One of the toughest things to convey in my posts about weight loss and physical fitness is the importance of portion management and control in my life. Eating is a serious pain in the butt for a lot of people and for some reason I was built with the ability to push myself away from the table, 364 days of the year. My only real problem day is Thanksgiving Day in November, and let’s face it, because it’s only one day it’s not really a problem.
My main success is portion management. I manage to eat just enough, naturally – without counting calories or using gimmicks. I realize it isn’t this way for many people, including many of my friends. Also, it wasn’t always easy for me either. Rather than use me as an example, I’ll use a friend of mine who is currently on a 1,200 calorie per day diet. He’s lost more than fifteen pounds in the last month or so, without exercise, and he uttered one sentence that makes everything I write about make sense. He was talking about his diet and how happy he is now. He switched gears when I asked him how he did in the first week (the first week or two of forming any habit is the hardest). He said this, “Oh it wasn’t the first week, the first two weeks were a living hell but I got used to it after that, I wasn’t hungry all of the time anymore“. This sums up how I learned to eat to a tee, but I did it on my own. No plans, no tips, no special “diets”. I knew two things when I decided not to get fat (after I was already well on my way to pushing maximum displacement):
1. I needed to get active, even if I really didn’t want to (and I didn’t).
2. I needed to eat less food.
The second point is what I’ll concentrate on here. I didn’t change one thing about what food I ate. I didn’t drop fast food, I didn’t kick pizza to the curb, I didn’t even quit soda for more than eight or nine years until I’d finally had enough. Let’s start with my beloved Coca-Cola first because this one is simple: I don’t bring it home and I don’t buy it at the store. EVAH. If it isn’t in the house, I don’t crave it. If I’m thirsty when I’m out I buy a flavored water or a Gatorade/PowerAde. The first two weeks of kicking this did suck, bad, but I’m finally at a point where I can have a Coke when I eat out and not crave it again. This works for anything that I don’t need to consume to stay healthy.
Unfortunately we do have to eat, so when I started running I just shrank my portions down. I still ate everything I loved, I just ate four pieces of pizza instead of a full medium. If we went out to get Chinese, I’d bring half home. Grilling burgers at home? Instead of 1/3 pound patties I shrunk that down to 1/4 pound. You get the idea. I did this until I started seeing results. For the first two weeks of this I was hungry all of the time. Sometimes famished, but after a couple of weeks, I’ll be darned if I wasn’t so hungry all of the time any more. Eating less became infinitely easier after that. Now I did most of that while I was running three or four times a week. When I added cycling (which I enjoy much more than running) I developed two diets for in-season and off-season. During the winter months I go back to the old diet. I take it relatively easy on the junk and I eat smaller portions. Now that the season is beginning and I’ll be cycling every day (or as close to that as I can get) I can begin to eat a little more. By the time the cold breaks and the shorts come out I’ll be scrambling to stuff enough food into my mouth to keep my weight up. Rather than eating a lot and trying to ride enough to burn it off, I operate from a lacking position – I have to eat enough to keep riding.
The reason that this second point is so hard to write about is that it’s second nature now. I don’t think much about it anymore – maybe for a few days at the end of the season any more. It took my buddy Grateful Jim to point out one day that I’m one of the few guys who only eats one bowl of chili or stew at the running club where everyone else goes back for seconds or thirds to really open my eyes to how important eating like this is to my weight. Also, it took someone else pointing it out, to make me realize how rare this behavior is.
This is the secret to my success. I did not write this post to suggest that the way I do things is the correct way – I think when you get to a certain age, correctness goes out the window and we just do the best we can. I’m simply putting down my experience with the hope that it might benefit someone else as well.
Happy riding – it looks like the cold is making its long awaited exit.