Growing up I was always a skinny kid and I assumed I would stay that way. Turns out that as an adult, sitting on your butt at work all day, while eating nothing but refined foods and sugary drinks doesn’t lend itself well to staying thin. By the time 2006 rolled around, I was 315 pounds and was still trying to convince myself that the dryer in my apartment building had been shrinking my clothes.
I spent a lot of money trying diet after diet over a period of about 10 years. At that time, if you told me that standing on my head and barking like a dog would help me lose weight, I would have tried it.
After failing over and over again, finally at age 35, I decided that was enough. I realized it was time to lose weight, but more importantly I was ready to do it the right way. I hired a personal trainer, started working out, and changed the way I ate. It took me about three years to lose 145 pounds. I struggled throughout the process, but finally learned how to start making better choices.
At that point, I looked great, but on the inside I was an emotional wreck. My 17-year relationship was falling apart. Looking back if I had ever had an excuse to throw in the towel, you’d think it would have been then. But I had worked too hard to just give up.
I had become a certified personal trainer and people looked up to me. I was teaching people how to lead healthy lives, but behind closed doors I spent the good part of the next eight months looking for the answers to life in the bottom of a vodka bottle and multiple bags of M&M's. I felt like a fraud and I knew that there were people just waiting for me to fall apart and gain it all back.
Losing weight is actually easy, it’s keeping it off long term that is the hard part. Despite what was going on in my life during that time, I was able to escape the darkness by focusing on these five rules that helped me lose weight in the first place:
1. Get over your need for instant gratification.
Realize you didn’t put the weight on overnight, it’s not coming off overnight. Trust the process and accept that you will likely have some setbacks, and when they happen you should actually celebrate them! It means you’re making progress.
2. Remember that you are not defined by a number.
Trust me when I say the best way to lose weight is actually NOT to keep jumping on the scale. As a society, we have an obsession with numbers, we let them define us. The numbers on a scale, on pant sizes, the calories we “can’t” have. Here’s the interesting thing, living in a chronically stressed state is not helpful when you're trying to lose weight.
3. Surround yourself with the right people.
It’s really important to surround yourself with people who understand what you are trying to do. You may actually lose friends over this. I’m not trying to scare you, but sometimes you need to be strong enough to make the choice to walk away from people who keep trying to bring you down.
I learned this the hard way. My former husband and I had a very active social life, and partied a LOT on weekends with friends. This meant lots of booze and lots of unhealthy treats.
Even though I would try to make good food choices, the drinks were hindering progress. Once I started truly making better choices, I started to realize that there were people in my life that I actually didn't have much in common with. I realized I didn't like being around them anymore, getting drunk all the time, eating like crap, and feeling like shit the next day. I also got tired of hearing things like, "You're no fun when you're not drinking." I had started doing running events on weekends so my excuse became "Sorry I can't come out I have to be up early."
I started making friends at my work gym and realized that I had a lot more in common with people that were driven and had goals. I had become a more goal-oriented person and so those were the types of people coming into my life.
4. Don't beat yourself up.
If we let other people talk to us the way we tend to talk to ourselves, it would be unacceptable. In fact it would be called bullying, so ask yourself the next time you are talking negatively to yourself: Would I ever speak this way to someone else? Probably not.
5. Make friends with (real) food.
Most of us have really messed up our relationships with food, even if we don’t realize it. Recognize that food is your fuel. The better quality fuel you put in you, the better your body is going to function. But let’s say it’s one of those “OMG I need a cookie” days. Great! Eat the cookie, enjoy the cookie and then move on. Don’t beat yourself up over the cookie, it's not worth it.
Photo courtesy of the author