Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Workplace Weight Loss Challenge: Success

I recently lost 16 lbs (9.9%) and won $100 for it in a weight loss competition at my work. It was my first serious attempt at weight loss in years, and the success has jump-started my motivation for other projects. The simple steps listed below is the advice I would give for someone in a similar competition.

1. Count Calories
Record everything you eat. No excuses. No, you cannot out-pace your eating with exercise. And yes, everything does count (even the mints at the receptionist's desk). It is most important to stick to your total calories for the week. If you have some variation from day to day (Monday 1250 calories, Tuesday 1600 cals), it is actually good for your body to mix it up, just keep an eye on weekly totals. You also needs to change your daily calorie amount whenever you lose weight because a lighter car uses less fuel. I started with 1400 calories a day and reduced it to 1000 in the final weeks. Lastly, stick to power foods (like lean protein) that will keep you going from longer.

2. Exercise
There are health benefits to exercising, especially if you know how to maximize your productivity.
- Two 15 minutes sessions will give you a better health and weight-loss benefit than one 40 minute session. Better to raise and lower your heartbeat twice a day, than only once.
- Do not use the fact that muscle weighs more than fat as an excuse to avoid strength training. Better muscles will improve overall fitness and use more calories throughout the day.
- For 24 to 36 hours after a workout, your Basic Metabolic Rate is raised and you burn more calories in your daily routine. So it's not about how much you burn in one gym session, but about regularly giving your body physical stimulus.

3. Lose Water Weight (Last Week of Competition)
In the interest of purely losing weight (not necessarily fat) for a competition, use and lose water weight to your advantage.
Water weight is mostly attributed to sodium. So in the last week, eat a low-sodium diet of veggies, fruit, and protein. Additionally, in the last 16 hours or so, you can sweat out some in a bath or sauna (working out is too stressful) or releasing it normally by drinking coffee. The best resource I found for additional advice was an article by Tim Ferriss (an extreme example). Understand that weight loss with water is temporary, and this is why I did it the last week of the competition instead of the first. Alternatively I had high-sodium, low-calorie soups the day of the first weigh in.

This is the first of a three part series on my personal success, motivation and future after a workplace weight loss competition.

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