I have been trying to bring down my weight for several years.
It all started many years ago, when I begun buying pants because my waistline was expanding. From a waist of 28 inches during my teens/young adult days, I slowly inched up to 32 inches over time.
10 cm in 10 years (thereabouts).
When I went past mid-30s, my waistline slowly crept to 33 inches.
I thought I was still okay then. After all, my BMI was within the acceptable range.
But when I started feeling the tightness around my waist once more, I realised something is wrong.
I am getting fat.
I cannot afford to expand by another 5 inches in 5 years. At that rate I am going, I will have to get new pants every two to three years!
It was a wake up call for me. I need to do something.
If you have been reading so far, you may be wondering what my issue is. 33 inches is not a big deal, in a way, since men will most likely have about that kind of waist size. Is it a case of a making a mountain out of a molehill?
The truth is, I don’t like an expanding waistline. Worse, it is not the waistline but the rather visible additions to my limbs and face. They act as alarm bells for me. I cannot imagine myself weighing anything above 65 kg. Not to mention the additional effort I have to put in to perform basic and essential functions – like climbing the stairs, walking long distances and carrying bulky stuff. All these will require more effort.
So I decided to do something about my weight four years ago.
That was also around the time when I went for a detailed health screening and received medical advice to adopt good habits to reduce my issue of fatty liver. That was also the time when I started to run on a regular basis.
This post is not about losing more than 10 kg in weight in 10 days. Nor is it about losing weight through medical surgeries or interventions.
This post documents my journey in reducing my weight over the past few years, and how I struggle to keep my weight within an acceptable range. It is also a post about what I learnt in the process.
I shared in an earlier post how I started my running journey. In that post, I wrote about the advice my doctor gave me: cut alcohol, sleep more and exercise regularly. These three things I have worked on since, and they acted as the initial modes for losing weight for me.
They are also part of the keys to manage my weight.
To be clear, I must say I am not a drinker. I don’t take alcohol like it’s water. Neither am I a social drinker. Maybe more of an occasional drinker, once in a while. So cutting alcohol out is easy for me.
Sleeping more is a bit of a challenge over the years. I have made some progress though. From sleeping an average of 4.5 hours a few years ago, to an average of 5.25 hours now, I think that is quite an achievement. I hope that will improve over time.
And exercise is the one big challenge for me back then. It gets easier now after I picked up the running habit. I have not formed a routine yet though. But exercise does help in managing my fatty liver and weight.
As you can see from the graph below, my weight is within a range of 61 to 65 kg for the recent 3 plus years. Some months are good, some months are bad. There was even a period of time when my weight dropped sharply from 65.4 to around 61 kg!
While the above three steps are useful keys, what else have worked for me? I think there are three other important steps.
1. Watch Your Diet. You would probably have come across this advice umpteen times. I have to say that this is really true. We got to watch our diet. It is not about cutting the amount of food you eat, but more of watching the type of food you eat.
For instance, I find that I get hungry easily if I eat white bread in the morning. And if I skip meals, like lunch, I tend to eat more later in the evening. If I eat foods rich in fats and carbo, I gain more weight afterwards.
On the other hand, if I eat a fuller breakfast (like wholemeal bread or eggs), have lunch at a specific timing (like 11:30 to 12 noon), I find that I will not crave for sweet or fried stuff. And I eat lesser for dinner.
What it also means is I can go for the occasional buffet, enjoy some fried food or sweets, and yet maintain my weight. And I must stress the word occasional. Eating well during an overseas holiday for a few days consecutively adds much more to my weight.
My diet has not gone to the extreme. I still eat rice, bread and meats. The difference is I eat in moderation and take care not to eat food that are too rich in fats or sugar. The government’s push for healthier choice is a plus factor in supporting my diet.
2. Manage Your Stress Level. Many of us will know that when we get stressed over circumstances we tend to seek for comfort to relieve those stressful moments. One common method is to eat, especially eating sweet stuff. Sweet stuff will provide dopamine that soothes our bodies.
Doing something you like is a way of coping with stress. Yet doing something you like which contributes negatively to your physical health may not be a wise thing to do. As I tend to get stressed over work quite often, I will look for tidbits or biscuits to feed myself.
Before 2017, it doesn’t help that I will skip meals and look for biscuits to stuff the stomach when I was hungry. While the biscuits will soothe the stomach, I am not consuming adequate proteins and nutrients for the body. Worse, I will also look for snacks at night to feed myself.
I realised I have to manage my stress level actively if I want to stop looking for snacks and curb the waistline expansion. Running helps me expend energy and work on easing my stress level. And that is one way to manage my stress, because that will release endorphins, which will also ease stress levels.
Therefore I started running more frequently, up to two times a week. And I would run longer too. Running longer does not exactly help with weight loss, but running longer can help tune the body to be more resilient to stress.
I also realised that drinking water can also help manage my stress level. There is no scientific evidence for this, as far as I know. Drinking water helps in having something for the stomach to work on, having more fluids in my body to help the mind and the brain to work better. I have since moved to drinking minimally 1.5 litres at work and another 0.5 litres at home, daily.
3. Drink Apple Cider Vinegar. This is not odd. It does help. I mix a few spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar with water and drink it in the morning, before breakfast. I find it helps to clear my system and manage weight. It does this by reducing the feeling of wanting to eat more, since drinking this makes you feel full. If I mix apple cider vinegar with warm water, I will definitely clear my system.
Lessons I Learnt
My journey isn’t always smooth going. As you can see from the chart, my weight fluctuates quite a bit during these years. From a low of 61 kg I went back to 64 – 65 kg on several occasions. Some because of holiday travels and festive seasons, others because I did not carry out my running habit regularly, or I slept fewer hours than usual.
Lesson #1: while your journey can be derailed, it is not permanent. Always re-center and focus on your goal again.
There were also days when I realised that having a 60 – 61 kg frame isn’t healthy for me, especially prior to a race event I signed up for. So after experimenting for a while, I find that I run best when my weight is between 62 and 63 kg. Having a bit of weight is useful after all. The weight can help me have a stable base while running.
Lesson #2: focusing on a number may not be meaningful if it doesn’t apply to the context in a meaningful manner.
Ever since the start of my weight management journey, I had to change my wardrobe rather extensively. My waist shrunk by a few inches. So did my shirt size. In fact, I am now wearing a size smaller for my shirts.
That is good news isn’t it? Yet when you place my weight history against the sizes of my clothes, it is not my weight that determines the size of my clothes. I can still fit into my pants, whether 61 or 65 kg.
My conclusion? Where I lose is more significant than the amount I lost. The overall fat loss results in a smaller built, particularly the loss of fats around the waist and hip, which led to smaller sized pants. Of course losing absolute weight is important. I would like to think that my weight gains at times went to other parts of my body, allowing me to continue wearing my pants and shirts without having to upsize again.
Lesson #3: while you have a goal, make sure the goal is SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. Don’t aim for a goal that is broad, like lose weight. Identify how much and which areas to target in losing weight.
At the end, losing weight is part of my overall strategy to enjoy living. So I will not be overly anxious about any sudden weight gain, nor will I be angry if I do not hit the weight of 61 kg every week. I will continue to work towards my goal so that I can enjoy living a fulfilling life.
Have you attempted to manage your weight before? How did your efforts go? How can you apply these lessons I wrote in other aspects of life? I will be interested to hear your stories!