My start weight photo is on the left and after is on the right. I have lost 13 more pounds than the after photo above bringing my total to 60lbs lost, but you still get the idea.
1. It’s normal for losing weight to take time
There is a great quote that says “The weight didn’t appear overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight”. Losing weight is more commonly a journey that has ups and downs. It is rare for it to be an easy linear process without huge (often unhealthy) sacrifice. I occasionally found myself getting frustrated seeing images of significant changes over a short period of time. I have come to learn that quick change is rare and sometimes even false advertising. I was able to change my perspective that achieving fast results doesn’t always lead to a sustainable long-lasting change.
There are many reasons why weight loss can take time. There are surprising life changes that can come up and rob you of your willpower. Sometimes emotional issues can take months to overcome and deconstruct to find the change needed to move forward. Along with the previously mentioned, I had some issues with medications for almost a year I could not consistently lose weight on. A lot of the time I felt like I was taking two steps forward and one step back dozens of times. Persistence in remaining open to learning and analyzing actions and behavior have been key to remaining successful.
Pressing time restraints may motivate some, but I found it made me more stressed. More stress for me meant less success in reaching my goals in previous attempts. Taking the time and allowing for breaks can also have its benefits. Often losing ten percent of your body weight at a time and going to caloric maintenance for a month or two can be a good mental break. This can also allow for your physiology to catch up and adjust (here is a great article that goes into that further).
2. Making myself the priority.
Of course, it’s really important to make time and set aside energy to maintain exercise and nutrition routines. In my past attempts, I often found myself in a quick weight loss program to look good in a bikini next summer but then I realized I was losing weight for a bikini and not me. I also found myself thinking my weight loss would make the people around me like me more (I associated comments about my weight as disapproval), and then I realized I was losing weight for others.
I came to find that when I was losing weight for things and others I had a harder time keeping my drive through the ups and downs of a significant weight loss journey. What was I going to gain from losing? I realized I mostly just wanted to feel at home in my body and daily life to be easier. I wanted to not have to do gymnastic like moves to wipe myself on the potty. When I walked I didn’t want to feel my arms run into the side of my body. I wanted to be able to shave more easily in the shower. I wanted to go up a flight of stairs and not be exhausted. I wanted to be able to run around and easily lift up all the little people in my life.
I am now losing weight for myself. When this shift started to happen I became more successful in managing my goal. When the priorities were leaning more towards what I thought others think about me or what clothing I felt would be more publicly acceptable to wear, it created blockages and frustration. It was easier in the past to abandon my goal for a bikini and other people since it was not a real motivator for me. Focusing on the positive things that will change to make myself happier has been a long-lasting motivator. There was more leverage to be found in thinking of the positive changes in everyday life that mattered more to me (and those will vary person to person, it’s ok if that’s a bikini for you).
3. The scale is a friend
One of the biggest dreads in life used to be getting on the scale. This was partly because I did it only twice a year or in my doctor’s office dreading the inevitable “talk” about my weight. The infrequency of getting on the scale would lead to disappointment when I saw the numbers staring back at me because I didn’t have any experience to form a realistic expectation.
I started weighing in once a week on a specific day. This exposure made the numbers staring back at me a more regular event. Consistency dulled any shock. When I started tracking my nutrition and seeing the numbers change based on following and not following my caloric needs, this showed me that a scale is a tool. It is valuable feedback of a week well done, when I have had too many indulgences, or not been tracking. Looking at the scale as a data point to help me reach my goal, rather than insult me, was an important shift I made.
I also learned that the scale is only one part of tracking the success in a weight loss journey. On top of weighing, measuring is also important. Sometimes the scale didn’t move but a tape measure would show progress. I have also found benefit in regularly reflecting on my new increased energy levels, the new habits I have made, new healthy meals I enjoy, how my clothes are fitting, and new things I can do more easily than before. These are all important additions of measurement to be seen as progress rather than just the numbers from the scale.
4. Plan, Plan, Plan.
Another quote I have come to adore is, “having a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Having a plan doesn’t mean you can’t change it and have to be strict, but there is freedom to be found in having one. When I got more specific about my goal and made a plan for how I was going to tackle it, all the tools I was going to use were easier to find. It helped me feel organized and ready for action. It certainly helped declutter my head from figuring out every day what I was going to do. It removed excuses to start because I knew how I was going to do it. Having a plan also helps me see clearly when things are not working and I need to find a new tool to change things up for progress. Here are some questions I asked myself to develop my plan:
What will I feel like at my ideal weight? Instead of setting a strict weight goal, I have a ballpark one. Based on my own weight history and what I felt like at different weights, this is how I determined my end goal. Since I am an athlete now and have never really been one, I will look more “fit” at different weights than I had previously because I now have more muscle mass.
What is reasonable? The last thing I wanted to do was something that would be unreasonable. Many weight loss attempts before I had starved myself entirely by eating in ways that were not sustainable for me (extreme intermittent fasting, Atkins, strict paleo, WeightWatchers, Keto, I could go on..), and started exercise routines that I did not enjoy. I wanted to create a change I could live with forever. I also set my goals in ways that are challenging enough that they felt like an accomplishment when they were done but were entirely possible to carry out. If I couldn’t visualize myself being successful with a goal and make a plan on how I would conquer it, I tossed it out.
How will I get there? Being in a caloric deficit for a long period of time is utterly draining. To ease this burden and metal hardness, I decided to lose the weight I wanted to in chunks of about 10% body weight at a time or 20lbs at a time (varied based on how I felt). I would then take breaks. Sometimes up to four months off if I had a meet or a big lift goal I was wanting to make. During the time “time off” I would be at caloric maintenance so I didn’t lose or gain. I have found I’m naturally pretty good at maintenance.
5. Individualize your tools and rules
Developing and putting in place my own rules and tools based on personal experiences, behavior patterns, and problem areas are one of the best things my journey brought me. It did take time, introspection, and some creativity to develop what worked. I learned from the days, weeks, and sometimes months that I know I didn’t do my best and saw it as invaluable feedback to develop change rather than fettering in failure. Here are some of the rules and tools I developed in my journey:
Rules I developed for myself:
- Don’t keep my problem foods in the house. When I want a treat I have to go out and find only the serving I can have of it. For example, if I develop a strong craving for real ice cream I don’t go buy a half-gallon because I will consume a large amount of it and add calories to my entire week. Instead, I go out and buy a cone or small serving of it to keep myself on track while still meeting a need. Having to go out to get my treat of choice decreases the ease of access to it. Sometimes I don’t get my craving fix because I didn’t want to go out. I only keep treats in the home my partner enjoys indulging in if they are not an issue of overindulging for me.
- Wake up and plan my food for the day. Following this rule has lead to less snacking and more meal satisfaction. When I can plan all my food for the day and see I am meeting my nutritional needs, I feel less motivated to go outside of my plan and derail it. It seems like a daunting task, but the more I did it the easier it got, and I found a groove. It’s also really nice to not have to think about what I’m going to make each meal in the day.
- Weigh In, measure, and write down my metrics once a week. Staying aware of my metrics keeps me accountable and motivated. Seeing progress is one of my personal biggest motivators. The data collected also helps me see trends over long periods of time so I know what I can expect during different periods of nutritional goals and needs.
- Stick to my grocery shopping list, and don’t grocery shop when hungry. If I go grocery shopping when I am hungry it hurts my wallet and my diet. I will come home with snacks and desserts I really didn’t need, nor that are friendly to my macro ratios. When I stick to my grocery list my wallet is happy as well as progress towards my goal is more easily made.
- Drink at least 8oz of water before each meal. This not only helps my hydration level but also decreases the room in my stomach so that I feel more satiated and don’t overeat. Our brains are not so good at determining hunger from thirst, so I really try and use this to increase the amount of water if I feel especially hungry before a meal.
Tools I Found for Success:
- Food Scale. I thought I knew what 6oz of chicken was but I was incredibly wrong for a long time. Even now with over a year of weighing foods I still get the amounts wrong often. I actually usually prefer to use grams when I measure, especially when it is not meat. Knowing exactly the right amount going into your body ensures you are getting all the benefits, and with strength training at a caloric deficit, getting all your protein really matters.
- Nutrition Tracker – I use MyFitnessPal to track my calories, protein. carbs, fat, and fiber. You can not lose weight without a caloric deficit, and the variations of how much carbs, fat, and protein I have properly fuel my workouts and recover the stress my muscles have undergone.
- Coach for Training and Nutrition – My coaches have been an invaluable source of support and information. Working together as a team to meet my goals has given me companionship in this journey, as well as creative problem-solving.
- Listening to this hypnotherapy session before bed. Getting my mind relaxed and set into the right frame has been one of the most useful tools. I really notice when I haven’t used it for a while, and when I use it consistently. It’s a great way to close out the day and prepare for the new one ahead.
- Knowing my ACE Score (adverse childhood experiences) and staying aware of my emotional state. A lesser-known risk factor for having weight issues is trauma and toxic stress. ACE research is one of the very things that started my commitment to better health and wellness (you can read more about that here). Understanding how to navigate triggers and toxic stress keeps my progress pointing forward.
- eMeals – Cooking the same things for dinner over and over again gets boring really fast. I get the variety I need with eMeals and it’s really fun to try out new recipes all the time. Picking a meal plan with lean meats and low calories has kept me on track with my goals. Not to mention, it is mighty convenient to shop for food during rest periods in my workout and only have to drive up to my grocery store and they do the shopping for me and load the car. I sometimes have to make small changes to make the meal less fatty but it has been a game-changer for dinner time and time management (I really don’t like grocery shopping). If you follow my personal Instagram (@megjbowen) you have seen many meals I have made using it. Clicking here will give you two free weeks to try it out, as well as a $10.
6. Always have something big or small to work towards and celebrate
One of my favorite ways to stay motivated is to work toward goals and getting rewards at the end. I often set small reasonable goals that will help my weight loss efforts, and then give myself a reward. If I am not feeling like I want to work out on a specific day, I’ll tell myself that if I do, I will wind down and relax with a hot bath at night. Celebrating bigger goals can look like reaching a new 10% body weight loss cycle, and getting to go shopping for new clothes. Changing up the goals and really customizing my rewards big and small have made weight loss fun. Currently one of my goals is increasing my water intake. I downloaded an app called “Water Lama” and when I reach the amount of water for the day I am supposed to have, my Lama gets colorful and celebrates with a pop of confetti. The small things can really add up and make your big goal more easily reached.
I hope you found something to take away in here to help you reach any of your health goals (I know you want that water lama app). If you are interested in getting help with your health goals please look around this site for information. I would love to talk with you and help you get started. Through September, when you buy two months of nutrition coaching you get one free!