Dieting is a national pastime. While the number of Americans who diet varies, depending on the source, the Boston Medical Center indicates that approximately 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion on weight-loss products in their pursuit of a trimmer, fitter body. A study in the journal “Psychosomatic Medicine” revealed that dieting may not be the answer to being overweight or obese.
Dieters often gain back the weight they lose, and dieting causes several psychological effects, such as stress, anxiety, lower self esteem, depression and irritability.
Just reading the above excerpt (taken from an article on LiveStrong.com) made me cringe so hard my cheeks started to hurt. Even thinking about dieting is making my anxiety levels rise. I know I’m not alone, as the article estimates the number of dieting Americans to be around 45 million people! Each day I turn on the TV and see advertisements for magical pills, fat-free foods, and crazy-looking exercise equipment, all designed to aid the masses in their quest to lose weight. Many who watch these ads see absolute insanity, as they absolutely should. It is hard to fathom someone being so gullible to believe there is a solution so simple, but I’ve learned the hard way to never underestimate human desperation. How exactly did I learn? Simply put, I got fat.
Three years ago, I topped the scales at 185 lbs. This left my 5’7″ frame with a BMI of 28.97. For those of you unfamiliar with the Body Mass Index, anything from 18.5-24.9 is considered a healthy weight, 25-29.9 is overweight and anything over 30 means obesity. So not only was I overweight, I was in immediate danger of becoming obese. Woah. I sat in shock for hours on the day I realized I was officially fat. It was the strangest realization I have ever had, much like aging. I never feel instantly older when my age increases on my birthday, much like I never felt any bigger when the numbers on the scale went up. It just happened.
For months following my realization, I did nothing to improve my health. Every day I thought of dieting but anxiety and the possibility of failure were too oppressive to actually start. I would be out to eat and think “Well, I’m already fat! I may as well order a burger and some fries, then I will at least have something to be happy about!” My “friends” made subtle fat jokes towards me. I became cripplingly sick almost every time I ate. I started to get insults thrown my way, ones I had never heard directed towards me before. Despite my friends and family telling me I was beautiful no matter what, I felt like I was in someone else’s body, and on August 31st, 2012, I decided to make a massive change.
Getting started with ANYTHING is the hardest part. Hell, I stared at a blank computer screen for a solid 45 minutes before typing the first sentence of this article. The reason starting a journey can be so difficult is because it is new and the outcome is unknown. But by facing my fears and uncertainty, I was able to reach my target weight of 145 lbs in just under 12 months.
My goal today is to help educate the world on health, wellness, and other triumph from my own journey. I have put some of these tips into the article below, outlining the 10 weight loss tricks that I found most useful in my experience. This isn’t the typical list I’ve found on the internet, and I promise the list isn’t condescending (as I’ve found so many others to be). I won’t tell anyone to drink thirty million ounces of water, to stock up on Kale, or to do cardio until your head explodes. What I will do is be completely honest about what worked for me, and cross my fingers that it helps someone else to succeed in meeting their goals!
1.) Imagine Your Food as Fuel
Imagine your stomach as a gas tank. Now, imagine healthy food is your gasoline. When should you fill it, and with what?
Our bodies are very intricate machines that need to be fueled by ingesting energy at appropriate times. We don’t necessarily need to eat just because everyone else is eating. Spend a week listening to your body. Carry healthy fuel with you and make sure to eat and drink (water) when you feel hungry. Eat slowly and pay close attention to when the hunger actually goes away. Chances are, your body will be full before you even finish eating. Portion sizes in the US are outrageous and they trick the brain into thinking it needs more food than it actually does. This mindset should also eliminate boredom eating and help you to realize that WHAT you eat and WHEN you eat counts way more in the weight-loss game than reduced calorie intake. Eating an apple with some peanut butter when you’re hungry will undoubtedly keep you full and energized longer than a bag of chips with the same amount of calories.
2.) Cut Out Processed Foods
Whenever anyone asked which diet I used to lose weight, I simply reply “None!”. Rather than “diet” and restrict calories, I re-calibrated what I thought was acceptable to eat. For the year I was losing weight, I only ate foods that came in their natural state. Fruits, veggies, spices and herbs, grains and nuts, and lean proteins. I cut out things that require a process to make (hence why they are called “processed” foods). This included cheese, crackers, frozen meals, pasta, bread, etc. At first it was difficult, but when I realized I could make delicious, healthy meals just as quick and cheap as a TV dinner, I was just fine! I’ll post my favorite quick, cheap, healthy recipes on here in the next few weeks to help you guys out.
3.) Do Your Own Research
The most difficult (and annoying) part of losing weight happens when other people find out what you are attempting. The backhanded compliments and critique on everything you eat will be overwhelming. Almost EVERYONE has an opinion on what to eat for weight-loss and let me tell you: THEY ARE ALL WRONG. Do your research in advance, and listen closely to your body, not to other people. I have had a morbidly obese women snicker at me and tell me I wasn’t going to get skinny by eating the avocado in my salad. I had an 80 lb girl who has never had to watch what she eats tell me that pink lemonade wasn’t going to hurt me because it’s fruit juice. *commence facepalm* The one that comes up the most (as I am the FOH Manager of a Japanese restaurant) is regarding rice. At least once a day someone makes an “I thought you were being healthy” remark as I’m eating it. YES, rice contains carbohydrates. NO, they are not the same carbohydrates that are in your deep-fried pot-stickers. I usually eat around one cup of steamed white rice when I feel hungry and/or fatigued at work. It fuels me and fills me up until I get a chance to eat, and since I am eating it when I’m hungry (when my body needs fuel) I know it’s not going to sit around in my system. It is going to burn up right away. Long-story short, be confident in your choices because others will test you.
4.) Avoid “Cleanses” at ALL Costs!
If you’ve been thinking about any of these juice detoxes or lemonade cleanses, think no more. I’ll lay it out for you right now. DON’T DO THEM. I want to slap my friends every time I hear about them buying into this trend. Ten days on the “Master Cleanse” means ten days of annorexia. Ten days of annorexia means you are severely confusing your body and going into survival mode. Yes, your body will begin to eat the fat you have built up. You’re literally starving, of course it’s going to “work” but the second you go back to eating real food, your body will cling to every single calorie. I had a friend who used to cleanse multiple times per year, despite having the knowledge I just shared. She would always brag about the weight she lost, and then a month later we were back to “Oh my GOD, I weigh the most I’ve ever weighed!” Now I truly believe her metabolism is permanently messed-up from the cumulative months of starvation. Instant results are extremely tempting, but if something seems too good to be true, remember that it probably is.
5.) Watch Out For Hidden Calories!
How many calories do you think are in a beer? And how many do you think are in a vodka w/ water?
Chances are you perceive the beer around 200 calories and the vodka/water around zero. At least all my friends did. In actuality, a shot of vodka typically has 96 calories, while dark liquors have even more. A night of college-style drinking can be the equivalent to a full day’s worth of calories! Click here for a complete list of the calories in your favorite types of alcohol. Don’t forget to look up mixers on your own too, since the sour mix in your margarita has 140 calories per-4oz!
6.) The Gym Is Only What You Want It To Be
The gym doesn’t need to be this big stressful obligatory hurdle on the way to your target weight. If you love going to the gym, great! Go to the gym! If you don’t like going to the gym, don’t go to the gym. Forcing yourself to do something you hate makes you so much more likely to get frustrated and quit. Of course exercise is good and will aid in your journey but there are so many forms of exercise out there, find one that you enjoy! Go dancing, shovel your driveway, walk your dog or play your wii. Whatever form of movement gets your heart rate up, and keeps it up, is just fine.
7.) Chose “Cheat Days” Strategically
If there is a day when you know you will be surrounded by temptations (ie- a celebration, a get-together at a restaurant, festivals, etc.) plan your week around that day being your cheat day (the day you eat whatever you want). I used to set Friday as my cheat day, then I would go out with friends on Saturday and use that as an excuse for poor eating/drinking, then Sunday I’d meet up with my family and do the same. By Monday it would feel like I had to start all over again, and I would be set back by a few pounds. By the time I mastered my healthy habits, I learned to be flexible on my “cheat” day and schedule my social life accordingly.
8.) Be Comfortable
Wear comfy clothes. Schedule time to relax and de-stress. Make sure to get a decent amount of sleep. This process is about more than weight, it is also about mental well-being. When you have an overall happy soul, it is much easier to stay on track with your goals. Especially when your brain is associating the peace and relaxation with your lifestyle change. Simple as that.
9.) Stay Busy
Walk, paint, volunteer, go to school, read a book, join community groups. Do anything to stay busy during the times you are most likely to eat out of boredom. I rarely watched TV on my path to a healthy weight, because I identified my “TV time” as the time when I ate out of sheer boredom. I can’t imagine how many calories I took in while mindlessly staring at a screen. I joined Student Government at my school, made some amazing friends, and helped change the future of the community through volunteer work. Much more rewarding!
10.) Plan Your Clothes
This is something I never thought of prior to my adventure. As you are successful, your size will fluctuate a lot. It is very important to wear clothes that fit properly. Too many people buy a piece of clothing in their “goal” size. I tried this, figuring my goal would be a pair of Size 4 pants. I beat myself up over and over for not being able to fit into those pants until I hit my target weight and realized the pants were completely irrelevant. Nobody truly knows what your goal weight will shape in to. Even if you’re trying to lose baby weight, please don’t make your old clothes your “goals”. Things change, weight gets redistributed. Donate your old clothes, shop second-hand for a “new” wardrobe until you get to the size where you plan to permanently remain.
Here’s my personal transformation that took place over the course of just 12 months!