I love that advice. A common pattern I see in people who are struggling with weight loss is this idea of waiting to feel better… waiting for more motivation… waiting to have more energy… waiting to have more time… The thought is that when these things finally come, I will be able to make progress. This becomes a real mental trap because none of these things come to us. Instead, we create them. How? Lead with your feet, and everything else will follow. If you start moving, you will feel better… more motivated… more energized…and once you experience this, you’ll want to make time for it. Meet Mary. She led with her feet, 80 pounds ago…
How much weight have you lost? 80 lbs. I went from 257 to 177. My current weight is 191.
When did you start losing weight? 2007
How long have you kept it off? 2 years
How was it that you decided to make such a major life change?
There were several factors that led me to take my first steps towards losing weight. I was obese for about a decade (my early 20s to early 30s). Youth helps hide a lot of weight related ailments, but as I entered my 30s, I was starting to feel the effects of carrying around 100 extra pounds. Persistent knee pain, headaches, back pain, etc. I knew I was too young to feel that bad. I also wanted to have children some day, and I knew my weight would complicate things. Lastly, let’s face it, vanity was part of it. I gave up my 20s to obesity, the time in your life where feeling sexy and attractive is supposed to be easy. I had had enough of hiding in the back row of pictures, or avoiding the camera all together. I was done with not being able to shop in regular stores and enjoy the pleasures in life that seemed so accessible to my “normal” sized friends and family. Overall, I felt like I was always living in the periphery of life. The only place for me was in the fringes, in the outskirts of happiness. Other people get the good stuff, but not me. Change started for me on January 11, 2007. It was a Thursday at 6:00pm. It was my first Weight Watchers meeting.
The human psyche does an amazing job of protecting us from sensory overload, from realities that are too painful to process. Because my weight crept up over time, I didn’t truly understand what a problem it had become. Or rather, I couldn’t admit to myself that I was significantly overweight. Because I was living in major denial, I didn’t engage too much in the “start over on Monday” roller coaster or subscribe to various fad diets. I had a diet shake or two over the years, but I never really had any failed attempts in starting the weight loss process because up until 2007, I never really started anything. Don’t get me wrong, I have certainly had ups and downs during the process of losing weight. Slips and slides happen all the time, but once I began, the downward trend of weight loss continued for about 2 years.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to people who are having difficulty losing weight?
Love yourself TODAY for who you are and what you have accomplished in your life. Don’t wait to love yourself until the scale says a certain number or you fit into a certain size. Start each day knowing that the steps you are taking to lose weight are to nurture this glorious creature that is you. The rest will come.
Sticking to it seems to be the ultimate challenge. For you, what is the key to STICKING TO IT?
You hear so much about making a lifestyle change, about not going on a diet. At the beginning, the thought of “changing my lifestyle” was terrifying and overwhelming. Who will I become? Will I like her? Will she ever get to have any fun? Don’t try to overhaul your life on day 1! That implies you are fundamentally broken, and as I said before, loving who you are RIGHT NOW is one of the most important parts of equation. If you are just getting started or if you feel like your healthy habits are starting to slip, don’t let fear and guilt take over. Instead, commit to 3 small and simple healthy changes you can make that bolster your confidence and make you feel strong. Here’s how:
1 – Look at things that trigger you or cause a string of bad decisions. These triggers will be unique to you, so look at your eating habits, look at your social habits, examine your schedule. Do you get ravenous mid-morning and overeat at lunch? Do you overeat after you’ve had a couple of drinks? Do your weekends undo a work week of good choices?
2 – Based on what you uncover, identify 3 changes you can make to help combat your biggest weakness areas. Make them actionable and manageable. Stop your lunch time overeating by committing to a protein-rich mid-morning snack. Plan for happy hour by eating before hand or snacking on a Larabar with your cocktail. Put a weekend of bad choices behind you by adding in a Sunday afternoon walk.
3 – Write down your 3 healthy habits. Keep them in your journal or tweet them. Post them on your mirror or shout them from the roof tops, whatever works for you. Whenever you falter or feel like you are slipping into your old habits, return to these 3 things.
Each moment of the day is a chance to renew your commitment to your 3 things. Guilt, fear and shame can wreak havoc on weight loss progress. Stop them cold in their tracks by taking a deep breath, and knowing you have your secret weapons. Even if you do NOTHING ELSE, doing your 3 things means success! It means you are back in the driver’s seat. Your foundation for making other good decisions is firmly back in place.
And in case you are wondering, my 3 things are:
1 – Drink water – I graze when I get dehydrated. I set reminder alarms on my phone to just stop and drink a glass of water, even if it is small, it helps a lot.
2 – Have a morning and afternoon snack – I’m a volume eater, so snacking helps me not to overeat come meal time.
3 – Go to a Weight Watchers meeting – the energy and support from these meetings are great, and they provide accountability to get me disciplined for the coming week.
If you could give your former self advice before you started to lose the weight, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
Don’t be intimidated or scared of this lifestyle change. What you don’t know now is that you will be exponentially happier, you’ll feel so much better and you won’t miss all those calorie-filled meals that you lean on for comfort now. It’s true! The ups and down are hard, but you will come to find over time that you value different things and you will grow and mature from this experience like you never thought possible. You are going to love challenging yourself physically and pushing yourself to get stronger and faster. You WILL be an athlete! Yes, it’s true!
Just starting off, losing weight is hard. Tell us, does it get easier over time? Or harder?
In my experience, the cruel irony is that it is actually easier to lose weight at the beginning. No pound is easier to lose than the first one. BUT, and this is a big but, even though the scale may move a little more slowly the closer you get to your goal, there are plenty of other, big, exciting non-scale victories awaiting you. Let me explain. As you would probably expect, early in the process when you are at your heaviest, you are more likely to drop bigger numbers each week. Anyone who watches week 1 of The Biggest Loser knows this is true. It is exciting and certainly helps to keep you motivated. “At this rate, I’ll be at goal, by Christmas. I got this thing nailed!” you’ll think early on. In my first couple of months, I sometimes saw weekly weight loss in the 5+ pound range.
But, as you would also expect, I couldn’t maintain that pace. My rate of loss tapered as I got smaller. My body began to normalize around my new lifestyle and settled into a more moderate pace. It is during that moderate period, several months into the journey, that I encountered the heart of the mental battle.
My weekly losses were more consistently in the 1-2 pound range (still a very healthy range!), but my goal weight started to seem miles away. That is when I would would start to see victories that didn’t center around weight. I would celebrate things like conquering the stair climber at the gym or dropping a pants size. These non-scale victories bolstered me as much, if not more, than a big loss on the scale because they showed I was learning and growing, experiencing unchartered territory. People, that is really living! No more hiding in the periphery for me!
What is the hardest part for you now?
The hardest part for me now is the mental and emotional shift that took place during and after significant weight loss. This whole journey is one of transition, which can take your self-esteem and your confidence on a roller coaster ride. For starters, being obese carries with it its own set of insecurities. You aren’t complimented much on how you look, so you don’t expect it and steel yourself that you don’t really want it anyway. When you start losing weight, you start to get attention and compliments you hadn’t gotten in awhile. It feels nice, and you realize how long it’s been. Then when you plateau or get into maintenance mode, you don’t get the same kind of positive reinforcement on an ongoing basis.
For me, I realized at that point how much I was relying on that reinforcement to keep me motivated. I identified myself as the “weight loss girl” but over time I transitioned to “normal girl” and frankly, that felt a bit lackluster by comparison. It’s like having a super power but then losing it. The answer is, of course, not to look outward for that type of reinforcement, but to find and nurture it from within, which is part of the work I do every day in maintenance. So much of my identity was getting wrapped up in my weight loss journey and the number on the scale, but I had to remember, that is only a part of who I am.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not at my goal weight yet, and in fact, I am dealing with some weight gain – about 15 pounds. I recently got married, and with that came more cuddling time (less gym time) and more dinners out (fewer Weight Watchers meetings.) I wouldn’t trade the last two years for anything, but I knew I had to tap the breaks on some bad habits. That alone is a gigantic step. To stop and tell yourself, with love and compassion (not anger or blame), that it’s time. Time to go back to what you know. To feed yourself well. To give yourself the gift of exercise.
So how have I handled the weight gain? Brief freak out (just ask my husband!) followed by returning to my “3 things.” For me, that has provided the anchor I needed to get centered and back on track.
Right now feels like a major inflection point for me. A phase 2, if you will. In some ways, I feel like I’m starting over, but in a “fresh start” kind of way, not in a “all hope is lost” kind of way. I’m definitely entering phase 2 with a ton of knowledge and experience I didn’t have before, which is giving me the confidence to push on to my goal weight. I’m shooting for an even 100 pounds lost, just has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Thanks Mary. I’m glad you shared that you regained a few pounds because you are showing us how a bump in the road is just that…a bump in the road, not a failure. This lesson is more important to long lasting weight loss than any diet plan on the planet.
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