Weight loss can be a touchy subject for people. In a world shaped by body image, weight loss is very personal. My weight loss journey began when I moved to Japan in 2018 and has led me to lose 50 pounds. For a long time, I debated about sharing my story, but the past few months have given me a different perspective on health and fitness. Like many people, as I got older and finished college I settled into a sedentary lifestyle. I never hated exercising, but it was not a priority in my life. However, after I moved to Japan things dramatically changed, which led me to lose 50 pounds.
Setting my weight loss goals
Ideally it is best to consult with your primary care physician before starting a weight loss regiment. Realistically, many people (including myself) do not talk to a doctor before embarking on a weight-loss journey. However, the Mayo Clinic offers some strategies to safely lose weight. Additionally, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some pointers about healthy weight loss.
My initial weight loss goal was not to lose 50 pounds. My initial goals were to get under 200 pounds and eventually get to 180 pounds. Using MyFitnessPal, I entered my current weight, my goal weight of 200 pounds, and my weekly goal of losing one pound. I could have been more ambitious with my weekly goal, but know that it takes time to gain weight and that it takes time to lose it.
After moving to Japan, I refocused on my goals. I did not have a scale when I started so I am not 100% certain of my weight before I started working on my weight loss. However, I last weighed myself in mid-July and by late-September had lost eight pounds. By late October I had lost about six more pounds and was finally under 200 pounds for the first time in years.
In 2015, I started using MyFitnessPal, which is a free app, to track my calories. I started using MyFitnessPal because the woman I was dating at the time (my now wife) was using it. However, there are several calorie-counting apps with a variety of features (read more here and here). I have not compared MyFitnessPal to similar apps, so I cannot say that “it is the best.” However, it is intuitive and easy to use. I especially enjoy being able to manually enter family recipes and import new recipes from the Internet.
Using an app to track calories is a good start because it requires you to weigh and measure your food. Despite measuring out my meals, I allow myself to indulge in foods that I enjoy. For example, I have never cut pasta or beer out of my diet. I enjoy both and cannot imagine giving them up unless recommended by a doctor. However, I make sure that I can afford the calories without exceeding my daily calorie allowance.
Another critical part of my diet is weekly meal planning with my wife Katie. Having a meal plan makes grocery shopping easy and helps steer us away from unhealthy impulse buys. Meal planning is key to helping me determine leftover calories that I can use to drink a beer or have a sweet for dessert.
Sometimes I exceed my calories for the day, but I do not beat myself up because I refuse to give up foods that I enjoy. Additionally, I do not dwell on surpassing my calorie allotment because I know that weight loss (and maintenance) is a marathon not a sprint. I know that making smart food choices and watching my calories are critical to losing weight and keeping it off.
My exercise plan
I reached my initial weight loss goal because I started running after moving to Japan. Although I trained for and participated in a 5K race in Alabama in the spring of 2018, I never considered myself a runner. However, moving to Japan dramatically changed my routine. While Katie and I waited for our furniture to arrive from Alabama we used temporary furniture.
We were grateful for the temporary furniture, but the bed was so soft that neither of us slept well. Most mornings I woke up with her at 5:30 stiff and sore. For a couple of weeks, we did not have an Internet connection at our house either. So, after eating breakfast with Katie, I had the rest of the day to fill. I did not want to sit in the house all day, so I decided that I should put my running shoes to use and explore the local area.
I set out running along the main road by our house to two spots that were about a mile away: a grocery store and the local zoo. Despite my current running goals, I was SLOW when I first started running. I regularly stopped after reaching my destination, walked around to catch my breath, and then ran home.
Eventually my time improved and I started running different routes to further explore the local area. Since I started running I have joined my local running club, set some ambitious running goals, and completed a variety of virtual races and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. I did not start running with the aim to lose 50 pounds, but it was the key to reaching my weight loss goals.
Adjusting my weight loss goals
Although I have managed to lose 50 pounds, that was not my initial goal. After getting under 200 pounds in October, my next goal was to reach 180 pounds. For me that has generally been a “healthy” weight where I feel comfortable with myself. I reached that benchmark in mid-February, which left me a bit perplexed.
I was perplexed because at that time I was running about four miles at least four days a week, so I was consistently losing weight. After talking with Katie about my exercise routine and weight loss, I set a new weight loss goal of reaching 170 pounds. By early April I hit that goal, so I reassessed and set a new goal to reach 165 pounds. I chose 165 pounds as my goal because I was happy with my weight and knew that my progress would slow unless I dramatically changed my diet or exercise routine. In the middle of May, I reached that goal.
For a day or two I debated whether to adjust my weight loss goal again. Ultimately, I changed my weekly goal from lose “1 lb. per week” to “maintain weight.”
Maintaining my weight
Making the switch from losing weight to maintaining weight was surreal for many reasons. It was a big mental adjustment to accept that I had reached a major weight loss goal. I was thrilled to reach my goal, but I did not set out to lose almost 50 pounds. So, it took time for me to mentally accept that I now weighed 165 pounds. It was also surreal because my calorie allotment changed from 1,830 to 2,300 calories per day. Even though I did not stop running, I could eat more without worrying about reaching my weight-loss goals.
In addition to the mental adjustment, I had to make a physical adjustment. Although I never measured my waist before I started running, I went from wearing 38-inch jeans to 32-inch shorts. Additionally, several of my XL t-shirts were dramatically too large. So, I had to cull my wardrobe and buy new clothes that fit my new body.
About a month after stabilizing around 165 pounds, I dropped a few more and weighed-in at 161.8 pounds. I never envisioned losing 50 pounds when I started, but it felt amazing to hit the benchmark. However, since reaching 165 pounds over a year ago, I have been able to keep my weight around 165 pounds. Last summer I “ballooned” up to 170 pounds because I was not running regularly. However, I was able to get back to 165 pounds rather easily after resuming my running in August.
A new outlook on my weight
Over the year since I lost 50 pounds, I developed a new outlook on my weight and my exercise routine. Last fall I took time to think about new running goals, as I had accomplished my initial objectives. After resuming running and getting back to 165 pounds, I decided that I wanted to commit to running at least at least three days per week. It was an easy decision because I enjoy running and know that it is key to maintaining my weight.
Additionally, I committed to running four to six miles each day that I run. I chose that range because it would not take up too much of my time, and it felt like a reasonable distance to help me maintain my weight. Reviewing my monthly statistics, I know that I do not always run four miles, but I typically hit that benchmark.
I have not changed my diet. I still enjoy drinking craft beer and eating pasta, and I continue to do both in moderation while continuing to run on a regular basis. Like many things in life, I strive to find moderation with my diet and exercise to help me maintain my current weight.