The Easy Habit That Left Me 22 Pounds Lighter (And Happier)
It was official. I was fat. Again.
My favorite jeans could no longer be buttoned up. Another pair, which I hadn’t worn in years, wouldn’t even go past my thighs. My tops were bursting at the seams. The only things I could wear with minimal grief were loose sweat pants and oversized tees. Just walking up stairs left me breathless. My confidence was at an all-time low. I hated going out and being seen. All I wanted to do was sleep … and eat. I felt like I had given up on life.
Unwanted weight gain wasn’t unfamiliar territory to me. I’d experienced it as a teenager and lost it all while at college. But soon after my working life began, I started to slip and let life “get in the way” of taking care of myself. A close friend, who had been observing my gradual transformation over the years, finally forced me to face my fears head on by asking, "Have you let yourself go?"
As ashamed as I was to admit it, I had no answer to give her other than a barely audible and painful “yes.” I knew making changes were on my horizon and as a lifestyle journalist, I knew what I had to do, but didn’t know where to start. I was overwhelmed. But I knew I had to start somewhere and I needed to start now, because I had reached a point where staying where I was had become too painful.
Going forward with my current lifestyle wasn't an option. So I took a few steps back, restarting my weight-loss journey in a way that made sense: by slowing down. Here are the two key strategies I used to do just that:
1. I made every meal a lesson in meditation.
Up to that point, everything was about rushing, meeting deadlines and trying to fit more into my days. My life was speeding away in the fast lane, on autopilot mode. I didn’t see it then, but this blur of activity was contributing to my growing waistline. I ate quickly without thinking. If there was food in front of me, I’d eat it regardless of whether I was hungry or not. I also made food my go-to, life-coping mechanism.
Sad? There was ice-cream to turn to. Happy? I’d reward myself with a bucket of fried chicken. Bored? I’d whip up a big, distracting bowl of pasta. The irony of it was that the more I ate, the worse I’d feel after.
Gradually, I cleaned out all my favorite binge foods from my pantry because if I didn’t have them at home, I couldn’t eat them. I replaced them with vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and fruit. Mastering the basics was what I was after. I wasn’t interested in complicated diets that I knew I wouldn’t stick to.
I prepared most of my meals so I knew what went into them. Cooking — chopping, tossing, baking, mixing and stir-frying — became my therapeutic time-out. I looked forward to being in the kitchen and began to look at food as a source of nourishment instead of entertainment.
2. I stopped eating when I was 80% full.
In the past, I’d keep going until I was red in the face and ready to throw up. This step was crucial in helping me get in touch with my natural hunger cues. This way, I ate only when I was hungry, and stopped when I was no longer hungry. Food and eating became a simple, soothing ritual, rather than a source of apprehension and fear.
Replacing my trigger foods with healthier, more nourishing ones helped me re-train my taste buds to appreciate new textures and flavors, as well as curb my cravings for the usual binge-worthy suspects. Deprivation wasn’t a part of my plan, but portion control was, so I used smaller bowls, plates and lunch boxes, especially when it came to carbs, my biggest weakness. When I ate out, I’d ask my waiter to doggy-bag half my portion before it even got to the table or share the other half with a friend, guaranteeing I wouldn’t over eat.
My weight loss was slow, but that’s exactly how I wanted it. A year later, I was 22 pounds lighter, happier, calmer and glad I didn’t lose the weight any other way.
Now it's your turn. What can you do to slow down to become more mindful about what and how you're eating to achieve the body you want?