My Personal Perspective on Diet, Exercise and Weight Control

I am a 69-year-old physician who has been blessed with a great life so far. I intend to do my best to maintain this as long as I can to also help others enjoy life. However, like many folks, I have struggled with weight control. I am 6 feet tall and a few years ago weighed 220 lbs. and thus was clearly overweight. When my blood sugar levels were found to be elevated, this was a real wake up call for me since I have a strong family history of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I even had a minor stroke a few years ago. So, I felt I had to do something about this.

Understand that despite all you hear about various diets and various exercises, there is really no getting around the simple equation that body mass depends on calories taken in vs. calories which leave the body (e.g. via exercise or daily living energy expenditures).

Here are some hopefully helpful tips I learned along the way.

  • I now have no excuse not to exercise! I used to do most of my exercise out of doors or occasionally go to a gym, but when it would rain, or be cold I would complain and not do it. Also just jogging around a track was too boring for me. Therefore, knowing myself, I bought a treadmill and exercycle (many of which are cheap), put them in my basement in front of the television with a system to record my favorite programs. Now I am not bored, and I control the weather! No more excuses!

  • I religiously exercise every day! This took some getting used to (at least 60 minutes/day or the equivalent of 10,000 steps), but once I disciplined myself to do this for at least two weeks, I noticed two things: a) it became a habit, b) I was less tired during the day. Now if I do not happen to exercise on a given day (e.g. traveling), I do not feel as good, a big incentive to continue exercising. Make a religion out of this!

  • I used a phone app to log my calories in and calories burned, plus measure my weight every day. Like many people I would get frustrated trying to read food labels, each with different calorie listings, serving sizes, and trying to remember them. Well there are easy to use smart phone apps for this (e.g. I use “Lose It!”), and these give good estimates to show you just how many calories your meals or snacks (or in my case, a glass of beer) actually contain (just plug in the item). I was surprised to learn many things, e.g. how many calories can be in trail mix, or that with a salad, the lion share of calories come with the salad dressing, not the lettuce!  The same app shows me how much of many exercises it takes to burn off a glass of beer (you might be surprised! See for example: created by Mallory Miller).
  • I played with my favorite snacks to limit my caloric intake. For example, I found that drinking a glass of water (has zero calories!) in between glasses of beer, gave me as much satisfaction (and a clearer head) than drinking the same volume as all beer. Also, if I must peel of the husk from peanuts or pistachio nuts (rather than eating handfuls of already shelled nuts), I ate less of these caloric-rich foods and was still satisfied!

  • I slowly reduced my sugar and fat intake. I started eating selected fruits (e.g. apples which also help with preventing constipation) and drinking more water when I felt hungry, rather than reaching for the cookies and popcorn. I eliminated sugar and cream/milk from my cups of coffee and again after two weeks this became a habit and I did not miss the sugar and cream any more.

  • I still eat a bit of junk food, but in moderation. For example, I allow myself a bowl of popcorn and some nachos, but only once a week.

  • Most importantly, I did this bit by bit, as opposed to drastically changing all at once. People generally have more success trying one small change first, waiting for this to become a habit, and then adding to this. Too many of us take the New Year’s Resolution approach and try to make several drastic changes all at once, only to become greatly dissatisfied and relapse totally.

With this approach, I am glad to say that:

  1. I reduced my weight from 220 lbs. to about 183 lbs. on average.
  2. I feel much more energetic and better rested.
  3. My blood sugar came down and I do not need any diabetic medication! (this may not happen for all individuals, but it is worth a try!).

You know yourself better than anyone else. Therefore, you need to individualize things for yourself, incrementally adjusting those things that you can deal with. And do not forget to monitor the outcome (I measure my weight every morning and if I am gaining weight, I adjust and get back on track). Design your regimen, give it a try for at least two weeks, adjust, and be religious about this! And if you need help, Take CHARGE is here to assist you with further exercise and diet ideas! 😊 Visit our Nutritional Health or Physical Fitness Consultation pages.