I must, I must, I must decrease my gut.
October 25, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

I would like suggestions for a long term plan of diet and exercise to help me lose a significant amount of weight while keeping my spirits up for the long haul.

I know you are not my doctor.
I am a 32 year old white male. I am 5 foot nine inches tall. I weigh 257 pounds. I take a generic version of celexa for chronic depression. I do not own a car; I walk or take public transportation. I live in South Plainfield, NJ. I will be purchasing a used bicylce to do commuting as well. I have a sweet tooth. I have very limited access to a stove, near unlimited access to a microwave, limited fridge and freezer space.

I am looking for recommendations on permanent changes I can make in my diet, exercise and activity levels. It would help if I could start slow on the activity levels and work my way up. I'd like to be down to 230 by year's end but really, I would be fine with some sort of noticable results. What sort of diet changes, exercises and other tips can you recommend that I look into and start on to be healthier and shed this spare tire?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the website Marks Daily Apple...
posted by Busmick at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Like you said I am not your doctor or a doctor, and I haven't had the same weight loss goals as you, but one thing I'd recommend that everyone might not is to start with one thing, diet OR exercise, and then add the other thing. For me, I like to start with exercise, and then I find myself eating less and craving healthier food to fuel the exercise. Then I start the diet adjustments.

It's better than waking up and being like, OK running and apple slices and lean meats GO! I just think if you're planning a long term weight/health change, why not ease into it rather than go all in, confuse and upset your body and set yourself up for failure? You might want to start with diet and then add the exercise. I'm just saying don't rush into both necessarily.
posted by sweetkid at 10:12 AM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

Have you tried Weight Watchers already? Their online stuff is pretty good. They don't care what you eat, so long as you measure it and keep track of it. They "reward" you for different types of exercise- a little bit for walking, and more for more vigorous exercise.

I've had mixed luck with the in-person meetings, but I am pretty happy with their method of training me to eat in a healthy way- it doesn't ever feel dictatorial.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:13 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might want to browse through the Weight Loss Registry site. They have extensively interviewed, surveyed and tracked over 10,000 people who have lost, and kept off, large amounts of weight. They report the findings on what led these people to success. You might as well learn from the people who have actually done it successfully.

Here are some of their top findings:
78% eat breakfast every day.
75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day

There are no shortcuts and its not easy. One step at a time. Good luck.
posted by pixlboi at 10:28 AM on October 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

I've lost about 60 pounds in the last two years or so, it has been slow going, I mean like a a pound or so a month sometimes, but over the span. SIXTY! POUNDS!

I always recommend changing your diet first. Food is what fuels you and if you aren't fueling well you're not feeling well. God, that is goofy as fuck, but its true. The changes that made the most impact on my waistline were transitioning to a mostly plant based diet and then slowly from there looking at reducing salt, fat, and crappy carbs. I like to eat and you'd be amazed at how much you can eat if you are only eating things like spinach, peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc.

Get a hotplate. Figure out what veggies you like, learn how to stirfry and some basic low cal sauces. Cook most of your meals. Packaged food is for when the zombie apocalypse comes, got it?

Find some exercise or activity that you really really enjoy as opposed to something that kind of makes you want to go in a corner and cry. I found some group bicycle rides in my city, the key? No drop rides. That means they will not leave my slow ass behind. They will wait for me at the top of the hill and pat me on the back. Rock!! Find little ways to exercise, walking instead of a car? You already got that! ROCK! Walk a little more to your coworkers desk, up the stairs, that walk to the store that seems just a little too long (mile or two) get a backback and walk to do your shopping. You are going to rock this.

The changes are amazing really, the ones that happen in your head. The other night I made some amazing spicy stirfry and steamed a little of the fancy brown rice from the farmer's market and it was so good and so life affirmingly healthy that I honestly almost cried thinking about how amazing it was that I cooked this meal, I loved this meal and this meal was doing good things for me, that eating wasn't about filling a hole or part of an overall sickness, but something beautiful and awesome that would help me live longer and better. THAT my friend, is the place you need to get to in your head before any diet or exercise plan is going to click.
posted by stormygrey at 10:28 AM on October 25, 2011 [18 favorites]

Try "The Fat Fallacy" by Dr Will Clower. "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Giuliani is obviously aimed at, well, women, but you may still find it enjoyable.

As for exercise - have you always wanted to be a: dancer, unicyclist, boxer, fill in the blank? Look into programs for adult beginners that are feasible for you.
posted by tel3path at 10:45 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pick up a (cheap, used) copy of The South Beach Diet and at least flip through the narrative portion even if the recipes don't particularly do it for you. The author is a cardiologist so it started out as a healthy diet that had a side-effect of weight loss. It has three "phases" and phase one is very intense and would probably require a fair bit of cooking, but there's really no reason they have to go in order. Use some of the phase 2 and 3 approaches and if it seems useful as an overall technique, consider doing 10-14 days of phase 1 at some point.
posted by rkent at 11:01 AM on October 25, 2011

Seeing as you're already a walker, I agree with the above: focus on your diet. But while you're focusing on diet, add a walk a day, just for pleasure, maybe first thing, maybe over lunch at work. If you slowly want to add little stretches of jogging to the walks, you could follow something like couch to 5k, but that's not the point at first. At first you're just adding a 30-60 minute walk per day.

Why? Because walking is Great for burning fat. And it's low impact. And it's something you already know you can do, and do well. Get music on an ipod or walking buddy or whatever it takes to keep you going even as the weather gets crummier.
posted by ldthomps at 11:01 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Marks Daily Apple.... great for boosting mood.
posted by laukf at 12:28 PM on October 25, 2011

I'd like to be down to 230 by year's end but really, I would be fine with some sort of noticable results.

I just wanted to warn you: 30 pounds in two months is.. steep. Most doctors will recommend aiming for a pound a week, or occasionally two pounds if someone is very dedicated or has a lot of weight to lose. Having unreasonable expectations can kill motivation, so hopefully that will help a bit in the long run.

The vast majority of losing weight is diet. Exercise helps and is of course important for fitness, but diet make the big difference. I'm afraid I don't have a lot of specific advice for stove-less dieting (I've been low carbing with great success, for what it's worth), but I would STRONGLY recommend you start by writing down every single thing you eat or drink for a week on a site like MyFitnessPal or LiveStrong. Not only will you naturally eat less knowing that you have to account for it later, but also it can really help illustrate the weaknesses in your current diet and which "low hanging fruit" can be replaced with something healthier for quick impact.

Good luck!
posted by jess at 12:32 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding Weight Watchers online. The new plan they've got focuses more on fresh foods, less on carbs, and I love being the anonymous person who's worried about her weight. One small caveat: this could take some time. I don't think you should give yourself a goal of weight loss in 2 months, because if you've only lost 25 lbs. by January 1st, you're going to be disappointed. I think the goal you should set is to have your new routine - eating and exercise - in place by the year end. Reversing a lifetime of eating habits is really hard. Learn how to do things the right way first, then pay attention to your weight.

Also, don't do what I do and "reward yourself" after a couple weeks of exercising and eating only good food.

Good luck!
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 1:48 PM on October 25, 2011

For me, it was all about routine. I learned about my basal metabolism, then figured out how much I should eat/exercise to lose one pound a week. Then I did that for a year.

The best "trick" I learned was to portion my food in the kitchen, then eat it elsewhere. That way, I would eat the recommending serving size of Doritos (within my daily caloric guidelines) rather than absently pecking at the bag while watching TV.

Good luck! Losing weight is *simple*, it's just not *easy*!
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:34 PM on October 25, 2011

My husband and I tried Weight Watchers online. We were pretty excited about it, really giving it a good try... when we discovered that the points we were allowed were ridiculously too high. Some days he had only used half his allotted points, and this was with him eating full, satisfying meals and a beer or two. (No processed food at all, we cooked at home, ate a lot of vegetables, etc.) I actually started to gain weight.

I think the points system is a great idea though, so it might be worth trying.

I'd say get rid of that sweet tooth ASAP and go cold turkey. Sugar is addictive, and you will literally go through withdrawal, but I promise in a few weeks' time it'll be much much easier.

I'll second the thought that 30 pounds in two months is not a particularly healthy or realistic goal; two pounds a week is plenty. Losing weight quickly often results in gaining it back.

Good luck and hang in there!
posted by Specklet at 4:35 PM on October 25, 2011

Join Health Month! Health Month is all about creating healthy habits, and there is a MetaFilter team that rocks. (Health Month has been discussed regularly over on MetaTalk as well.)

For me, the single best thing about Health Month is that it keeps me getting back in the saddle whenever I fall off my program. So many times in the past, once I've had a bad day/week/whatever, I've given up. Health Month keeps me on track over the long haul, and that makes a huge difference, like stormygrey said above. You can customize your rules to suit your goals and needs, and the game part makes it kind of fun, and you get to know a great bunch of MeFites who will cheer you on and encourage you to keep going.

There's a new game starting up on November 1, so it's a great time to get started.
posted by ambrosia at 5:01 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My doctor gave me the goal of 10% of my body weight lost in two YEARS.

My first, small, easy step would be to eat vegetables with every meal and snack -- and eat them FIRST. Buy a small sack of baby carrots, and eat 4 baby carrots every time you eat something. When the sack is gone, buy a thing of cherry or grape tomatoes, and eat 3 or 4 of those every time you eat something. Then one of those things of pre-washed snap peas. &c. Do that for a week, without being compelled to make a lot of other major changes.

Once you've been doing that for a couple weeks, try going cold turkey on the sugar for 72 hours. Three days, nothing with added sugar -- honey counts. During that time, keep a journal of how you feel in the morning, at lunchtime, in the afternoon, and in the evening. If you're anything like me (I have a WICKED sweet tooth) you'll find that you feel less moody, less tired, and less hungry. After 72 hours, make your own decisions about whether you'd like to keep that up or not.

Once you're comfortable with those and have some data and are willing to make some more radical changes in your diet, start tracking your intake with livestrong or myfitnesspal or something and see if you can find correlations between what you eat and how you feel. I've found that if I eat a high-protein high-vegetable zero-starch breakfast, I just don't get hungry again for hours and hours, even after working out! Yes, it's a little weird to have a 4 ounce steak and collard greens for breakfast, but man alive, it really pays off. But that's me; you might find something different.

The important thing is to make small, sustainable differences gradually over time. Don't do anything you resent doing, because you won't keep up with it AND you'll binge in response. Accept the limitations of your circumstances, and realize that 85% is good enough -- and even 50% is better than 0%. Sometimes I'll cave and get a cinnamon roll while I'm doing my grocery shopping, and then later I'll be all oogy and grar-y and bloated, and I'll remind myself that that cinnamon roll was probably an error, but it's in the past, it's done, and I can make better choices next time; I'm not Off! My! Diet! and so now I need to eat an entire cake. It's just. . . it's OK. I don't actually think of how I'm eating now as a diet, I just think of it as choices I make about food to help me feel the way I want to.

In one more pound, I will have lost fifty pounds over the past two years. I'm pretty proud. It's slow coming off, but apparently that's how it stays off.
posted by KathrynT at 5:18 PM on October 25, 2011 [10 favorites]

I think the diet from Mark's Daily Apple is too difficult, at least in my life - but then again I think that is because I am a vegetarian and part of the whole paleo thing seems to be 'look, you can still eat tons of meat, you won't feel deprived'. I recently was reading some diet books and I read one called "Living the GI Diet" (GI = glycemic index) and I really thought it was a great diet book - never thought I'd say that about a diet book as I am not the sort of person who even reads those usually. There was an original book about this diet that I think was more conceptually based, but I thought this one was good because it included a ton of yummy sounding recipes.

It basically talks about making changes in your diet to move towards eating more whole grains and other low glycemic index foods that tend to fill you up and not give you sugar highs then crash and burns. The diet is very realistic and includes a whole listing of desserts. This was key for me. I love carbohydrates and also have a sweet tooth, and I think the GI diet recipes for high fiber, low glycemic index desserts are actually pretty tasty and easy to make. I swear that I have no financial ties to this guy and his book! I just liked it. Try looking it up!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:30 PM on October 25, 2011

In addition to Mark's Daily Apple, I recommend the Perfect Health Diet site and book. Very similar messages rooted in our evolutionary adaptation; the PHD book is more technical than Mark's, but both are well worth reading.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:49 PM on October 25, 2011

« Older Recommendations for dental tourism?   |   Help me understand El Duende. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.