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How I lost 40 pounds: Setting goals and working to achieve them

When Benjamin Lee got winded just tying his shoes he realized that years of after-work drinks and socializing were not the healthiest way to live.

Benjamin Lee

26, Burnaby, B.C.

Pounds dropped: 40

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My turning point: One morning in June, 2010, I sat down to tie my shoelaces. Suddenly my breathing became constricted due to the pressure of my abdomen on the thighs. I was winded – from tying my shoes. In that moment, the culmination of three years of an unhealthy lifestyle – where networking dinners, after-work drinks and countless social functions dominated. It all dawned on me all at once: Taking the stairs had long been replaced by the elevator. The nice shirts I had once loved became ill-fitted. And now I actually couldn't tie my shoes without feeling tired.

My method: In what would be a long list of goals, the first was to lose five pounds in a month. It sounded completely doable. I started by immediately replacing all the soft drinks I'd have daily with glasses of water. After I managed cardio for 10 minutes, I progressed to 20 minutes – from jogging to hill climbs, four times a week. That transformed into 45 minutes of high intensity intervals twice a week. I became the guy who read magazines on the upright bike while sweat dripped from my wrists.

When my weight lost reached a plateau, I modified the intensity of the exercises by alternating between the rowing machine and elliptical, swimming after weight-lifting sessions – and reducing my alcohol intake to drinking once a week, a maximum of two drinks. The goals I have set for myself over a period of three years would range from a combination of moderate to ambitious: weight maintenance for two months to losing five pounds in two weeks.

Once one goal is reached, I set another. Losing weight is hard work. You learn to be authentic and honest with yourself. At times I was my harshest critic and other days, the most forgiving. My goal to lose weight was unshakable because I wanted to fit into clothes that I had bought years earlier but had rarely worn. Every six weeks I have accountability sessions to compare whether the fit of these clothes had improved: I would lay out the shirts, jeans and sweaters. I would subsequently revise my goals and timelines. The progress to date has been very rewarding indeed: three extra holes punched into belts, a suit that I had made three years ago had to be taken in twice – and will need to be taken in again next month.

My current goal? Lose the last 10 pounds – this will involve eating four to five small meals a day and diligence in portion control. I used to drink the most in social settings. Now, I still talk the loudest and dance the longest – to use up my abundance of energy. I feel great.

My kryptonite: Impromptu pub crawls once every three or four weeks with old friends I don't see often enough typically involve beers, rum and cokes, nachos, late-night shawarma and poutine. These rare nights are a great treat: No holding back and no regrets the next morning.

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