How To REALLY Lose Weight & Keep it Off This Year – what you need to know and understand to truly make the change.
My boyfriend has lost 45 pounds since July. He’s been asked tons of questions by friends and family members about his weight loss. I thought I would share his thoughts and advice on making a serious commitment to weight loss seems how so many people are working on new year’s resolutions to lose weight right now. He believes that losing weight and keeping it off involves three main steps – accepting some truths/reality, changing your eating habits and changing your exercise habits. I’ve lost about 12 pounds which is much less than him but I am a more petite person. Despite my modest weight loss I have made long-term diet changes and have built up my exercise resistance and gained strength.
For Ryan, the most important starting point was accepting some truths. He had tried losing weight a few times before, but those attempts failed. He believes that this time worked primarily because he was emotionally and mentally ready and more in touch with reality when it came to his view on his eating habits.
Weight loss comes down to math. You have to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Unless you have some kind of rare health condition, if you have gained weight it is because you have eaten more than you have burned off. To change that, you have to either eat less or exercise more (or both).
It’s really hard to make weight loss free or even cheap. Yes, there are certain low calorie healthy foods that are cheap and if you can live off of just those then you really can eat healthy at a low cost. One of Ryan’s past diet attempts was to primarily eat just a couple of meals because they were super cheap and healthy but he did not like the taste of those foods. So, maintaining that diet long term wasn’t doable. For him, me and most people I know it’s much more realistic to commit to spending a bit more for healthy foods that you DO like and can eat regularly for long periods of time without getting sick of them. When we first started trying to eat better, we spend a LOT of money on groceries because we wanted to try a wide range of healthy foods until we found what we really liked. It was expensive at first because we threw away a lot of food that we didn’t end up liking but we found a few that we love and it was worth it in the long run. That runs into my next point…
Find a middle ground between nutrition, calories and flavor. In past failed diets Ryan tried eating super healthy, super cheap foods that he could barely stand the taste of. He felt deprived the entire time and was miserable, so once he gave up on the diet he went back to his old habits immediately. This time he focused on finding low calorie foods that he enjoyed or at least didn’t mind eating, and chose a lot of variety. When you don’t mind what you’re eating it’s easier to stick to your diet long-term. If you can’t stand your current eating pattern you’re almost certainly doomed to just throw in the towel all-together eventually.
5 months of progress. 45.5 pounds lost.
Staying at a healthy weight requires an ongoing lifestyle. If you lose weight and then go back to eating more calories or working out less you will gain weight again. If you aren’t willing to commit to eating less calories and/or exercising more on a regular basis you will not be successful at losing weight or maintaining your weight loss.
Weight loss takes a while. A lot of people begin diets, see large scale drops in the first couple of weeks and get excited. Then week 3, 4, or 5 they may lose a pound or less so they give up entirely. Be mentally prepared for your weight loss to be a slow and steady process after that first week or two.
You can eat things that aren’t delicious. Unless you naturally love healthy foods, you will have to adjust to the idea that not everything you’ll eat is super delicious. I am NOT saying you have to eat foods that you dislike. Ryan & I are both picky eaters and we do not eat foods we do not like. However, we now eat more foods that are like or enjoy but don’t LOVE, where before we were pretty consistently only eating the yummiest/tastiest thing we had on hand. In other words, sure a pizza might be really yummy but a sandwich is fine too. I love eating chips but for snacks I eat fruit, yogurt, cheese, etc instead and those are good as well.
Emotional triggers can hold you back from weight loss. Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle will have some growing pains. You’ll have days where you struggle to eat the way that you want to, or exercise as much as you decided to. Pay attention to what is going on when you have those cravings. Ryan was surprised that feeling a little off physically (having a cold, congestion, a headache, etc) is an eating trigger. Just being aware of what situations cause you to want to stray can help you understand and accept that those are emotional desires and that you aren’t actually hungry.
You don’t have to get full. Recognizing the difference between being hungry or just not being completely full caused a significant paradigm shift for Ryan. He learned that eating small, regular meals (3 meals and 3 snacks per day, with about 3 hours between each setting) would prevent him from being left feeling truly hungry, but he also doesn’t often feel FULL like he used to. He used to think that if he didn’t get completely full at a meal that he would be hungry again shortly after which is not true at least when on a high protein and fiber diet.
It’s surprising how quickly your thought process can shift. For us, it didn’t take long to start seeing foods based on their nutritional values first. Seeing food based on nutrition has made it easier to make better choices on a consistent basis, but losing weight and seeing positive physical changes has helped with motivation as well. We do still crave and occasionally eat ‘junk food’ but it’s a rare treat and we are aware that it’s a treat and is not nutritional so we don’t really even have the desire to eat poorly on a regular basis like we used to.
Have you successfully lost weight and made a permanent lifestyle change? What realizations did you have to have to make that change?
See my How to REALLY lose weight and keep it off this year – diet and exercise post for advice on diet and exercise.