Weight Loss Challenge: Redux

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Brian Rountree & Hugh Donagher

Brian and Hugh at a party eleven months after embarking on a healthier lifestyle.

One year, 100 pounds, same shorts.

One year, 100 pounds, same shorts. Courtesy photo.

A little more than two years ago, my husband Brian and I began a quest for healthier living and weight loss. At that time, I weighed 343 pounds on a 5' 10" frame. At the one year mark, I'd lost 100 pounds and he'd lost 40.

As of the beginning of July 2014 -- the two-year mark -- I'd maintained about 70 percent of that weight loss; he'd maintained closer to 100 percent. That put us in the 20 percent of folks who maintain such a significant weight loss for at least a year. So that's good.

But while he's basically at goal, I was never done with the weight loss piece of the puzzle. The healthy eating is by and large still in place. We still buy our fish from Groomer Seafood on Saturday mornings and have fish at least four times a week. We now buy our meat at the farmers market from local producers like South Texas Heritage Pork and Peeler Farms. Except for occasional spurts of dining out, we mostly cook and eat at home.

Check out some of the recipes we've devised or adapted to a healthy lifestyle on our blog.

Brian Rountree & Hugh Donagher

Brian and me at a party eleven months after embarking on a healthier lifestyle. Courtesy photo.

On the exercise front, I began walking regularly last summer, but I fell off the bandwagon over the winter months. I still work out at the gym three times a week, though, as I have for nearly three years now.

As the two-year anniversary of the start of this journey approached, I took some time to reflect on where I've been and where I want to go. Obviously, I wanted to lose the rest of the excess weight I carry (Who doesn't?).

I've had several false starts at trying to get back on the program we followed to lose the weight in what I'm now calling Phase I. It's a very restrictive eating plan using five meal replacements per day plus one home-cooked "Lean and Green" meal -- the 5-and-1. Total intake of about 800-1000 calories per day. It's not for everyone, but it works with my personality (My husband calls me "OCD-adjacent."). It's simple, controlled, and, if one complies with the rules, very effective.

Six month comparison

My friend Susan replicates a pose with me six months after the original; we had both lost weight. Courtesy photo.

But I found it much harder to get it going the second time than the first. That initial powerful rush of excitement and enthusiasm was gone. I spent a lot of time talking with Brian, my trainer, even saw a counselor for a short period trying to figure out why, when I know exactly HOW to succeed on the program, I couldn't get myself motivated to start it and stick with it again. In the process, I figured out a few things.

  1. A key element of my success in Phase I was taking my journey public and keeping myself accountable to my friends on Facebook, and even here on The Rivard Report. Read my initial article about this journey.
  2.  Another key element was establishing shorter-term, interim goals. "I'm going to stick with this indefinitely until I hit my goal weight," just doesn't work.
  3. Finally, as I had in Phase I, I had to consciously resolve that I can do anything for a defined period of time. Otherwise I end up feeling like I'm giving up everything fun -- dining out, cocktails, Southtown Supper Clubs, parties, etc. -- forever.

So. With all that in mind, I launched weight-loss Phase II with a new approach at the beginning of July.

First, in accordance with point number one, I shared this on Facebook, because my friends provided me with such great support last time (And now I'm once again sharing here on The Rivard Report; this article is an expanded version of a note I originally published on Facebook.).

I continue to report daily status updates on Facebook to great support from my friends. Bonus: many of them are reporting back that they are inspired by my updates to get back on track themselves. Another strong motivator.

Next, I took inspiration from the 100-days of happiness and 31-days of gratitude and other time-based memes on social media, and borrowed a page from the agile project management methodology. Phase II will happen in 28-day sprints.

Sprint Calendar

28-day Sprint Calendar

Knowing a break is coming in four weeks, it's easier to give up the things I need to in order to lose whatever weight I can in 28 days. Gamifying the process, I made up a calendar to count and cross off the days and to log the weight loss. I put a calendar on the fridge at home and on my desk at work. Constant visual reminder of the goal, daily progress, and the approach of the end of the sprint.

At the end of four weeks, the plan was to take a break for a week. Not a week of gluttony and excess. A week where we can go out to dinner once or twice. I can have lunch with my co-workers once or twice. Have a cocktail or two, maybe share a bottle of wine with friends. Just a week of fewer restrictions and no pressure to maintain a rigid eating plan. Then, another 28-day sprint. Lather, rinse and repeat as necessary. If I do this right, I figure I need four to six sprints to reach my goal.

As I write this, I'm on day 25 of the first sprint. I've lost 23 pounds and I'm really in the zone. As the end of the sprint draws nearer, my resolve actually grows. Much like a runner sprinting towards the finish line, I suppose.

But the past few days, I've found myself pondering the wisdom of taking a break next week. In anticipation of the week off, we'd already bought tickets to Mixtli, which we've been wanting to try for a long time. I've also made some lunch plans. And what would an interval week be without a trip to Hot Joy? But should I break the rhythm?

As I thought about this, I realized I never had a clear plan for what an interval week would look like. I certainly didn't envision running across the street to the PikNik for potato chips and cookies and ice cream. But what did I expect it to be? That's the question I have to answer. After all, permanent healthy lifestyles require a plan to be successful.

I also wondered about the risk of crashing spectacularly and unexpectedly at some point due to longer-term deprivation. Perhaps a planned and carefully managed interval week is important to preventing that. Maybe it will be nothing more than having the option to step off plan here and there, while still observing the 5-and-1 in between those indulgences. Or maybe it will be three healthy meals per day of largely protein-and-vegetables, no-carb, low glycemic-index foods, except for those meals out.

I still have some time to consider that and make my plan, but I've decided I will take the interval week. I've plotted out four more sprints with interval weeks between them before the end of the year. If all goes well, my new year's resolution will not be "lose weight," but "learn how to maintain a healthy weight."

Walking

One last thing: I rebooted my walking routine -- no small element of my success, I'm sure. I'm walking three to four miles per day, four to six days per week. I have a group of friends who drop in on the walks when they can, so I usually have at least one walking partner, which makes the walk more enjoyable. We are lucky to live so close to the Mission Reach, so the walks are scenic. And on the few occasions where I walk alone, I have my music to pass the time. I feel good and have more energy when I make the time for walking in my day.

In August, I've created a challenge for myself and whoever wants to join: The Alamo City Dog Days 100 Mile Challenge. Walk, run, cycle, or otherwise propel your body forward in time and space a total of 100 miles between August 1st and 31st.

My current routine has me walking about 70 miles per month, so this will be a significant uptick. Anyone, anywhere is welcome to join -- in fact, we already have several participants from other states. The prize? Bragging rights and better health. Join us on Facebook for group support.

Featured/top image: Brian Rountree and Hugh Donagher at a party eleven months after embarking on a healthier lifestyle. Courtesy photo.

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Week One: Rediscovering Good Habits

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