Amassing small changes to achieve drastic gains: How I lost my middle in the face of middle-age.

~Bart Guisnet, PISE client

measure-150x150[1]A few years ago, after reaching a critical low-point in my personal well-being, I decided to start down the path to put myself into the type of shape that I would feel better about; a shape that I would be able to maintain for the foreseeable future. Over the course of this journey, I was able to surpass my original target goals, losing over 110 pounds in the process – as well as gain a greater understanding of how healthy weight-loss is achieved.

As in most of the successful weight-loss case studies I researched, my own personal journey started with a tipping point: A few years ago, while celebrating Christmas with the in-laws, I was introduced as “Mr. Santa Claus” to the children of my wife’s family. At nearly 280 pounds and looking a lot more jolly than I felt, I was dreading all of the high-calorie food I was about to be offered. I had been trying (unsuccessfully) to lose weight for months – yo-yoing through fad diets and sporadic excursions into various exercise programs, all with very temporary results.

It was only when I decided to apply the problem-solving skills that I use professionally to develop a realistic approach to weight-loss that I gained a true feeling of control over managing the kind of drastic change to my shape that I wanted to achieve.

In developing my plan, I took into account a number of factors (i.e. the specific goals I hopedfruit-tree-300x294[1] to reach, my mid-30’s body, my incredible laziness, a general loathing of gyms, etc.) and then looked into what worked well for people in similar situations.

Because everyone responds differently to different types of diet and exercise, instead of being overly prescriptive here, I will share some of the most important principles of what guided my progress:

  • Affecting a major change in your physical shape eventually requires a large scale change in lifestyle – don’t let anyone tell you differently. The secret is that a major change in lifestyle doesn’t need to happen all at once. It’s much easier to start slowly and build up healthy habits. I started by getting into the habit of regular exercise before I even attempted to tackle the finer points of my diet.
  • Aim for the low-hanging fruit first: One of the first changes I made was to replace my working-week lunch excursions to downtown restaurants with quick, high-intensity workouts at a close-by gym followed by a healthy packed lunch. This also ended up saving me money.
  • Strangely enough, don’t expect family and peers to be 100% supportive along the way. They will often advise moderation out of a misguided sense of concern for your general well-being – which is ironic when you think about it.
  • Consistency really is key. I aim to do some form of exercise seven days a week. This includes activities done more for fun, skills-building and mobilization – as well as workouts for strength gains and metabolic conditioning. I often fail at maintaining this schedule, but usually get in at least five good workouts in a week.

If you are reading this than you are most likely much farther down the path to a healthy lifestyle than I was when I first started – as I was truly without a clue when I began.