Just What You’d Expect from Your Business Web Site: A Healthy Living Plan

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from both her column for In Business magazine, and the other bloggers. Awarded national recognition for her previous work as a newspaper columnist, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often! Read Full Bio

Since this is After Hours, the topic this week is about consciously designing a healthier lifestyle that includes actually losing weight, versus just thinking or talking about it. The benefits will certainly pay off in the workplace as well as at home.

My challenge: Do what I do for the next three months. Eat the foods listed on my plan and work in your own forms of exercise. I hate formal treadmill exercise so don’t worry, I won’t drag you to a health club, but there will be walking required. And you have to promise not to skip breakfast, and to drink eight glasses of water a day — among other promises.

When the Yo-Yo Starts Going Gack Up …
In 2008, I lost more than 40 pounds in about four months with Weight Watchers (WW). I have the gold stars on the bookmark, the key chain, and the new wardrobe to prove it. In the process, I learned a lot about healthy eating and I added some great-tasting food substitute recipes. Then … then, goal accomplished, I started adding processed foods back into my diet. I stopped going to weekly meetings, due to schedule conflicts and the hassle of changing places to suit their scheduling changes. The result? Over the next year, I gained about 20 pounds back as I gradually let go of all the good, healthy habits (like exercising) that I had gained.

My favorite new clothes no longer fit well, to say the least. But I’m not a complete failure; I’m still 20 pounds ahead, and I’m keeping my focus on that. I know I can lose the extra weight again and learn from this present humiliation how to keep it off.

In preparing for this next round of mindful living, I’ve watched a healthy dose of Dr. Oz programs and read a lot of science journals about how our bodies process foods. Then I devised a healthy plan that incorporates pieces of all of it, and you’re invited to try it with me.

Step 1: Tell someone else that you are changing your eating habits to promote a healthy lifestyle and to lose weight.

This isn’t about starving yourself or “dieting.” It’s about managing the quality (and eventually quantity — I won’t lie) of what goes into our mouths. It’s about making better choices every time we open the refrigerator door or drive down a street resplendent with fast-food options.

It’s also about planning not to fail, and then following the plan. So tell somebody that you are changing your lifestyle for a healthier future, and weight loss is a hoped for benefit. I’m doing that right now, as you can see — making a public announcement of my intentions. By doing that, we’ll both hold ourselves to a higher expectation (other people will be watching us).

Step 2: PLAN. [Include in that plan a realistic (healthy) target weight that you are committed to hitting.]

This morning, my Day One, I spent a couple hours turning my plan into an Excel spreadsheet. If you’d like to tailor it to your tastes, schedules and reality, e-mail the request to jodyp@magnapubs.com and I’ll send it to you, followed by weekly updates and an invitation to meet me and other like-minded folks for a walk at 5:30 on Monday nights.

My plan includes several worksheets, labeled: Plan; Shopping List; Exercise; Weight/Waist Record; Week 1; Week 2; Week 3 (through Week 8).

The Plan Worksheet states my intentions — things to add and things to omit from my usual routine — and things to do to get ready. It also includes motivational statements: “I’ll never be this weight again”; “Nothing tastes as good as being slender feels”; “I want to wear a size 8 again”; “I want to lower my cholesterol.”

You might reference your knees, back, or other body image, social, or health problems (?) with your own motivational statements.

Here are some of the activities already checked off my list: (1) Buy healthy food on shopping list; (2) buy a pedometer; (3) prepare healthy foods/snacks in advance, put in zip lock bags for the next week; (4) download/organize iTune “workout” music, (5) put a pair of walking shoes in my car to leave in the office.

My plan calls for me to do things such as cut out all white flour/sugar/corn syrup products in Week 4. I can’t do everything Week 1, so my goals have to be reasonable for me. Also, my plan will allow Guinness … but bye-bye wine. I’m restricting alcohol, not cutting it out completely.

We’re not going to count calories on my plan because counting calories is NOT something I want to do all my life. We are going to monitor only important stuff.

Step 3: Shop

My food list is in columns with headers: Protein, Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Beverages, and Other (Weight Watcher Ice Cream, Fat-free Miracle Whip, Heart Smart spaghetti sauce, etc. is in “other”). It makes a quick reference for grocery shopping. At the grocery store, if it isn’t on your list, don’t buy it.

The more committed you become, the more your list will change over time … as you decide to give up more and more processed foods for more healthy choices.

Things to buy in addition to food, if you’re going to follow my plan, include: measuring cups; snack and sandwich storage bags; plastic storage bowls (mini-cup sizes and the next-larger size); virgin olive oil, non-fat cooking spray, pedometer ($5-8 at Walmart) and good walking shoes.

Step 4: Exercise

I think of exercise, when just beginning a weight loss regime, as an extension of normal activities, not a committed routine. Right now, I hate exercise. Really — I HATE IT. Eventually I accept (and even like) the idea of adding an hour only for exercise. In 2008, it happened about Week 4, when I actually wanted to exercise because I was in better shape by then, feeling some benefits of weight loss.

In the meantime, I try to add more and more movement daily. I park father away from entrances. I dance, wearing a headset, listening to iTunes, while doing chores like preparing the week’s foods. I add a morning wake-up stretching routine (Dr. Oz’s advice). And I’ll probably move (dance) for 15 minutes before going to bed. That’s only four iTunes songs. That’s all doable immediately.

Step 5: Journal

I will record my weight and waist size weekly; I won’t get on the scales more often than Sunday mornings. I’ll record exercise daily and food choices as I make them (I’ll carry a teeny notebook, or use mini Post-It Notes to write it down).

The interesting thing I notice is that food choices dramatically change when I’m being mindful enough to record them. It takes about two weeks for that to become routine (making better choices and eating more often, but better food/smaller portions). Until then, I have to write down every bite to prevent the extra 100 unnoticed bites. Believe me, you eat them, too.

Step 6: Record food intake daily on the “Week 1,” “Week 2,” etc. sheets.

For breakfast today, I had steel-cut oatmeal. I like Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats, found in the organic section at Woodman’s. I topped that with walnuts (ideally eat 6 walnuts a day) and fat-free milk. I also had pre-sectioned a grapefruit, so it was ready when I wanted it.

I had made a big pot of the oatmeal yesterday, to have it ready for workday mornings (microwaves easy). Dr. Oz recommends steel cut oatmeal, as does Bob Greene, for health and taste. Oatmeal acts like little brushes in your bloodstream, cleaning the plaque created by high cholesterol — that’s what a Dean Health nutritionist told me. She strongly also recommended eating it every day.

But if I want something different, I already have pre-boiled eggs or light English muffins — good with Weight Watcher’s cheese and a fried egg and ham slice on top. Fresh fruit is already cleaned and in single serving bowls.

The time it took to prepare breakfast today was about a minute, because I’d already prepared my week’s food. No excuses if you do things in advance, spending a couple hours to set yourself up for the entire week — which save many more hours and LOTS of calories. It guarantees you always have healthy options available.

Have a business lunch you have to attend? Before you go, microwave and eat a hot bowl of Progresso Soup. Buy the ones marked “0 Points” or “1 Point” which, in WW lingo, means you can eat about as much as you want of these. It’s really tasty, and you can get low-salt options. Add some fresh vegetables to the soup. I like tomatoes, turnip greens, lima beans, and corn cut off a cob. You might prefer green peppers, onion, or carrots. It’s all good and filling. Then, at lunch, you can order a salad without feeling like you’re depriving yourself. Nobody says you really have to wait until noon to eat.

This noon, I had a turkey hot dog and kiwi fruit. Because I’m writing it down, I’m also drinking eight glasses of water a day rather than none, which is my usual average.

For a snack, I heated a hard-boiled egg and, later, drank a skim-milk latte. Warning — don’t heat a previously boiled egg in the microwave without cutting it in half first. You’d be amazed how burnt you can get, biting into a pre-boiled egg — all the micro heat goes to the center. I learned that lesson the hard way in 2008. My lip was swollen for two days.

For dinner tonight, I had tilapia. Frozen fish very quickly thaws in cold water. Put it in a baking dish with a little olive oil (that’s good for you), and bake about 15-20 minutes. I then add lemon juice and a little pepper. I also prepared mustard greens, whole sugar peas, and I topped it off with Smart Ones Strawberry Shortcake, topped with a generous portion of fresh strawberries and an extra tablespoon of fat-free Cool Whip. My extra fruit and topping added very few calories, but a lot of satisfaction.

The Psychology of Losing Weight

I could have eaten much more today — almost anything on my list, actually — but I think I’m caught up already in trying to maximize my gain (i.e., loss) early on. That will change with time, so I’ll have to stick to my food plan and augment meals with more snacks, so I don’t get overly hungry and frustrated and make a bad choice at that juncture.

It’s all about making choices, really. I do lots of things differently when I’m trying to lose weight. Having gained so much weight back, it’s really driven home the message to me that healthy eating has to become my new normal. For example, I learned in WW to put meals on paper plates because they are smaller than my normal china. And I put the dessert on the plate, too, so I realize how much I’m really eating. Just doing that can really change one’s perspective about how much we really eat at night. This means, to make a lasting change, I need to invest in smaller plates and making that part of our routine, not the “while I’m on a diet” exception.

Planning to Lose — which Means Planning to Win

By now, you’ll likely see that my food preferences are likely very different from yours. But what really matters most is that we eat more healthy, non-processed foods.

It’s hard. Certainly I’m not giving up my Smart Ones brand low-fat strawberry shortcake or low-calorie mint ice cream sandwiches, two guilty pleasures that does have a little bit of fructose/corn syrup. But I’m not at Week 4 yet, either.

I bake and refrigerate 4-5 tilapia at a time, so I’ve got them available to microwave for any meal, and they microwave at about 30 seconds well. When I was in WW, the most common excuse (and it is an excuse) people had for no-loss weeks was that they went too long without eating, and a fast-food restaurant just happened to pop up on their route home.

Honestly, that’s the reason I put back on the weight, too. It’s easy. It’s simple. I’m hungry. My hubby’s traveling and there’s no reason to cook. I like macaroni and cheese and potatoes — and especially, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes and beer together. But, while dieting, I’ll eat some pasta with WW cheese, at the next meal have sweet potatoes, and yes, I’ll still have a beer 2-3 times a week (of all the beers, Guinness is the best weight loss choice, believe it or not, WW point-wise — honestly!).

Ever heard of Hungry Girl? You don’t have to be female to appreciate the tips posted on her blog. Also, there’s a Web site that tells you how many WW points are attached to foods you get at restaurants. Click the “restaurants” up at the top — Dotti has a lot of ads now, but once you get past those, you can find excellent info about the “lesser of evils” on restaurant menus by comparing point values — the lower the better.

Those are all the hints I’m giving in this blog, though I got about 100 more ready to go to help you lose weight. Things I’ve collected while doing research and while drafting my plan. Things I’ll be doing myself.

Care to join me? We can accomplish a lot After Hours together that will dramatically impact our productivity and enjoyment and health — both in the workplace and at home.

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