I Lost 160 Pounds 3 Years Ago. Here's How I've Kept The Weight Off

Written by Joe Bernstein

Photo by Ryan Perez

When people find out that I lost 160 pounds, they are often in disbelief and ask me how I did it.

The hard truth is that it’s not about what I did; it’s about what I learned along the way. While I wrote about how I did it in my last piece, "10 Things I Did to Lose 160 Pounds Without Ever Dieting," losing weight isn't actually a big secret—most of us know we should be eating healthy, exercising, and so on.

But changing my life in a way that empowered me to keep the weight off was the real triumph and accomplishment.

Today, I work with my clients as a wellness coach to inspire lifestyle changes that result in permanent and sustainable wellness. Here, I'm sharing what has worked for me:

1. I became a foodie.

I learned how to use a love of food to cultivate health, wellness, and weight loss. Every time we eat, we are making a symbolic choice to be alive. So I fill that symbolic choice with the highest quality foods.

I found that learning as much as I could about high-quality foods, the industrial food system, and cooking extraordinary meals really helped me to keep the weight off. Now that I am more impassioned by food, it is easier to make higher quality, healthier, and more energy-cultivating choices.

2. I stayed in touch with my body.

After I shed the pounds, I began to open the doorway to feel my body and my emotions again. Now that I'm in touch with my body, it's almost impossible to ignore when I'm not taking care of myself.

When you feel the powerful effects of sugar or caffeine on your body, it’s hard to abuse them. When you notice how slow, uncomfortable, and moody you are when you've dramatically overeaten, it’s near impossible to do it habitually. And when you feel the lack of energy and mental clarity when you haven’t exercised in three days, you no longer need motivation to go get your sweat on.

On the other hand, when you can feel the power of being alive in a body as you run through a park in spring, there is no ice cream or buffet line that can rival that aliveness and vigor.

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3. I focused on how I feel, not how I look.

When I realized that even after losing 150 plus pounds, I still have parts of my body that don’t look the way I imagined, I learned to love my body as it is. I’ve learned to focus on what I can control and let go of what I can’t.

We have a lot more control over how we feel than on how we look. With my clients, I align them to focus on their energy, mood, sleep, digestion, relationships, and mindset as ways to measure success. I move them away from the focus on what the number shows on the scale or how they look.

Besides, when you feel great, have energy, sleep well, and connect with others, you appear much more beautiful, handsome, and appealing than before.

4. I tapped into the power of daily routines.

I use morning and evening routines to bookend my days and fill my life with self-care. Everything I do before 9 a.m. is an affirmation of my worth in the form of an action. It’s hard to make poor food and health decisions when I’ve devoted so much time to taking care of myself before I walk out the door. That includes hydrating, listening to music, exercising, and eating a healthy breakfast.

I also used to binge at night and have discovered in my practice that so many people struggle in the same way. Now, I have an evening routine to anchor me in positive choices and actions rather than the binges and late-night TV that I used to fill my evenings with. These days, I shut off all electronics at least one hour before bed, drink a calming tea, and fill a page in my gratitude journal.

5. I healed my taste buds.

For most of us, our taste buds are hijacked by artificially overgrown flavors from processed food. When you get off the high-salt, high-sugar, highly processed, artificially flavored bandwagon, your mouth, body, and mind relearn to taste real food.

When you can get more pleasure from a fresh salad with local heirloom tomatoes, fresh red onion, and a quality balsamic vinegar than you would from a basket of fast-food fries, it's inspiring, enlivening, and empowering.

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6. I overcame anxiety and fear-based thinking.

For much of my life, I was anxious and afraid. Eventually, I decided that I would learn more about anxiety and found out that for many of us, anxiety could be caused by a sensitive nervous system. My anxiety starts in my body and travels to my mind, eventually taking over my thoughts, beliefs, actions, and behaviors. I discovered that the cure was exercise and active relaxation.

So I consistently exercise no matter what because I know that without doing so I'll begin to feel anxiety again. I also began to meditate and now do guided visualizations as another form of anxiety reduction. Finally, I recognized that my anxiety heightens with foods that are high in sugar and low-quality carbohydrates. Knowing all of this, I can now prevent anxiety and help keep the weight off.

7. I built a community.

One of the reasons that I've been able to maintain my weight loss is because I work hard to fill my life with connection, intimacy, and community. When I am challenged with life’s hardships, instead of running to the kitchen or the buffet line, I have dozens of people to reach out to and get support from.

The past few years have been filled with challenge, triumph, obstacles, transition, transformation, and heartache. Without my community, it might have been too much to bear without going back to food and eating for comfort and intimacy.

8. I developed emotional intelligence.

Food and eating challenges, lack of exercise, and excess body weight are symptoms of a life out of alignment. That’s why telling someone to eat less and exercise more rarely works. It addresses the symptoms but not the cause.

We eat when we are happy, we eat when we are sad, we eat when we are lonely, we eat when we are fearful, we eat when we are excited, we eat when we are overwhelmed, and we eat when we are longing for love or attention.

So what helped me was gaining an understanding of my emotions, giving myself permission to feel them—and learning how to ride the wave safely without hiding them, stuffing them, medicating them, or feeding them. That's the number one reason I’ve kept my weight off.

Understanding my emotional experience as a human being on planet earth has empowered me to feel my emotions and attend to them in a healthy way. It has empowered better relationships, more integrity, and healthier coping mechanisms.

So this is my truth about how I’ve kept my weight off. It’s not about what I eat or how much I exercise. There are no supplements, pills, potions, or shakes. There is no secret to my success. I simply decided to slowly change my lifestyle in sustainable ways. I made the decision to look at food, eating, and exercise as a way of helping me feel my best and engage as deeply as I can with life. I cultivated love and passion for food and movement rather than fear and resistance to diet and exercise.

I’ve changed my life completely. I promise you can, too.

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Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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