2010 Resolution #1: Lose 40 Pounds

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In an effort to talk about the power of goal-setting along with some methods of setting and achieving goals, I’m going to discuss my four resolutions for 2010 this week.

I’m overweight.

One of the biggest reasons for this is hypothyroidism, something I’ve had literally since I was born (and have treated with medication since I was three days old). In essence, it mostly means that it’s extremely easy for me to gain weight due to dietary choices. If I’m not highly careful with my diet choices, I gain weight really quickly. Even if I’m careful, I usually just maintain my weight.

Lowering my weight has many personal and financial benefits. It reduces my health care risks – and my potential costs. It improves my quality of life – and likely my length of life as well.

The one thing that has consistently worked for me in reducing weight is a regular exercise routine. During much of 2009, I had a successful routine and lost about 35 pounds. However, during the run-up to the completion of my book manuscript, my exercise routine fell apart and I gained some of the weight back (about 15 pounds of it).

In 2010, I’m ready to get back on the wagon. My goal is straightforward – I intend to lose weight at a healthy rate in 2010 due mostly to more exercise.

Making the Goal Specific
One major step to take when setting any goal for yourself is to make the goal specific and clear so that success and failure are clear and unambiguous. For me, this meant turning to my doctor and asking him what some healthy and realistic goals for 2010 would be.

He indicated clearly that I would be perfectly safe losing one pound a week. He encouraged moderate exercise and minimal dietary change beyond the addition of more vegetables. He encouraged me not to run, but to look for other forms of aerobic exercise.

If I followed the doctor’s advice and lost a pound a week throughout the year, I would lose 52 pounds. It’s a very noble goal, but it expects perfection throughout the year. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Thus, I’m going to aim for a lower goal. I intend to lose 40 pounds in 2010.

Breaking It Down Into Microgoals
What can I do each day or each week to achieve that goal?

In a given week, I should exercise several times. I intend to do three serious exercise sessions in a given week, along with a light one on the weekend. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ll head out for an exercise routine at the gym, and on Saturdays or Sundays, I’ll do a lighter routine.

What exactly will that routine be (remember, specificity is key)? I signed up for a session on Monday, January 4, to identify a good routine for me to follow, and I’ll just follow that assigned routien.

Thus, each week, my microgoal is to do these three moderate exercise sessions and one light session. My overall weight loss goal will happen as a result of achieving that microgoal.

In addition, I’m going to eat a vegetarian lunch three out of five weekdays, replacing my usual lunchtime meal. This enables me to still eat leftovers for lunch and also eat out on occasion with coworkers, but also subtly improves my diet. It will also provide more incentive to eat vegetarian-focused dinners at home, so that the leftovers are vegetable-based.

Feedback and Adjustment
Each week, I’m going to record my success at each of those two microgoals, along with my weight. Over a period of time, it will become pretty clear whether the plan is working – am I consistently losing any weight over a period of a few weeks?

What happens if I’m not meeting my microgoals? Clearly, I’ll need to step back and re-evaluate my efforts. My suspicion is that the vegetarian microgoal will actually be trickier because I’ll forget about it, as it’s not tied to particular days. The exercise will be harder, as it’s already entered into my calendar (which I nearly live by). One potential solution to this would be to simply assign vegetarian days to myself.

What happens if the microgoals aren’t meeting my weight loss goals? My first response will be to visit my doctor again and simply ask for suggestions and perhaps some pointers on what exactly I can change. More exercise? Bigger dietary changes? We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Tomorrow, I’ll address my second 2010 goal – one that’s a bit more directly related to finances.

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50 thoughts on “2010 Resolution #1: Lose 40 Pounds

  1. When going vegetarian… watch the cheese. It’s the biggest calorie-budget buster of the veggie diet. (speaking as a 5+ year vegetarian who tries to limit her cheese consumption)

  2. Nice goal Trent. I lost 66 pounds in 2009 and I plan on losing another 64 in 2010. It hasn’t came off as quickly as I had hoped but what I am doing in maintainable. Best of luck to you. It’s a tough thing to do but it is so worth it. I feel so much better and my health has improved so much. Your wife and kids will thank you.

  3. I’ve lost 35 lbs in the past year … while exercise was an important part of that, it was far more important to count the calories I was consuming and burning. There are plenty of high calorie vegetarian foods that could offset the calories you are burning with the additional exercise …. I know quite a few overweight vegetarians.

  4. Its good to see lot of people slowly realising the importance of vegetarian based diet and slowly turning to that (something which is a norm in India where I grew up)

  5. Hey, Trent, did you ever hear about Vegetarian Mondays? I think it’s called that, anyway. Just cook vegetarian on Mondays. Easy peasy. Oh, as the wife of a vegetarian, watch out for carbs as well as cheese. My husband snacks on complex carb stuff like breads, crackers, chips, etc. He also snacks on hummus (which I make for him- easy but perhaps a little more expensive than store-bought), and that’s when he’ll eat raw carrots, peppers, etc.

  6. Did you see Leo Babauta’s new 6changes site? If this is one of your six and you’re using your blog for the accountability step, that’s awesome. If you haven’t, you should take a peek at his method. It’s a pretty interesting way of making New Year’s resolutions that you’ll keep.

  7. I lost about 50 lbs in the first 3.5 months of 2009, and put about 10 lbs back on because I didn’t like how gaunt my face looked at 185. I’ve been maintaining 195 for about 8 months now.

    What worked for me was a change in diet.

    I started eating less overall. Quite a bit less. I also started eating more often. Much smaller portions, of course.

    I quit drinking calories.

    I started eating breakfast every morning (almost exclusively the breakfast burritos you provided a recipe for back in Feb, actually)

    I started baking all my own bread. (This is more about effort than nutrition, really – baking bread is so much work that it’s helped me cut down my consumption – one 8″ loaf per week is how much I eat now)

    I didn’t change my level of exercise, which is fairly low.

    Once I was done losing weight and just trying to maintain my progress, I backed off a little. Sometimes I grab a burger and fries (once a month, maybe?) and I eat enough now that I’m not hungry as often – while losing weight, I was hungry a lot, especially at first.

    I’m a bachelor, so some of these ideas may be hard to implement for you. For instance I take a loaf of bread out of the freezer every Saturday – if I eat it by Thursday then I’m just OUT of bread until next Saturday, which encourages me to make it last. I’m not sure how that can work if there are other people in your house who also want to eat bread.

    Your mileage my vary and everybody is different, etc. The above really worked for me, and the fact that it was much easier than I thought it would be makes me regret waiting so long before giving it a try. Based on the reported diet results of the people around me, I was expecting that I might give up all the food I love and have little to show for it. Instead I’ve found new foods to love and I look great.

  8. I, too, have hypothyroidism and its so easy to gain weight and hard as the devil to take off. But I’ve learned a few things. Make exercise a priority even if I can only get out for a 15 min walk that day I do it. On days I have more time I make sure to put in a little extra to balance it out. Protein makes you less hungry – I try to eat a lot of lean protein (turkey, fish, low fat cheese, low fat yogurt, skim milk, etc) from a variety of sources – I feel fuller. I drink lots of cold water – I feel fuller. I stay off the scale and I judge my weight by how my clothes fit. I might get on the scale once a month.

    But that exercise is imperative (as I think you already know). Fit in some cardio somewhere in your day even if its just 15 mins. No one doesn’t have time for a 15 min brisk walk everyday.

  9. Fat loss happens in the kitchen.
    Meaning, it’s much easier not to eat those calories then it is to work them off and as others have noted, vegetarians can be be fat.

    I belive, for instance, that oreos are vegan. :)

  10. #3 Johanna, I caught that too. Maybe sockpuppets? Blogging is a lonely profession:). More power to you Trent. I gained 15# this year. Hope to join you in your weight loss.

  11. I too have hypothyroidism. I used it as an excuse for YEARS about why I couldn’t lose weight. The reality is though, if your medication has your hypothyroidism properly controlled, it is not harder for you to lose weight than it is for anyone else. The reality is that losing weight is just not easy for anyone.

    I did finally lose 35 lbs. a few years ago and have been successful in keeping it off. A few things to keep in mind.

    1) Food really is the key to losing weight. You have to control the calories coming in. Exercise is certainly helpful but I found that the food was the main issue.

    2)Conversely, I have found that exercise is the key to keeping the weight off.

    3) Keep an eye on your thyroid levels. Mine went NUTS last spring (no idea why). I hadn’t had them checked in over a year and my T4 level was more than double the highest number it had ever been. I gained 5 lbs. in what seemed like 2 days (it was probably a week or two but it was fast with no other changes in activity or food).

    Best of luck with your weight loss. It really astounded me how much better I felt when I finally got the weight off. You really don’t truly know what you have been carrying around with you until you don’t have to carry it any more.

  12. Warning dieters of fat vegetarians is a little like waring them of fat runners. Are there fat runners? Oh my yes! Does that mean that runners are usually fat? Not in my experience.

    Yes, you can out-eat the calories you burn from running. Likewise, if you start eating pounds of cheese and butter because you just can’t stand the taste of your veggies you will out-eat the health benefits of eating less meat.

    If you are counting your calories, this won’t matter. One of the biggest benefits of eating a few vegetarian meals a week is not so much lower calories as it is exposing you to new, presumably healthier, meal options.

    If overeating cheese is really a concern, perhaps try Vegan Mondays instead. It is difficult to overeat on a Vegan diet. (Though, it goes without saying, not impossible.)

  13. #12 Leslie, I have to agree with you. I haven’t had a thyroid for about 35 years now, but my weight issues were all my own. Once I decided to do something about it, I lost 100 lbs. and have maintained that loss. And as I’ve gotten older, the medication dosage has gone down for some reason.

    #13 Des, glad you added your last sentence. I’m on a bulletin board with vegans who are overweight, some pretty significantly. Losing weight is a matter of calories consumed vs. calories expended.

  14. I’m right with you Trent. I’m going to plan on the same 40 lbs and will do it in a similar way (minus the vegetarian). I’m starting tomorrow (monday night football tonight since I’m a Vikings fan! :))

    Good luck to all of you on your new years resolutions!

  15. I the site mentioned above is called “Meatless Mondays”.

    Good luck. I’ve heard that exercise itself really doesn’t help you lose weight all the much (it really is mostly the diet), but of course, it is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. And I feel like it makes me crave healthier foods.

  16. As another reader who’s hypo, I would hope that you’re going to get your numbers checked pretty regularly as you kick this off? And your cholesterol too? (And maybe your gall baldder too, if your doc hasn’t already poked at it?) With the cholesterol problems we’re prone to, weight loss can actually cause more secondary endocrine problems (though typically if the loss just too rapid from everything I’ve read). I’ve been on a seesaw battle with my levels for the last year, and changing diets can definitely wreak havoc on them.

    Good luck! I’ll be right alongside there, trying to get this spare 35 pounds put back in its place too.

  17. I have to agree w/ all the posts about how vegetarian doesn’t mean healthy. I actually recently switched from a 13-year veg diet to one that includes white meat in order to hopefully lose weight in the coming year. You can be healthy eating veg, but it’s much easier to get the right balance of protein and other nutrients eating a mixed vegetable-meat diet (sans red meat). As a veg, it’s too easy to go overboard of carbs because you don’t have the meat to fill you up.

  18. Nice breakdown on establishing a goal and completing it via micro goals. Your overall plan sounds very reasonable. I’m carrying about 15 lbs of post baby weight 2 years later and will use your plan as a guide for establishing some lifestyle changes slowly through this next year. Best Wishes!

  19. This is a great goal, and one I share–last year, I managed to lose thirty pounds in the first half of the year…and gain ten back in the second half. There are a lot of ways to lose weight successfully, and if you’re already decently sure of your diet, adding exercise is a good way to get to a calorie deficit.

    If you don’t mind a bit of unsolicited advice: make the veggie meals happen on weekdays that you don’t work out, so that’ll give them a specific day in the schedule, which you mentioned was a problem (and the extra protein from meat-based meals will help on your workout days). Also, you tend to approach things very logically, and so you might appreciate The Hacker’s Diet, an e-book about weight loss from an engineer’s perspective. It helped me a lot because it was light on judgment and heavy on measurement.

    Good luck! I look forward to seeing your other goals and watching your progress.

  20. I’m in the same boat as you, re: exercise and diet going bad when stress happens. I lost ten pounds last year, and was halfway to my goal of losing 20 pounds, but gained back 12 and I need to get on track. I am hoping to be down 20 pounds (the weight I lost and gained back, plus the weight I still had yet to lose by summer.) by the beginning of summer. I’ve started setting smaller goals for myself, my first ones are: re-establishing the habit of working out, keeping a food journal, getting in the habit of planning meals.

  21. Just one exercise suggestion from someone who also has hypothyroidism and has been on and off the bandwagon many times:

    I’ve never, ever been able to stick consistently to an exercise program just because “it’s exercise and it’s healthy”. Something else inevitably comes up that’s higher priority and I fall out of the habit.

    The only exercise program I’ve ever been able to stick with is one that’s based on an activity I love, that happens to be good exercise. For me this is dance – I love it, and actively look forward to my classes four days a week.

    So I’d recommend that you add to your resolution a goal to explore all sorts of types of physical activity until you find one that you really enjoy. Once I found that gut-level passion for a physical activity, everything else – time, energy, discipline, habits – all fell into place.

  22. Good luck, man! I’m right there with you in 2010. My goal is to get down to 220 pounds, so depending where exactly I finish 2009, I’ll need to lose a bit under 40 pounds in 2010. My weight has been up and and down for the past few years…but it’s time to get serious!

  23. Good luck man!

    I am sure you can do it–getting started is the biggest thing. I took off 35 in the course of about 5 months a few years back. Take the first step, and after that, it gets easier every day.

  24. as a fellow hypo-sufferer, it’s really important to watch your levels, as they’ll change with your weight.

    I found that reading Enter the Zone was a good start for figuring out the basics of what nutrition I needed to keep myself full and well fed.

    Try making veggie soups as they’re very filling and low in calories. Especially in winter, it’s a great way to snack yourself full with minimal calories.

    Because of joint problems, I swim, and I invested in an underwater mp3, because it really really makes the swims go much better for me. I would get wickedly bored after 10 minutes, but when I listen to music, I can go for 40-50 minutes and do a full mile.

  25. Good luck Trent!!! That is an excellent resolution but 40lbs is quite a lot of weight, don’t give up because you only lose 10 or 15lbs and don’t seem to make much more progress.

    As for the people saying excersize doesn’t lose weight…it is true that diet is a much bigger factor, however, when you pack on muscle you burn a lot of calories than when you don’t, those muscles are hungry even when you’re just sitting at your desk.

    A combination of diet and excersize has always been the best way to lose weight and make you feel better, even if the diet part is more important overall if you had to choose one of the two. But why choose? Do both!

    Great resolution and hope it goes well! Please post updates during 2010!

  26. Another fellow Hypo sufferer in your readership!

    I actually lost 20 lbs recently, but sadly the only thing that spurred it on was adding Adderall to my life! Having ADD it has been a blessing, but it showed me that metabolism is definitely why I haven’t been able to lose weight previously. Right now I am trying to kick my ‘soda-as-water’ habit and consistently go to the Y and do classes. Like someone said above, exercise is never the priority unless it’s *fun*. Working-out is mind-numbingly boring to me, but I love taking the group classes.
    So good-luck to you and I’ll be interested in what you have to say and your experiences!

  27. Good luck with your goals. I have maintained a 55lb weight loss for 5 years and improved all of my blood profiles following an alternative path – all natural, low carbohydrate. I support anyone’s choice to eat the way they feel best, but as I am obviously not a vegetarian, I am sometimes quite resentful of the criticism I receive for following an alternative path to health. Please know that there ARE alternative studies and viewpoints to be had on the topic, which should be studied before deciding to give up animal products. Our popular media seems quite enamored with vegetarianism these days, but there are other opinions on the matter.

  28. I don’t mean to be a troll or insensitive, but is the thyroid problem really that common? It seems like every overweight person I know claims to have a “glandular” or “thyroid” problem. One guy I work with every day has a glandular problem, yet I see him eating microwaved pizzas and french fries for lunch almost every day. Seems to me it’s a diet and exercise problem, not a glandular or thyroid problem.

  29. Awesome work in getting the weight off in 2009. Just keep up whatever was working for you in 2010. I lost 70 pounds and have put about 10 back on during the holidays. I will do the same as you. Peace.

  30. “I don’t mean to be a troll or insensitive, but is the thyroid problem really that common?”

    Hypothyroidism causes both water retention and constipation. Thus, if I eat a normal meal that my wife eats – say, tuna – I will retain more of the contents of that tuna in my body than she will.

    Any dietary choice for a person with hypothyroidism will cause slower weight loss – or more rapid weight gain – than a person without it. They just simply retain more of the water and more of the food, no matter what the food is.

    Unsurprisingly, the end result of that is that many people with hypothyroidism will fail at dieting and believe it doesn’t work because it’s not as effective for them as it is for other people. It’s really easy to get discouraged and give up when you’re already overweight, you watch your diet really carefully for a week, and you don’t lose an ounce.

  31. He asked whether it was common or not, Trent. Not for a definition.

    About three percent of the general population is hypothyroidic.

  32. @Brian #33: I have to agree with you here. I know there are people with genuine thyroid problems, I am not disputing that. But if you do very little exercise and you drink, like, 6 or 10 cans of soda a day, come on — your thyroid problem will be far from the biggest reason for your weight. We can do the math easily here.

    Exercise is great for kicking off your metabolism and keeping the weight off, but dietary choices are the biggest issues here. If you exercise less, you eat less, period. I remember one year where I was running more intensely than usual (due to marathon training) — I don’t think I lost any weight that year. Why? Because I ate more, to adjust to the intensity of my workouts.

    I find it much easier to focus on the diet part and to try to keep a calories deficit up to 500 Kcal a day (in order to achieve the one pound/week loss). Like, if you need 2000 Kcal for your regular, moderate activities (workout excluded), your food intake should be around 1500 Kcal. If you do a workout on that day, you replace the calories burnt. If you burn 400 Kcal during your workout, you eat 1900 Kcal worth of food. The deficit will be the same.

  33. @ #33 & #37… Being hypothyroid is actually much more common than many people think. About 3% of the population is diagnosed, and people suspect that it affects 5-7%- especially women and older folks.

    Being hypo slows your metabolism to a crawl, which is a big reason it’s so hard to lose weight. My body temp averages 97.2-97.4*, meaning I am not even burning enough fuel to keep myself warm (with low-ish pulse and low bp too). On a normal day, when I’m not attempting to watch my weight, I eat about 1600-2000 calories, and I have gained 20 pounds in the last 10 years like that. (Granted, they’re not always intelligent calories) So it just takes a little more determination, but it certainly doesn’t make losing weight or getting in shape impossible.

  34. beth # 38: I get that about the slow metabolism and that those who are hypothyroid will have to be a bit more careful than everyone else. But you know, when i am not particularly watching my weight, I could gain 20 pounds over that timeframe too (that’s a 2 pounds/year rate, which isn’t that much), even if I am not eating that much. Is it enough to go a few calories overboard over a long time — they will add up and so will the pounds.

    Even those who don’t have thyroid problems have to keep themselves in check every now and again. :)

  35. But if the thyroid is controlled correctly, you should not be having those issues.

    I also want to say that I don’t really find these goals very specific. Perhaps it’s the vagueness of the exercise plan.

  36. Trent,

    Former personal trainer and current trainer for the military here. If you need any help with this goal feel free to email me. You have given me so much through your blog that I would love to give to you.

    Oh, and I also have a BS in exercise science.

    Im here if you have any questions.

  37. #40 Gretchen is correct, control your disease don’t hide behind it.

    I’ve been a diabetic for over a decade. It is very easy to hide behind it, blame it for things.

    If your Hypothyroidism is out of control, work with your doctor till it is under control.

    Then stop blaming it for your problems.

  38. I’m going to try to loss weight to in 2010, I’m going to try to save money while doing it so that it’s a win-win.

    I win in that I get healthier by losing weight, and I win in that I’m going to eat less instead of go on an expensive diet.

    Good luck to you!

  39. Trent,

    Good luck with your weight loss goal.

    The best thing i can recommend is to find a form of exercise that you actually like. If you have to force yourself to do it, it will be much harder to keep it up. Personally, i can’t stand going to the gym to run on the hamster wheel for 30 minutes, but I play four-wall handball for HOURS. Try different things until you find something that you enjoy.

  40. Let me just say I LOVE my Wii Fit Plus (and yes, I saved up for it!) I live in FL and hot weather and I don’t get along. With the WFP I’m able to get my exercise done inside where it’s nice and cool and private. My boyfriend bought me an accessory kit for Christmas that includes special weights that hold the controllers (and a sweatband so I can look goofy doing it).

    My resolution for 2010 is to stop drinking so much soda. I drink 4 cans a day (diet, but still not good!). I’ve done it before, but between losing my job and getting a new one all my carefully planned routines kinda fell apart. :P

  41. I enjoy the way you incorporated “feedback and adjustment” as part of it. That’s so important to goal-setting. Great work and good luck to us all!

  42. I will try to go along with you this year also. In 2008 & part of 2009, I lost 40 lbs. with no effort whatsoever. I just lost my appetite gradually. In the last 8 months, I have gained back about 15 of it.

    I too am hypothroidic (?) and it is well controlled, I think. I go along with the idea of multiplying your weight by 17 and subtracting 500 if you want to lose a lb a week or 1000 a day if you want to lose 2 lb a week. If you are very inactive (which I am) decrease that amount by your weight x 13. It works marvelously.

    I recently read an article where research had went over a large number of different diets, compared the results from them, and found out something amazing. High carbs, high protein, low carbs, low protein, counting calories, vegetarian, etc. – they ALL work if you stick to them.

    Good luck to all.

  43. Trent, I’m curious if you’ve found any iPhone/iPod apps that help you in this endeavor. My siblings swear by Lose It! for calorie & weight tracking. I can’t find anything more useful and flexible than Google Docs (including the mobile version via the iPod’s built in Safari browser) for tracking rungs on the Hacker’s Diet Fitness Ladder.

  44. Trent, I would suggest the green smoothie diet. I have lost all kinds of weight on it (30 lbs in 3 months and kept it almost all off after 3 more months) and feel great. It is all veggies and fruits in a blended up smoothie and tastes awesome. It is also very good for the environment and your health in general. My cholesterol, for instance, dropped from 278 to 170 in just 1 month without any other changes. The only people that wouldn’t want to do this is people on blood thinners because of all the greens and that is bad for them. You might want to check it out.

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