Attempting to balance consulting with health – Part 2: The Calorie Deficit

In my first part: Attempting to balance consulting with health – Part 1: Self-Awareness, I describe how we need to become aware of what we’re doing and the effect it has on us before we can really make a change. If you’re in that place then read on – if not then go back to the first part and think again :=)

As I said before, I found myself at 220lb and feeling pretty overweight, at the beginning of 2011. Knowing that to look really great, I needed to lose 40lb of weight felt like a long journey ahead. And for now I think it’s safe to ignore that if you feel in that position.

Because in the end, if you lose just a little weight, you will start to feel good about yourself. Shirts that are a little looser, belts a little tighter – all those things will make you feel great. But there are dangers ahead.

The Calorie Deficit

The human body is a bit like a bank. We consume food and we place a deposit. And we spend from our deposits a little every day, and a lot more if we exercise. If we deposit more than we spend, we get fat.

And so it goes – if you can adjust your lifestyle so you spend more than you deposit, then you will lose weight. At my height and age I needed to put in 2500 calories to my body (with no exercise) to maintain that. If I create a deficit – by either reducing food or increasing exercise – of 500 calories a day – then I will lose 10kg over 6 months.

The best thing is that 500 calories a day is easily saved. A bottle of wine, for example is 500 calories. Or 2 pints of Stella. Or a chocolate bar and a can of coke. The important thing is not to cut out the stuff that matters – and by that I mean the stuff you really enjoy. Cut out a few things that you can do without.

Exercise – your way

The other half for me was exercise. Another 250 calories a day can easily come from 30 minutes a day of light exercise – or a 40 minute brisk walk. But it has to be whatever makes you happy.

What makes me happy is running – I really enjoy it. Some days I will run a mile, and others I might run 10. At this stage I did whatever I felt like and it was just fine. The best thing about running is that running kit can travel wherever you are – important with consulting.

If you don’t like running then there’s the hotel gym, just plain walking or perhaps putting a bike in the back of your car, if you travel by car. But whatever you do, make sure it’s something you enjoy, or it will become a chore.

Eat – but without guilt

Once you’re in overall, don’t worry about the details. Try to eat what you can’t because if you don’t, you will binge. Just worry about the overall situation – but if you get the urge to have a chocolate bar or a bag of chips, just run with it.

You ate all that stuff from time to time before, and the overall effect is negligible compared to the changes above. However if you start feeling bad about it you will then go on a big calorie binge at some stage, and that is a bad thing!

The most important thing is not to feel guilt: what is important is the overall loss and not whether you follow some strict regime.

Making time

This is probably the big one, and it’s so personal. It’s so easy just to go back to the hotel after the long day of work and head to the bar. For a quick drink of course. And then after a couple of drinks and a meal to check your emails and flop into bed. The morning after, the snooze button is hit repeatedly of course – before a quick shower and heading into the office after the fried eggs at breakfast.

It’s not exactly a virtuous circle and breaking it is really tough. But if you have become self-aware you  might be willing to try to do something about it.

For me, it was the travel which helped – being away from home meant that there was little to do in the evenings, and I started to use that to my advantage. At the beginning I ran – a few miles here and there.

And at the weekends, I would take off for a long run – 7-10 miles in the early morning one day. I ran the London Marathon in 2009 so I’m ok with distance, but please, if you do the same – work up to distance running slowly.

The thing to bear in mind is that it’s a simple choice and an easy one. Run rather than have a drink at the bar?

4 Months later

So for me – 4 months later and even with this not-particularly-regular regime, I had lost some 20lb. I was below 200lb or 90kg and I felt a lot better. The jeans were looser and I was lighter on my feet. I fit into suits I hadn’t ever fit into, and jeans I hadn’t worn in 4 years.

The slight paradox though is that for each lb I lost, I felt more self-aware of those that were left – and also for the lack of tone. I’m guessing you may also feel the same. And at this point the summer was looming and I wanted to look good. But that’s for another time.

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8 Responses to Attempting to balance consulting with health – Part 2: The Calorie Deficit

  1. Sue says:

    Really good stuff, John. Well done, and in doable bites as well. Thanks!

  2. Tim Guest says:

    Another great Blog, That simple equation: “Burn more than you put in and you lose weight” is so simple but often overlooked.

  3. I really like your thoughts on this, and although I have spluttered through my own journey I am and continue to try to apply myself. It is such a pity that the half-life of endorphins is so short, because the feeling I get after a work-out is amazing and if it lasted longer than the 24hrs it takes to recover then it would be easier to do more/find the time to do more.
    Recently, as you may have seen, @Mrsk78 and I bought a Newfoundland puppy, so I will getting lots of exercise walking the lumbering beast and taking her for swims in local lakes and the sea – which I am really looking forward to 🙂

  4. John,
    Fitness by dog is my salvation, too. When I am at home, taking three dogs for a 20 minute walk each really keeps me moving, and it has helped me shed the weight I gained on my recent out-of-town project. Good luck on your health journey!
    Gretchen

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