7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Lost 70 Pounds
A few years ago, I lost 70 pounds. It wasn’t overnight. It was hard work. But in hindsight, I made it harder on myself than it needed to be. That’s why I wanted to write this. I learned 7 things that I wished I had known when I began my weight loss journey.
1. LEVERAGE WILLPOWER
Willpower gets a bad rap. It’s true that willpower alone won’t carry you through the weeks, months—even years—of work necessary to lose a significant amount of weight and to keep that weight off.
I learned, though, that willpower was what got me off my butt to exercise.
Willpower was what made me reboot my diet after a run-in with a large pizza and side of wings.
Willpower is the burst of energy that gets you going.
And you need plenty of energy to lose weight.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE
I smile when I see the January Facebook feeds with the gorgeous clean eaters photographing their artisan salads and meals that took two hours to prepare. Unless that person can afford a personal chef or make cooking their full-time job, it's not likely they will eat healthy consistently.
Don't get me wrong. I love food. (Maybe too much—that's one of the reasons I had to lose 70 pounds!)
But trying to prepare every meal from scratch every time is a recipe for disaster. (Sorry for the pun. Couldn't resist.)
Most of the meals I ate to lose 70 pounds took 15 minutes to make—and that was 15 minutes to make several meals at one time.
But I learned this insight the hard way, after breaking down in frustration too many times because I didn't have enough "time" to make complex meals that supported my weight loss.
So I simplified my approach to 85% of my meals and began preparing bulk meals that I could eat over several days. Simplifying my approach to nutrition de-stressed me, which gave me the oomph necessary to keep going.
Losing weight can be stressful. Don’t fuel the stress with complexity. The same goes for exercise. You don't need fancy equipment to get in kick-butt shape.
Old school jumping jacks, burpees and push ups will turn you into a lean, mean fat-burning machine.
One last thought on food. Most diets overvalue counting calories or some kind of "points" system for managing how much food to eat each day.
When I work with clients, I tell them: eat until you're full. Never go hungry.
All that does is encourage you to obsess over food and encourage your body to believe it's in "starvation" mode.
So your body slows down its metabolism to manage the energy supply.
The result? A sluggish metabolism, feeling "hangry," and stuck at a weight you don't want to be.
3. SET MICRO GOALS
Big goals create positive energy—the fuel you need to start your diet. But micro goals are what get you from Before to the After photo. I set micro goals for myself every week on my way to losing 70 pounds. For example, I set a goal of making Sundays my day to grocery shop and prep meals for the coming week. I also set micro goals of what I’d eat—and not eat—at parties where I knew I’d be tempted.
Micro goals are designed to be achievable. And every time I reached a micro goal, I felt a sense of accomplishment. That sense of accomplishment snowballed into bigger wins and bigger weight loss. Which leads me to my next point.
4. CELEBRATE EVERY WIN
Losing weight is a process of doing things that get us out of our comfort zones. It’s easy to eat whatever’s in sight. It’s harder to delay gratification. So I created a system of celebrating victories, large and small. I celebrated when I resisted the birthday cake in the office break room. I celebrated when I got my butt to the gym before work. I celebrated when I dropped another pant size. That way, I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself and it was easier to shrug off discouragement when my weight loss plateaued for a period of time.
My weight loss journey began when I decided that I deserved to live well and be well. I began treating myself better, which made it much easier to eat healthy and exercise.
5. BUY THE BEST WORKOUT CLOTHES YOU CAN AFFORD
Most people who want to lose weight don’t usually like the size and shape of their bodies. That’s why most of us dread the gym. We feel self-conscious. So we avoid the gym and working out in general. That’s why I invested in the best workout clothes I could afford. Well-made workout clothes feel, fit and look better than cheap workout clothes. Wearing nicer clothes helped me feel less self-conscious and helped me get into the gym consistently.
6. KNOW WHEN TO CHANGE IT UP
Weight loss plateaus should be expected. As we lose weight, the rate of calories that our bodies burn can slow, especially on highly restrictive diets. That’s why every six weeks or so I introduced a new variable to “trick” my body into maintaining a healthy ability to burn fat. For example, I would introduce a different style of exercise or intermittent fast. This helped me decrease the amount and length of my weight loss plateaus.
7. UPGRADE YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK
In the early days of losing weight, most people are really supportive. I certainly appreciated and craved that support. As I lost weight, I discovered that there were some people in my life who didn’t seem to like the new, skinnier me. Maybe I had changed—and in their eyes, not for the better. I found that I didn’t want to be around those people anymore. And that was okay. I had developed new interests—like eating well and exercise. That led me to build friendships with people who shared those interests.
You might also find that you set higher standards for yourself when you leverage discipline and resolve. Those higher standards may also show up as not accepting poor behavior from people in your life. This isn't about passing judgement. People have a right to behave the way they want to—and you have a right to walk away from anyone who's behavior doesn't suit you.
Losing weight—of any amount—can be a life-changing experience. You feel healthier, happier, more confident. You discover that you’re capable a lot of amazing things. I like to say that weight loss is a gateway drug to a whole new quality of life. I wish somebody had told me this years ago. It might have motivated me to start my weight loss journey earlier.
But I wouldn’t change my experiences for the world—even for a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.