Brian Rittmeyer never expected to lose 65 pounds. He just started walking.
“It surprised the heck out of me,” Rittmeyer said. “I had no idea it could be so easy.”
Rittmeyer began with brief walks around his neighborhood. The more he walked, the farther he found he could walk. When hills became easier, he sought bigger ones. He watched his carbs and his sugar and skipped the bagels at the office. His weight fell from 235 pounds to 170.
Of course, for anyone who has ever struggled with weight loss, Rittmeyer’s story might raise a jealous eyebrow. If losing weight is so easy, why are 40 percent of Americans obese? Why are the nearly 262 obesity-related medical conditions — like diabetes and cardiovascular issues — on the rise?
Some of Rittmeyer’s neighbors saw him walking and told him he was an inspiration. Their vote of confidence and curiosity made him want to find out if his method would work for anyone else.
“It’s funny because everyone can do the exact same thing and everyone can get very different results,” said Elise Wood, a registered dietitian with Allegheny Health Network based out of West Penn Hospital’s Bariatric & Metabolic Institute. “The foundation for all weight loss is lifestyle changes. We live in a very difficult environment to make healthy choices.”
But Rittmeyer never thought of himself as unhealthy. He just wasn’t paying attention.
“I didn’t think I was making unhealthy choices (but) I just didn’t think about it, so I probably was,” he said. “I didn’t pay attention to calories (so) I ate what I liked.”
Like many Americans, he was also fairly sedentary.
But as the signs started mounting — bigger T-shirts, higher blood pressure — Rittmeyer took notice and took action.
The first step was to change his thinking about food. He didn’t consider his efforts a “diet” so much as a healthy lifestyle change that he would be employ long-term.
Breakfast became scrambled eggs and fruit; lunch, a spinach and chicken salad, and an occasional single slice of pizza. Ice cream went out; Greek yogurt came in.
“No food is good or bad, it’s how often and how much,” Wood said. “If you want a slice of toast, have it. Listen to your body. If you’re full, don’t eat it.”
Exercise also became a priority, but he didn’t join trendy gyms or pay into overpriced programs.
“I never knew that walking alone could be enough. Exercise is often thought of as difficult, even painful, whether it be intense workouts, weightlifting or running,” Rittmeyer said. “Wood said anything that gets the heart rate up and makes you sweat is good — we should get at least 30 minutes of activity every day.”
It can be as easy as that — or maybe not. But you don’t know what works for you unless you’re trying.
While there isn’t one solution for everybody, “the foundation is a healthy diet and exercise. Those are things your body needs,” Wood said. “You need to find a diet that works for you, whatever that diet is.”
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