In December of 2008, I came across a Christmas photo of myself and decided that I had finally had enough. My normally slender face was round and cherub-like and I was covered in layers of clothing trying to hide my body. (My favorite move: the good ol’ scarf-in-front-of-the-tummy life-hack.)
From that moment, I dug my heels in and decided I was going to lose the weight I had gained in my last year of college. I weighed 220 pounds and knew I had at least 50 pounds to drop, but I was determined to see it through.
Still, I knew it would be tough: At 21 years old, I had already tried every fad diet in the book hoping to shed weight lightning-fast. Plus, when I told people my New Year's goal, they replied that I’d never stick with it because "resolutions don’t work." Most gyms are empty by February, right? But I promised myself that I wouldn't be another failed New Year's resolution statistic.
In the end, I accomplished my goal and then some — I shed 65 pounds over a year and half.
That’s not to say there were no bumps in the road. I had 21 years of growing up on the Standard American (well, in my case, Canadian eh!) Diet, so I was frequently tempted by dinners out, easy fast-food options, and naturally fit family and friends who could eat whatever they wanted and not gain a pound (insert eye-roll).
So how did I succeed? Honestly, the whole process was easier than I thought. That's because instead of looking for quick fixes, I focused on an overall healthier way of living. And I actually had fun learning about nutrition and finding new workouts to add to my routine as I naturally shed the pounds.
Here's what I did to make sure I stayed on track with my goal:
1. I bought a food journal (and actually used it!).
Admittedly, I originally thought this was the dumbest idea ever. But almost everything I read said that weight issues are the result of unresolved emotional baggage. So I figured if I chronicled not only what I was eating but how I was feeling, I'd deal with any problems that might cause me to over- or undereat.
Every day, I tracked my food and exercise routine. I recorded everything from musings about still being hungry to the time I wanted to shake my mom for ordering pizza on a non-cheat day. Sometimes, writing things down simply provided a distraction long enough for a craving to pass or it made me realize that I was being a hangry, irrational beast.
Other findings? I noticed that if I missed a workout I was more likely to feel like garbage. And I saw that if I wasn’t eating a good amount of veggies on a certain day, I felt hungrier than normal.
While I didn’t have any huge emotional epiphanies, I did gain a better understanding of myself and my triggers.
2. I ate dessert every day.
My food philosophy at the time was simply to stay within my caloric range by eating more whole foods. But I also knew I needed something to remind me that I was human and not a weight-loss robot.
No, I wasn’t scarfing chocolate cake all day. But I'd choose desserts like fruit to give me the sweetness I was craving. Throughout my journey, I enjoyed treats like baked banana with cinnamon and walnuts, banana soft-serve, broiled grapefruit with honey or strawberries, and a few pieces of dark chocolate.
3. I stopped forcing myself to go to the gym.
I am the queen of excuses when it comes to avoiding the gym: “It's too busy,” “I don’t want to drive there today,” “Everyone is watching my jiggly bits dance.”
So I decided to nix all that guilt and instead commit to a short 30-minute workout in my home every day. If I didn’t feel like it, I told myself I only had to do the first 15 minutes and then I could stop; I usually finished my 30 minutes and some days did even more.
It also helped that I used a mix of different workouts. For cardio, I participated in the Couch to 5k program. For strength training, my mom was a home-workout-video junkie so I'd raid her collection and pick a workout for the day, like P90X. Even if I wasn’t strong enough to do all of the moves, I modified and did my best.
4. I joined an online support group.
One thing that made my weight-loss journey difficult was that my family wasn't trying to get healthy at the same time. And I felt like all my friends were too fit to understand my struggle.
So I joined online message boards and found women who were just like me trying to lose weight. It was great to have a group of women in my corner who knew the struggle I was facing.
The support group helped me stay on track not only by having others cheer me on but also because I felt inspired watching them succeed. The Zen goddess in me knew that if they could succeed, I could too. And the competitor in me knew that I wasn’t about to sit on my butt while I watched everyone around me “win."
5. I documented it publicly.
Somewhere out there on the Internet are floating around "progress pictures" of me wearing a tiny yellow bikini.
This may not be for everyone, but I found that starting a blog chronicling my day-to-day life while trying to lose weight was really helpful. It kept me accountable to people I thought would be following along.
Overall, I don't really understand why New Year’s resolutions get such a bad rap. I mean, we praise goal-setting and dreaming — but the moment someone makes a New Year's resolution is the day people start unfollowing them on Facebook. This year, let’s try to praise those who are trying to make a change — even if it takes them a few tries to get the hang of it.
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Photo courtesy of the author