If you’re like me, you’ve noticed some fluctuation in your weight over the last year. My wife says that mine has something to do with the amount of chocolate I eat (like the Trader Joe’s bar I’m literally eating as I write this), but I’ll blame covid as long as I can. Seriously, with three kids and a full-time job, I’m lucky to work out once or twice a week. And having my entire routine up-ended over the last year wasn’t a great help. Can I get an amen?
I take some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone.
Recently the American Psychological Association conducted a survey and found that of Millennials who have gained undesired weight, the average is 41 pounds since the start of the pandemic.
And let's remember the APA isn't a Facebook poll: there's some legit research here. Forty-one pounds is higher than every other sub-group they interviewed (which included parents, essential workers, boomers, etc.).
Are we the lazy ones? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that we’re not great at self-care. Let's work on it.
If you’ve packed on a few pounds over the last twelve months, you’re definitely not alone. The good news is there’s no time like the present to take some reasonable steps to get back on track (and you’re probably still in better shape than you think).
In the meantime, here are a few style and lifestyle tricks to keep you looking smooth and feeling healthy.
1. Wear a micro adjustable belt that will fit now and throughout your weight loss
I have three belts that I rotate for work and casual outfits, and they all have color wear and that famous belt divot at the third hole. When I gain a little weight, I'm self-conscious that everyone knows: Hey look at that guy’s belt; looks like he had to loosen up a notch!
More practically however, when my weight fluctuates and I’m between two of the belt holes, I have to make an inconvenient choice: Do I want my pants a little too tight or a little too loose today?
Because who actually loses weight in 1 inch increments? It would be like having to tie your shoes at preset intervals. (!?)
Anson Belt and Buckle’s micro adjustable belt is the sensible evolutionary step for the modern belt. Instead of six holes, the Anson belt has 30 size intervals, each a quarter inch apart.
As you slim back down, the Anson belt can size down with you infinitely by trimming the strap before you insert it into a buckle. And since the micro adjustment track is on the back of the belt, you don’t need to worry about wear and tear on the front.
Here’s how it works. On Anson’s website, you can purchase one belt and buckle, or create a box set (and this is where it gets fun). With the box set you can choose three straps and two buckles or three buckles and two straps giving you mix-and-match variety and autonomy. With a box set, you’re essentially getting six different belts because the buckles are interchangeable. The straps come in different leathers including premium and Made in USA options, canvas, nylon, and more. And since the leather doesn’t wear out from use, and Anson offers a lifetime warranty, these are literally the last belts you’ll ever need to buy.
2. You may need to go up a pant fit, not waist sizes
Avoid the “slim fit will make me look slim” thought trap. What makes you look svelte is when your clothes fit your body properly.
Remember that waist size is only one measurement, and there's a reason that pants come in a myriad of cuts. If you're used to wearing slim chinos and they're getting a little snug in the thighs, try athletic fit. Athletic fit is cut a little roomier in the thighs while still offering a slimming taper below the knee. Even among the same brand, the vanity sizing of an athletic cut's waist and that of a slim fit tagged with the same waist size can be roomier.
If you experiment with different cuts, you may find you actually don't need a larger waist size at all.
3. Tackle your diet incrementally
When quarantine started, I told myself that this was my opportunity to get back on the fitness train. I decided I’d do a short workout everyday and increase my veggie intake with each meal. I think I made it nine days before the fitness train derailed. The problem was that I tried to go too extreme too fast.
Set an unreachable goal, and you've already set yourself up for failure. Instead, try creating a S.M.A.R.T. goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Here's an example:
- Specific: I want to increase my exercise frequency.
- Measurable: I will start exercising for at least 30 minutes: Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
- Achievable: Given my schedule and commitments, this is what I can realistically do.
- Relevant: My long-term goal isn't to become a bodybuilder: it's to maintain a healthy lifestyle and shed a few pounds or at least convert some fat to muscle. So three workouts a week is a good place to start.
- Time-Bound: By the end of April, I'd like three-a-week workouts to be a staple in my routine, and I'd like to see a 5 pound drop.
When it comes to diet, create rules that work for you. For example, you can easily reduce your carb and calorie intake without complete restriction with something like “No bread or pasta Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday” or “no bread or pasta before dinner.”
The trouble with “eat better” or “cut back on bread” is it's hard to know in any given moment whether you can or can't eat something. With a specific rule, it tells you yes or no instantly without forbidding you from eating something altogether.
“Leftover spaghetti for lunch? Nope: it's Tuesday.”
→ Read more about goals that work: 50 Short-Term Goal Examples You Can Actually Commit To That Will Change Your Life
4. Focus on looser styles like summer camp collar shirts that are intended to be worn less fitted
The problem with simply sizing up is that your clothing can start to look baggy, and baggy clothes just look like you're wearing clothing that's too big. So, gravitate towards styles that are designed with a looser aesthetic. The camp collar shirt (also called a Cuban collar) is a great example of this.
These shirts are designed with a looser, flowier style in mind, which is not the same as wearing a regular shirt one size too large.
Fabrics like slub cotton, linen, and silk blends are wise choices here as well because they offer a casual drape that won't highlight if your mid-section is a little thicker than it once was.
Need a blazer? Go for a hopsack weave wool, which is a lightweight, textured weave that breathes well. Be sure to get a classic or “American” fit, which is cut with a little more room in the chest.
5. Shave or grow out your beard but avoid stubble
If you gained some weight, and it’s showing in your face or neck (which is where I tend to carry it), then either grow the beard out or keep a clean-shaven face. Stubble accentuates a double chin.
Why? Stubble appears darker on the face and neck areas where the skin has started to fold or crease from weight gain, drawing attention where you don’t want it. It's the exact opposite reason women utilize contouring with makeup.
If you can grow a beard quickly, go for it. It’ll hide some of that extra weight. If you can’t grow a beard (I’m starting a support group for guys like us), then keep your face smooth.
The length of your hair can also change the silhouette of your face by accentuating the bottom half of your face with short, cropped hair or taking away from it with longer hair. Growing your locks out a bit can balance that weight and complement your facial structure.
6. If you don't buy it, you can't eat it
They say you should stick to the perimeter of the grocery store because that's where all the fresh, healthy food is (except that's not where they keep the coffee beans, so maybe that rule is ridiculous). Bottom line: You can't eat it if you don't leave the store with it. If you give me a tall glass of milk and a fresh pack of Oreos and turn on Schitt's Creek, I will in fact eat every single Oreo in a matter of four episodes.
If ridding your home of your food vices isn't possible because you live with other people, there are still steps you can take. You know the old budgeting trick that says instead of using your credit card, you should just use cash in envelopes? You can do the same thing with treats. Four Oreos in a ziploc, make one bag for each day of the week. When the bag's empty, you're done for the day. Beer drinker? Set the same limit: You get X-number of beers per week, and when you've hit that number, that's it.
7. Drink a full glass of water before you eat
Recently I've started drinking a full glass of water before each meal. Why? Because 1. Drinking more water is only a good thing, and 2. I find that I eat a little less. Dr. Melina Jampolis, an internist and board-certified physician nutrition specialist, told Johns Hopkins University's Hub at Work, “Thirst, which is triggered by mild dehydration, is often mistaken for hunger by the brain…You may be able to decrease appetite by drinking water if you are, in fact, low in water not calories.”
Since water travels almost immediately to the stomach, it will make you feel fuller before you actually start eating. I heard about this method from a friend a few years ago. He told me it helped him drop eight pounds (along with a few other dietary changes). I thought it sounded like a logical fallacy: sure, water will take up space, but will you really eat less? But then I tried it…it works. And what's more, research supports the theory: People who drank two glasses of water immediately before a meal in a small 2016 study ate 22% less than those who didn't drink any water prior to eating.
8. Start tracking your calories
My problem is that I'm a snacker, but snackers aren't trackers. I grab a handful of chips while I'm cooking dinner, a cookie or two (or four) while I'm cleaning up the kitchen. Before bed maybe I'll have some ice cream, maybe a chocolate bar while I write an article…I lose count. And that's the issue. These are small snacks, but when you've had seven of them in a day, you've potentially added on an entire day's worth of caloric intake.
You want to eat better or eat less. But what does that actually mean and how will you know if you've been doing it?
Primer's founder Andrew Snavely told me he's had longterm experience with this:
“I've been tracking my calories for several years, and the surprising effect is that instead of feeling like I have to eat less, I often find that I can have that snack I'm craving because I know how much I've eaten that day. I use MyFitnessPal, it's fast and easy and once you get used to it, just like any habit, it is not a burden at all.”
9. Embrace subtle patterns and neutral solids
Subtle plaids, checks, repp ties, herringbone, these complement your body's shape instead of drawing attention to every roll, fold, or bulge. Polka dots? In moderation.
Avoid horizontal stripes, and steer clear of bold and rigid geometric patterns which act as a topographical map of your contours. There's a reason that car makers use non-geometric patterns on pre-release vehicles to disguise the shape.
10. Incorporate a tailor into the process
You can buy cheaper clothes now, and then buy cheaper clothes again; OR, you can buy nicer clothes now that you pay to have brought in after you lose weight. Depending on how much you pay for “nicer” clothing the latter might make sense. Would you rather buy a $70 pair of pants with nice material and quality craftsmanship and pay $30 to have them brought in, or would you rather buy cheaper quality/material $40 pants two or three times and end up with cheaper pants?
There is no right answer, but I've always been a cry-once type of guy, so I'd rather pay now for quality that I know will last. Your secret weapon is your tailor. He or she can work magic on a well-made pair of slacks or a jacket to make it look as though it was custom-made for your shape.
Instead of buying bigger clothes when you gain weight and then buying smaller clothes when you lose it, your tailor can let out your dress pants if there's material inside.
11. Find an accountability partner
Like I said, if you've gained some weight, you're not in the minority, so no one says you have to get back on track by yourself. An accountability partner is simply someone with a common goal who's going to hold you accountable (and you, them) to making the positive changes you want to make. And according to a recent Washington Post article, it's probably best to choose someone who's a few steps ahead of you on the journey because they can empathize and give you appropriate encouragement.
Both of you are trying to work out more using your new S.M.A.R.T. goals? Drop each other a text or photo as a way of logging in. Trying to eat healthier meals? Share it with your partner. Each week, check in and go over each of your successes and losses.
The point isn't to have someone watching your every move; it's simply a way to experience the process and have someone else outside of your own head involved.
12. Go easy on yourself
We have a “new normal,” but things still don't feel quite right. It's been a hell of a year. We've all had to adjust, and in the midst of adjusting, some of us let fitness fall by the wayside. No worries, we'll get it back, and we'll look good doing it. One step at a time.
Special thanks to Anson Belt & Buckle for believing in Primer's mission and sponsoring this post. Right now Primer readers can add an extra belt or buckle to their box set for free for a limited time.