Disclaimer: I have never been considered what one would call skinny in my life and likely never will. I’m an average height male – about 5’10 or 5’11 (depending on who is asking) – and I have an “athletic” build. I look my best when my weight is in the 190-205 pound range, and, despite technically being overweight by the BMI scale, my blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other basic labs support this opinion and choice.
The first several months following the completion of my residency were full of new life changes and experiences. I had just opened a new solo medical practice from scratch; I was just coming off of completion of my internal medicine boards, which included hours upon hours of studying and stressing and a week-long boards course in New Jersey; I was in the first semester of obtaining my MBA via taking classes 2 nights per week; and my wife Megan was pregnant with our first child. It goes without saying, that I had little time for regular, quality exercise and a good, balanced diet.
Side note: When I gain weight, my face gets plump, particularly underneath my eyes.
By mid-to-late fall of that year I was definitely starting to see some of the physical changes of weight gain. My pants were starting to fit snug, and I had to get a couple of my suits re-tailored. I also hadn’t weighed myself in over a year, so I had no clue how much I had gained; I just knew it was a lot. The last straw came when I bumped into a former high school classmate of mine (who had also put on several pounds) at a Rams game, and she told me that I looked particularly heavy. Granted I had not seen her in 10 years, but her remarks were still valid. Even with all that I had on my plate at the time (no pun intended) I knew it was time for me to prioritize my health and make some serious life-style changes.
The first thing I did was examine what I was eating. Long story short, my diet was horrible. I was eating a lot of fast food and unhealthy cooked meals. I was also putting a lot of unnecessary calories in my body via the consumption of snacks and sugary drinks away from meal-time. Being a physician however, I knew that simply cutting all of the “bad stuff” out of my diet either would not work or would not last. So I eliminated the “bad stuff,” but with a safety valve in place to prevent cravings – I was allowed to eat what I wanted 2 days per week. I also stopped buying food before and/or after my business classes and started packing a basic dinner that consisted of a sandwich (made at home), chips, and a drink for class breaks. All in all, I wanted to change my eating habits in a way that was more than short-term; I wanted a change that I would be able to adopt for life. See the details of my diet at the conclusion of the article.
The other piece of the puzzle I needed to get in order was my exercise pattern. I knew this would be the toughest thing to implement regularly and sustain long-term in light of my schedule and all of the things I had going on in my life. What I did though, was carve out highly efficient time intervals that I could repeat each week. I figured that all I needed was 60-90 minutes 3 times each week to be effective.
My office does evening hours on Wednesdays, and we don’t start until 10:00am, making Wednesday mornings at 7:00am a perfect time to get a work-up in. I do a half day on Thursdays, so going to the gym immediately after work on those days also works perfect. Lastly, Saturdays are the most flexible days in our house, making Saturday mornings perfect for day number 3.
Because I do not play a sport for a living, I figured the bulk of my work-out should include aerobic exercise. As mentioned above, I have a relatively “full build” at baseline, so a bunch of weights would not do much but make me look chunky, especially during the time I was initiating my work-out routine. Plus, the calorie-burning and long-term cardiovascular benefits that aerobic exercise provides couldn’t be ignored.
Since initiation, my work-out routine has not changed much. The first thing I do when I get to the gym is run 4 miles on the treadmill at a speed of 6.7-7.0, finishing in about 35 minutes. It took me about a year to work up to that speed and distance, starting with 3 miles at a speed of 6.0. I then work on my core via sit-ups on an exercise ball for about 10 minutes. Lastly, I do about 20-30 minutes of strength training, which does include some weight lifting. I try my best to avoid weight machines, as they often times restrict the body’s natural range of motion. My strength training exercises include the following:
- Pull-ups (different grip from Wednesdays)
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Bench press (feet on bench)
- Standing squats
Over the course of a year, the diet and exercise changes detailed above slowly, yet steadily, had a positive effect on my life, and I gradually shredded 30+ pounds on my way to my ideal weight range. My pants and shirt sizes dropped; my energy level increased; my sleep improved and my snoring decreased; and my face got thinner. Also worth noting is the important benefit of eliminating the fear that the weight I lost will return, because all of the changes I made were things that I can see myself doing over 20 years from now.
What I want you to take away from this article is that as we get older, eating better and exercising should be less about quick fixes and more about creating healthy habits that you can sustain over decades. I only dropped 1-3 pounds each month, but collectively this equated to 30 pounds after about a year. That said, there were times where I got on the scale and the number was the same or higher. However, I had to focus on the long-term goals and trends and push forward. Of equal importance is understanding that your goals and details will likely differ from mine, but the approach should be the same. Talk with your healthcare provider about the ideal weight range for you and the best way to get and stay there.
Monday through Friday
- NO FRIED FOODS, RED MEAT, OR PORK
- NO COOKED, HOT BREAKFAST.
- No bagels, donuts, or pastries.
- Okay: cereal, oatmeal, fruit, juices, yogurt, nuts, water
- AVOID CARBS!
- No breads (sandwiches), pastas, rice, rolls, etc.
- No regular soda, powerade, or gatorade
- Okay: lean meats, salads, cooked vegetables, soups, juices, water
- Again, no fried foods, red meat, or pork
- As done normally
- Carbs okay
- Again, no fried foods, red meat, or pork
- Do NOT skip a meal
- Okay to change Monday through Friday to Sunday through Thursday
- If bread is had during lunch, then follow lunch guidelines for dinner
- A desert after/with dinner okay
- Coffee okay in the morning; tea or diet soda better
- If a snack MUST be had: nuts, fruit, raw vegetables
Saturday and Sunday
- Okay to change to Friday and Saturday if 5-day guidelines are used Sunday through Thursday
- Fried foods, red meat, and pork okay; try to limit such to one meal daily
- Hot, cooked breakfast okay
- If fried food, red meat, or pork is had during the week, then follow Monday through Friday guidelines for the day