The Unsecret Shopper Diet: How I Lost 82 Pounds In 12 Months
The photo above is the digital readout of the scales on the 2nd floor of the Walnut Creek YMCA in Windsor Heights, taken yesterday afternoon, with your truly standing on it.
335 days earlier, on Monday, January 4th, the same scales (stood on by the same dude) said “242.6 lb.” (There’s no photographic evidence of that day’s weigh-in, understandably.)
The difference in those two numbers is about 80 pounds, or roughly the weight of your 6-foot real Christmas Tree, fully ornamentalized, without the cat climbing in it, but including the stand.
Yes, life is better, thinner. Wait – not just thinner. Thin. I can see my ribs without sucking it in. I can make out my pelvic bone. When I sit down on a hard surface, it feels like I’m sitting on my keys, which is actually my tailbone. My Body Mass Index is 23.6 – perfect for my 5-9 and a half-inch frame. I’m wearing size 33-34 pants (down from 40′s in January). When I walk upstairs, I feel like I’m floating.
And I can’t stop smiling.
There’s much more to this story – as in, I once weighed 320 pounds. Yeah, that’s definitely more. The more accurate truth is that I’ve lost 80 pounds in 12 months and 160 pounds in 13 years. I am half the man I used to be.
Yet I feel as if I am twice the man I once was. Perhaps that has something to do with the weight loss.
What I want to share with you is my roadmap for losing all of this weight. It is my Jonnie diet. I invented it and perfected it. It works for me – maybe it, or parts of it, can work for you.
1. I eat half of the things I really like to eat.
I once allowed food to control me. Now I control it.
I’ll buy a candy bar and throw half away. I’ll buy a small bag of popcorn at the concession stand and dump half of it into the trash before walking into the theater, often to the shock of onlooking patrons. If I eat a piece of pizza, or cake, I’ll eat half and gladly heave the rest into the garbage. If I crave a pack of M and M’s, I’ll buy the newer ones with pretzels in them, count out all 14, and hand 7 to a friend. I used to dump out half a bottle of Pepsi, until I discovered the joys of Diet Pepsi, and later, its more healthy, caffeine-free relative.
2. I eat about every 90 minutes.
I almost never get hungry. I’ll start eating around 7:30am, and won’t stop until 10 minutes before I fall asleep. When I’m not flapping my gums as a customer service trainer, I’m chomping them on chow – small amounts, spread out over the 15 or so hours I’m awake each day.
3. I eat the same thing every day.
I’m an emotional eater. I eat when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m angry, when I’m (insert feeling). The best thing I can do is take the emotions out of my food choices, and make it strictly about eating to stay alive. Also, by eating the same foods all the time, I know exactly how many calories are in them, so there’s no guessing, which leads to uncertainty, which leads to stress, which leads to stuffing my face.
Here’s my typical day’s food intake:
Meal 1: Ham and Cheese breakfast sandwich on pretzel bread (from Quik Trip, as is most of why I buy) and a bottle of caffeine-free diet Pepsi – 330 calories
Meal 2: Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cup and bottle of caffeine-free diet Pepsi – 45 calories
Meal 3: Apple – 120 calories
Meal 4: Beef jerky and bottle of caffeine-free diet Pepsi - 75 calories
Meal 5: Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cup and bottle of caffeine-free diet Pepsi – 45 calories
Meal 6: 2 ounce hunk of Kraft cheddar cheese - 200 calories
Meal 7: Apple – 120 calories
Meal 8: 12 ounces of baby bella mushrooms sprayed with Pam butter flavored vegetable oil, seasoned with Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning, plus salt and pepper and microwaved for 3 minutes – 70 calories
Meal 9: Birdseye Three Cheese Chicken Dinner – 630 calories, plus salsa, 100 calories and a bottle of caffeine-free diet Pepsi - 730 calories
Meal 10: Swiss Miss Tapioca Pudding - 140 calories
Total for the day: 1855 calories
4. I buy only what I’m going to eat that day, as I eat it.
I have the emptiest refrigerator in town. I can’t stuff my face late at night because there’s nothing to stuff it with. Plus, spending money makes me happy, so the act of buying – and there is a lot of transactional buying during my day - satiates part of my brain. It also provides a level of socialization – I meet and interact with a lot of store clerks.
5. I don’t worry about exercising.
The most brilliant thing I ever heard about losing weight came from Rush Limbaugh, a man who has gained and lost his share of pounds. He said that weight loss is about food, not exercise. Focus on the food, and you’ll lose the weight. Focus on the exercise, and you’ll stress yourself out, which will make you want to eat more.
He was right.
I used to jog 6-8 miles a day and lift weights every other, until I’d screwed up my knees, my back and my shoulder – and was still fat.
Today, I jog once or twice a week, but only when it sounds like something fun to do – which it sometimes does, since I no longer feel like I have to.
6. I’m fulfilled.
The greatest advice I can give anyone is to never stop seeking their own happiness.
Overeating for most of my adult life has been my way of numbing myself to the pain of not being happy; that unhappiness came from not living up to my own expectations.
The process of finding myself, of understanding what I’m supposed to do with my life, has been long and difficult, with many wrong turns and many missteps. Yet the most important part of my journey has been to not stop asking myself: Am I doing what makes me happy?
It is only recently that the answer has consistently been “yes.”
The results of that single word, and of the journey it has taken to find it, speak for themself.
1998 – 320 pounds
December 2009 – 242 pounds
Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.
Click to email Jonnie (firstname.lastname@example.org)