Ever since I hit the “40 pounds lost” mark last week I have been doing a lot of thinking. If you missed that post (with my before and after pics) make sure to check it out. Anyway, I thought it would fun, therapeutic, and helpful to talk about what I have 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 in a way 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 completely 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 foods. 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 really 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 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.
Lesson #2: Patience is critical.
We spend years – decades – establishing bad habits that eventually lead us to an extra 10, 20, 30, 40, 50+ pounds. However, when we want to lose weight we want it off immediately. 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 – that is almost 3 years ago. So it has taken me around 3 years to get where I am today. There have been times where I felt on top of my game and other times where 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 have to 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 every day and it is easy to forget things like eating healthy and exercise 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 finding the time to exercise. I know for me when I don’t think about these things then 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 habit making it easier to bounce back when I get off track.
Lesson #4: Food matters
I went through a couple different phases when it came to food. The first phase focused on getting my portions and calories under control. Like 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 really does not bother me much. At first I was really strict with counting calories but once it became habit I was able to let up a bit. When I find myself getting a little loose I always revert back to tracking – 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 was consuming needed some attention. Slowly, I started to remove processed foods from my diet and focus 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 own homemade pizzas. You can read more about my clean eating eating guidelines here. I still focused on portions because even too much healthy food is too much and can damper ones weight loss goals.
Lesson #5: Exercise makes all the difference
When I first started on my journey I was not exercising at all. I thought about it everyday but never made it a priority. Then somewhere between June 2012 and February 2013 I hit a plateau – my weight was hanging around 145 – 149 pounds. I was essentially 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 deprive. 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 of 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 do 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 having 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 only to be 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 it is a guarantee that there is going to 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, taking the time to menu plan, making your meals ahead of time, and prioritizing exercise are examples of being disciplined. I have also learned that when I am disciplined it helps to 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 being disciplined.
Those are the 6 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 3 years ago and compare it to now it makes 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?