Not to humblebrag, but I’m the (honestly not) incredible shrinking man. Recently — if a lifestyle journey can be called “recent” — I lost more than 100 lbs., becoming, as the joke goes, a little more than half the man I had been.
Between 2014 and 2016, I shed about 40 per cent of my weight to get healthier and feel better. This hard-to-hide shift prompted countless questions and comments. As a writer, “You should write a blog,” was one of the most frequent.
I’ve responded with an embarrassment of excuses. I’m not a dietitian. I’m no fitness expert. Literally, all I know is business writing. Who wants another weight-loss story? (Hopefully you.)
The truth is: my weight-loss journey is a business story. The more I think about it, the foundation of how I achieved my goals are also essential to business success. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share a few approaches I found valuable.
- Know Your Mission
Whether a sole-proprietor or employer of hundreds, your mission statement is crucial to aligning your decisions with the business. How can you be effective, or even know what success is, if you don’t know your raison d’être?
The same was true for my efforts. In my then early 40s, with high blood pressure, bad sleep and far less endurance than I wanted, I set a mission: to improve my health to extend my life, and importantly, my ability to enjoy it.
A tip: Just like in business, hard numeric goals were helpful. A 10 per cent revenue increase or 20 lb. weight loss is hard to achieve without this purpose-setting foundation.
- Plan and Road Map
I won’t lie, sometimes some results are achieved without a plan. These tend to be fortune-favoured windfalls or low-hanging fruit. I lost my first 10 or 15 lbs. that way, just trying to cut sodium.
Achieving real and sustainable results in business or lifestyle requires a plan. It’s always surprising the number of businesses that mistakenly skip this essential process, ostensibly due to ‘time crunch.’
When trying to get healthy — again, weight loss was a strategy not a goal — I sketched out such a roadmap with strategies, milestones and timelines. While this plan had tactics such as reducing sodium and portion control, it also had the flexibility to take advantage of momentum and some surprises. Business plans need that latitude too.
A tip: My goals recognized diminishing returns and necessary revision. Since my mission wasn’t a size per se, I set a goal of losing 60 lbs. over about a year, and then to reassess how I felt at 15 lb. intervals. At each milestone I rewarded myself. First, with much-needed new workout clothes, later with a Fitbit fitness tracker. This was important. Think of it like reinvesting profits into the business.
- Measure and Track for Smarter Decisions
Intuition is a great tool, but you cannot make solid decisions on — pardon the pun — your gut alone. The best decisions are based on data, which demands tracking and analysis. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are.
As a tech writer for more than two decades, it’s probably not surprising that I quickly turned to technology for support in this. (Also, enough cannot be said for the support of friends and family; they were like the excited seed investors in my weight loss!) I personally used the MyFitnessPal app and supplemented with a manual spreadsheet linked to my plan.
Because my decisions were based on data, the majority of my bulk-cutting choices became simple math: namely to burn more than I consumed to the tune of around 3,500 calories per pound of fat I wanted to lose. (This is never the silver bullet anyone who asks wants to hear.)
A tip: Eat pie! While I made many healthier food choices, I also added some surprising ones, such as having a slice of pie nearly every day. This daily “reward” was a direct result of making data-based choices. Knowing my nutrition goals and what was needed to achieve them, it was easy to justify and make room for the 330- to 350-calorie treat.
- Take Advantage of Momentum
When properly harnessed, momentum is a powerful tool, building from one success to the next. This is especially true in marketing efforts, for example, where exposure makes it easier to get attention and garner future exposure, and so on.
After a couple weeks, I felt this momentum build. What started as a simple play to cut sodium, quickly grew into better portioning, and snowballed from there. “While I’m at it, why don’t I eat more vegetables? And more fish and leaner meats?” “Why is the elliptical glider in the basement collecting 10 years of dust?” “Why wouldn’t you walk there?”
A tip: Harnessing momentum is perhaps the most important stage in my lifestyle changes. Had I ignored it, which is surprisingly easy to do, I wouldn’t have succeeded beyond the low-hanging fruit stage. Not to mention, I also believe upping my physical activity concurrent with losing weight helped to boost my metabolism.
- Prepare for the Unexpected / Some Bad News
Try as one might, things don’t always work according to plan. In business, markets shift and evolve. My first year running my own business ended up being during the Great Recession of 2008, putting a damper on early goals and making a three-year business plan take four.
My health journey had its own unexpected event. On losing 90 lbs., I found my health had improved remarkably; my moderate sleep apnea was long forgotten (and related snoring, to the confirmed delight of my wife); energy levels were through the roof and blood pressure was generally optimal. Stress was similarly at an all-time low.
But to prepare for a surgery I needed another 25 lbs. be lost rapidly — over just a couple months — on what one might call a “real diet” (ultra-low carb, high fat). Up until then I’d often claim I was not “on a diet,” but rather “had a diet.”
As with the previous months, I tackled this with business-like precision and succeeded. But I failed to plan for after surgery, for coming off the specialized diet or having surpassed my goals. I had also broken my momentum. Over the next year, I gained back the weight I lost for surgery, plus an additional 20 lbs. I have since brought this under control and started seeing renewed progress.
Like business, each year introduces new surprises and one must always keep their eyes on the ball, even on the sunniest of days.
The crux: Plans become derailed, and we cannot plan for every eventuality. We can, however, have a strategy for how we respond to the unexpected. A business continuity plan. The better we know our mission, goals, strengths and weaknesses, the better we can bounce back from or overcome obstacles.
In the case of the lifestyle journey I’m still on, getting back on track required a reboot. Not, as one might expect, in metabolism (although that surely helps), but in motivation, planning, goal setting, results tracking and harnessing momentum. In essence, it’s back to basics in the business of getting and staying healthy.