Health + Fitness

4 Tips That Helped Me Stick to My Goals and Lose 30 Pounds

The following is a guest post from Richard Duong, pharmacy resident at Diplomat

You know it’s January when you can’t find a parking spot at your gym, the local grocery store is out of Greek yogurt and nobody will go out with you for all-you-can-eat steak. Well, at least for a couple of weeks, that is.

New Year’s resolution season is in full swing, and millions around the country share one goal: to lose weight.

The problem is, many people start working on their New Year’s goals, but only a fraction of those keep it up. In fact, a study out of the University of Scranton showed that only around 70 percent of subjects stuck to their resolution after one week, and only 50 percent continued after three months. Many people don’t even make New Year’s resolutions in the first place, maybe because they’ve failed meeting their resolutions in the past.

But achieving your goal weight can be simple, and can positively impact your whole life. Here’s my story of how I did it without any supplements, trendy diets and without a lot of money.

Helping people live better was one of the reasons I became a pharmacist. It is very rewarding to help people understand the mysteries of health and inspire them to live healthier lives.

I’m happy my story might inspire
others to stick to their weight-loss goals.

I achieved my goal of losing 30 pounds the summer after my sophomore year of college in 2010, and have maintained the same weight ever since. Before I get into the nitty-gritty details of how I did it, let me paint the picture for you.

I was pretty active as a teenager. I had been captain of the tennis and swim teams my senior year of high school and thought I would never have to worry about being overweight. But like many before me, I went to college and stopped exercising. I cared more about socializing and spending time at sporting events than working out. My freshman year meal plan consisted of buffet-style dining halls that offered pizza, hamburgers and cookies all day, every day. Those cookies, especially when freshly baked, were absolutely phenomenal.

Sophomore year was no better. I joined a fraternity and signed up for their meal plan, which was also buffet-style. We had catered food every day, including pizza Mondays, Chinese Tuesdays, pulled pork barbecue Wednesdays and Mexican Thursdays. At the end of the year, I weighed 195 pounds—35 more than I’d weighed in high school!

Considering I am 68 inches tall (5’8”), my body mass index (BMI) came in at 29.6. I was borderline obese! To give some context, refer to Table 1 below detailing what each BMI range means.


Now, let’s pause and I will give you the formula to calculate your own BMI. For example, at my weight of 195 pounds and height at 68 inches tall:

1. Multiply your body weight in pounds by 703.
195 pounds x 703 = 137,085

2. Then divide it by your height in inches …
137,085 ÷ 68 inches = 2,016

3. Twice.
2,016 ÷ 68 inches = 29.6

BMI = 29.6

I didn’t even know I was borderline obese at the time, not until a couple years later, when I was introduced to the BMI concept in pharmacy school. I realized I needed to be healthier after a routine visit to my family doctor, which showed my blood pressure was high. My doctor was thinking about starting me on blood pressure medication. I was only 20 years old!

I turned to the Internet for answers. It is frightening when you type in “What are the effects of high blood pressure?” only to see things pop up like “stroke,” “kidney damage” and “heart attack.” I decided to commit myself to a healthier lifestyle.

I learned about a new workout program that used a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In my opinion, HIIT is still the best type of workout today. However, it is not for everyone, and people should talk to their physician first if considering this type of training.

The benefits of HIIT include improved blood pressure, cardiovascular health, blood sugar, cholesterol and body weight. I stuck with HIIT for 60 days, lost 35 pounds and my blood pressure went back down to normal. No medications for me, doc! Even better, I was able to fit into my high school jeans again.

That was a high-level overview about how I did it, but let me share my tips to help you become a part of the few who achieve their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight this year.

1. Find a support system.


The thing that helped the most was surrounding myself with positive reinforcement from my parents. My friends didn’t think I needed to lose weight and thought I was normal like the millions of other people around the nation who were overweight. The support my parents showed helped me tremendously at times when I didn’t even believe in myself.

I spent two months on my journey to weight control and had to avoid the bad influences of my friends, who went on late-night fast-food runs and all-night video game sprees laced with sugar. My parents even went so far as to match my diet and exercise habits as an extra layer of support. A solid support system that goes above and beyond is the No. 1 aspect I attribute to my success.

Do your best to avoid people who may have a negative influence on your weight-loss goals, at least for a couple of months until you complete your makeover. The funny thing is, after I had gone through my transformation, many of my friends were inspired and followed the same path.

2. Avoid refined sugars and starches.


To this day, I can still get by on less than $45 a week in groceries. I purchase two chickens, 18 eggs, one bag of broccoli, one bag of asparagus, one bag of rice and some type of fish to make up my core meals. My snacks consist of granola bars, nuts and fruit. Although I appear as a health nut with this grocery list, I really do enjoy all types of food (including fast food!). You can reach your weight-loss goals faster than you might expect if you cut refined sugars and starches—even if you don’t follow a high-protein diet, like I do.

When I was going through the process, I had one cheat meal a week, usually consisting of a fast-food spicy chicken value meal. Nowadays, I can have multiple cheat meals a week because I am no longer in the weight-loss phase. Once in the maintenance phase, keeping a consistent diet, coupled with a routine exercise regimen, allows me to “bake my cake, and eat it, too.”

3. Set realistic goals.


You can’t hit a target you can’t see. Setting realistic goals is very important in any endeavor. My goal at the beginning was to lose 30 pounds at the end of 60 days; I didn’t expect to lose 30 pounds after a week of exercise.

When you look at the overall goal, sometimes it can be pretty daunting. However, if you break goals down into smaller chunks, it becomes much easier to digest. Being a math nerd, I calculated that I needed to burn enough calories to lose 3.75 pounds per week.

Tracking my progress week to week was vital. Using my weekly results, I adjusted my caloric intake and exercise amount to make sure I met each week’s goal the best I could. What gets measured gets done. When you are able to stay flexible in reaching your smaller goals, your overall goal is easier to obtain.

4. Prepare yourself to persist through highs, lows and plateaus.


Through my 60-day transition, there were weeks I felt like I was on top of the world because I stepped on the scale and saw I lost five pounds. Other weeks, I was distraught by actually gaining a couple pounds, or even seeing no change at all.

Understand that every difficult journey will have highs, lows and plateaus. Preparing yourself mentally and knowing where you are in the process will allow you to keep going when you feel as though you aren’t making progress. In order to break through plateaus, the exercise program I used actually became more intense with different challenges and techniques to master. My advice is to keep challenging yourself when you feel that you are at a plateau, because on the other side of the challenge lies a better you.

I challenge you to take action.

Find a positive support system or accountability buddy with similar goals. Eat a consistent diet free from refined sugars and starches. Break down and track your goals. Prepare yourself mentally for the highs and lows you will experience throughout this process. If you incorporate these four tips into your resolution this year, it will be easier to achieve your goals. You won’t even need to use any weight-loss supplements or trendy diets where you avoid carbohydrates altogether. Who wants to do that?

In my experience, when you reach your goals and become healthier from losing weight, many other aspects of your life improve. My self-image improved, and I became more confident in daily interactions. I woke up every morning with more energy to put into relationships and projects. I relieved stress through exercise, and my thoughts became clearer. And most importantly, I did my part to prevent complications that may have resulted from high blood pressure or diabetes, had I not embarked on this wonderful journey.

The world is an exciting place right now with so many technological innovations and breakthroughs. It is so much easier to find support online and in stores. For example, the USDA allows you to create a free online account to track which foods you eat, physical activity and goals you set for yourself. Trendy fitness tracker wristbands integrate with your phone and websites to help you track the amount of physical activity you complete. And there are many forums and membership sites that allow you to find accountability buddies in your area.

I wish only the best as you embark on your New Year’s resolution journey. I’ll see you on the other side!


The information herein may not be construed as medical advice. The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. It should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. It is best to obtain medical recommendations from your physician.