Most people are struggling to lose weight. Probably because most of us are overweight, or if you are brave enough to look at a BMI chart, even obese. Unfortunately there is no magic pill, hidden button, genie granting wishes, no fast lane. Because we are a nation of instant gratification, we don’t really want to put in the hard work. The standard American diet isn’t healthy. You can try 100 different things, all proven, and yet nothing works. Or worse, you put in the hard work and either you don’t lose enough (or any) or the second you “cheat” it all comes back on carrying along some new friends.
You might look at me and think I haven’t had that struggle. You’d be wrong. I’m 5’4 (and no, I won’t prove that because I don’t want to be 5’3) and my weight has been everything from 100 pounds to 200 pounds.
When I was in high school, I couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds, fully dressed, in shoes. I ate the typical spoiled brat diet of M&Ms and Doritos with a side of Pizza every weekend. I drank soda instead of water. My exercise was wondering around the mall, probably eating more junk along the stroll.
I wasn’t all bad. I remember now the walks I’d take before I got my driver’s license. I’d want to meet a friend, or go to a certain store, or whatever, and I’d walk miles to get where I wanted to go. If I couldn’t beg up a ride. Now I think about how I’d walk home from school, then turn around and walk back down the hill to meet my boyfriend (now, my husband) and we’d walk downtown and if we were lucky we would either have enough change to get the bus home or we would time it to meet my mom after she got off work for a ride home. There were many times I would “need” money and I’d make that trip downtown just to get to my mom, get cash from her then go off to the mall or movies, whatever. I’d walk far just for that $10. And yes, that dates me a little if ten bucks could last me all day and I’d come home full of junk food with a shopping bag of goodies.
Nowadays with a car, I don’t walk that much. Not for $10. Maybe if I ran out of gas, but I fill my tank up to avoid that exact situation. I’d love to say I’m a passionate runner, triathlete, cyclist, or a rock climber. The truth is I don’t really do much of any of those things.
So how did I lose the weight? My husband and I changed our ways. I was up to 200 pounds whenever I’d get hospitalized for my Crohn’s disease and put on steroids. My husband was up around 275 by eating a healthy diet of fast food and beer. When I wasn’t sick, my weight would sit around 160, maybe 150 if it was starving.
Most of my weight came off when I was sick but my husband wasn’t that (un)lucky. His loss was all hard work and dietary changes. But, I’ve kept it off and I’ll tell you how we have done this.
I’d like to first say that not everything that works for one person can work for others. If you’ve been trying to lose weight then you already know this. It can be frustrating, especially when some skinny says, you should _____ as if you haven’t tried everything and are still waiting to hear back if your soul was sold to the biggest bidder.
My husband went vegan. After watching documentaries like, Hungry for Change, Engine 2, Forks over Knives, Food Inc and so on, we then read books. Books like, The China Study, Thrive, Finding Ultra, Fat Sugar Salt, Food Rules. There are tons out there. Read one and chances are they will reference a book in their book, then go read that one. It’s like a scavenger hunt.
All these resources plus online sources really establish a strong base for going vegan. Now, I’m too picky for that large of a jump. Since my husband says he is “plant based”, I’ll steal that as well even though I do eat animal products. I am adding more and more healthy choices, which are starting to crowd out the less healthy.
My husband is completely vegan and limits any oil intake as well. He trains for things like the Leadman Epic 125 and other insane events. I’m not running 10k events or cycling 100 miles and I’m definitely not swimming more than a lap or two. If you can get into some zone and do all that, awesome, you’ll be losing weight like crazy. If you don’t have the time or drive for that (yet), welcome to the club.
How I have kept off the weight, is pretty easy, now. I switched so much stuff around that in the beginning it was a steep learning curve but now it’s actually easy.
I watched, read and researched the diet I wanted. I use the word diet here meaning the foods I am going to eat….not necessarily the plan in which I wanted to lose weight.
For me, that meant local meats, dairy for a local family owned farm, fresh produce from organic and as close to me as possible, and very little packaged foods.
I changed grocery stores. This slowed me down since I wasn’t sure where anything was. I paid attention to where items shipped from. How it was grown. How it was packaged. Instead of reading claims (fat-free, no sugar, gluten-free, etc) I looked for fresh and real. Having crohn’s this was a challenge and I’m still slipping occasionally and eating blah packaged something if I’m flaring too bad but it’s getting more rare.
I buy local. Remember back, way back, maybe your parents but more than likely your grandparents use to talk about so & so’s store/farm/restaurant? They knew the owners and chose to support them. I do that now. If I am going to go to a restaurant, it’s going to be a small locally owned place where I feel my money is well spent. That means goodbye to all the fast food joints and even big box stores. I try to keep my money near me.
I tried a bunch of new recipes. Since I was now cooking almost all vegan meals, this means you can now sample the foods throughout your cooking process. Since I’m picky, I got to try things raw, semi-cooked and then cooked. I found I actually do like more foods than I thought. By cooking more, I’m more invested in my meals. I eat slower and less often. If I want cookies, it takes a lot longer when you have to make them by scratch then back when I could just pop open a bag of them.
I don’t count calories or fat grams or carbs or make sure I have enough protein. I just eat. If I want butter on my baked potato, I use real butter, and only a tiny it goes a long way when it’s the real deal. I only buy foods at the store that I need for my cooking and that way when I get snacky, all I have around to grab is fresh produce or whatever I’ve most recently cooked. I also don’t drink my calories. Drink water all day long. I drink nonstop. (That line makes me smile)
I got out of the habit of shopping only once a week. By going whenever I need something, I no longer have a weeks worth of food to eat all at once on Monday. I also get smaller portions of things since I know I’m going back to the store in a day or two. It also allows me to meal plan day to day rather than guessing on Sunday what I will eat on Wednesday. If planning helps you, then by all means, schedule it out. But you may want to still only buy foods for a couple days in advance.
I look at food as fuel. Usually people will say this and mean they eat kale all the time and while its not tasty, it’s fuel. Yuck. I mean, it’s expensive. When you go gas up your car, you expect high prices. You get the right kind of fuel for your car so it doesn’t break down later. So when my grocery bill is more than normal, I remind myself I am buying quality not quantity and its to fuel my body and my family. It also helps that I break my shopping up and only see smaller dollar amounts because I full weeks worth can top $200 pretty easy. Just remember to shop for what you want to be putting in you and not because its on sale or a bargain.
I move more. I’m not in training. Once I lost weight, I actually did run a 5k but that was torture. I do try really hard to do more than I use to. I walk more, I climb more stairs, I play outside more and I just get up and go more. If you can fit in any exercise, you’ll be that much more healthy. You don’t have to set up something where you have to run 3 miles a day, or else. Just plan on doing something active everyday. One day, you can run, another day maybe you’ll swim or cycle. Just commit to a healthier lifestyle.
Remind yourself why you are doing this. Are you losing weight? Getting healthier? Becoming more active? Just remember why you started. When it gets tough, remind yourself and get re-motivated. Re-watch the documentaries, go online and research foods. Become more involved with what you are eating and why.
Give yourself a break. That doesn’t mean flop on the couch, although sometimes that is totally needed. Sleep really does aid in weight loss so nap if you can, but definitely go to sleep early. Just don’t beat yourself up. Maybe today you can’t run a mile without stopping (I can’t) but maybe tomorrow you can. As you eat real fresh foods, your body will start to level out. Your weight will drop and stay in a normal range. Once you stop eating processed crap that claims to be fat free, you’ll feel better and look better. Mostly though, be ok with yourself. I started wearing shorts again. I thought for sure, everyone would see the saggy skin, the stretch marks, the pale see through white skin…..no one looked. I started realizing that it was only when I compare myself to others that I worry what others think of me. When I stopped looking at others, I stopped thinking they were judging me. I wear my shorts. In fact, I now wear a bikini and it doesn’t even bother me that my body sags…..ok, that’s not true. It totally bothers me that I’m not tan and fair but it no longer stops me from wearing what is comfortable and doing whatever activity I want to do.
Tying to lose weight is so difficult. While you can have support groups, friends struggling with you and goals, it’s really an individual sport. You need to do what works for you. If you focus on getting healthy, eating healthful foods, eating right, then your weight will fall into your goal zone. Add in the active lifestyle you want now. Don’t wait until you are thin to do what you love, do it now and focus on yourself and don’t judge others. They really aren’t judging you. If they are judging you, really they are comparing and judging themselves. So, don’t buy into their insecurities and make them your own.
Be healthy. I’ve found my gut is following my lead. I’m eating better therefore my flare ups are getting better. My weight is stable because I eat as well as I can without too many cheats. Cheating for me is eating dairy because my goal really is to be vegan.
Be happy. I know when you are overweight, it is hard to be anything but focused on the problem. Focus instead on the solution. The cure. Get healthy and your body will follow. You will have more energy and drive to do even more when you are using the right fuel.
Last, just keep going. Spend free time researching and watching documentaries or reading books. It’s really hard to sit down with a large diet soda, a bowl of chips and a dish of ice cream and watch a movie about food, health, diet, etc.
You really can do this. You are the real rockstar!