This was originally posted and written for Mind Body Green, I posted it here (the way I wrote it) because I felt like some important parts were left out (and titled changed too much) during their editing process.
Seven years ago, I set out on one of the best adventures of my life. I finally committed fully to shedding my excess weight and getting into the best health of my life after being plus-sized my entire life.
Over the course of a year, I released 150 pounds. I was half the size of the woman I once was, but more than doubled my health and happiness over the course of the last six years while maintaining 125 pounds of that weight loss.
These days, I truly feel like I hit the weight loss jackpot. There’s a scary statistic going around that claims only 5% of all Americans that go on a diet and lose weight will keep it off for more than five years. That’s far from encouraging, isn’t it?
It’s my deepest desire to change that statistic. We’re all deserving of excellent health and life-long wellbeing. So, I wish to share with you some ways that I struck solid gold with my weight loss journey (and how you can, too).
1. I started where I was.
I’m frequently asked, “How did you get started?” The truth is, I didn’t read a lot of diet and fitness books before I made the decision to start making better choices. I knew there wasn’t a perfect answer or plan out there to help me.
I started out by examining what I was eating on a daily basis. When I recognized that I was making poor food decisions, I set out to change that. I also started taking walks around my neighborhood with my dog more frequently. My short walks eventually transitioned into getting a gym membership when I realized the walking alone wasn’t motivating enough for me.
2. I improved my environment and support system.
You can tell a good deal about a person by who they hang with and what actions they take on a regular basis. I ditched my daily television sitcoms and gossip magazine habits that sent intrusive “not good enough” messages to my mind.
I also sought out personal cheerleaders that were on the same path as I. The less time I spent with negative influences, the more optimistic my outlook became and the more capable I felt.
3. I stepped out of my comfort zone.
Getting a gym membership was one of the scariest moments for me. I was mortified at the thought of being the only 300-pound woman in a gym surrounded by relatively fit people. I didn’t want to be judged. After I got the gym membership, I realized pretty quickly that no one gave me dirty looks or said anything cruel to me. It was all a worst-case scenario in my head.
Philosopher Joseph Campbell said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” When I reach out and do something I wouldn’t ordinarily do, I get what I want. As a result, my comfort zone expands. Soon, the action that was once very scary for me becomes completely natural.
4. I learned that a diet wasn’t a set of rules.
One problem with most diets is the fact that we all fail at them. Most fad diets don’t acknowledge that setbacks happen. This is a big problem for all-or-nothing thinkers (which I’ve struggled with).
I learned to embrace dieting as a way to teach me what kind of foods I enjoyed (and didn’t), what macronutrients are, and what healthy portions looked like. Even after maintaining my weight loss all these years, I never follow a set meal plan or diet perfectly. A diet is a guide, not rigid rules to beat yourself up over.
5. Exercise is not a punishment.
So many people go into a fitness routine as a way of punishing themselves for being overweight or for eating too much junk food. Because I like to feel good, I focus on physical activities that I enjoy.
I spend most of my workouts on long runs (because that’s what I’ve grown to love). I also recognize that over-use injuries are common for runners, so I still need to challenge myself. Therefore, I do lift weights, bicycle, go hiking, swim, and take fitness classes. But the majority of my exercise comes from something that is sustainable (and pleasurable) for me. Physical activity is a reward.
6. Stress can be our downfall if we let it.
My body weight has fluctuated anywhere between 5-30 pounds over the last six years of weight loss maintenance. Without a doubt, it’s always due to un-checked stress.
I’ve spent a good deal of time as a full-time student while working a full-time job, volunteer mentoring, transitioning into my new role as a wife, having family tragedies take place, and starting my health coaching business. All of these things can be very stressful setbacks if we allow them to be.
One of the biggest reasons so many of us give up on ourselves is because we don’t know how to handle and minimize stress in a positive way. Over the years, I’ve learned to notice when my stress level is affecting my health (and happiness). That’s when I ask for help from others. I’m not Super Woman, and that’s OK.
7. I got crystal clear on my motivations.
From the first day of my weight loss journey, I made a list of many reasons why I wanted to lose weight and keep it off. My motivations for wanting to achieve my goal were very specific and emotional to me.
Many people fail at weight loss (or any other big goal they have in life) is the fact that their motivations aren’t “winner” material to begin with. Vague and unemotional reasons rarely lead to a desired outcome.
8. I decided I was worth it.
I spent countless years of my life striving so hard to please someone else. I tried to be the best at things to earn approval. When I struggled so much to achieve in order to make someone else happy, it always ended badly.
When I finally understood that it wasn’t selfish to deserve happiness and good health, I could take actions from a place of self-acceptance. Dropping the self-imposed guilt made it less difficult. I was able to dedicate time to do more workouts, plan my meals, get enough rest, and just allow myself to experience life without a set of conditions or expectations of how things ought to be. I allowed myself to feel like a winner most days.
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