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Holding yourself accountable is essential for weight loss

October 12, 2015 - Andy Flynn
(This is the Oct. 2, 2015 Lake Placid Diet column.)

This week: 412

Sept. 15: 420

Difference: -8

When it comes to losing weight, it’s too easy to make excuses and give yourself permission to eat more than you should and to skip exercising. That’s why creating a means for accountability is imperative to any successful weight-loss program.

I had almost given up hope that I would ever lose weight. Faced with an early death if I didn’t act soon, I made my weight-loss a public journey by writing the Lake Placid Diet column, reporting my progress — good or bad — to readers every week in the Lake Placid News. The key was to be honest, whether I lost weight or gained. Being honest with the public forced me to be honest with myself. There was no hiding.

That was my main source of accountability, but after a while, it got old. I began loathing that number. The pressure was too much, and it created more stress, which led to stress eating. I eventually plateaued, then gained some of the weight back.

Another source of accountability is the 12-week Fit Revolution weight-loss class I’ve been attending at the Fitness Revolution gym. I’m currently in the middle of my fourth round, the first of which I attended in the spring of 2014. Not only is this a wonderful support group — my Fit Rev family — but trainers such as Jason McComber are holding us accountable every week. I have to weigh in every week for both the Lake Placid Diet and the Fit Revolution program.

It’s an interesting conversation when I go to the doctor’s office. The nurse immediately brings me to the scale to weigh me, and I always refuse. I just tell them my weight, as I weigh myself almost every day. Disgruntled, the nurse usually says something like, “They want us to weigh you,” adding that not everybody tells the truth about their weight. Then I reply, “I weigh myself every week and print it in the newspaper. Why would I lie to you?” It doesn’t make them happy, but they accept it.

I’ve found that having daily accountability rituals are helpful. Counting calories is the best example. I use the MyFitnessPal app on my smartphone. Choosing a maximum calorie amount for the day — and sticking to it — is a great way to stay on track. Even if I forget to update my calorie count one or two days a week, doing it five or six days a week is better than not doing it at all.

I’m living proof that there’s no better way to hold myself accountable, with regard to an exercise program, than to publicly announce in the Lake Placid News that I’ll be walking a half-marathon. For two years in a row, I tracked my training program for June’s Lake Placid Half-Marathon, and I wrote about my race experiences. Even spending money on registration for a race without publicly announcing your participation is accountability enough. I’ve found that it’s the training, not the race itself, that gave me the most benefit, physically. No matter how I felt, I forced myself to complete a long walk most Sundays; otherwise, I’d put my race in jeopardy. That said, it was a great feeling to finish the race the first time and an even better feeling to beat my record by an hour the second time. And yes, I will be competing in the 2016 race. So there you go, more accountability.

Some of my Fit Revolution friends submitted their take on accountability for this week’s column.

“I need the group for accountability,” Jennifer Friel said. “Public weigh-ins and workouts help me remember to choose wisely outside of the gym. I fail when I’m not part of the group. Plus my other major pitfall is stress. I have always eaten my emotions. When I’m stressed it doesn’t matter what is going in my mouth, and I tend to make bad food choices. Chats with my trainers help me refocus my stress and my goals too.”

Merry Barney said, “As for accountability, I have clothes I don’t fit in, and I refuse to buy a bigger size. I also fail when I’m not part of the group, a hard lesson to learn.”

Donna Eggleton gets inspiration from her husband, who is also in the group.

“Les is my accountability partner,” she said. “We support each other 24/7. My pitfall has been emotional eating, which I am doing much better with. I am way too hard on myself.”

“Ditto,” Les said.

Jeff Letson said he counts on reminders from his friends.

“Peer pressure is my accountability,” he said. “It worked that way in the Navy while qualifying for my special warfare insignia. I have to be a part of something bigger than me. It’s not just about me, but I can contribute my part as part of the greater whole.”

Letson’s major pitfall is having a good time.

“I still think I’m 21 and can eat and drink like I did back then,” he said. “I probably don’t rely on the trainers as much as I could. It’s the macho past from the Navy. ... Kryptonite is beer!! Sundays now for football season.”

The Fit Revolution trainers have done a few things this round to make us more accountable. One is tough love.

“Accountability - you will hear this all round,” McComber posted on the group’s Facebook page. “Taking charge of your life and your choices. No more making excuses. Start making choices. What you do outside these doors is as important as what you do inside these doors.”

When it comes time for weigh-in night, McComber doesn’t let up.

“Time to set the bar,” he wrote.

He’s also instituted a game of tag, whereby one person each week is chosen at random to submit his/her food journal. Yes, we are required to count our calories and must share them at a moment’s notice.

“Every night you enter these doors you should have your food journal ready to show if asked,” McComber wrote. “Game face on. Intro week is over. Let’s take the first step towards your goal tonight.”

We also have to write down our weight and fitness goals for 12 weeks, six months and one year. Using the 12-week weight goal, we have to meet weekly weight-loss goals. In addition to the requirement of attending at least three fitness classes a week, we have to sign a contract that we will meet our weight goals.

On the surface, this may sound stringent. But what is the alternative? We are here for a reason. This is not a social club; it is a weight-loss program. It’s not the Biggest Loser television show, where you could be sent home for not losing enough weight, but the trainers are doing all they can — aside from making us sweat for 60 to 90 minutes during the workouts — in order to create responsible conditions that will help us lose weight.

In the end, the trainers can only do so much, as we’ve found when we take a break from the program. Most of us gain weight in between rounds. We’ve learned the hard way that we need to own our choices and act accordingly.

“You need to be accountable for the choices you make surrounding your diet, your health and your life,” McComber said.


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Blog Photos

There’s no better way to hold yourself accountable, with regard to an exercise program, than to publicly announce that you’ll be competing in a major race. Shown above are participants in the 2015 Lake Placid Marathon & Half. (News photo — Lou Reuter)