It’s definitely that time of year again.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using January to make large changes in your life, just make sure to avoid the pitfall of making your motivation to change the fact that it is January.
Truthfully, if you wouldn’t be willing to change in November or February or July, then you might not actually be ready to make the change. You can change anything, any time of the year so you should be willing to make that change any time of the year.
But I’m getting off topic here.
My weight loss journey isn’t an amazing one. I didn’t lose 100 pounds, I lost 30. I didn’t go crazy at the gym – I didn’t even start really working out until I got down to more or less where I wanted to be. And I’m not even done because I still have ways that I want my body to change.
I have learned so, so much along the way though and want to take this opportunity to write down as much as I can for anyone else who stumbles across this blog and is looking to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
So without further ado:
- Losing weight can be done without any exercise. Yes. It can. I lost my first 30 pounds without ever doing anything more than the occasional run, a hike or two and some walks at work. I didn’t go to the gym and lift weights, I didn’t play soccer, I didn’t swim or ride bikes. All I did was eat less. In order to lose weight you have to change how much you eat. Note that I didn’t say what you eat, only how much. The long and short of it is that if you eat more calories than you burn off, your body will store those additional calories as fat to be used later. How much can you eat and still lose weight? That has to do with your TDEE and a few simple math problems. There are several TDEE calculators online Here’s one I like. Just note that whenever a calculator asks you to put in your activity level, it’s better to use sedentary because that’s going to give you the best results. So yeah, you can still eat pizza and hamburgers, cheese, cake and ice cream. You just have to pay attention to how much of those things you eat. Also, it will definitely be easier to lose weight if those aren’t the only things you eat.
- You need to keep track of your calories. Yes, this will suck for a little bit. Once you’ve figured out your TDEE you need to figure out how much you need to eat in order to lose weight. For easy math, let’s pretend that your daily TDEE is exactly 2,000 calories. So even if you were to lay on the couch all day and do literally nothing, your body is going to burn at least 2,000 calories. Knowing this, if you were to eat exactly 2,000 calories in food, you will neither burn or gain fat. Period. You’ll stay neutral. If, however, you were to eat 2,500 calories, your body will store those extra 500 calories as fat somewhere. But if you were to eat 1,500 calories, your body is going to have to pull that extra 500 calories it needs from somewhere and that means fat stores. There is no real understanding of how many calories equals one pound of fat but the general idea is around 3,500 calories = 1 lb of body fat. So if you can eat 500 calories below your TDEE for 7 days, you’ll lose 1 pound of fat. I say all of this to say that you need to keep track of how much you eat. You can no longer just grab a handful of peanuts or ‘just five candies’ or a small serving of ice cream. You need to know exactly how many calories you are putting into your body on a daily basis. And once you start figuring out how many calories are in some of your favorite foods I think you’ll start to understand how easy it is for people eating a standard American diet (SAD) to get quite large.
- You are going to have to be your own motivation. While it would be nice to find a super supportive group to help you out on this journey, the truth is that the majority of people who decide they want to lose weight give up within ninety days. This is not an easy thing to do and it is going to take a long, long time, especially for people who have at least 100 pounds or more to lose. To be brutally honest, the reason more people don’t lose weight and the reason a lot of people just sort of accept the fact that they are ‘large’ is because they just aren’t willing to put in the time and dedication necessary. Look, I totally get it. I was sitting happy at 160 pounds and nobody ever said a word to me. I really didn’t have to lose the weight and there was no final reward for getting down to 130 pounds except for my own personal gratification. Friends that I had made along the way didn’t stick it out and I had no one to complain to. My fiancé didn’t care if I lost weight or not (he’s always been very clear that he’ll love me no matter what) so I didn’t even have that the fall back on. You can join as many apps and websites as you like, but at the end of the day this is your personal journey and you’ll have to walk it largely alone.
- There will be major setbacks. You’re going to be going great for a few weeks. The first couple pounds will go super fast because you’re going to lose water weight and you’re going to step on the scale one morning and be six pounds lighter. I kid you not. That’s going to feel great. And then you’ll be humming along and you’ll just stick at the same weight for nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen days and you’re going to get super frustrated and annoyed. You’ll even make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and eating only good foods and you’ll still hit that dreaded plateau. Plateaus are literally the worst. When I was down at 133 I sat on 133 pounds for at least three weeks. I got so, so angry. I literally stopped weighing myself every morning because I just got tired of seeing 133 on the scale. I switched up all of my foods and started drinking more water and finally the scale started to move again. I don’t know what causes plateaus and I don’t know the secret to getting past them, you just have to keep pushing and going. This is where number 5 comes in:
- Whatever you decide to do in order to lose weight needs to be something you can do for the rest of your life. A diet is not a temporary thing. If you diet for ten weeks and lose ten pounds and then go back to your ‘regular’ eating habits you will put those ten pounds right back on + more. There are a lot of programs out there that guarantee to help you lose weight. You can try Keto, Paleo, Jenny Craig, veganism, WFPB, and any other number of things. However, whichever one of these you choose, you need to be able to stick with it for pretty much forever. Or at least have a plan to ‘wean’ yourself off of it and move into whatever eating plan you choose for maintenance. If you’ve chosen a plan you’ll be able to stick with you’ll be okay when you hit a plateau because you’re just living your life and going on your way. Eventually that plateau will break and you’ll go back to losing weight. Whatever happens, you cannot go back to eating the way you have been in the past. The days of finishing off a whole pizza or three hamburgers and a milkshake are gone. You cannot be that person any more.
- Do not make food a reward. It is important to track where you started and where you are going. It is important to have rewards for important milestones (first five pounds lost, every ten pounds lost, whatever you decide) and those rewards can be anything you want. My rewards were usually big items I’d wanted for awhile. Once I got down to 140 pounds I bought an Apple Watch. For my 130 pound milestone I booked a stylist at Nordstrom and purchased some new skinny jeans because the ones I’d been wearing were way too big. Some people use tattoos as rewards, some people use shoes, others use bucket list items. Your reward can be anything you want it to be but do not use food. Food no longer controls you like it used to, food is not why you live. Food is simply fuel to get you to where you want to be.
- Just because you’re losing weight does not mean you have to miss out on everything. You know what’s still going to happen while you’re losing weight? Birthday parties. Dinners with friends. Holidays. Work parties. At first these are going to seem like extreme obstacles and you’re going to want to eat all of the special foods and not seem like the odd person out. I totally get it. You know what? Cake isn’t going to kill you. A plate of nachos isn’t going to derail you. The issue with cake and nachos is when you eat them every single day. But if you make them a special treat that you eat rarely then you’ll be okay. Also, eat smaller portions! If you eat half a slice of cake, just one glass of wine, a small fry (or split it with someone) or put most of your food in a to go box then you won’t get completely derailed! Since this is a life long commitment you’ll need to figure out ways that you can navigate these important life experiences because you can’t become a recluse in the name of being skinny. And also remember that you can always say ‘no’ to anything you don’t want to eat. At work I don’t generally participate in shift dinners or snacks. Not because I’m a snob but because I’ve decided that keeping the weight off is more important. You can also look up restaurant menus before you go in order to see calorie counts or figure out what you want to order so that it doesn’t become a huge ordeal when you’re actually sitting there at the table. This also allows you to to work this special meal into your calorie count for the day (or week).
- If you’re serious about this, you need to make it a priority. You need to keep focussing on your goal. You need to keep focussing on what’s going to get you where you want to be. You need to be a part of weight loss forums. You need to read success stories. You need to basically make this a religion. For some people this can lead to an eating disorder and if you find yourself struggling with your relationship with food you need to stop focusing on this and speak with a doctor immediately. The moral of this point is that losing weight is not something you can put on a back burner. You cannot passively lose weight, you need to focus on it and keep it in mind all the time. Consider how anyone becomes very successful at anything. Does a marathon runner become capable of running 26 miles simply by saying they want to or do they become capable by running multiple times a week? Does a classical pianist become successful by telling everyone he’s a pianist or by practicing daily? How does someone learn to do splits? By watching YouTube videos? I think you get the idea.
- At some point you’ll want to add exercise. But don’t feel as if you need to start running every other day or become a gym rat. Remember, this exercise isn’t actually necessary to continue losing weight but it will make things easier, especially as you start getting closer to your goal weight. Plus as you lose more and more weight you’ll find yourself with a lot more energy. And if you’ve really cleaned up your diet and are eating super well you’re going to find yourself with even more energy and you’ll want to get out there. Exercise needs to just get your heart rate up for an extended period of time and be something you can stick with. If you legitimately hate running down the road, I would suggest you don’t start running. If you can’t stand being in the woods, don’t take up hiking. You know? But if you have a thing for boats, maybe paddleboarding or rowing is your thing. Horseback riding is a legitimate workout, as is dancing. If you like it and it makes you sweaty and sore, keep doing it.
There’s more than that of course. Weight loss is a huge undertaking and it’s going to be a completely different journey for everyone. Some people will start two, three or four times before they are actually successful. That’s fine! What matters is that you figure out what is going to work for you.
Don’t confuse weight loss with fitness. You can be skinny and not fit, you can also be fit and not skinny.
Ugh. See? Okay, I’ll stop. Have a great week, everyone! Thanks for reading! Things have been a little busy here with the holidays and I’ve been dropping the ball on photos so I apologize for that and I’m working on it. Wedding planning and working have been taking up most of my time. We’ll get there though!!