A few months ago, I went for my annual check up and got a wake up call. My blood cholesterol and weight were both at unhealthy levels. Also, when looking at myself side on, I could see I was starting to develop a paunch. My employer had announced a weight loss contest to take place from the 3rd of September to the 3rd of December, so I joined it.
Due to unexpected factors, the contest had to be abandoned, but I finished it anyway. Here’s what I learnt.
It is possible to eat healthily and still gain weight
I generally follow a healthy diet. I eat more vegetables than meat, avoid frying, buy salads and seldom purchase takeaways. Despite this, I was taking in too many calories. For lunch, I would have three sandwiches (two slices of bread each) and two pieces of fruit. I would also bring biscuits to have with my tea and coffee. Although not unhealthy, it had too many calories for my energy usage.
To lose weight, cut calories
Every weight loss program makes clear that exercise alone is not enough. I had been working out twice a week and I was still gaining unhealthy weight. The first thing I cut was lunch. Two sandwiches instead of three, and no more biscuits. I also trimmed back on my dinner portions. I also tried to reduce my portions by a small amount each week.
Your body gets used to less food
In the second half of the challenge, I attended a celebration at a restaurant. I ordered a slightly lighter meal than I usually would have. Despite that, the quantity of food in the meal was too much for me. My digestive system had got used to handling less food, and I felt uncomfortable.
Fuel up to work out
Due to my work schedule, the best time for me to work out was in the early morning, typically before breakfast. I soon learnt that I needed to have a good dinner the night before if I wanted to exercise before breakfast. If I didn’t, my workout was very flat.
Work out smarter to work out harder
I had limited time to work out, so I had to change my workout strategy.
Originally, I would use just one machine and go for the longest session, which is 30 minutes of exercise and 5 of cooldown. I changed to using two machines per workout. I would use the rowing machine, rest for 10-15 minutes, then use the elliptical trainer, or use the hand bike followed by the stationary bicycle. In this way, I would get 45 minutes of exercise per session.
Weight loss will taper off
At the start, I was losing around three quarters of a kilogram a week. Towards the end, it dropped to less than half a kilo a week. This is inevitable as you get closer and closer to a healthy weight. Still, I was losing weight, not putting it on.
The challenge has effectively ended. I lost just over 5 and a half kilos, look fitter and no longer have the start of a paunch. The challenge now is to stay thin.