About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Losing It #3: Weight Loss Tips

Since I started losing weight for (hopefully) the last time, I've been surprised at how many other people have told me that my efforts have inspired them to get off the couch to take a walk or ride a bike. Maybe I inspire them, but these comments also motivate me. When I receive comments from other people about how I've helped them to start losing some extra pounds, it makes it easier for me to head out the door for a walk on the days when I feel less motivated. I post regular walk or weight loss updates on Facebook. Sometimes it'll be something like "added another half mile to my walk" or "will need a smaller belt soon." The last thing I want to do now is post a status update that reads "bought a pint of Ben and Jerry's and stopped exercising today."

I've even had a few people asking for tips and motivation, and that's what this blog entry is all about. Please, please, please don't take this as a blueprint for your own weight loss plan. This is a random list of what is working for me. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. I am NOT a dietician, and I'm not recommending any particular diet program. Again, I'm just telling you what is working for me. If you want to create your own diet plan, you should consult an expert. If you have a tip of your own to add, please do so!
  • Diet AND exercise, not one or the other.
  • Remember that you're in it for the long haul. The first week, you may lose 5-10 pounds of mostly water. Don't think that this will always be the case! I lost 10 pounds my first week, but after that, I've dropped a steadier, more natural 1-2 pounds a week. Although I'd like to be ready for a fitness photo shoot next week, realistically, I'm looking to be at or near my target weight in about a year. I didn't gain this weight overnight, and I'm not going to lose it overnight.
  • Pick an exercise that you enjoy. If an exercise feels like torture or is mind numbingly boring, you'll probably stop after a week or two. Walking is what works for me. You don't need fancy equipment, and walking is such a natural activity for the human body that even a very overweight person like me can do it.
  • Another reason to pick an exercise you enjoy is that you'll want to keep it up AFTER you've lost the weight.
  • If you get bored easily with one type of exercise, mix it up. Although I enjoy walking, I don't walk exclusively. I also have a stationary bike at home. I prefer walking, but sometimes I just feel like playing a DVD and pedaling at home. It's also my back-up plan if it's raining too hard to walk.
  • Exercise regularly. I walk or pedal 5-6 days a week.
  • For weight loss, go long and slow, not fast and hard. My walk is a little over 4 miles and takes an hour and ten minutes. On the stationary bike, I pedal 30 minutes at a moderately fast pace…enough to keep me breathing hard, but not so fast that my legs really start to burn.
  • Find a regular time to exercise and build it into your schedule. Make it a regular part of your day, not something extra. I prefer exercising at night, but I'm often rehearsing or gigging at night, which gives me a perfect excuse to skip. I adjusted my schedule so that I exercise first thing in the morning, and now I rarely miss a workout.
  • Create a support network. I'm single and live alone, and I prefer to spend time by myself. Although I don't spend much time with other people, I've created a support system for myself on Facebook. I didn't intend for this to happen. All I did was start posting status updates about my progress. Friends immediately started responding with encouraging comments, and so they support me and I support them.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip. If you couldn't resist the cookies today, don't worry about it. Move on, and try to make a better choice tomorrow. If you skipped your exercise today, don't worry about it. Move on, and make sure you exercise tomorrow. It's all about developing a generally healthy way of life. A bump in the road here and there won't affect your overall lifestyle.
  • I try to keep my meals as simple as possible, and I avoid processed foods as much as I can. I stick to basics: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, beans, and rice. Basically, I want everything on the plate to look pretty much like it does coming out of the ground.
  • I've cut out most sugar from my diet. Sugar is not your friend.
  • Keep junk food out of the house. This is one of the best decisions I've made. I'm a compulsive eater and a junk food junkie. If there's junk food in the house, it won't even last a day. Buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's and it'll be gone in no time. Buy two pints of Ben and Jerry's? It doesn't matter; it'll still be gone. A bag of chips? Gone. Since I know my own habits and weaknesses, it's best to not even give myself the opportunity.
  • It's okay to eat out, but just be smart about your choices. I used to order a bacon cheeseburger and fries at my favorite lunch spot. Now I order a chicken wrap and a side salad. Unfortunately it's usually a little more expensive, but I always order a side salad instead of fries.
  • Although I still eat out, there are some places I have to avoid for now. I just love the unhealthy goodness of a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder, and so I avoid McDonald's like the plague. If I'm looking for a quick meal out, I'll head to Subway.
  • Don't put yourself on some sort of exotic diet. If it's a pain to prepare or find the necessary foods, you won't stick to your diet. Keep it simple.
  • Don't try to eat a whole bunch of food you don't like. I've cut out my favorite treats, like ice cream and chips, so why punish myself by eating foods I don't enjoy? If I try to constantly eat foods I don't like, I guarantee I'll fall off the wagon.
  • If you're like me and have trouble avoiding the bucket o' popcorn at the movies, be a rebel and smuggle in some "outside" food.
  • Don't starve yourself. You're trying to establish habits for life, and starvation diets don't work anyway.
My overall strategy is to keep it as simple as possible. In a nutshell: move more and eat less.

I hope this helps someone, and if you have any advice, please post a comment. We're all in this together.


  1. Very good advice Tom! I am a diabetic and exercise along with a healthy eating plan is essential to helping me maintain my blood sugar levels. My advice would be for people to visit a nutritionist. I believe most doctors would give you a referral if asked. Yes, most of us have common sense and know what we should or shouldn't eat but a nutritionist can help you put it in perspective and educate you about what foods work together and what you should avoid doing. For example, most people probably don't realize that milk raises your blood sugar just as much as orange juice does. Dairy is a more complex carbohydrate than juice, so it's a more gradual spike. These days doctors recommend diabetics drink milk rather juice when their blood sugar is low. For me these days, it's all about Carbs, not calories. I try to keep each meal to right around 45 carbs and snacks to less than 20. Some "diet" or "low fat" meals have more Carbs than the original, so be careful of thinking you are eating healthier because you bought a box that said low fat. Not all fats are bad...

  2. With my past eating habits and family history, it's a miracle that I'm not diabetic.

  3. Heather Moll-DunnMay 16, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    Hi Tom,
    I really like your tips. Very sensible! I have also found that my weight, eating habits, and motivation to exercise are tied to my emotional well being. A theripist
    with some expertise in food related behaviors has been helpful for me. I never knew it is really about the underlying fellings and not the food that was my downfall.

    Good luck and I have enjoyed hearing about your journey!


  4. Thanks Heather. I'm sure there is some emotional tie-in with me, too. The last time I lost a lot of weight was when Katherine divorced me. I guess the "divorce diet" isn't a cliche. My tendency is to tie in everything I do with eating. Movie=popcorn. Book or TV=chips, etc. I have no problem motivating myself to exercise. For me, it's the eating habits that have been the most challenging to adjust.