more with my mind than anything else. I’ve had ups and downs, but I have made progress and I recently reached one of my goals.
The other day I stepped on the scale to see that I had lost 100 lbs from when I started. I consider this a great success, but my journey isn’t over. I still have another 50 lbs to go. Although I haven’t completed my weight loss journey yet, I feel that hitting that 100 lbs lost number is confirmation that the changes I have made have been successful in helping me on my way to getting myself healthy again.
I don’t pretend to be an expert in weight loss. The truth is that I am anything but. I have tried all types of weight loss tips and most of them have not worked. Through trial and error, however, I did find a number that worked for me. I have no idea if they will work for you, but these are 25 changes I’ve made that helped me lose the weight and save money along the way:
I Replaced My Dishes
OK, I know this sounds like a lousy way to save money. Anyone that has priced dishes lately know that throwing away all your dishes and getting new ones can be quite expensive, but that’s not exactly what I did. Instead, I only got rid of the big dinner plate sized dishes (I donated them to a local thrift shop) and replaced using those with all the smaller plates that came with my set. I know it sounds stupid, but this one thing did wonders for me losing weight.
One of the biggest problems that I always have when it comes to food is that no matter how big a dish I had, I always filled it with food and then I would always eat everything on my plate. The portions I was eating were enormous and it really was ridiculous.
By switching to smaller plates, all of a sudden I could only put a certain amount of food on it (it works out to be about 1/4 of what can go on the bigger plates) and this has had a tremendous amount with helping me control my portions. I don’t know how much is psychological (that whole “a larger number means more” mentality), but I feel fuller when I eat two plates of food off of the smaller plates than I did a single of the larger plates even though the food portion is half as much.
I Changed All My Glasses
Much like the dishes, I had a lot of cups that were Super Big Gulp size. I threw all of these out and kept only the small ones (they are bigger than a shot glass, but sure didn’t seem to be that way when I first got rid of all the other cups). If I want to drink anything besides water, I have to pour them in these small cups. The key was having to pour (no drinking out of bottles).
Again, it sounds pretty stupid, but this also has done wonders in helping me lose weight. It was amazing how many calories I was consuming in liquid form. By having a small glass, it meant that I am required to pour a bunch of glasses if I want more rather than into a single cup that I would keep drinking even after my thirst was quenched.
I Drink More Water
I have one exception to my rule about pouring my drinks into small glasses. I am allowed to drink as much water as I want and I have a large water bottle that I carry around with me everywhere I go. This is my main form of hydration today as opposed to the vast quantities of sweet drinks that I used to consume before. By always having a water bottle with me, I can quench my thirst without having to go to the refrigerator to get something that is sweet. If I’m really craving something sweet, I can get it and pour it into the small glass. Simply by having the water bottle and getting into the habit of drinking water most of the time, I have greatly reduced the amount of calories I take it through liquids and saved a lot of money.
No More TV Snacks
One of my worst habits was snacking in front of the TV. I knew from the beginning that this was something that I needed to change. I know that the TV was my comfort area in the past, and I would sit there for hours while eating all kinds of junk food. I simply made the rule that i was no longer allowed to eat any food while sitting in front of the TV. it seems like a pretty easy rule, but it was one of the hardest changes I had to make. Like I said, it was my comfort area and letting that comfort go was tough. The result was not only that I didn’t snack as much, but I also started to watch less TV as I had in the past. I consider both these to be good things.
I Banned Food Outside The Kitchen / Dining Room
After seeing the success of no food in front of the TV rule, I expanded it and I created a rule that I am not allowed to eat food outside the kitchen or dining area. I found that I was eating food all over the place in my house which was a big problem. Besides in front of the TV, I would be eating in my bedroom, in the bathroom, and as I was walking out the door. I was basically eating anywhere and everywhere. I needed to do something so that eating wasn’t a constant in my life, but something that was done at specific times under restricted circumstances. By making the rule that I can only eat in the kitchen or dining room area, it has greatly cut down on my snacking.
I Must Eat Sitting Down
Another rule that I made that has helped quite a bit in regard to eating being a constant in my life is that I must eat sitting down. In addition to sitting down, I have a rule that I can’t be doing anything else while I’m eating. That means I can’t be sitting down at my computer, I can’t be sitting down reading a magazine or the newspaper, I can’t eat doing anything else except concentrating on the meal. Again, this has helped me break the habit of food being a constant in my life and placed it into specific circumstances. I have found by doing this I don’t get distracted and snack more than I need to.
I Kicked My Coke Habit
I had a terrible coke habit. No, not the type that could land you in prison for decades, but the soft drink. I was drinking close to a six-pack a day (I know, I don’t even like to think about it today). I now don’t drink Coke at all. I’m not exactly sure what the entire process was to achieve this. I think it started with the smaller glasses. It was a pain to have to fill up 5 glasses to drink a single can, so this initially cut down the amount I was drinking. At some point I realized that I was drinking colored corn syrup and eventually eliminated it from my diet. Now not only do I feel a lot healthier, my wallet feels a lot that healthier to.
I Cleared My Cabinets
One day as I was looking for something to eat, I couldn’t believe all the food that I had but still thought I didn’t have anything to eat. This feeling mainly came from me wanting a particular sugary snack rather than all the other sugary snacks I happened to have. It was completely ridiculous.
I had all types of snacks and other junk food in my house and I still felt that I didn’t have anything. I decided right then and there to go through all the food that I had in the house. I cleared the cabinets of everything except the healthier food that I wanted to eat from that point forward and I made a rule that I could not store junk food in my cabinets. This helps to some degree (if it isn’t there you can’t eat it), but it doesn’t stop the cravings. I therefore came up with the following rules:
- If I am really craving junk food, I have to go to the store to get it.
- At the store, I can only buy a single serving of the snack (no huge bags of potato chips or boxes of cookies)
- I have to bring it home to eat it.
I do not limit myself how many times I can do this, which helps me from feeling deprived, but the having to go and come back for each serving also means that I eat far less of these snacks than I otherwise would. I will reluctantly admit that I did on one occasion go to and from the store 5 times, but most times the hassle is too much after the first time and I opt for healthy snacks I have at home instead.
I must admit that I do still eat junk food from time to time, but when I do I have to buy it in a single serving. When I do, I have to bring it home to eat it. This keeps me from snacking festively when I’m outside the house.
I Prepare Healthy Snacks
I snack. It is something that no matter how hard i try not to do, I still haven’t been able to overcome. Knowing this, I have to have healthy snacks prepared for when these cravings hit. If I don’t have healthy snacks that I can eat, I will be out the door to buy unhealthy snacks in a second. This is one of the most important parts of me being able to lose the weight I have so far.
The biggest challenge I have is finding a variety of healthy snacks that are easy for me to make (I’m not a great cook) so that I don’t get bored with my regular fruit and vegetable snacks. If anyone has a good resource for me on this, I would be extremely thankful as this is one area that is a constant struggle.
I Leave The House After Eating
One thing that I have discovered on this weight loss journey is a lot more about myself and what my food triggers are. It’s been both humbling (that I have so many) and liberating (in that once I know them, I can try to control them) at the same time. One of these triggers was that after I had a meal, I would still feel like I should be eating more food. Even if I wasn’t hungry, I would still feel that I should eat some more. The way that I solved this is that after every meal, I go on a short 5 to 10 minute walk. By getting out of the house, I get my mind off of food for a moment which seems to help quite a bit with my cravings. By the time I come back, I don’t feel nearly as hungry which helps me from overeating.
I Eat Before I’m Hungry
When I first began to try to lose weight, I wouldn’t eat until I was really, really hungry. I thought that if I did this, I would eat less and lose weight. The problem with this was that once I did begin to eat, I would be so ravenous that I would completely overeat. It’s taken me a long time to learn that waiting until I am hungry is a bad thing. I now make sure to eat before I’m hungry. I have six set times during the day when I have smaller sized meals. If I begin to feel the pangs of hunger, I will immediately go for my prepared snacks even if it isn’t one of my set times. By doing this I a don’t feel ravenous and I don’t overeat nearly as much.
I Don’t Skip Meals
For the same reason that I eat before I’m hungry, I no longer skip meals. In the past when I tried to lose weight, I would end up skipping meals thinking that I was eating less, but this would mean that I’d be very hungry at the end of the day and overeat. While I thought skipping the meal was a benefit to me, in the end it ended up causing me to eat more food. I do have six sets time to each eat a small meal each day. Even if I am not hungry at this time, I will still sit down and have a few bites to eat. This is to maintain the consistency in eating small amounts over the course of the day that I still need. I hope one day I can maintain my weight without this a strict mealtime schedule, but it is needed for me at this point.
I Eat Better Food
As you may have ascertained from the other changes that I’ve written about above, I eat a lot healthier than I did before. This in itself makes a huge difference. It’s been a challenge finding food that I like to replace the junk food I was eating the past, but over time I have done a fairly good job. My palate has also changed quite a bit as I have reached the point where I actually like trying new things. I try to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables rather than processed food and although I don’t always accomplish this goal, I eat a lot healthier than I did in the past.
I Kicked My Fast Food Habit
This was another biggie for me. You know that you have been eating too much fast food when the cashiers at the take out window know you by name. Sadly, that isn’t a joke. I don’t eat at fast food restaurants anymore. This was a really difficult one to kick, but the benefits have been amazing. I instead pack snacks and meals to take with me so that if I’m on the road, I always have something to eat in place heading to the drive-through at the local fast food joint.
I Plan My Meals
Part of the trouble I had was that I never thought about what I was going to eat until the minute I became hungry. The result was that I chose a lot of unhealthy premade food because it was easy and I could quickly get it into my stomach to fill it up. It’s difficult to lose weight when you are constantly eating premade food.
When I realized this, I learned to plan my meals ahead. I’m not a very good planner, so I’m still working on this one, but I am getting better. By having meals planned ahead of time, I’m never left at the last minute without something that allows me to make the excuse I can go out to eat or grab a quick bite somewhere. I make my meals the night before so that they are ready in the morning so I’m not rushed to get out the door and not have time to make them. I plan my meals for the week ahead so I know what I’m having each night (the slow cooker crockpot has been heaven sent for this) so I’m not sitting there thinking what am I going to have to eat each night. By putting a little planning into it, I’ve learned to eat much healthier than when I had to decide what to eat on the fly.
I Park Farther Away
One of my biggest challenges with losing the weight is that I’m not a person that enjoys exercise. I had to figure out ways that would make me move around that didn’t seem like exercise to me. One of the most effective ways that I found was to park at the far end of all parking lots so that I had to walk farther whenever I needed to go someplace. It may not seem like it would make a huge difference, but it has definitely helped me get a lot more exercise than I would have done so otherwise.
I Take The Stairs
Another one of those small additions I used to increase my exercise is that I stopped taking elevators. Instead, I now take the stairs. This, again, is a small step to get me to move around, but it has made a huge difference in helping me to lose the weight and get exercise that I wouldn’t otherwise get.
I Sleep When I’m Tired
This probably sounds like a weird one to have on my losing weight list, but it’s another one that I discovered as i began to pay more attention to the triggers that make me eat. I have learned that when I start to get tired, it’s time for me to go to bed. If I remain awake when I am tired, I start consuming food to try to help me stay awake. Once I learned that being tired was one of my eating triggers, I have learned to go to bed a few hours earlier than I used to go to bed. I now usually sleep eight hours a night (I used to sleep less) which allows me to get a good night’s sleep so that I don’t get tired during the day. This has made another huge difference when it comes to me consuming food.
I Practice Stress Relief
Another food trigger that I discovered within myself is stress. When I get stressed out, I start to eat. I have learned to spot when stress is coming on, and try to relieve it in different ways. One of those is to get outside and breathe fresh air. A short walk is even better. When this isn’t possible, I also have stress balls at my desk that I can squeeze. I am in the process of learning some breathing techniques that I have high hopes will be another effective tool in my stress relief arsenal. I still have a ways to go to work on this trigger because I’m not always successful in reducing my stress, but I’m getting much better at it. As I do get better, I find that I can tell when the stress is coming and I can deactivate it before I start eating.
I’m Aware This Is A Life Change, Not A Diet
This is something that I have slowly come to terms with. I realize that what I am doing today is something that i am going to have to do for a lifetime, not just until the weight is gone. If I want to continue to lose weight and then keep that weight off, I am going to have to continue these changes in my lifestyle. This has been more difficult to come to terms with than I thought because there are so many commercials out there that peddle quick and easy fixes. Losing weight is neither quick or easy, and I have come to realize that a lifestyle change is the only way for me to ultimately succeed.
In addition to losing the weight, a huge financial benefit is that I have cut my costs by about $500 a month making these changes. I have no idea if any of the above methods that have worked for me will work for you. As I said before, I am not an expert in weight reduction and these are just some of the changes that I have made that happened to work for me through trial and error. I hope that even a couple may help if you are struggling to lose weight. If you are also on a journey like myself, I would love to hear any other lifestyle changes that you have adopted that have helped you that I can also try.
David had been a long time Saving Advice reader that felt sharing his story might help others struggling with similar weight issues. He is considering starting a blog about his daily struggles with weight and money.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver)