For most of my life, I struggled with my weight. I hated the way my body ached all the time, disapproved of what I saw in the mirror and I couldn't stand people judging me based on size.
When I was 25, a doctor told me I had less than 10 years to live if I continued down my current path. I weighed 398 pounds, suffered from a variety of obesity-related chronic diseases and my health was in critical condition. Within 48 hours of receiving my news, an obese friend collapsed at work and went into a diabetic coma. The next day, my best friend (also obese) died of a heart attack. The message was clear: I needed to seriously change the course of my life.
After a two year, life-changing journey, I lost over 200 pounds and have maintained the results. I never counted calories or deprived myself of foods I loved. Instead, I took small, simple steps to make sure my weight loss plan became a lifestyle in which I could not just succeed, but thrive.
Here are the three key changes I made to create long-lasting, sustainable results.
1. I found my "why."
It's not about losing pounds and inches. It's not about looking skinny or more attractive. It's what accomplishing those goals will bring to your life.
For me, I wanted to respect the person I saw in the mirror; I wanted to walk into a room and have people judge me based on personality, not my size. I wanted to have the ability to create a family, to have children, to be effortlessly present and active in their lives. Find your "why." When you can see what you're working for and towards, the journey stops seeming impossible.
2. I created a healthy eating habit that worked for me.
Forget fad diets, infomercial-pushed weight loss pills and bottled "health" shakes. Find what works for you.
We're all unique. We all have different backgrounds, hobbies, jobs and things we like, so it's important to recognize that just because something works for one person does not mean it will work for you. Experiment with eating real, whole foods. Cut things out of your diet and be truthful with yourself about whether or not omitting those foods is sustainable for you. I'm a fan of taking an existing diet (like vegan or Paleo) and modifying it to fit your needs.
When you discover what helps you lose weight, boosts your energy and builds your confidence, write it down. Create a food diary and document how you feel before you eat a meal and how you feel two hours later. Do this for a week and use the information to help build a better you. If you're not feeling any different, try a new approach. If you are, you've found something that works.
3. Willpower will only get us so far.
Most of us have lost the same 20, 30 or 40 over and over throughout our lives. One of the reasons we strap into the diet roller coaster and can't seem to get off is because we put too much faith in willpower.
Willpower can only get us so far; we all have our breaking points or moments of weakness. Having support or a weight loss buddy you can call upon can make all the difference in that tense moment of staring into the refrigerator and deciding whether or not to eat that piece of cake.
Friends and significant others are quick to be lenient and support your moment of weakness. They connect too closely to your emotions and will often encourage you with comments such as, "you had a rough day, you deserve it." A great support buddy can often be found in a respected co-worker, neighbor or distant relative you look up to. Finding support will give you the strength and encouragement you need on this journey.