My Completely Obvious Secrets to Losing Weight

Secrets work best when they are non-obvious, but kids don’t really understand this. For them, there’s a thrill in a whispered statement. When one of our children wishes to share a hushed tidbit, they begin speaking, stop, beckon us closer, and exhale whatever little nonchalant is on their mind.

It’s adorable, and it tickles a little.

This post is my way of doing that. I lost over 45 pounds by doing what every health professional recommends: eat right and exercise. I’m breathing my completely obvious secrets into your downturned ear because sometimes it’s comforting just to hear what worked for someone else. Even if that someone is standing with their mouth way too close to your earlobe.

1. Eat natural foods. Processed food is junk, and it has debilitating effects on the human body. I really believe my weight loss started here. Read the nutrition label for your favorite snack or drink. If the ingredients conjure images of lab coats instead of farms, put it back. Throw it away. KILL IT WITH FIRE. After some education, it’s pretty easy to let go of these comfort foods. On the plus side, you can seek out new comfort foods.

2. Eat less. Portions are out of control, and food groups are grossly unbalanced. You’re likely eating more than you need to and in the wrong proportionsConfucius taught a concept that has held popularity in many Asian cultures called hara hachi bu. It means “belly 80% full.” (Note that this contradicts my usual philosophy of “belly 180% full.”)

3. Eat better. I drink organic soda. Yes, I feel like a hipster every time I do, but organic is a food label that I trust. Not everything needs to be organic, but consciously make that decision. A high fiber organic cereal may not taste as fun as the mainstream sugar catastrophe, but it will be so much better for you. After all, what is your long-term health worth to you?

4. Find a gym. Your gym could be near your office or home. It might be open 24 hours or offer amenities. It might simply be your basement. Wherever it is, make it as easy as possible for you to fit working out into your schedule. When I started, I worked out after the kids were asleep. Thankfully, our gym was open 24 hours a day, so I could treadmill and drool over the Food Network at any hour of the day.

5. Find a routine. Making the gym a habit is the toughest and most important part of exercising. Repetition creates a crucial momentum. If you find that you’re starting to avoid or dread the gym, mix things up. Change your workout or machine or even time of day. Find someone to push you to the go (figuratively or literally). Hold yourself accountable for improving your health.

6. Find a goal. I started with a BMI goal, but weight is the least useful health metric. In fact, weighing yourself has its own side effects. Instead, pick a duration goal, an attendance goal, or an ability goal. Keep trying to workout longer, more frequently and more capably.

7. Control your self. At nearly any hour of the day, I can have a pizza delivered to my house. When you’ve been working out, and it’s 11:30 PM, and you’re starving, a pizza sounds like a brilliant idea. But don’t. You’ll love it in the moment, but you’ll hate yourself later. You’ll decide the calories weren’t worth the impulse. Fix yourself a glass of water and go to bed a little hungry. In the morning, you’ll feel different. That’s your lack of regret, and it means your will power is growing.

The key to my success was the voice in my head that made me keep going. Whenever I would get discouraged, it would respond, “Try again tomorrow.” Or sometimes, “Get running now.” Unfortunately, I have no secret tips for developing self-control. It takes practice and patience. It’s about setting rules for yourself and being relentless about them.

Be your own parental disappointment.
Be your own disapproving loved one.
Be your own drill sergeant.

What are you waiting for?