Building a Diet and Exercise Plan that Works for You

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Here is a bit of inspiration for your diet and exercise plan

For those people whose response to ‘I need to lose weight’ is ‘But you’re not heavy‘, thank you. But I’m doing it for me, not you. Just wanted to get that out of the way first.

There is nothing wrong with being overweight. Being overweight is not necessarily the same thing as being unhealthy, and frankly, I’m not unhealthy by almost any measure, nor are many of my friends who are significantly heavier than I am. But this is the deal. I want to weigh 130-140 lbs. That weight feels right to me. It’s a personal choice, and I’m pursuing it (again).

It’s true that I only have about forty pounds to lose to be close to ideal weight (fifty pounds would nail it), but I have been trying to lose that same forty pounds for sixteen years now. I once got close, but I immediately congratulated myself and stop trying – and gained thirty pounds.

There is certainly some vanity in my desire to lose weight. I like the way I look at 130 pounds – a lot. I like the compliments I get, I like the clothes I am then able to fit into. And there are other good reasons for me to lose that forty pounds. (Pay attention: Some of these might apply to you.)

  • I had gestational diabetes with both pregnancies. Doctors tell me that this history means that I have a greatly increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • I feel better and my arthritis is less severe when I weigh less.
  • When I have worked on flexibility and muscle strength, I can do more in the garden.
  • When I have worked on stamina, I have enormously more energy through the day.
  • After I finish a workout, I get a burst of energy that lasts for hours.
  • I eat healthier foods and have less digestive issues

And yet I start on a diet and exercise plan, get frustrated or bored, and give it up in a month or two (or in the case of the last time I seriously worked on exercise, after about a year).

So what is the solution? Is the goal actually a particular weight, or am I kidding myself? Is there another goal that is getting in the way? Is there an obligation getting in the way? What are other barriers?

I’ve been sitting with those questions and thinking about them since I gave up my gym membership in November. (Feel free to ask yourself some of the same questions).

  • Do I want a new gym membership (I’ve changed jobs, so it makes sense to find a gym close to my new workplace) ?
  • Do I want to purchase an elliptical machine (my cardio of choice) for at home to reduce drive time to and from the gym?
  • Do I want to develop a different routine?
  • What about diet? How will I measure it? How will I change it?
  • What tools will I use to ‘keep myself honest’?
  • I know my goal weight, but what is my goal date?

So here we are at the decision point. I strongly believe in free or low cost solutions for diet and exercise where possible, except where there is no free or low cost solution that works for you.

Here is my diet and exercise plan:


  • I will fire up my account and start recording every calorie I eat.
  • I will consciously attempt to follow (more or less) a ‘Mediterranean diet’ utilizing ‘good’ oils, high fiber foods with minimal processing, low meat consumption, and lots of (natural) color in my foods.
  • I will limit my chocolate to 2 squares a day.
  • I will eliminate or greatly reduce added sugar in my foods (no sugar in my coffee or tea – that one is going to hurt).
  • I will increase my water intake.


  • I will return to doing my old yoga routine every day (or every other day).
  • I will do the 100 pushup challenge (this one is a lot of fun). First round, ‘girl’ pushups, second round, full pushups.
  • I will take a walk every day, indoor or outdoor, until I can afford to buy an elliptical machine. (I have knee issues that prevent running).
  • I will use my stability ball and dumbbells to do additional weight training.
  • I will record all of my exercise in
  • (I will start with one time to exercise per day, then add one per week until I get to three).


  • I will use a combination of diet and exercise to lose ten pounds per month, and adjust every day as necessary to keep on that trajectory.
  • I will stop and switch to a maintenance routine when I hit 130 lbs.

Barriers to be addressed:

  • I need a new bathroom scale. My current one is useless.
  • I need a place I can work out consistently in privacy. That means I need to clean my bedroom and keep it that way.
  • I need to balance exercise needs and writing needs. (Part of the reason I gave up the gym is because I resumed writing this blog). Do I need to reduce number of posts per week? Something else?
  • Will I be able to stick to an exercise routine without a gym membership?

Is it a perfect plan? Almost certainly not. But it has a lot of good elements:

  • It addresses both diet and exercise.
  • It looks at what has worked for me in the past and incorporates those things in the plan.
  • It addresses weak spots (sugar intake!)
  • It provides ways to record progress and hold myself accountable
  • It has enough flexibility to account for issues that might arise.

When you are building your own diet and exercise plan, you are welcome to incorporate any or all of these ideas. Some things to keep in mind from the get-go.

  • Talk to your doctor about any physical limitations and get her okay on any significant change in physical activity.
  • Don’t starve yourself or go to a ‘one note’ diet. Develop or use a diet that is well rounded and provides all the nutrients you need. The diet you lose weight on needs to be one that (modified) you can live on after you’ve lost the weight.
  • Think about what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past and build your plan with those elements.
  • Forgive yourself if you don’t meet your goal for a day, a week, or a month. Setbacks happen. If the goal is important enough, you’ll return to it.
  • Enlist the help of friends and/or family. Is there someone willing to go to the gym with you? Can you change family meals to be more in line with your diet?
  • Whether your goal is to gain weight, lose weight, or increase your health at your current weight, give it some serious thought and start working toward your goal, and it will start happening.
  • Avoid extremes and fads. Starving yourself and exercising to exhaustion without respite are not healthy habits.

Part of my accountability, this time around, will be a diet and exercise update report, posted every Sunday until I reach goal weight and then once a month or so after. Feel free to add your own updates to my posts, or friend me on Fitocracy (I’m ‘odanu’)and join the game (it’s a lot of fun, btw.). I’m contemplating finding my camera (or giving in and buying a new one) and taking weekly pictures to go with the updates, so you can see what I’m talking about.

I started on Monday (immediately after a surgery on Friday — yes, I’m insane, why do you ask). So far I’m doing well on the diet portion and not as well on the exercise portion, but I have spent a minimum of five minutes doing yoga each day (today, 15 minutes).

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