About two years ago, I was busy stripping in the bathroom to get ready for a shower. I caught a glance of myself in the mirror. In that instant I was not okay with what I saw. Things had to change, and change now. I was no longer willing to just keep trying the easy way out, I was no longer willing to accept this. I knew I had to make a change, and I was willing to do the hard work I knew would follow.
I was lucky, I was one of those people who never had to try hard (or at all) to be in some semblance of shape. My weight was in a healthy range and I never gave it any thought. Well, until I hit 30, got a desk job and suddenly found myself 10lbs heavier than I had been before. “Whatever, no big deal”, I thought. Until the next event I had to go to as I struggled to find a dress I looked decent in. Then the scale went up some more, and once I tried to wear a dress that had been fitted to me less than 6 months prior and I could no longer zip it I knew there was a problem.
So I did what everyone does. Downloaded a food tracking app, logged in a couple times, forgot about it. Went for a couple runs. Ditched that, and kept on doing the same things I had been doing. I tried the meal plan where you put your food into colored containers, and still lost no weight. Soon I found myself a full 35lbs heavier than I’d ever been before. My BMI edging to the overweight category. Which brought me to my current predicament.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Where was the former hockey player? Where was the former college athlete? She was gone. Now I saw someone I barely recognized, someone I was no longer happy with. It took 4 years for me to reach the point where I was actually willing to put in the effort to lose this weight and get back into shape. 4 years before I found something to motivate myself, 4 years before I admitted I had to change, and that those “easy” ways of losing weight didn’t work.
You don’t need fancy detox anythings, a special diet, or anything else to lose weight. The key to natural and sustainable weight loss is one simple concept: eat fewer calories than you expend. That’s it. Unfortunately, even though it is that simple, it’s not easy. 2 years ago I never would have believed you if you told me today I’d have over 500 days logged on my food tracking app. Or that I’d go to the gym regularly, 4 times a week and not hate it. I’ve lost 25lbs over the past 2 years. I’ve gone from being able to barely lift the barbell to squatting my body weight. I’ve lost weight, gained muscle, and created a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable, and that’s the most important thing to keep weight off. I didn’t use a fad diet, I made sustainable lifestyle changes to lose weight.
How to Make Sustainable Lifestyle Changes to Lose Weight
1 | Start Small
Overhauling your diet completely and hitting the gym every single day isn’t a sustainable change. It’s overwhelming to take two big lifestyle changes (an aggressive gym schedule & diet overhaul) and jump all in at once. It leads to overwhelm, and ultimately can set you up for failure. Instead of jumping in, create a plan. Start with a small change, for example: start weighting & logging your food. This will help you understand how much you are eating now and get you in the habit of being more conscious of the food you eat. Or, make a plan to cut out all drinks with calories, or go to the gym for 30 minutes of walking Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Smaller, achievable goals will help you build healthy habits and small successes to keep you motivated!
2 | Have a Plan
For improving your diet or hitting the gym you need a plan. My plan for the gym was StrongLifts 5×5. It’s a weight lifting program that focuses on strength, and only includes 5 exercises and only requires 3 days a week at the gym. It helped me to a) build the habit of going to the gym on a schedule b) gain strength c) learn about weight lifting. Motivation may get you started but it’s the habit that keeps you going. Logging my meals everyday is a habit. Going to the gym, also a habit. Weighing my foods? Habit. Motivation wanes, but habits stay. So take the time to build good habits when you start out. Focus on one habit before adding in others, especially if you struggle seeing things through to the end.
Lifting not your thing?
3 | Get Support
Healthy habits are easier if you have friends or family members to help support you on your way. Enlist the aid of others in your life to help you stick with your new habits. There are many groups online that can offer you support as well. I highly recommend the r/fitness and r/xxfitness subreddits, however many fitness apps have built in communities including MyFitnesspal and Fitbit so check those out as well. Support from others reinforces your sustainable lifestyle changes to lose weight and it becomes part of every day life for you and your family.
4 | Set Goals & Celebrate Accomplishments
Yes, the number on the scale going down is a goal, but it may not be your most important goal. It doesn’t tell the whole story. When I first started my goals involving the gym was pretty much just to go on some sort of schedule. Then it turned into going and going into the weight room. Once I conquered that fear, it became get strong enough to use the barbell.
Now it’s improving my lifts, lifting more than my body weight. As you can see, my goals weren’t earth shattering. Some people might think they are small or insignificant, but to me they were major. I can walk into the weight room now and not worry about what any gym bro thinks! When I first started, I was terrified of messing something up, getting hurt, or getting called out by some mean person. Those non-scale victories are just as real and worthy of celebration as anything else.
Goal weight on the other hand, it’s a tricky thing. I’m still not at my goal weight. I’ve come as close as 3lbs to it. I’ve not been able to hit it these 2 years. Try for that goal weight, but don’t miss out on other goals along the way. The scale doesn’t show that I’ve gained muscle mass, or that I’ve gotten stronger. Take measurements and record them. They can help show you a fuller picture of your progress. Losing inches means you are losing fat. But again, they don’t tell the whole story especially if you are also adding muscle mass.
5 | Forgive Yourself
You’re going to mess up. You’re going to go over your calorie goal, you’ll skip workouts. It’s okay. I do. Some days you don’t feel it. Some days you would rather have that immediate satisfaction of eating t hat cream carefree. It’s fine. A mistake doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t mean you’ll loose all your progress, and it doesn’t mean you’ll never make your goals. Forgive yourself these mistakes. Know that you can persist, that it doesn’t make you less worthy, that you don’t have to put yourself down or punish yourself. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. What you do week after week is much more important to your sustainable weight loss than what you do in one day.
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Taking charge of my health has been a rewarding and empowering experience. Sure, losing weight and being happier with how I look is great. That isn’t the best part of my experience though. Those people that say they are happier when the exercise, they’re right. Taking care of my body has gotten my spirit and mind a better place as well. If you want to take the steps to become healthier today is the perfect day to start. I’ve also got an amazing toolkit to share that will help you along your own fitness journey to creates sustainable lifestyle changes to lose weight! This healthy living bundle has so many resources that will help you and your family live a healthier life in all aspects.