How Helen lost 100 pounds (and counting!)

I am not a dietician or a personal trainer, but I know something about weight loss. Why? My amazing wife, Helen, has lost 105 pounds over the course of the past year!

Since I posted her 100-pound picture on my Facebook page in October, then a video interview with her on YouTube in November, many of my patients have asked for more specifics about her secrets to weight loss success. 

We are happy to share the details of her self-devised weight loss plan, because we truly believe that anyone, including you, can lose weight with these principles - and she is living proof.

I'll tell you what her plan is, but first, let me tell you what it's not:

  • It's not expensive (no gym membership or special food to buy)
  • It's not a "product" (like shakes or powder)
  • It's not a fad diet
  • It's not a calorie counting program or a food exchange program
  • It's not rocket science

So, what is it?

  • It is a common-sense approach
  • It is hard work and relies on self-control
  • It is a commitment to long-term lifestyle change
  • It is a way to stay healthy in order to see her kids grow up and help them be healthy, too
  • It is born of a desire to glorify her Maker through the body He gave her

What does she eat?

Helen's breakfast is pretty consistent from day to day. It consists of one egg, cooked in olive oil, with a slice of Swiss cheese over a thin slice of roasted turkey and one-quarter avocado sliced. It may look and sound "gourmet," but it's inexpensive and takes her less than 10 minutes to prepare. The protein in this breakfast gives her energy and "staying power" through the morning, so that she doesn't usually feel the urge to snack. If she does need a snack mid-morning, she grabs a handful of almonds.

Lunch is typically a salad (spinach, never lettuce) with various sliced vegetables and lean meat (like turkey or chicken) with low-fat dressing. She mixes up the toppings, so that it doesn't become boring. If she feels like a mid-afternoon snack, she has half of an apple with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter.

Dinner varies from day to day, but it always involves a lean meat or non-meat protein source and a couple vegetables. If she has dessert, she shares it with at least one other person. She doesn't eat anything in the evening, after dinner (which is the worst time for most of us to snack on horrible, high-calorie, high carb or high fat junk!).

We do eat out sometimes. When possible, Helen checks the calorie counts on the restaurant's website or menu and chooses a lower calorie option. She also tries to reduce calories by simple things, like substituting a low-fat dressing on restaurant salads, or eliminating the starch that comes with the meal (like mashed potatoes or french fries) and getting an extra side vegetable instead.

In general, you can see that her diet is higher in protein, lower in carbohydrates and fat and contains plenty of vegetables. She doesn't deprive herself of things she wants - she wants this to be long-term, and she knows that totally eliminating things she likes will never work, because it just causes "cravings," which can derail the plan! In fact, she often has a small piece of dark chocolate as a "reward" after exercising. She really focuses on portion sizes, and she eats less than she did 100 pounds ago (without feeling hungry or getting cravings). She drinks coffee, water or Seltzer, but she avoids soda or juice and doesn't often drink alcohol.

What about exercise?

Helen exercises every day. EVERY day. Since she committed to this one year ago, she has not missed a single day of exercise. She knows that missing one day will make it easier to miss other days, and she doesn't want to risk losing the healthy lifestyle change she has made. Consistency is key. She has made exercise as much a part of her daily routine as brushing her teeth and taking a shower.

Her exercise regimen involves 45 minutes of aerobic exercise daily, and sometimes some sit-ups and dumbbells. She mixes up the aerobic workout to avoid boredom. Often she walks or runs, on the treadmill or outside, and sometimes she bikes. Although she did not join a gym, she sometimes takes an exercise class (Zumba or Body Pump) at the local fitness center. Once or twice a week she swims laps at the high school pool.

It's hard to make time to exercise with four young children and a household to manage, but she works it out because it's a priority. At first she felt guilty "taking time away from her family," but now she realizes two things. First, a little time away now means that she'll be here in the long run to help raise her famiy, because she'll be healthier. Second, her exercise sets a good example for the family and has actually gotten the rest of us to exercise more and be healthier, too!

One caveat:  you ought to check with your primary care provider before starting an exercise regimen, just to make sure you're healthy enough to exercise vigorously (you may need to start slowly and ramp up the duration and intensity of exercise over time). Also, if you have a health problem which already involves a special diet, like diabetes, it would be wise to check with your family doctor or a dietician in case you need more specific guidance for your situation.

So that's it! Helen's 100 pound weight loss plan. Simple actions and daily commitment, with a higher purpose in mind. If Helen can do it, you can too! Take her experience and figure out what will work best for you.

So what are you waiting for? If there are obstacles in your path, please share them so that we can help you work through them. If you have had success with weight loss already, please comment below with your weight loss tips to help others as well!

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