Four days to begin a new way of thinking, eating, living.
December 28, 2008 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I have the first 4 days of 2009 off. How can I use those to get a great big jump-start on my diet?

I'm 50-60 pounds overweight, and by this time next year, I want all of it to be gone for good. I figure it will be as good a time as any to start my diet (or lifestyle change, yeah!) on January 1, 2009. Since I have those first 4 days off from work, I plan to use that time to get my mind and body geared up for the challenge.

I've considered doing a fast or detox kind of thing, but those worry me a little bit with their extremeness. Plus, I don't want to do anything too over-the-top that would totally shock my body (since it's not in great shape to begin with). However, I wouldn't mind losing a few pounds those first few days, to get me motivated and help me see that this is something I can achieve.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas of small or big things I can do over those 4 days that will help get me off to a great start and prepare me for a healthy success?
posted by cloudsandstars to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
First off I'd say slow down. A change in lifestyle isn't going to be sustainable if you need to get mentally and physically 'geared up' for it, though getting excited and dedicated is good.

I'd say change one thing at once. Exercise is the number one thing that's going to sustain your lifestyle. I find that it's much easier to do things than to restrict things. In simply doing more active things you're not necessarily depriving yourself of much, which is what a lot of people tend to have trouble with - deprivation.

Find something you like to do that's active. It's not always the best time of year to get outside and do a lot of things - but find something you can do that's fun and try to find other people you want to do it with. Don't start out with 5am runs in the hope that it will toughen you up. It'll just make you hate it.

Once you get used to doing more things, try to tweak what you're eating. If you're not eating very well, try to change a few things after the exercise gets to be a habit. You may find you need to eat differently around exercising. Don't focus too much on it, though. I'm a runner and run lots (cometitively) and I find that eating becomes something that fits around the other things I do rather than a timetable for the day. If you focus on diet, it's hard to not think about it a lot.

Good luck.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:39 AM on December 28, 2008

To be honest, anything that involves the word "toxins" and isn't a discussion of Superfund sites makes me suspicious. All the "detoxing" diets I've seen strike me as fruitcakey at best, and borderline dangerous at worst. That said, people love doing them and will make strong claims for their effectiveness; if it floats you boat and isn't actively harmful, more power to you, I guess.

But fasting in various forms has been a part of mainstream religious practices around the world for thousands of years. Limited and non-extreme fasts do no physical harm, and can help focus the mind. If drinking only water for a day provides the ceremony or ritual that you need to mark this turning point in your lifestyle, then by all means go for it. (Along, of course, with the necessary caveats of make sure you don't have a medical condition that would be hurt by this, etc, right?)

But don't take it to extremes. No eating from sun-up to sun-down is not an extreme strain on the body (hundreds of millions of people manage to do that every Ramadan, for example), assuming no serious health conditions. But abstaining from both food and water day after day will put you in the hospital surprisingly quickly.

You are looking for a fast more as a symbol of change, rather than as something that will in and of itself have a major impact on your body. The changes you are trying to make need to be sustainable and long-term, not relegated to one brutal week.
posted by Forktine at 8:44 AM on December 28, 2008

Spend some time gym shopping, if you plan to use a gym. Visit during multiple times of day to see how crowded it is, taking note of the times you'd be most likely to go and whether the equipment you want to use is free. See what the other patrons are like. Talk to the trainers. See how long it takes to get to each one from your house. Then, play them off each other to get the best possible price at your favorite.
posted by decathecting at 8:48 AM on December 28, 2008

Try Weight Watchers.
posted by RussHy at 8:50 AM on December 28, 2008

Best answer: It's time to make a game plan. Grab a fresh notebook and your favourite pen!

If you've lost weight in the past and regained it, this is the perfect time to do a little bit of soul-searching and self-examination to see where you went off the rails in the past and put something together to help avoid that this time. Put it in writing, if possible. Look at it from all angles and don't pull any punches. Did you fall off the wagon because you got stressed out? Did you eat to reward yourself? Did you eat when you were feeling lonely or sad or mad? How can you avoid those pitfalls? (Write down your answers..)

If you're wanting to get yourself in better physical shape, you already know that's going to involve exercise of some sort. Start looking at your options - whether a gym membership, a specific exercise video, plotting walking routes around your neighbourhood, finding ways to make your existing routines more physical (like taking the stairs instead of elevator) or asking friends if they want to keep you company while you work out in some manner. Google is your friend here if you're stuck for ideas or if your budget is a concern. Again, put it in writing and be specific - what will you do? how often? where? what time of day?

Nutrition-wise, now would be a good time to plan a week's worth of menus for yourself. What are you going to eat? How much of it? When? If you're going to follow a specific 'diet' plan, like the GI diet or South Beach or Weight Watchers, it's time to investigate what's involved and decide if you can really and truly follow that FOR LIFE (as opposed to a few weeks).

Start with small things this week - taking a multivitamin every morning and drink more water (especially if you're the sort of person who normally drinks pop instead). Buy yourself some new running shoes. Go outside for a short walk around the block and breathe deeply. If you're the sort of person who likes as much motivation as possible, add heaps of exercise/weightloss/etc blogs to your RSS reader.

And then, if you read nothing else, please at least read this. She says it best, IMHO.
posted by VioletU at 8:58 AM on December 28, 2008

What diet are you doing? I do the "No count"/"Core" diet from Weightwatchers and that only allows fresh food - no ready meals. So when I get some time off I stock the freezer with homemade staples parcelled up in single serving bags/margarine pots.

Big Big vats of: low fat bolognese, low fat chilli, 5 bean veggie chilli, lentil curry, chicken curry -- you can make all of these things well with minimal fat and additives, and when you get home from work exhausted and think about phoning a pizza, you'll have something you can just zap in the microwave that won't wreck the diet.

It probably sounds a bit strange to spend the first few days of a diet cooking, but it will put you in good stead. It'll also give you practice at cooking in a healthier way.
posted by handee at 9:04 AM on December 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do in the first 4 days to your body doesn't matter even a tiny little bit as to whether or not you're going to finish this diet and lose your 50 lbs.

What matters is sticking with this for months. You have to change your mindset to the long view - have faith in the fact that being hungry for a few weeks will end in you losing maybe 5 lbs.

So, the things I'd do these first 4 days are not exercise- or diet-related at all:
  • Restock your food supplies with healthy things. I suggest the 100 cal snack packs, skim milk, fruits and snacky veggies (carrots, celery, etc), and those neato little cartons full of 100% egg whites. These things will make you full (or at least tide you over) without adding a lot of calories. Conversely, it would be to your benefit to toss or give away anything you shouldn't be eating. If it's there, you'll eat it "to get rid of it", and that ain't helpin.
  • Seriously think about your overall plan. How often will you exercise? How much will you do? Do you have a plan for slowly increasing the amount of exercise you'll be doing? (Starting off very slowly is not shameful or stupid - it makes it much more likely you'll stick with it.) How many calories will you eat per day, or are you going to use a system (like Weight Watchers)? (Simply saying to yourself, "I'm going to eat right now," is not enough.) If you find yourself eating out a lot, think about what you could possibly eat at the places you like. Think about how often you'll let yourself go out to eat.
  • Go buy a good scale, then go find a place to track your weight daily, with graphs and charts and all that jazz. Start tomorrow. I tracked my weight for 2 weeks before I started my diet, and it is damned obvious when I started it on that graph. And when you look down at the scale and don't feel like your weight is going down, you can look back on that graph and see your progress.
Do not, for the love of God, fast or detox. You will hate it and yourself and you will quit in a week. Start with something sustainable, like 2000 calories a day and light exercise, and do that for two weeks. If you find it easy, or if you think you're not losing fast enough, start stepping it up.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2008

The No S Diet is a great place to start. It is simple, risk-free, easy to follow and it will do what you want: It will remove some pounds and get you on the right track.

If you can't stick to the No S Diet, then you're going to have a hard time following stricter regimens. So give it a try. And Happy New Year.
posted by quarterframer at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2008

Restock your food supply. Reconsider what you already own and give away the bad stuff. Find some healthy recipes online and make a little binder of them or prepare some and freeze them for the workweek.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:32 AM on December 28, 2008

If you really want to be serious, start today.
posted by any major dude at 11:34 AM on December 28, 2008

Here's my suggested plan plan:

Find and make sample meal plans that will be quick to make, not too expensive for you, and variable enough that you'll enjoy them. If you make plans like this that you can stick to (keep in mind *time* and *fun* factors above all else), you'll have used your days extremely well.

By meal plans, I don't just mean dinner; I mean breakfast, lunch, dinner, how / when to use leftovers, how / when to shop.

While you're planning, you can also plan to make the time you'll need for exercise -- and make this a sustainable plan, too, as in for the rest of your life :)

Super bonus points if you also plan a budget so that you can get an awesome wardrobe when you finally achieve your goal. No point in looking frumpy. You might want to allocate some halfway-point funds, too, since you'll want some new stuff after losing just some of the weight, for sure.

Finally, I strongly suggest figuring out a concrete strategy for what you'll enjoy, what you'll do for fun, that isn't food. Most people who aren't starving eat because it's pleasurable. It's also a social focus. Giving up food means we need substitutes for those roles.
posted by amtho at 12:13 PM on December 28, 2008

I'm with the folks who say use the time to plan. I don't think it's wrong to want to "gear up" - if that's the way you work, then that's how you should go about this. In addition to the advice to stock upon healthy foods and trying out gyms, I would:

- Try out different kinds of exercise you never have before. Take a capoueria (sp?) glass, try swimming laps, go for a 2 mile walk. IME, the most important thing is finding exercise you actually enjoy.

- Take the time to make some goals. Goals for exercise, goals for weight loss. I like to have short-term, middle-term and long-term goals.

- read through the previous AskMe weightloss questions. There is a real wealth of knowledge here.
posted by lunasol at 1:50 PM on December 28, 2008

Weight Watchers and (almost) daily exercise have worked for me. I've lost 30 lbs. and have about 30 more to go. I agree that this type of goal is all about making a lifestyle change that you can maintain. That's why I like Weight Watchers. It just makes me think more about what I'm eating and helps me accurately track what I'm consuming without having to give up anything that I enjoy (like alcohol, sweets, carbs) forever.

I hate exercising, but it's a necessary evil for me. If I want to lose, diet alone just doesn't do it for me. If I want to maintain my weight, then diet alone works fine. Exercise has become more satisfying over time, usually when I'm seeing results, but I'll probably never enjoy it per say.

The best use of your four days would be planning and educating yourself, and maybe creating a routine that you can continue when you are working. For example, I have to get up wicked early to go to the gym, which meant altering my bedtime & that can be difficult at first. Fasting and things of that nature, would probably do more harm than good in the end because it will screw with your metabolism.

Good luck and any questions, please feel free to email me!
posted by katemcd at 2:20 PM on December 28, 2008

I'd concentrate on using your four days to research.* Go to the library and browse their weight-lifting books. I know you haven't specifically said you're interested in weight-lifting, but it changes your body composition, and you get results pretty quickly. Also, it's easy to get some dumbells at Target (or wherever) and do your exercises at home while watching t.v.

The other thing I'd recommend, to immediately feel better and like you're moving forward, is to take brisk morning walks. You'd be amazed at how energized and good you feel about yourself returning home, even if you've only been gone 20 minutes.

But the research is key: you need an exercise guru that you click with and who will help guide you on your long-haul journey to a new you.

* Including previous AskMe threads on how to make exercise a permanent part of your life.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:01 PM on December 28, 2008

N'thing research as a good use of time, with a side-order of food shopping. I've been doing Weight Watchers for almost 3 months now, and am just shy of 25 pounds down. It's been immensely helpful to have good and healthy (and yummy!) choices in the house when I have cravings or need a snack. Researching online (here and elsewhere), planning what you'll buy to eat, and making time to food shop will set you up for success from the start.

Make sure you're not denying yourself things you really really enjoy. Find ways to eat smaller portions, or an alternate version. Success doesn't come from denial, but from portion control and choices. I eat Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches instead of Ben & Jerry's, Laughing Cow wedges instead of gorgonzola. I still have crispy bacon at the diner on the weekend, I just have less of it, and an egg-white omelet instead of a waffle.

I'd also figure out how you're going to fit exercise into your plan from the start. The weeks where I've managed some exercise have been the weeks with my strongest weight loss, even when my food choices weren't the best. I'm considerably overweight (need to lose half my starting body weight) and did Curves for the first time ever with a friend. I found it surprisingly approachable and friendly, and I didn't want to collapse afterwards. :)

Oh, and if you can go it on your own for the first month or two, you may find organized weight loss groups more receptive to you if you start in February/March. I'm expecting my WW meeting to be full of New Year's resolutioners in January. Not that I don't respect their commitment, but I'd be surprised if most of them were there a month later. I suspect that's a common attitude, from talking to friends about their gyms and similar places.

Finally, good for you! Thinking about making a change is a good start. If your food and exercise choices are going to change radically, you might be surprised by how you do that first week.
posted by booksherpa at 4:01 PM on December 28, 2008

I agree with handee, spend your four days batch cooking some healthy meals that you can freeze, researching healthy recipes to add to your repertoire and experimenting. The easiest time to break a diet is when you are tired and hungry right now, that's when you slip and eat crap. Having a freezer full of low fat foods means you always have something appropriate available, so you have a backup plan. The everyday exercise and healthy eating is for you to handle - everyday!
posted by Joh at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2008

From Ms. Vegetable:

1. Go to the doctor and get a thorough checkup to make sure you're starting off on the right foot.
2. Go to a nutritionist and get some personalized advice.
3. Find a gym or personal trainer. Paying for exercise makes me go.

Good luck!
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:39 PM on December 28, 2008

Response by poster: FWIW... I decided to start out slowly, so for the last few days, I have been concentrating on eating healthier and smaller portions, and drinking no cokes (diet or regular). I've already lost 3 pounds. Woohoo!

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I am going to incorporate many of them into my new lifestyle. Wishing a happy and healthy 2009 for you all.
posted by cloudsandstars at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2009

« Older Is "" what it sounds like?   |   compression Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.