I hope for this post to be the launch of a discussion about weight loss and fitness, aimed mostly at women like me. The current plan is to have regular posts on those topics, either on Mondays or Wednesdays. But if interesting things come up on other days, then I'll post as they come up.
First, because I'm a lawyer by training, I have to include a disclaimer: I'm a lawyer, not a doctor. Not a nutritionist. Not a certified personal trainer. I decided to post on the subject of weight loss and fitness only because so many people have asked me how I lost 40+ pounds. What follows, then, is not a scientific expert opinion. It's . . . how I did it.
Before I start, some context: I'm a 51-year-old woman, mother of five, grandmother of five. I work more-than-fulltime hours as a partner at a large law firm in Dallas. I have no more free time than anybody else, and a lot less than many people have. My long work days are made longer by the fact that I live 54 miles away from my office, so most business days I spend at least two, and often as much as five, hours driving. I was born with congenital hip dysplasia, with resultant joint deterioration that left me in excruciating pain for years and eventually led to hip replacement surgery (one in May 2003 and the other in January 2011). All of this is important, because I don't want anyone to think that it's any easier for me to do these things than anyone else.
I graduated from law school at 38, and started my law career with a husband and five children (and two dogs) in tow. When I graduated from Cornell Law School in 1998, I wore a size 4 dress. Within a few years of starting my law practice, the long, sedentary days, stress, lousy diet, and the pain of my bad hips took their toll. By the time my oldest daughter got married (in 2006), my weight had ballooned and I wore a size 14 mother-of-the-bride dress. I looked at least ten years older than my husband (he's five months younger than me). Size 14 is not huge, but I am less than 5'4″ tall and fairly small-boned, and size 14 meant I weighed almost 170 pounds. That's way too much for my height and bone structure. I looked awful and felt worse. I was 46 years old.
I finally got the incentive I needed to do something about my weight. In late 2007, I bought a small Arabian mare, and as she started her training I decided I wanted to be able to ride her without (a) looking ridiculous and (b) breaking her back. So at the end of December 2007, I made the decision to get healthier and lose the extra weight that I'd been carrying for all those years. Fairplay was the catalyst for the decision, but the bottom line for me was this: I couldn't stop getting older. But if I was going to be old, I didn't want to be old and decrepit. If I was going to be old, I didn't want to be sick and tired and unable to enjoy life. So I decided to stop making excuses and start making some changes.
First step was to stop eating so much. I simply cut all sugar and junk food out of my diet and started paying attention to what went into my mouth. A few days later, I started exercising — got on the stationary bike that had been serving as a clothes rack and started pedaling. All I could manage was about ten minutes, after which I thought I was going to die, but I made that ten minutes, and then ten minutes the next day, and so on, adding a minute or so to my time every few days, and then graduating to walking on a treadmill and then outside.
Over the course of many months I lost about forty pounds and worked my way up to jogging as much as five miles several times a week. I'm now 51 years old and wearing size 6 dresses. I feel younger now than I did at my daughter's wedding. If I could find a photo of what I look like now, I'd insert it here. But I don't seem to have one on any of our computers, so I'll have to track one down and add it later.
I mention all of this to give some background to what I'm going to say next. As I lost the weight, I was asked many, many times how I'd done it. I think many of the askers hoped I had some “secret” key to weight loss, because they looked awfully disappointed at my answer: I quit eating so much and started exercising regularly. That's it. That's the secret. You lose weight by burning more calories than you consume.
I could describe the process, but I'm afraid readers would just fall asleep, so instead let me just share my top tips for getting thinner and fitter:
- Write down everything you eat.
- Eat mindfully.
- Cheat responsibly.
- Eat breakfast.
- Keep healthy snacks handy.
- Start small, and increase gradually.
- Get help when you need it.
- Take one day at a time.