It’s Groundhog Day, so maybe this is a good time to offer a quick recap of my progress on what I call my “Groundhog Day Diet.”
The “Groundhog Day Diet” is my name for the program I started four weeks ago to lose the same weight I lose and regain every year, hoping that maybe—just maybe—this year will be different. (The diet is fondly named after the movie Groundhog Day which starred Bill Murray, where he repeated the same day, day after day after day.)
The only reason I am bothering you with this is the knowledge that I am not alone. Many of you out there go through the same ritual every year. And, if you are like me, four weeks into the process is about when you think it’s time for a splurge or have some other event(s) come up in your life that leads you astray, like this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
I am here today to give you and me permission to assess our success or failure, and motor on.
So what are the results? I guess it’s a good news/bad news sort of story: I lost 20 pounds over the past four weeks. That’s 7.5% of my body weight.
More important, I can buckle my pants without inhaling all day. Even though I am tall and others can’t tell, I know I have lost the weight. In addition, my blood pressure is back under control.
Why would 20 pounds in four weeks possibly be bad news? Because according to experts—and my daily diet diary—that’s too much too fast.
Be that as it may, it is what it is. And I am glad to have it behind me (or maybe there’s a little less “behind” me these days).
I must admit that I am concerned about how the next couple of weeks are going to proceed. Will they be a success or failure? I have plenty of experience in that regard, since every year for the past several years, this is the week I fail (for reasons that I will get into momentarily).
Let’s talk about some of what I did to get where I am, and see if any of these ring true with you. There isn’t anything novel or new here, just accumulated experience and lessons that all of us have learned, but find difficult to do for any sustained length of time.
So here goes, in no particular order:
1) Having a friend/partner/spouse (my wife is all of those things to me and more) take the journey with you is important. It certainly helps you keep your commitment to exercise and eat right/better.
For me, my wife’s commitment to join me both in a diet and exercise program makes all the difference. We support each other to success, and talk through our failures. We don’t do the same exercise program (she likes the treadmill, I like the Precor; I use a trainer when I am home, she does boot camp; she is training for a mini-triathlon, I can’t run because of a bad knee), but we do exercise. I admit doing 70 minutes a day on the Precor isn’t fun, but it gets in 10,000+ steps of aerobic activity every day, and that’s a big help.
I figure I walked around 182 miles or so this past month, give or take a couple. At 3500 calories a pound and about 200 calories a mile, that’s pretty good in helping get the weight down (by the way, I wear a pedometer religiously).
Staying together on this journey also helps keep your diet and food intake under control, especially when she is the cook—and a really good one at that. Make no mistake: when my wife is on a diet, I am on a diet. She adjusts her cooking, becomes more creative, and the entire family benefits.
2) I didn’t travel much during the month, unlike my schedule most of the rest of the year.
I can’t tell you what a big help it is not to have to get on airplanes several times a week. Travel is brutal on anyone’s diet, with the constant schedule problems, not having control of your meals or your diet, getting into hotels late at night or early in the morning, etc., etc.
What the month did teach me is that some degree of regularity and control of your schedule is important. So I started coming into the office earlier, tried to leave on time, and got my exercise in the early evening so I wouldn’t sit, snack and watch TV before dinner. I did have to do more office-related work in the evening than in the past, but somehow it seemed a bit more effective. I also gained about an hour in my day, not having to fight rush hour traffic to and from the office.
And, staying at home put me back in control of me, which is difficult to do when you are on an airplane. Not to mention that when you travel a lot, there are snacks and alcohol being offered regularly, and airport meals aren’t exactly the most diet-friendly (with some notable exceptions).
3) I reduced the amount of alcohol I drink.
No, I am not an alcoholic. However, perhaps like you, alcohol has become a socially acceptable part of our lives. And if you sit back and calculate how many calories you consume with that one or two glasses of wine or a beer or bourbon each evening, you might be surprised how quickly it adds up—not to mention lowers your self-control.
Remember that number of 3500 calories per pound, and figure 80 calories for a typical measure of an alcoholic beverage. That’s good for about 2/3 of a pound per month, or more if you pour a little bit extra in your glass or have more than one drink a day.
When I was a young internist, patients would tell me they had one or two drinks every evening, and I would look at them with surprise. Now I am them, and guess what????
The bottom line lesson is that alcohol doesn’t help your diet.
4) Write down everything you eat.
There are a number of diet journals out there that can help you with this. I happen to use Weight Watcher’s, and the computer version works very well (the one for my Blackberry isn’t quite as easy to use). But it’s not the one you use—it’s using the one you have. Writing down your intake, with perhaps some means of actually measuring the calories, points, or whatever, keeps you a bit more honest than you would have been otherwise.
5) Make healthy substitutions in your diet.
All of us have something that we like, and overindulge in. For some it may be snacks and chips, for others chocolate, for someone else it may be a steak, and for others it may be ice cream.
Fortunately for me, I like salad. So eating lettuce isn’t exactly penance for me. And then there are low calorie soups, fish, green vegetables and leaner cuts of meat (I really like those bags of frozen vegetables that you can pop right into the microwave). When you are trying to make a difference in your waist line, these things really do work. Don’t forget the skim milk and fat free cheeses that are readily available and offer some options that may be right for you. And when hunger strikes, I always try to make certain I have an apple near by.
I am also fortunate in that I am comfortable eating the same things fairly frequently, so I don’t have to design dishes to fake me into thinking I am eating a big dessert or piece of candy. Apples just seem to do the trick, and signal me it’s time to stop at the end of a meal or come in handy during those sugar lows that come on late in the afternoon when sitting at my desk or traveling in a car or plane.
Those are just a couple of pointers that have worked for me and may work for you. If I could keep this program intact and continue to lose weight—which I hope to do—why am I so concerned about what this next month will bring?
For starters, I go “back on the road” this week with a trip to Orlando and within that trip another overnight trip from Orlando to Phoenix then back to Orlando before returning to Atlanta. So I know I will be in meetings from early AM until late PM, and then getting on a plane arriving at my destination very early in the morning and heading back later in that same evening.
Will I be able to keep myself under control? Will I be able to find anything to eat that’s even close to a diet, let alone meets my standards for what I would like to have? And what about the alcohol that is always part of these meetings, especially at the “receptions,” or at dinner after you have spent 12 hours arguing about physician payments under Medicare?
This particular meeting “trap” always comes at the same time every year, usually either the last weekend in January or the first weekend in February. Just as in years past, it will definitely test my resolve. Hopefully, unlike years past, my resolve will stay intact.
So my wife and I have worked on some solutions, including pre-packing our breakfast, taking a popcorn popper for a snack if we get hungry, getting some apples and little fresh vegetable packs that we will keep in the room—where we will ask the hotel if we can have a small extra refrigerator to keep things fresh.
Who knows if all of this planning will work or not? We don’t know, but we are going to try. If we succeed, we will be proud of our efforts. And if we fail, we hopefully won’t fail so badly that we lose our resolve to go forward towards success.
Ultimately, this isn’t about grand goals or huge targets.
We aren’t—and don’t have to be—the “biggest losers.” We are just two people who face a chronic illness that in turn affects other chronic illnesses, and we are trying to get ourselves back to health.
I guess the biggest reward in all of this will be if—once and for all—we come to another Groundhog Day, and don’t have to be on a diet.
We know the odds are against us, but try again we must. Maybe this will be the year that works. Let’s hope that next year Punxsutawney Phil won’t see his shadow, and ours will be a bit smaller.
Now, that would be something to celebrate.