Lose Weight While Gardening

As many of you have so kindly notices I have slimmed down over the last few months and many of you have asked what I have been doing different in order to lose weight.

Before I talk about how I lost weight I wanted to touch on why I am doing this.

As many of you know I am a proud father of a wonderful 3 year old whom I adore.  There is nothing I love more than playing and exploring with my son and last fall I was having a hard time keeping up.

So I decided I needed to make a change so that I could continue to keep up with my son and really enjoy exploring the world with him.

When I started this journey I wanted to keep things simple much like in the garden.  I try to achieve my motto every day and that is to “move more and eat less.”

Move More

Let’s go into a little more detail on how I have been perusing each of those goals.   Moving more was and is more difficult than I thought it would be.  I have a professional job that means I spend the working day in the office and there is just not a lot of opportunity to move while at work.

I commute to work and while I am here I would much rather focus my efforts on work so that I can get home earlier and spend more time with my family.

When I do get home I don’t find it easy to carve out an hour or two to hit the gym as again I would prefer to spend time with my family.  So I integrate moving more into other aspects of my life.

I started by spending time in the garden.  Planting, watering, composting harvesting and overall spending time enjoying moving while I was doing things I needed to do anyways.  This gave me the idea to integrate moving more into my day to day life.

Now if I need to go somewhere in my community I choose to walk, run, bike or any other method of transportation that allows me to get active.

Primary to this is walking when the weather permits to pick up my son from his day home.   As time is usually tight weeknights I walk with a purpose and that sure gets my heart rate going and not waste valuable family time.

Getting Motivated to Move More

I have found integrating moving more into my every day certainly helps but sometimes motivation becomes an issue.

So I went looking for things to keep me motivated to move more.

In the fall I won a fitness tracker and while that opened my eyes to how little I moved before it has also helped keep me motivated.  Fitbit and other fitness trackers often have profiles that allow you to track your activity over long periods of time.  It has become a little bit of a game to see if I can compete with myself from week to week.  This certainly has helped keep me motivated but I really enjoy competing with myself.

Motivation through Play

I have found keeping multiple methods of motivation helps keep me going quite a bit.  One of the newer ways that have not only helped keep me motivated but keeps my son motivating me is to get active through play.  More commonly getting active through play involves sports and that is great.  That still poses the issue of carving out time.

Again looping back to spending time in the garden I find I am able to move quite a bit while I am in there and that is nothing more than play these days.

Along the same lines of playing while moving a recent mobile phone game came out that I sure have enjoyed!  Pokémon go is a game for smart phones where you have to wander around to find pokemon.

My son loves to go for walk in search of pokemon and as a side benefit he has become interested in the wildlife in our community often asking about them and subsequently telling my wife all about the different types of creatures in our neighbourhood and how they resemble pokemon.

Activity Goals

Goals are important for journeys like my weight loss one.  It helps keep me motivated with something to focus on and chase each and every day.

For this I have found my activity tracker has been really helpful but most smart phones now have similar apps that are just a little less accurate.  It took me a few months to build up to it but my current goal is 15,000 steps a day.  What I did was started with the recommended 10,000 steps a day and every few weeks once I found I was hitting my goal frequently I increased it by 500 steps and repeated.  This helped me learn how to move more while still having the reward of hitting achievable goals.

When working in the garden and yard I have found hitting and surpassing my step goal quite easy and if I later go for a walk then that is just a huge bonus!

I have found moving more has certainly helped me feel better but losing weight I have found is less dependent on how much I am moving and much more what I am eating.

What are Calories

Before I move on I would like to chat about calories.  Calories are the most common way to track the energy in the food you are eating.

Essentially if you eat less calories than you burn in a day you will lose weight.

Eat Less

For the sake of keeping my motto short the eating less part is less straight forward than the move more.  In large part my garden has been the largest contributor to my goal of eating less.

The produce from the garden is not only quite tasty but it usually has fewer calories by volume than other food sources.  So I can eat more throughout the day while taking in fewer calories.

It is however important to keep a varied diet even as you lose weight.  It has helped me keep going while making sure I have all of the vitamins, minerals and other dietary requirements to keep healthy.

Weight Loss App

In order for me to track the calories without it taking more than a few seconds each day I turned to an app called “Lose It!”

The free version lets you scan barcodes, search foods, make recipes and track your weight goals.  The only thing I recommend with the application is once you have input your weight and goal weight is to take 500 calories off of the daily allotment.  Their initial calorie goal is likely assumes quite a high metabolism.

Metabolism and Weight loss 

Metabolisms are the tricky part of weight loss.  Every person much like very garden is very unique.  What may work for one person may not work for another even if you are the same build.  So as  I have been going through this journey I have been adjusting what I do so I can continue to meet my goals.

This is where I will admit it is not easy to get used to eating less and abandoning some of the higher calorie foods I seem to gravitate towards.  I found the first 5 days is the hardest and it gets much easier after a few weeks.  It becomes easier as I make eating healthier from the garden a day to day habit.

On the flip side I have had strong temptation to overdo it and eat far less calories than my goal.  If you keep that up your body may go into starvation mode and aside from it preserving more energy you will often feel terrible.  If you are feeling terrible at least I find it is much easier for me to cheat and eat those high calorie foods that derail my efforts. So keep as near to that goal for each day as you can.

Bonus Calories 

Most of these applications if you go out and move a bunch they will give you bonus calories in your daily goal.  I simply ignore them as they are based on too many assumptions to be correct for each individual.  I just look at it an s a bonus if it is correct I will lose a little more weight a little faster!

Weight Loss Goals

Often when people set weight loss goals they want to lose a whole bunch of weight and that is their only goal.  I did set a line in the sand and called it my overall goal.  What I prefer to focus on is much smaller and more frequent goals.  Those smaller chunks allow me to achieve them and then set a new one.

My goals are usually in 10lbs or 4.5kg chunks.  I tell you when I pass each goal it feels as good as when I will get to my more long term goal.  I try to lose between 1-2 lbs a week as I believe it is the healthy rate but every few weeks I pass one of my smaller goals.

I have also incentivised myself to not only meet my main goal but to maintain it once I have.   Once I hit my overall goal I am going to purchase a smart watch and after 6 months of maintaining that weight I have a much more personal goal.

Befits of weight loss

I certainly have noticed quite a few benefits of getting healthier and losing weight.  I am to nearly able to keep up with my son.  I have also found by moving more that walking, running, roller blading and biking are a great ways for me to release the stress from the day before I get my son and helps me get centered and focus on my family.

Bumps in the Road

It seems the more I move and the more weight I lose the easier it is to keep going.  That said I have fallen off the journey a few times.

When I do I try not to stress too much.  I treat each day and week as a new journey and don’t spend much time on the day before.  Looking forward and knowing once I get a few good days under my shrinking belt it will get easier and I will continue.

What I would like you to take from this is losing weight is a very personal unique journey.  The garden provides me with a large part of the food I need and helps me keep moving each and every day.  Even though it is a very personal journey I could not have done it without the support of my beautiful wife, wonderful son and supportive brothers and family!

Series on weight loss

I know many of you have asked over the last few months for me to put this video together I wanted to ask you is this something you would like to see a little more on my channel?  Would you like to see a series on weight loss tips specifically how the garden can help you do that?


About Stephen

The Alberta Urban Garden Channel hopes to promote organic gardening that is simple, sustainable and does not have to cost a lot. We do this by investigating the Science behind gardening, methods, practices and products to make sure that you will have the best chance of successfully growing your own food at home.