People, back away from the table.
Even though your New Year's resolution to lose weight doesn't officially kick in until Wednesday, the first day of 2014, abusing your last few days of caloric freedom is a rookie mistake. If you were about to run a marathon, you wouldn't smoke a pack of Camels, right? So don't scarf down that last plate of Christmas cookies, either. It'll just add a week onto the other end of your diet.
I say this with all the self-righteousness of a person who lost about 30 pounds in 2013. (Truth be told, keeping the weight off in 2014 scares me a lot more than taking it off in the first place. And I've been pudgy for a lot more years than I've been trim.)
People ask me all the time how I lost the weight. They say, "You look good" like it's a question, a polite way of asking, "Are you dying?"
I explain that I am on the "meat head" diet. Basically, you're allowed to eat lots of meat, but nothing bigger than your head.
The "meat head" diet also requires you to give up all white foods. If you try it, say goodbye to Wonder bread, ice cream, rice, whipped cream, grits, pasta, marshmallows, sugar, milkshakes, mayonnaise, bananas and potatoes (ouch). If you forget this list, apply this rule: If it tastes good, don't eat it.
With my Scotch-Irish ancestry, giving up potatoes is a little like holding my breath. It makes me lightheaded and irritable. Before I decided to diet, I could, and did, eat potatoes in some form for almost every meal. Chips, fries and hash browns were my three favorite vegetables.
On the bright side, losing 30 pounds definitely make you feel lighter on your feet. If you don't believe it, swallow 100 rolls of pennies (about 30 pounds worth) and run up and down some stairs.
Due to health concerns and an abnormally round head, I dropped from 200 pounds to about 170 pounds in about six months. I weighed once a week and tracked my progress on the back of a business card taped to our refrigerator door. If you don't like the pressure of a weekly weigh-in, you'll know when you lose 30 pounds because your socks will no longer fit.
A low-carb, high-protein diet works best for me; and my doctor says dropping the weight has measurably improved my cholesterol, blood-sugar levels and blood pressure.
I also exercise every day. On work days I spend my lunch break doing laps around the block. I have learned that if you wear sunglasses and walk with purpose, it helps eliminate both panhandlers and love handles.
Mostly, though, losing weight is an exercise in willpower. I felt like I'd crossed a bridge when I handed out about 1,000 sugar cookies at a Times Free Press expo without eating a single one.
My main motivation is to live long enough to see my two young sons to to adulthood. Holding a grandbaby one day is probably too much to ask for. But it would be icing on the cake -- and that's a dessert I'd eat.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...