This post is about blatant motivation and encouragement. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything, because for most of us, losing weight is probably about the hardest thing we’ve ever tried to do. But this post isn’t about how hard it is or how to suffer through the tough times. This post is about success and being healthy and making it easy, because, yes, losing weight can be easy if you choose to make it that way! I don’t mean to tell you that it’s your fault you haven’t lost weight before now, or that you’ve been doing it wrong all these years, but I will tell you that we have all been taught the wrong way to lose weight and that has been our problem! We have all been correctly following the instructions we’ve been given, but the instructions are wrong. If someone gives us directions to Boise and we follow them to the letter, that’s great, but not if we are trying to get to Boston! This is pretty much what has happened to most of us: we were aiming for permanent weight loss and what we got was only temporary at best!
I seriously never believed I could lose weight for good. I never believed I could lose a significant amount of weight and if you had told me even two years ago that I would have lost as much weight as I have without surgery, I would have flat out called you a lying insert really offensive expletive here. But, I have lost weight; I have not put weight back on; I am not miserable; and I am still losing weight. It’s not a magic trick; I’m not taking any kind of pills or special powders; and I have a lot more energy than I have had in a long time. FYI: I am over the half century mark and approaching menopause (I’m not there yet, but I can see it from here!) I only mention this because a lot of older adults just don’t even try because they think it can’t be done! I know when I hit forty, I thought I was just destined to be super morbidly obese for the rest of my life! That really is the BMI classification for my condition: super morbid obesity. I had a Body Mass Index of 75 (438 lbs). Anything over 50 is “super obese.” For reference, the ideal BMI is between 19-25; overweight is 25-30; obese is over 30; severely obese is over 35; and morbidly obese is over 40. I am still morbidly obese at 44, but it’s way better than 75!
So what did I do to lose weight? I just made some simple permanent changes to my eating habits. I know: it’s kind of a let-down. Duhhhh!!! Isn’t that what dieting is about?! You aren’t wrong, but the two important adjectives in that sentence are “simple” and “permanent.” I didn’t start doing a whole new routine and I didn’t start doing anything complicated. I simply stopped eating fast food on a regular basis. Truly, that is how I started losing weight. Because my work schedule changed dramatically (which had nothing to do with my wanting to lose weight, FYI), I stopped eating fast food and started eating at home more, and I lost about 40 lbs without really even realizing it. That’s how big I was- I knew I had lost weight but I didn’t realize it was that much! Frankly, I was amazed that such a simple change had made such a huge difference, so I decided to make another healthy change, and then another and it just kept going from there.
Eventually, I did a little research. Since I had the time, I started looking into some of the various nutritional plans and healthier eating habits. I decided on Paleo mainly because it’s pretty simple and simple works for me. I know people who think Paleo is not for them because “it’s just a lot of meat!” It isn’t a lot of meat- it’s a lot of vegetables, and while it doesn’t “cut out carbs” or “cut out bread,” it does minimize simple carbs considerably. It’s mostly about eating whole foods, which works for me in so many ways.
The difference between the changes I made this time and changes I’d made on other diets before is that I made these changes permanent and they were simple changes to make. I also didn’t make a dozen changes all at once. Since I wasn’t eating out as much, when I went grocery shopping, I just switched the pasta I usually bought for something like broccoli, salad or squash. As I used up the boxes of processed foods in my house, I just replaced them with whole food items: eggs instead of bagels; broccoli instead of rice mix; sausage instead of cereal; and some items I didn’t need to change because they were already healthy options. Rotisserie chicken is one of them. I had pretty much always eaten a lot of rotisserie chicken; the problems came from what I ate with it, which was usually a lot of pasta and bread. Would it be better if it were organically grown chicken? No doubt, but is conventional chicken better than processed meat products? Again, no doubt. This is a key concept with simple permanent changes: make the best choice you can in the situation presented to you. I do get organic when I can find it and afford it, but if I can’t then I make the best selection I can. ‘Conventional’ whole foods are still better for you than processed foods. It’s like that old joke: two hikers are out in the woods when they run into a grizzly bear. The first hiker drops his pack and starts to run and his friend says “are you nuts?! you can’t outrun a grizzly!” and the first hiker says “nope, I just have to run faster than you!” You don’t have eat “certified organic whole foods”- you just have to eat more whole foods than processed. You don’t have to throw out all the boxes and packages in your kitchen at once- you can do it over time. When you run out of boxes of mac & cheese, get zucchini instead! And yes, you can do frozen vegetables! (Canned are up to you but personally, I have never been a fan of canned.)
This is the other big concept: since I was making these changes permanent, I chose what I wanted to change on my own schedule. I wasn’t doing a planned scheduled diet where in Phase 1, I do X and after two weeks, it’s Phase 2 and I start doing Y and on and on. There was nothing to ‘phase in or out’ unless I wanted to phase it in or out, and if I changed my mind, big deal! I don’t have to ‘start over!’ My diet, my timeline, my choices! One of the things I used to eat a lot of was bread and when I decided I was going to eat less of it, yes, it was a little tough since one of the few restaurants I went to on a more regular basis has some really great bread. I chose not to eat it and smelling it, watching my family eat it and not having any was a little tough at first, but after a while, I realized a few things: 1) cravings go away when you stop giving in to them; 2) I was proud of myself for not eating the bread; 3) if I did eat the bread, it wasn’t the end of the world; and 4) when I did eat it, it was a bit of a let-down and just not worth all the drama. That’s pretty much how it went with most of the foods I decided to pass up: more drama than anything else. Are there some foods that are still great and fabulous even after not eating them for a long time? Oh, hell yes! (Peanut butter cups are still king!) But when I do decide to eat them, they are as yummy as they ever were, but I can eat one and not eat the whole bag. I enjoy them but I don’t crave them anymore and if anyone had ever told me that I would be able to keep an open bag of anything chocolate in my cabinet and not fixate on it like my dog fixates on his toy, I’d have called you the same really offensive name as above! It’s taken a couple of years to get to this point, but while it was a longer transition than a lot of diet programs promise, it didn’t cost me any more than regular groceries and I don’t have to worry about “when the diet ends” or giving in to cravings. I don’t have to worry about going back to ‘bad old habits’ because those old habits don’t appeal to me anymore! The last time I had a Jack in the Box burger (and I had been on a first name basis with the drive thru guy!), I didn’t feel guilty about it, but it didn’t taste really great either. It’s the same thing as when I blow off a workout: I don’t feel guilty about it, but I also don’t feel as good as I do when I don’t blow it off. The incentive to go back to the old bad habits isn’t there. but there is an incentive to keep the healthy new habits: eating better makes me feel better and keeping my workouts makes me feel good.
I know it’s not rocket science, but it really does work. By making simple permanent choices on my own schedule, I have lost 182 lbs since October 2014. I am pretty much the laziest, most unmotivated person I’ve ever met.Honestly for the first year, I didn’t even exercise. But I was consistent with my changes. In addition to being lazy, I like to keep to a routine (less work to do! I made the laziness work for me!) so my routine became my habit. I chose what I liked and that alone is incentive to keep going back to it. I just kept making one better choice than the last choice I made and over time, I lost weight, developed healthier habits and then decided I felt like being active. I don’t have to outrun the diet industry or Jack in the Box; I just have to run faster than the last bad choice I made.