Losing Weight Without Dieting

Paul Rosenzweig Finally Succeeds
Paul Rosenzweig and his wife after weight loss.

At 52, Paul Rosenzweig was the heaviest he had ever been in his life. His weight had been creeping up for years. “I was below 185, then just below 190, then I broke 200.” He calls looking down at the scale as the needle passed 200, his wake-up call. “Twenty years ago when I got married I was in the low 170s. I had been so mad at myself for years at how much I weighed.” Today, a little more than a year later, Paul tips the scale at 177, and he did it without dieting.

Paul changed the way he thought about food and the way he thought about himself. He shifted his priorities and became mindful about what he was eating and drinking.

Paul had wanted to lose weight for the eight years I have known him. He was a diligent personal training client whose strength and flexibility continued to improve over the years. However, he just couldn’t seem to shed the pounds that were plaguing him. “I wasn’t happy where I was at. My clothes were getting tighter and tighter. It was harder to hike, and, worst of all, my wife thought I was a little chubby.”

“I’ve tried different diets – cutting out carbs, no sugar at all, even Lean Cuisine. But nothing worked with my life style and I wasn’t willing to totally give up my enjoyment of food.”

A Change in Strategy

Last year while working out right before Thanksgiving, Paul once again complained to me about his ascending weight. I told him, “Okay. Why don’t you start today changing the way you think about food?” He was open to trying but wanted to wait until after the holidays. I told him, “There will always be a holiday, a party, a birthday, a vacation – that’s life. You have to learn how to make your eating work for you no matter what is happening.”

Paul told me he was fairly certain he would fail, but he didn’t. “The fact that I’ve succeeded is great. I feel terrific that I can master both my personal and professional life. I never thought I could do it. One of the most important things I learned is that I shouldn’t have been surprised at my success. I should have had more self confidence.”

Why It Worked This Time

The weight came off because Paul was burning more calories than he was consuming. It’s not rocket science. He figured out what works for him, we mapped out a program and he continues to live by its tenets. There is no proprietary formula, no weighing of food, no counting of points, no eating every two hours. It’s basic stuff: eating better, exercising more, staying positive and hopeful, controlling negative self talk and being open to change.

Paul changed how he felt about losing weight. Before he took any action the shift was in his thoughts and feelings. Even though he was skeptical, he was open to changing the way he thought about food. He took the time to become more aware of how he feels when he eats – what tastes good, what it feels like to feel full, to feel hungry and how eating certain foods makes you feel. As a result, he eats more often when he is hungry and stops when he is full.

Paul also has more patience with himself. He says, “I keep my eye on the prize. Looking forward to where I want to be is more important than where I am.”

Paul did not do it alone. I was coaching him every step of the way. I read his food journals. We discussed better food and exercise choices and I ramped up his exercise routine. Instead of spending more time in the gym, he works out more efficiently and more intensely.

He didn’t have to sacrifice anything and that allowed him to relax into losing weight. No food was off limits, so he didn’t have to eat it all every time.

What Changed

As a prominent D.C. lawyer with a national security and homeland security practice, he leads a very hectic and sometimes stressful life. A typical week has several lunch meetings and dinner invitations in the schedule. He said he has become more discerning during this past year when he picks up a menu or goes to the market. “I’m more mindful of what I choose.” He does not feel deprived because he knows he can eat anything he wants. “All last year I continued to go out to eat, continued to socialize and continued to enjoy wine and beer. Nothing was off limits.” This year, the week before Thanksgiving, Paul anticipated the delicious food he wanted to enjoy with his family that day so he had no desserts and cut back on wine and carbs. “I did that so I could eat what I wanted on the holiday.”

“I was really surprised to find out that food I thought tasted bad, tasted good. I now like yogurt and cottage cheese better than the steak and cheese and bologna and cheese sandwiches I used to eat.” He also discovered that if he eats too much sugar he gets a little sick to his stomach. “I can stop eating the second cookie because it doesn’t taste as good. I get the sugar rush from one instead of three. When I decide not to eat something I know I can have it the next time.”

Exercise became Paul’s first priority. “Unless something comes up that’s essential that I be there, I make sure I go to the gym. Before, if it was a choice between work and exercise, work always won out.” Paul walks six days a week with his wife Katie, and goes to the gym three times a week. He did his first 25-mile bike ride for charity last fall and is looking forward to a bike trip in Vietnam this winter. “I have a lot more energy and don’t get tired as much. Peddling 180 pounds up hill is lot easier that peddling 200.”

Another change that Paul has made is eating more fresh foods and choosing more nutrient dense processed foods. “We buy at Fresh Tuesdays at Eastern Market and during the summer we went to the farmer’s market on Saturdays. Harris Teeter trips are now more for staples and paper goods. I even changed the kind of cereal I eat.”

Paul says he is still working on eating his food more slowly and, while urges have lessened, he still finds them challenging. He’s learned it’s better for him not to eat any bread served in a restaurant instead of trying to eat just one piece. He still keeps a daily food journal which helps him be more aware and see the big picture of his eating patterns.

The Secret

The secret to losing weight is no secret at all. “It’s a lifelong process, not an individual event. I know myself better. I am now aware of what I eat and I plan my days. I can say, ‘It’s my grandson’s birthday and I will have birthday cake. If I fall off the wagon (which I have over the year and will continue to do), I no longer beat myself up (as much) or give up as I did in the past. I know I can get back on track.”

While he wouldn’t describe his journey to becoming more healthy as “fun” exactly, he said, “I like being challenged. It’s a pleasure for me to meet that challenge. That’s what I’ve done professionally and now I did it personally.” Paul realizes that his journey is not done. His next challenge is to lose another five pounds. He calls it his “drive for five more.” He says he is looking forward to the adventure. To see what Paul has to say about the program he was on check him out on You Tube - "Pattie C's Weight Loss Program 1.

Pattie Cinelli has been writing her health/fitness column in the Hill Rag for almost 20 years. She is a personal trainer specializing in balancing the mind with the body through movement. She teaches Pilates, yoga and core strength and stability. To learn more about her MindBody Balance for Weight Loss program contact her at: fitness@pattiecinelli.com.

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