Well, that’s a pretty big question. I have to defer to Amy Greenan, a member of my FUdiet Facebook group who just passed the 100 lb weight loss mark. 100 pounds is a huge weight loss goal and to be perfectly honest, it is a rare achievement. I have been interviewing people who I call “Real Life Biggest Losers” to find out how they achieve what doctors say can’t be done. If you take one thing from this post, take Amy’s answer to “How did you lose the weight?”
“It was all about finding a way of living that I could sustain for the rest of my life. I knew I had to eat less and eat higher quality foods, and I wanted to become a more active person. So, I made gradual changes that didn’t feel overwhelming. Exercise actually came first, and then I started figuring out how I wanted/needed to eat in order to start losing weight consistently.”
Notice she never mentions special diets, meal plans, giving up carbs, giving up fat, starving herself, or any magic pills. None of the Real Life Biggest Losers do.
Name: Amy Greenan
All time high weight: 372 lbs
Current weight and height: 272, 5’ 8”
Total weight loss: 100 lbs
How did you gain the weight? A lifetime of yo-yo dieting did me in. I also always had a poor body image, which didn’t help.
When did you begin your weight loss journey? This time? May 2014.
What motivated you to lose weight? Middle age and impending doom! Seriously. I didn’t want to face a horrible future of not being able to do things because I was too fat. It was already starting to happen.
To what extent had your weight affected your physical health? I had high-ish blood pressure and I was on the brink of diabetes; otherwise I was pretty lucky and wasn’t in too poor health… yet.
How did you lose the weight? Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen. It was all about finding a way of living that I could sustain for the rest of my life. I knew I had to eat less and eat higher quality foods, and I wanted to become a more active person. So, I made gradual changes that didn’t feel overwhelming. Exercise actually came first, and then I started figuring out how I wanted/needed to eat in order to start losing weight consistently.
Who was the most influential person/people to you during the process of losing weight? I found online communities that I found incredibly supportive, in particular making friends at MyFitnessPal and the amazing Facebook group for FUDiet. I’m also involved in a weight loss program with my local running store – it’s pretty loose and you more or less just weigh in weekly, but they have a private Facebook group that I really enjoy.
Have you ever lost weight and then gained it back? Oh yes, it was the story of my life pretty much from age 9, when I went on my first diet. I was never able to break the yo-yo cycle, until (hopefully) now. I feel pretty confident that that part of my life is over. I’d lose maybe 50 or 60 pounds at a time, but then gain it back plus more – lots more. It was pretty awful. This is, so far, the most weight I’ve lost in one go… I still have at least 100 more to lose, but I am sure that I’m going to get there. I am driven. There’s too much I want to do.
It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT? For me, it’s exercise that is super important – and the key to sticking to it is finding something you truly love to do! I started out at the gym, which was kind of fun, but I have since found that I much more enjoy being outdoors doing things like hiking, running, cycling, playing tennis, and plain old walking. I joined a Learn to 5K program with a local running store back in February, and I’ve made lots of awesome friends who really keep me going. You really can’t underestimate the power of friendship and camaraderie. I’ll be running five miles this weekend for the first time – it’s amazing to think that in just less than six months, I’ve built up to that from nothing. My body is constantly surprising me with the things it can do, even though I still have a lot of weight to lose.
I say that exercise is the most important element in my efforts to lose weight because I’m learning that if I eat like crap, it will affect my performance. I don’t eat perfectly by any means, but wanting to be better at physical activities (say, running at a faster pace, or being able to make my way across the tennis court more efficiently) does help me stay on track. I definitely want to lose weight, but it is no longer my only impetus to eat better.
Just starting off, losing weight is hard. Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? I would say that it is getting easier. I still struggle with my relationship to food and body image, but I have become more forgiving of transgressions along the way, knowing that I can always “get back on the horse” and I’ll be just fine. I just can’t give up, or there is a very real chance that I would end up back where I was, or worse. That is always in the back of my mind. For now, I feel like after losing 100 pounds I am out of a danger zone in a way, but I think until I lose at least another 50 I won’t feel totally comfortable with my success. Another thing that I have changed about my mindset is that this isn’t a race! There is no deadline! Too many times I’ve set time-based goals and get frustrated when I didn’t meet them. Nowadays, I do set monthly goals – usually I’d love to lose 8-10 pounds each month – but as long as I lose something, even just a pound (and that has happened!), I’m pretty OK. I don’t really care how long it takes me to lose all the weight I want to lose, as long as it happens. That has been a big shift in attitude for me and I think is another big key to my success this time.
If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? Oh gosh, so many things. Most of all, Stop devaluing yourself because of your weight!
Do you worry about gaining weight back? How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back? Yes, as I mentioned before, I think until I get down in the lower 200s I’m going to always be worried about that. Heck, probably even beyond that. But maybe that is a good thing – keeps you aware and on your toes. This is always something I am going to have to be on top of, and I am OK with that. Since I’m developing a whole new way of life for myself, I could say that it won’t be much of a problem, but I don’t want to get too cocky at this early juncture.
Sometimes people trying to lose weight have a tough time with motivation. How do you get and stay motivated day after day? On the occasional day or two that I go back to old habits (it’s easy, ugh!), I realize how crappy eating like that makes me feel and I honestly don’t want to keep it up. I know now how good this new lifestyle makes me feel. I’m not sure I like the word “motivation” – people always talk about not having it, or wondering how to get it. I guess my feeling is, that if you really want to make a change in the way you’re living your life, you do it however you can. You also have to know that the transition is not going to be perfect – there will be bumps and detours along the way. You can let those derail you, or you can take one day at a time, one step at a time, and just keep moving forward. That’s all you can do – and you don’t need to wait for motivation to cross your threshold.
Can you tell us how your participation in technology and/or social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps, blogs (reading them and writing your own) has impacted your weight loss journey? For me, it has made all the difference. I don’t know if I would be as successful with all the various tools and communities available. At various points I’ve used Pact, Lark, Happy Scale, at least a few fitness apps… as I mentioned, I’ve been active on MyFitnessPal from day 1 (I have a 444 day streak as of today!), and the Facebook groups I’ve mentioned before. I do post on my personal Facebook page about my running, and when I reach big milestones in my weight loss. I get so much amazing support there from friends and family. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve written in my own blog (http://amytenpercent.blogspot.com) since 2008, through several ups and downs. I’m not sure how many people read it, but even just getting the occasional comment from someone feels really great. It really helps me to keep track of all my accomplishments in one place, not to mention lists of favorite blogs, and just hashing out all the feelings I’ve experienced going through this. It’s a lot to process and it really keeps me going, especially when times are tough.
What is different (if anything) about your life (and/or health) now that you have lost the weight? Everything is different, for the better. From very little things like being able to bend over and tie my shoes or wear a watch again, to big things like being able to run for four miles straight or fit into size XXL… it’s all been amazing. It’s all been totally worth the blood, sweat, and tears – and that’s a good thing, since I am far from being finished! I’m thinking I’d like to see myself at around 150 pounds, so I’ve got at least 120 left to lose.
If we want to follow you, where do we find you? My blog, Ten Percent! http://amytenpercent.blogspot.com! You can also friend me with a little message on MFP to my username, radiosilents. And if you happen to be interested in art, visit http://www.amygreenan.com to see my paintings and other work.
Amy is an artist and graphic designer in Niagara Falls, NY. She lives with her partner of 15 years and their 4 cats.
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