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The Weight-ing game

After losing 23 pounds, the hard part begins: How to keep the weight off — forever

John M. Mann head shot column mug April 2013
Jane Howze, John Mann, The Weight is Off, Now What?, April 2013, 10K
A slimmer John M. Mann with his two young children after finishing a recent fun run Photo courtesy of John Mann
Jane Howze, John Mann, The Weight is Off, Now What?, April 2013, Before
It's always good to take a "Before" photo before embarking on a weight loss program. Photo courtesy of John Mann
Jane Howze, John Mann, The Weight is Off, Now What?, April 2013, Bike
To shake up a boring exercise routine, John bought a bicycle and rides it when he can, takes spin classes or do an hour on the elliptical machine. Photo courtesy of John Mann

Nine months ago, I dropped the Doritos, jumped off the couch, and began a quest for a healthier life. To date I have lost 23 pounds and people are noticing and complimenting me. I have reached my initial goal, so now what?

Nearly 65 percent of people who lose weight gain it back (think Oprah, Kirstie Alley, Val Kilmer), and the reasons vary. Most cannot habituate healthy eating and exercise.

Although the odds are against my keeping the weight off, I have no interest in being in the “other 65 percent.” To avoid returning to the couch and regaining weight, I discovered that I need to find the motivation to continue to exercise and eat well. Here is what I am learning:

When the routine becomes boring, change it

For the first several months, I alternated days of running four miles and lifting weights. This routine created a habit—a good one—but it became boring.

Like taking out the trash or putting gas in the car, exercising just became another “to-do” item on the day’s list. So I decided to mix it up.

Instead of running every day, I bought a bicycle, and I ride when I can or take spin classes and I’ll do an hour on the elliptical machine. Occasionally, I change or add to the types of weights I use on my gym days. I still enjoy running, and I do so once or twice each week. Part of varying the routine was entering and completing my first 10K last month.

Stick with healthy eating

I noticeably lost weight in the first couple of months and began to see slight improvements in my strength. Every “weigh-in” netted exciting results.

However, following the first few months I lost less weight and I had a few weeks of same weight results. Over the holidays I even added a couple of pounds. Admittedly, I had one too many “I earned this” splurges and focused less on eating well—it is easy to consider lost weight as money in the bank to be spent on high calorie foods.

Exercise certainly helps, but I have learned that continuing to eat a healthy and balanced diet is equally important, especially during weight plateaus. Also, Oreos and cheeseburgers still taste as good as they did nine months ago. 

When you reach your goal, set a new one

Since reaching my goal weight, I have decided to drop another five pounds. So, I will need to find new motivations. There is no other way to lose weight than to burn more calories than you consume. Most of my clothes no longer fit me (yes, I could have been that guy in our recent blog) and I am now getting my suits, pants and shirts tailored or replaced.

I have ideas for future goals and will continue to work on achieving them. I would like to ride again in the MS 150 (a 180-mile bicycle ride benefitting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society), take a hiking vacation in the Italian Alps and take up tennis again. While my future goal may not include losing weight, I will continue to exercise every day that I can. Boring or not, I feel better when I exercise.

There is magic in the telling

When I started my journey to better health I initially received numerous compliments. No doubt some did not expect me to keep it up. After my co-workers noticed that I did not take my half of the annual client Mardi Gras cake, several asked me for the “magic bullet.”

Although we all know there is no magic bullet, it does help to talk about your process and in doing so sprinkle a few breadcrumbs along the path for someone else trying to do what I have done. If I gain weight now, somehow I feel I will be letting down not only myself, but also those who look at me and think “well, if he can do it, so can I.” What I often took for granted and ignored is now as important as anything else that I do.

In four months I turn 40, and as a friend once said to me, “40 is when you start getting your head together and your body falls apart.” I, however, am looking forward to reaching this milestone by being in the best shape ever.

Recognizing that life could be half over, I appreciate that I can run a mile faster than I could at 20, and I now weigh the same 20 years later. Rather than throw in the gym towel now that I have reached my original goal, it is important for me to continue to exercise and keep in mind that if I stop, I am only a few weeks and burritos away from losing sight of my belt buckle.

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