Once upon a time I was that girl who tried and tried to lose weight and never saw any real, lasting results. While I never had a huge amount of weight to lose, I did know I wanted to be slimmer than I was for what felt like the majority of my life.
The post-pregnancy weight was always a little scary but eventually came off after each pregnancy with the addition of some moderate exercise. Then in early 2008 when I found myself back at my post-pregnancy weight and I hadn’t just had a baby – I knew it was time to get serious.
And then I figured, you know what? I’m gonna get those other 20 pounds off while I’m at it here too. I wanted to lose that weight I’d never been able to lose no matter how hard I’d tried in the past.
What I didn’t realize then was that this was the very beginning of a journey. A personal evolution that lead to lasting lifestyle changes which meant maintaining my weight with relative ease because I was living an entirely new kind of life.
If were to condense everything I’ve learned these past couple years into a (not so) tiny post – it’d look a little something like this:
(in the order I learned them)
Stop Drinking Your Calories
Soda has to go. There was definitely a time in my life when I was a regular soda drinker. It took a while, but I honestly don’t miss it at all anymore. Soda is big, but I had to ditch the bottled juice, iced tea, lemonade, Gatorade, whatever-ade too – it all had to go.
I do make some exceptions to this “don’t drink your calories” rule and that includes: from the juicer, as part of a meal, agave or honey in tea, creamer in coffeethe occasional glass of wine and whatever calories might be in my saliva. Beyond that it’s seltzer or water.
No More Empty Calories
As a pre-teen and teen of the 90′s, I was part of the Susan Powter, Stop the Insanity, Fat Free!! madness. I use to be the fat free candy queen. Gummy bears. Gummy worms. Gummy strawberries. It’s FAT FREEEEE! I can eat as much as I want! Calories? What the hell are calories? Oh you just burn those off. Sugar? What? Sugar is good! Chomp chomp swallow.
The fact that I don’t have Type II Diabetes is a small miracle. So yeah, Candy Time is now over. is the only exception I really make to the candy rule. (Let the record state that I said “candy” – not !)
Learn to Love Exercise
I’ve always enjoyed riding my bike, but I wanted something a bit more intense too, so I started running . At first it totally sucked, but eventually I figured out how to truly love running . I now enjoy being active in any sense and try to fit in some physical activity everyday, be it a real work out or something NEAT .
And while it seems counter-intuitive, when you exercise regularly, you are rewarded with more energy. Regular exercise lead to sleeping better, which in turn made my workouts feel easier. This fueled my motivation to eat better, which played a role in better sleep, now I’ve got even more energy, which meant being happy and eager to work out.
This is the kind of cycle a girl could get use to.
Set a Goal
This is a part of Learning to Love Exercise. A real goal can keep you motivated on those days you’re just not feeling it.
I happened to pick running a marathon, because there’s no way someone trains to run a marathon and doesn’t lose weight, right? Well, not exactly. I set that goal in 2007 and had to bail on my first training attempt. Still, it got me running again and was enough to er… get me off and running. Even a 5K or 10K can be a great place to start.
Read, read, read. Understanding the science behind weight loss was a real turning point in my journey to my healthy weight. Read books, blogs, weight loss websites. Listen to weight loss podcasts. Magazines can be good but I tend to find them full of Lose Weight Fast! strategies instead of stuff that lasts.
Talk to people who have been successful at what you want to achieve – I love to learn by watching what other people do, especially successful people!
Eat to Fuel Your Workouts
This goes along with Educating Yourself and Learning to Love Exercise too. The Runner’s World forums were full of people who loved to talk about what they ate and how it made them feel. Runners love nut butters! And bananas! And bagels! I could get use to this.
Count Your Calories
Me: I’ve stopped losing weight.
Mom: How many calories a day are you eating?
Counting calories can be tedious and sucky. But changing your mind set and looking at it from a scientific perspective can help a lot with that.
This too is a part of Educating Yourself. Understanding what your portion sizes should look like and how quickly calories can add up is one HUGE piece of the puzzle to making lasting change.
Keep a Food Journal
A little notebook and a little calculator with just a touch of OCD and you’re on your way to figuring out why you are or aren’t losing weight. Simply writing down the foods that you eat and skipping the math part can help you feel more accountable and discover where calories are sneaking in.
Stop the Mindless Snacking
“Every calorie counts.”
Turns out that this is not one of those things people say that doesn’t actually mean anything. No really! Calories! Count! This fact escaped me for so long I almost feel like idiot for not realizing it sooner.
When I started writing down every calorie I consumed into my little notebook, it put an end to all sorts of mindless eating. No more sticking my hand in a cracker box just cause it’s sitting there on the counter. No more eating the kids leftovers, mainly because I can’t find “PB & J crust” on any calorie counting website. No more eating the M&M’s I find in between the couch cushions either.
Get Food Out of Sight
One easy way to Stop the Mindless Snacking? Get food off the counter and into the cupboard. Fruit and vegetables? OK. Everything else? Into the cupboard! “Out of sight, out of mind” is not one of those things people say that doesn’t actually mean anything.
The mere sight of food can trick you into thinking you’re hungry. This is programmed into us thanks to evolution and our desire to survive. Put it away and save yourself from from being triggered as you walk through the kitchen with a basket of laundry when just a minute ago food and eating was the last thing on your mind.
Three Meals a Day, Maybe a Snack
Eat breakfast. <eat nothing> Eat Lunch. <eat nothing> Eat a Snack. <eat nothing> Eat Dinner. <go to bed>
This is absolutely one of the best habits I’ve ever made. And while this does sometimes get away from me – reining in the eating-between-meals beast is a huge part of my success at maintaining my weight.
No More Seconds
Say it with me now: every calorie counts. Eat your calorie allotment for any given meal and that’s it! No more going back for seconds simply because it tastes good. Put a reasonable amount on your plate, eat what’s there and that’s it. Put your dish on the counter, you’re done.
No Eating Unless You’re Truly Hungry
Waiting to eat until I feel physical signs of hunger? What a concept! If I feel “sorta hungry” but I’m not sure, I’ll drink something because I’m probably just thirsty. Usually seltzer or a cup of hot tea makes things more interesting than just plain old water and almost always does the trick.
If that feeling doesn’t go away then I ask myself if a pile of broccoli sounds good. If the answer is “no”, then I’m not really hungry. Now it’s time to dig deep and ask myself if something else is going on. Am I just bored? Lonely? Stressed? Here’s my opportunity to figure out what it is that I’m truly hungry for. <insert a more personal growth here>
I will say that I do sometimes eat preemptively, like if I’m leaving for a while and know I’ll be hungry soon. If I won’t have an abundance of time or healthy options available to me, I’ll eat now and save myself from getting trouble when I’m out or getting too hungry before I’m home again. Getting too hungry isn’t good either .
Pack Your Own Food
The saying “I’m sorta hungry, let’s swing through Taco Bell/Wendy’s/Mini-mart cause it’s right here” will now be replaced with “Where’s that almond butter I packed? Did you eat my banana?” A little planing and forethought can potentially save you a bunch of calories – and money too.
Enjoy Food More
Once I hit my healthy weight and my focus shifted to maintaining my weight, I started finding new ways to enjoy food. I bought pretty plates, interesting bowls and cute little dishes. I began reading food blogs and started getting more creative in the kitchen. These things helped me feel more emotionally satisfied from the food I was eating and therefore satisfying a different kind of hunger.
Finding other people that were going through the same thing and the same struggles was very rewarding and helpful. Blogs, forums, people in real life. Plus I love stealing hearing other people’s awesome ideas and morphing them into something that works for me.
If I thought running felt good after I started eating more complex carbs, I had no idea what was in store once I started eating leafy green vegetables every day. It doesn’t have to be a salad – even I get sick of salads day after day. (Shocking, I know.)
Stuff some lettuce in your sandwich, mixed greens in your wrap, spinach in your smoothie, add something greened and steamed to your dinner. Don’t sweat it too much if you miss a day, but I aim for at least something green each day and feel a lot better because of it.
Reduce Processed Foods, Even Organic Processed Foods
Organic processed foods were my way station between conventionally processed junk to a diet made up largely of whole foods. Less-processed-stuff is of course still processed. While these are certainly preferable to the conventional alternative, I started to see that they played too large a role in my daily diet and had to be nixed from day-to-day eating.
I get a much bigger bang for my caloric buck with fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and sprouted grains.
Resist Temptation at the Grocery Store
I finally figured out that it was much easier to resist temptation at the store than it was to resist it in my own kitchen. If it’s something you’re going to have use willpower to avoid later, then don’t even buy it. If it’s not in my cupboard then I’m not going to be able to succumb to that bowl (or three) of Heart to Heart I’d otherwise give in to at 9:30 on a Tuesday night.
I like to think of willpower is a muscle – a muscle that gets tired after a while. Over use any muscle and eventually it’s gonna snap.
Hungry before bed? Then it means I didn’t eat enough at dinner or ate dinner too early. Fix that tomorrow.
Truly hungry? Eat something that is largely protein and fat and light on carbs to avoid a big release of insulin. Insulin suppresses the release of HGH. You get your biggest release of HGH about 90 minutes after you fall asleep – provided you don’t have a ton of insulin coursing through your veins!
Nothing is Off Limits
Birthday cake at a party, pie at Thanksgiving, ice cream for a treat, cookies for breakfast. It’s gonna be OK as long as you don’t it every day.
Rules are Made to be Broken
I’ve been on this journey for over two years now. These changes did not happen overnight and I still don’t get it right 100% of the time. I still make exceptions to almost everything I’ve listed here – that’s life.
Just keep going. Each day holds the potential to getting one step closer to living the life you want to live and being that person you want to be.
Got questions? Have anything to add from your own personal journeys? I’d love to hear it. I want to swipe your good ideas too!