I’ve lost 10 pounds in 9 weeks on the Cooking Light Food Lover’s Social Diet, right on track, and it’s turning out to be by far the most plausible way to lose I’ve encountered. As I’ve outlined, I’m cutting absolutely nothing out of my diet—I love food too much, food is at the heart of both work and life, and I’m not interested in unsustainable approaches, regimens, nutrient obsessions, or eating the way my ancestors did 10,000 years ago in Scotland. This is about portions and exercise. In the past, I made resolutions and tried to keep a general eye on calories, sometimes using a food diary, but it was too loosey-goosey. This time, a plan in hand, it’s working. Here are the top five reasons why.
1) The social effect. Weight Watcher’s long ago proved that group support is important in weight loss, but I’m a group-phobic introvert. Yet I love connecting with people at work, and I love gadgets and software. I just don’t want to sit in a circle or whatever it is they do. Being able to yak and laugh daily with others who share similar goals and are using the same software and tech—this leads to many-times-per-day positive reinforcement, support, empathy. I would encourage anyone interested in losing weight to follow our simple setup. If you want more details, e-mail me at Scott_Mowbray@timeinc.com.
2) Friendly competition. To deny the competitive element would be to lie. The combination of MyFitnessPal and the UP fitness monitor means everyone on our team sees how many steps everyone else has walked, how much we’ve slept (!!), and, for those who have decided to share the deep data, exactly what we’ve been eating. The competition isn’t about the eating, though: It’s about the 10,000-step-per-day goal—who’s made 10k, who’s beaten 10k, who’s made the elite 20k+ mark. But there’s also a strong sense of we’re in this together and we’re doing damned well. Everyone, even time-crunched new mom of twins Allison Fishman Task, has seen a big boost in calories out.
3) Sloth awareness. The UP wristband buzzes if you’ve been indolent at desk or couch for 30 minutes (except after bedtime). It thereby reveals how amazingly sedentary office life is. Team members have started taking the long way around the building to get steps in, always using the stairs, etc. When you jack in the band and find you’re short of goal, you head out, even walk around the house like a locked-out idiot, to make goal. These are “duh” strategies and eccentric preoccupations, but seeing the data on the iPhone provides the sort of rewards that make puppies wag their tails. (I’m writing this while marooned at the Charlotte airport on a no-exercise travel day, and now I know that if you drag your rollie through Terminals A–E, it’s 4,000 steps.)
4) Spousal support. My wife, Kate, is a 6-times-per-week yoga practitioner with a back of steel and the calves of an Olympian, and she’s a boon companion on 60-minute walks. She’s also happy to share entrées in restaurants and participate in other portion-control techniques that I used to view as a tremendous buzz-kill. It’s hard to overstate the importance of a real, live fitness and food pal: if not a spouse, then a friend. This stuff happens in groups, but it’s anchored in pairs.5) Going public. For me, revealing weight, goal, and target date was important. Not than anyone gives a hoot if I fail, but it’s been nice to receive supportive tweets and e-mails. Two of our team members, Allison Fishman Task and Erin Clinton, also shared their starting and goal weights—and that, we all know, is a much braver thing for a woman to do in our silly culture. Does the whiff of public failure add incentive? It feels that way to me.
Many other factors are making this work, but the net effect is an exuberant feeling that has persisted well after the first blush of success. It feels like a plausible lifestyle change will emerge from this project, which was the idea. Not that it’s always easy, and I predict/expect a serious case of the doldrums. But so far, so good.