First, it's been more than a year-and-a-half since I began my project. I'm very close to being down two pants sizes, people have noticed that I look trimmer and more toned, and I've felt an increase in energy. Even though I used to have back problems that resulted in spasms occasionally, I haven't had spasms in six months or so. I've made good progress!
Second, let me share a couple of adjustments I made during the past year that made a big difference in my rate of success:
- I've lost weight off my belly very gradually for the past 20 months, and it's required patience. Yes, I could have lost a lot more weight much quicker if I'd gone on a crash diet. However, I would have lost muscle, and weight lost to a crash diet often comes right back (and then some). I've been trying to focus instead on the concept of "lifestyle change."
- Feeling as if I wasn't making progress fast enough, I hired a personal trainer for two 1-hour sessions, so he could consult with me and provide core-building exercises. I highly recommend getting professional advice like this. (I didn't realize that crunches are highly discouraged these days in favor of planking. Good to know!)
- I had been struggling with a recurring rotator-cuff problem, and my personal trainer helped me resolve it quickly. (For lat pull downs, pull the bar down in front of your face and not behind your head. Be careful not to go beyond 90 degrees when doing bench or shoulder presses.)
- I found a really convenient, effective snack that kills hunger for up to an hour or two: a small handful of peanuts and one appetite suppressing candy (I like "Fit Chews" from Arbonne, though they are somewhat expensive).
- I've added a high-intensity bit at the end of every elliptical workout. I set the resistance to a "medium" setting (for beginners, start with a low setting and work your way up). I then do a four-minute exercise that involves alternating between going as fast as I can for 20 seconds and then going slowly for 10 seconds. So, I cycle through these routines eight times in the four-minute exercise. I've found that adding some high-intensity aerobics increased the rate of my progress.
- I've added treadmill jogging and cycling one day a week, just to mix things up a little bit and to keep my body guessing. I was sure to include hamstring and calve stretches before jogging, and I increased speed and distance very gradually. On the one hand, treadmill running burns calories quickly; on the other hand, jogging can be rough on the knees of older folks. It's perfectly acceptable to avoid all jogging and to stick to the low-impact machines.
- Because gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time can be very tricky, I needed a tactic other than "burn a lot of calories and don't eat junky foods" to get significant progress. (There are actually blog postings on the Internet asking whether it's even possible to do both at the same time, with some experts suggesting "not worth trying.") The key is patience, and the next bullet presents a modification to my routine that made a world of difference in my rate of success.
- During the first week of every month, I go on a mini-diet. I stop weight lifting, I come off all supplements (including protein shakes), and I do 3 to 4 sessions of high-calorie-burning aerobics during that week. For nutrition, I eliminate or significantly reduce all starchy carbs (bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes) at meals, I eliminate all snacks (except for the peanuts/candy snack mentioned in a previous bullet), and I am stricter about eliminating fried and fatty foods. (Being happy with the results, I tried to do this diet for two weeks in a row, but I didn't fare as well. One week works beautifully. Two weeks created the typical deprivation cravings that you get from crash diets. I don't recommend doing it for more than a week.)
Also, my Belly Reduction Program is a great example of calling upon patience, using trial and error, being willing to receive coaching from people with more expertise, and understanding that major projects unfold step by step over time.
I'll give you another report if I discover something interesting or when I get down to that second lower waist size (aiming to go from 36" to 34").