Ready, set, no sweat!

If you want to play the Weight Loss Game and lose 5 pounds, as detailed in today’s Refresh centerpiece, a little basic training can help. Here are some ground rules and tips I have discovered on how to ace this challenge.

Ground rules

• Get in the game. Accept that you can do it. Don’t say, “I’ve tried every diet but…” Also don’t listen to those ads on the radio telling you that you can’t do it. They are only trying to sell you something.

• If you want to lose more than 5 pounds, don’t worry about that. Those other pounds can wait (and they will). Just think of those first 5 pounds. That is the game. You can always play again.

• Keep a food and exercise diary. Find a way to make it colorful and fun. Either find a cute app (I like LoseIt) or get a little fluorescent notebook at the dollar store.

Those are the ground rules. Now go.


• Find a moderate exercise you like. You know how joggers are always just missing bumping into you? A phys ed teacher explained to me that’s because it’s such a miserable form of exercise that they don’t want to add any more steps than absolutely necessary. Exercise should not mean schlepping your overweight self miserably around the park or being yelled at in boot camp class. Find something pleasant. I love Zumba as long as it is not blowing out my eardrums (which I happen to need for work). I like Pilates because it makes me feel as if I am in a movie about 1920s dancers.

• Play the game of getting in some exercise every day, no exceptions.

• Walking is fine and much better than nothing. Get a pedometer and log 10,000 steps a day.

• Advice from me: steer clear of running. Sure, you get the glory. Streets are blocked off for you, crowds cheer you on and volunteers hand you bananas. But runners are always getting hurt. My uncle, a doctor, said it’s because we are not built like horses. Plus, the object of the game is not glory. It is to lose 5 pounds.

• Join a gym. You almost have to in Buffalo, with our unpredictable weather. Convenience is key. Find one near your house.

• Be ready to grab surprise exercise opportunities. Wear shoes you can walk in. Have gym clothes ready in a bag or in your car. Tuck a bathing suit and towel in there too, in case you find a place to swim.

• Buffalo garage sales are full of exercise equipment nobody wants. Buy weights, treadmills, skates and skis. Pride yourself on your collection.

• A big caveat: Exercise is not the answer to everything. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because you did Zumba for two hours you can eat and drink what you want. Which brings us to the subject of food.


• Cook for yourself. Avoid processed foods and you can ignore all those tiresome lectures on sodium.

• Meet your new best friends: cauliflower, mushrooms, eggplant and the big, humble green cabbage. They take minimal prep, you can prepare them in a million creative and delicious ways, and they keep for a few days in the fridge while you are deciding what to do with them.

• Buy a bento box. This is a cute compartmentalized lunch box that looks fancy and will encourage you to pack your own lunch, which I have learned is a must. I found a four-compartment bento on sale at Marshalls for $5.

• Eat two cups of vegetables per meal – four if you are talking uncooked greens. You know how magazines tell you to use smaller dinner plates? I found myself hauling out the large dinner plates. You might actually need chargers.

• Identify your personal danger foods and avoid them. At the top of my list is split pea soup. It’s good for you, but if I make a pot of it, I will eat it until it is gone. A whole chicken is also a no-no for me. It’s cheap, but I will keep coming back to it, eating the skin, the fat, the heart, everything. I have had to go the boneless, skinless route.

• Figure out foods that are not worth the calories. My list includes tortillas and quesadillas. They’re too thin. And pizza, too. I love pizza – who doesn’t? But I laugh when two little slices are suggested as a healthy dinner. They pack 400 calories and I would still be hungry.

• Buy a bread machine cheap at any thrift shop, and use it to make your own whole grain bread, with no white flour or additives.

• Avoid that white flour and white rice. Once, when I was out to lunch, I ate a sandwich on white bread. Two hours later my hunger came roaring back, twice as fierce as before lunch.

• Research your faith for dietary restrictions. As a Catholic, I decided to give up meat on Fridays all year round. The Catholic Church also used to have the Ember Days, a kind of seasonal three-day cleanse, four times a year. Learn to use your religion’s rules to your advantage.

• Go vegetarian for the short term. Meat has a lot of calories.

• Consider little changes you can live with. I cut calories by drinking my morning coffee black. A friend replaced the cream in her coffee with a little milk and a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder. Coffee mocha! And one gentleman I know lost pounds just by switching to light beer.

• Become oblivious to doughnuts, cake, muffins and other sugary things. If you need a dessert, try low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt. I bought some on sale and couldn’t believe how creamy and delicious it was.

• I have done the research on summer dilemmas. Beef on weck or chicken wings? Beef on weck. (With half the kummelweck roll, the half with the yummy crunchy salt.) German potato salad or American potato salad? German. Sahlen’s or Wardynski’s? Either one, but no more than one, and skip the white-flour bun.

This is a game. Make it fun.