I see weight loss stories of people who lose 50, 100, 150+ pounds and it can make 30+ pounds seem relatively insignificant. We need to remember that it is all relative and depending on your goals, anything is an accomplishment.
When I started my weight loss and betterment journey on December 1st, I had a lot of hopes, fears, and emotions. I still do. My initial thought was to lose 30 pounds by June. I figured that was something I could accomplish in 6 months but to be honest, in the back of my head, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have gone through ups and downs with weight loss for my entire life. Whenever I get back to really wanting to change, I have that doubting voice in my head saying “you can try, but you won’t succeed.” Fast forward to May and I have done what that voice told me I could not do. I lost 30 pounds and am going for more.
I am trying to celebrate this success in the best ways I can. I deserve to give myself credit for this accomplishment and I deserve to be optimistic that I can continue on. As I have been reflecting on this, I wanted to document some of the key steps that helped me get to this point, and will drive me farther as I continue to work.
- Track everything you eat
This one step might have had the most significant impact for me, when I actually started to do it right. I have used MyFitnessPal for a long time to track, but I only began to see changes when I really disciplined myself to track every bite. That includes the random grapes, or the bite of food that my daughter didn’t eat. It also includes the ketchup or condiments I used to not log.
When you track every bite, mindless eating becomes mindful. It becomes part of how you think and how you plan. It also becomes a wakeup call when you track the three pieces of pizza you had and realize they are 800 calories… damn. That didn’t just happen tonight, or maybe it did. But I found this required more strength than I thought. I couldn’t stay in denial and trick myself. I knew if I wasn’t being honest with myself and isn’t it the truth that sometimes it is the hardest to be honest with ourselves? It can be so difficult to truly look in the mirror or at the tracker and admit that this, this is actually what I ate.
Once I got over the fear of being honest and tracking everything, it became my strength. Knowledge is power. I took the knowledge of my intake to power me to working those calorie deficits. I still am not perfect, but this has been a key step in my weight loss journey.
2. Increase activity of any kind
When I think about losing weight and being ‘active’, I can fall into the trap of thinking activity has to be big workouts with tons of sweat and sore legs. This is not the case. Sometimes, it just means moving more than you did before. This can be exercise, walks or at home workouts. I have found that the weeks where I struggled most keeping my weight loss goals, I not only had less working out or increased intake, but I had fewer steps and less movement. I was more sedentary. I make it a point to get my 10,000 steps just to make sure I am moving. Even if the walks are not strenuous, you burn more calories walking and moving than you do sitting!
I have tried to incorporate more movement and exercise in my daily routine. The 4-6 exercises a week I attempt works for me and my goals, but everybody should find what works for them. You can use baby steps with this as well. The amount of movement and exercise you can do on day 3 of your journey will not be the same as week 9. Be real with yourself and listen to your body.
3. Drink more water
There is endless data and studies that preach the benefits of drinking water (https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink-water#1). I have found that it has helped me tremendously. Not only does the proper hydration help your body in many ways and aids things like workout performance and metabolism, but I also have found it helps to decrease mindless calorie consumption. Instead of drinking a beer with dinner, or orange juice with breakfast, I drink water. I can still have those other beverages, but my water intake can displace potential other intake.
I have always been bad about hydration and get thirsty easily. Because of this I will drink almost any liquid as if it were water. Juice, tea, milk, beer, soda, you name it. If I feel thirsty, I will drink more. By drinking more water, I drink less calorie filled beverages. And plus, I would rather eat my calories than drink them.
4. Calories in / Calories out
There are many strategies and plans for weight loss out there. I myself have done many of them (I will discuss these experiences another time). I have found that focussing on the difference between my consumed calories and my burned calories is the method working the best for me. This point connects directly to my tracking and movement points. If I am burning more calories than I consume, I will lose weight. This method relies heavily on the honest tracking and measuring of our workouts and food intake.
I like this method because there is nothing weird or hard to understand. It also leaves very little else to blame. I ate too much. I guess that is my fault. It has truly helped me to view my intake as a budget, allowing me to eat what I would like, in moderation, and to balance it with my movement and other meals. This has allowed me to plan for a special event, a holiday, or to simply know why my body is reacting the way it is. I don’t have carbs to blame or a type of food, I have my commitment and discipline.
It was not easy to get in the rhythm. I found that I still struggled to properly track and to get a true handle on how many calories my body burned. For burned calories I use MyFitnessPal, which has a calculator for how many target calories you should burn in a day based off of some body metrics. This then has an exercise adjustment the is informed by my apple watch (but any fitness tracker can do this). I have designed it to have a slow weight-loss progression, as I really want this to be a forever change. Losing weight too quickly scares me.
5. Weekly weigh-ins
With tracking, exercising, and watching my calorie deficit, I realized I needed to check if I was actually accomplishing my goals. I realized I had to weigh myself. I hate the scale and I hate the effect it can have on people, but I understand the need to know where you stand and how you are doing. I have written about my methods for how not to let the scale rule you here.
The first step was to figure out how often to weigh myself. I know people who weigh in daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. I believe the answer to this question has more to do with you and your personality than anything else. I chose weekly. I did not choose daily because I know myself and I would start to become obsessive. The daily ups and downs would control my emotions. I also knew that monthly would not be enough feedback to keep me going. And 5 months in, the weekly weigh-ins have been perfect. It is enough of a gap to keep the daily ups and downs from controlling me and frequent enough for me to understand my body, what is happening, and to correct where needed.
That is really what the weigh-ins are all about. Get the feedback about your performance so you can make adjustments where necessary. Please remember, the scale does not reflect your effort!. It only gives you a snapshot of your weight in a singular place in time. It does not show your drive, your motivation, your effort, or reflect who you are. Only you can show that. I will forever cheer you on your effort regardless of what the inanimate object called a scale, says your weight is.
6. Long Term Perspective
If you want your weight loss to be a quick fix, this is not the post for you. If you are looking for lasting change, then you need a long term perspective. We didn’t get into our careers and jobs overnight (unless you did, then kudos to you!). Many of us had years of education and/or training and developed positions to get where we are. If we want to attain a goal, it sometimes takes time and effort if it is going to last. I am using that approach to weight loss.
I have lost weight quickly before, and every time I gain it back. When I began this new, and hopefully permanent journey, I recognized I didn’t want to rush anything, but wanted the process to be slow enough to make it a new norm. I have been averaging about 6.75 pounds lost per month since I started this journey. This has definitely fluctuated, but it is not a fast loss. I have found it to be a sustainable weight loss pace. I continue to shoot for 1-2 pounds per week, and know that I can still maintain a lifestyle that I enjoy while doing that.
I have lost 20-30 pounds before in 2 months. That is when I gained it back. Understanding I am in this for the long haul lets me recognize that 7 pounds a month, although it leads to slow changes, means 42 pounds in 6 months and possibly 84 pounds in a year. That is a lot of weight and something you can be incredibly proud of. But regardless of the weight, recognize how you are helping yourself for the long run. Weight loss or not, you are working to get your body healthier for you now, tomorrow, and in years to come.
7. Communicate Your Goals
I started this blog because I wanted to communicate my goals to others. I have incredible support in my wife and broader family, but when I am communicating to others, it almost fills my efforts with more responsibility. I owe it to those I am sharing with to continue on. I owe it to myself. By communicating with others, I am allowing myself to recognize that although I am, and you are, strong enough, there is no shame in accepting help and support from others. It can be a game changer.
It doesn’t have to be a blog and it doesn’t have to be public, but do you have people in your life who support you? It may be worth sharing your goals with them and asking them for that support. It can have such a positive impact. It may take some humility on our part, especially if we really want them to support us and give us feedback, but we have goals! As one of my favorite Peloton instructors, Robin Arzon, says, “Do you want it more than you fear it?”
I am here for myself, for my goals, and for my positive change. I am also here for you. I may know you or not know you, but I will support your effort and champion your goals. I will be a positive voice if you need it. Just tell me. To those who have supported me thus far, thank you. Your help has been incredible!