I thought it would be fun, therapeutic, and helpful to discuss what I learned from losing 40 pounds.
I hope you can find comfort and inspiration from my experience and use it as you move forward.
Remember, we are all different, so don’t think my way is the end-all-be-all. What I have done to lose weight works for my family, my lifestyle, and me. Also, I am always learning, so this is probably just the tip of the iceberg for me.
Anyway, here ya go. My 6 lessons learned.
Lesson #1: I had the power all along.
This is one of the first lessons I learned and what still keeps me going. It was a very empowering and liberating moment when I realized the power to lose weight was entirely in my hands. Not a pill. Not a fad diet. Not a gimmick. The only thing that could change me was (and is) me.
This became crystal clear the first day I started tracking my food. I will never forget that moment.
I decided before I cut out or changed any foods I wanted to eat “normal” for one day so I could figure out where the problem was. Up to that point, I thought I was eating healthy, so I did not understand why I was struggling so much with losing weight.
Well, I got my answer pretty quickly because by the end of the first day, I had consumed close to 3000 calories. It was shocking and a huge wake-up call. That is when I took responsibility for my weight and decided to change. Some of you have asked what my “aha moment” was. I would have to say that would be it.
I call this now my food audit, and it’s how I teach others to begin their weight loss journey. Because you don’t know what you don’t know.
Lesson #2: Patience is critical.
We spend decades establishing bad habits that eventually lead us to an extra 10, 20, 30, 40, 50+ pounds. However, we want it off immediately when we want to lose weight. Agree? Well, I have learned that it does not work that way, nor should we expect it to.
Sustainable weight loss is all about creating a new lifestyle, and that takes time. It is a process that has its ups, downs, and plateaus. It is important to accept that and be patient with yourself as you move through the process.
I started losing weight in October 2010. There have been times when I felt on top of my game and others when I would lose control and fall back to old habits. I have learned it is all part of the process – the journey. Sure, some people might be able to move a little faster through the process, but for me I needed time.
Lesson #3: Planning ahead is a must
I am sure this will come as no surprise – especially if you are a regular reader – but I must put it out there again. Planning your menu, food, and exercise ahead of time is an absolute must.
We are all very busy people. We have a million things to remember daily, and it is easy to forget things like eating healthy and exercising when life gets crazy.
Planning ahead of time makes it much easier to keep a healthy lifestyle. It helps you think about and be intentional with the foods you are eating when you eat and find the time to exercise. I know that when I don’t think about these things, I tend to forget about them.
Of course, life happens, and schedules get screwed up, but I have learned the more I plan, the more intentional I am about food and exercise. Because of this my healthy lifestyle has become a habit, making it easier to bounce back when I get off track.
Lesson #4: Food matters
I went through a couple of different phases when it came to food. The first phase focused on getting my portions and calories under control. As I said, I was eating close to 3000 calories a day, and I needed to cut that by half. I used (and continue to use) My Fitness Pal to track my calories.
A lot of people talk about how annoying and timely it is to count calories, but honestly, that does not even hold a candle to the time I wasted being overweight and unhappy. So I have to say it does not bother me much.
At first, I was strict with counting calories, but once it became a habit, I was able to let up a bit. I always revert to tracking when I get a little loose – it helps every time.
The second phase of my food focused on quality. As I researched and learned more about food, I realized that while I had the amount of food I was eating under control, the quality of food I consumed needed some attention.
Slowly, I removed processed foods from my diet and focused on eating more wholesome real foods. Some call this clean eating.
For example, instead of egg beaters (that are filled with preservatives and food coloring), I started to eat real eggs. Instead of ordering pizza, I started to make my homemade pizzas.
I still focused on portions because even too much healthy food is too much and can damper one’s weight loss goals.
Lesson #5: Exercise makes all the difference
When I started my journey, I was not exercising at all. I thought about it every day but never made it a priority. Then, between June 2012 and February 2013, I hit a plateau – my weight was around 145 – 149 pounds. I was maintaining my weight loss so I became somewhat content with that number. However, I knew I could do better.
I knew I didn’t want to reduce my calories anymore because I would’ve felt deprived. The other option was to start exercising. This was the last major healthy habit I needed to get into place. So, in February, I dusted off my treadmill and started running. I read somewhere that to make a behavior a habit; you need to do it at the same time every day till you do it without thinking about it. So that is what I did.
Within a month, I started to see a real transformation. The weight started to come off again, and my body began to take on a leaner shape. Once I saw the results, I was hooked and have been making exercise a priority ever since.
I want to say that my exercise routine is far from the Iron Man work out. All I do is 45 minutes on my treadmill – 20 minutes of that is running. Then, I do about 100 crunches and some arm exercises with resistant bands. So, another lesson learned is exercise does not need to be complicated. Just throw your earbuds in, grab your sneakers, and get a sweat on.
Lesson #6: Discipline is more important than willpower
The last lesson I learned throughout my weight loss journey is that discipline is much more important than willpower. I know this might sound weird because willpower is used so frequently in the weight loss world.
However, I have found willpower is only necessary when I am in an environment where I can not control the food. For example, when I go to a party or the movies, there is a guarantee that there will be lots of treats and goodies there. This is when I need to tap into my willpower. I can still enjoy the food, but willpower helps me keep it under control.
Discipline is about intentionally creating an environment that supports your new lifestyle so you don’t have to depend on willpower. For example, being disciplined is taking the time to plan the menu, making your meals ahead of time, and prioritizing exercise. I have also learned that when I am disciplined, it helps me form habits. So even though I may not always feel like planning my menu or prepping meals in advance, I do it anyway because I know it will help me make healthier decisions – that is discipline.
Those are the six weight loss lessons I have learned over the years. I know I still have a lot to learn, but when I think about where I was years ago and compare it to now, it makes me smile because I know I have come so far. That makes me happy.
What about you? Do you have any weight loss lessons you want to share?