QUESTION: I am near desperate; I am a single parent of four kids, two with learning disabilities. The three youngest live with me. I have had a weight problem my whole life. Now I’m 58 it is becoming more critical to lose weight and get healthy. I’ve tried a billion times. Usually fails. I do walk a lot but I eat like a wild animal. My kids are very dependent on me. They need me for a few more years. I can’t die. Not yet. Not until I’m sure they are all set for life. Able to take care of themselves. Also I haven’t been on a date in years. My body is disgusting. I’m kind of a train wreck. Any advice?
– Anonymous, via e-mail
ANSWER BY MIKE SIMONE,
Founder, Human Fit Project
We commend you for everything you’re doing on the family front. That is a lot of work. It’s clear that you’re aware that taking care of yourself is key in helping others. That said, you need a plan to manage it all. Let’s see what we can do.
For starters, if you’re truly serious, it’s time to establish a strong support system. Pick one or two people that you love and trust — this could be a friend or a family member — as long as you know they have your best interests at heart. Express to this person or persons how you feel, what you’re trying to accomplish, and why it’s so important here and now. You might also want to ask them why they think you’ve failed in the past. Set up a check-in system so they can help hold you accountable. This could be something as simple as an email, a text exchange, phone call, or in-person conversation, but the key is to put it in your calendar with alerts or notifications to make sure they happen.
Next, consider expanding your support system to include a personal trainer or online trainer, a nutritionist or dietician, and even a cognitive behavioral therapist. Considering you’ve struggled with this for much of your life, this would be a smart route to go. That’s not to say you cannot do it on your own, but it’s much easier when you’ve got a real team of licensed professionals in your corner. Plus, the financial investment might be the extra motivation you need to succeed.
Now, if you do decide to go at it on your own, the first thing you’ll need is to use a site or app to look up how much food you need to lose, gain, or maintain your weight based on your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level. It’s quite simple: If you’re eating more than your body needs, you’ll be gaining weight. After you’ve established what you need, you’ll want to begin logging everything you eat for a week or two. Be very mindful of portion sizes. It’s very easy to underestimate how much you’re consuming. In addition to getting an estimate of your caloric intake, you’ll also want to log your macronutrients which are protein, carbs, and fats. You could try and shoot for a 50/30/20 protein to carbohydrate to fat ratio.
Next, get a clear bill of health from your doctor to assess your activity or fitness plan and modify as necessary. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (this could even be a brisk walk – READ MORE HERE) or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio (ideally short but tough intervals on the bike, treadmill, or rowing machine) per week. You could start at even half of that and with each week you could progressively add more and more minutes of exercise. You should also be more mindful of how much sitting you’re doing throughout the day, or missing out on other opportunities to be active. For example, can you take the stairs instead of the escalator? Can you walk to work? Try and identify as many other opportunities to get “accidental exercise” where you can.
In addition to boosting your daily activity and logging regular cardio minutes, make sure you’re strength training for 30-60 minutes at least two days, but preferably three to four days per week. That’s what’s going to help you build the muscle you need to keep your calorie burn strong. Looking for a plan? CLICK HERE to try one of these 30 from the HumanFitProject.com.
Beyond that, remember: You are in charge of your own destiny. Your past is just that—the past. Decide to make this happen and you can. And when you’re tempted to go back to your old ways, look at the faces of your beautiful kids and remember why you’re doing this.
Mike Simone is the former executive digital director of Men’s Fitness magazine. He’s also the founder of HUMANFITPROJECT.com, a fitness and wellness brand, and DIGITALFITNESSADVISOR.com, an exclusive training and nutrition programming service. Follow him on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and TWITTER.