Charles Chen is a healthy chef and host of a number of television programs. When I met him at mbg’s Brooklyn office, he was tall and energetic, with a bright smile and easy positivity that filled the small conference room. He was also incredibly fit, making his story all the more impressive: When he was 15, he weighed 150 pounds more than the man I saw in front of me. Prediabetic and depressed (“I was bullied all the time,” he says. “I didn’t have any friends”), he finally made the decision to drastically change his life. He’s kept the weight off for more than 10 years, and has since built a career out of spreading his unique wellness message. These are the top mistakes he thinks people make when trying to lose weight.
1. Trying to get into that swimsuit or that pair of jeans.
"Your motivation has to be something deeper," Charles told me. "It has to be something bigger than just yourself. What's going to get you up at 5 a.m.? Not that pair of jeans. You'll lose some weight, then you'll probably fall off the wagon. But what's really going to dive deep is that if you can relate your transformation to something bigger, like wanting to show up for your kids and be a better parent, wanting to be better in your career, or wanting to help other people. Whatever it is, you have to find your why."
2. Not listening to your personal body.
"When I do my events, I tell people to take everything I say with a grain of salt," Charles said. "What works for me might not work for you. You really need to stop listening to all of these crazy diets and other people's stories and just try in your own body."
3. Focusing only on the food.
"Everyone focuses on like, what do I eat to lose 10 pounds?" Charles said. "It's not just about what you eat. It's about what state of mind are you in when you're eating it. Are you rushing and stressed, or are you relaxed and good? Mindset contributes so much to not only what we eat but how our bodies respond to the food we're putting in our mouths." Try to take a few moments to eat each of your meals, so you can really savor every bite you put in your mouth.
4. Not being truly committed.
"There's a difference between commitment and being interested in," Charles told me. "Most people wait for a life-threatening wake-up call. But I just hope I can teach people—don't wait for a wake-up call. Do it now because it'll be that much harder later, or it might even be too late."
5. Beating yourself up for "falling off the wagon."
Charles is intent that people enjoy their life—even if that means "messing up" their diets. "Pay attention to what thoughts you're telling yourself when you do fall off the wagon," he said. "I fell off many, many times and sometimes I would just overeat and binge and feel terrible about myself, but what really helped finally heal me were the affirmations and the self-care and self-love." Next time you eat a cookie or too much for dinner, tell yourself that you enjoyed it, you love yourself, and you'll treat your body with that love next time.
6. Trying to do too much.
For Charles, it's all about figuring out what your non-negotiables are, the things you prioritize every single day to feel healthy and happy. For him, that's meditating, reading something positive, saying gratitude, exercising, and drinking something good for his body, whether that's a smoothie, tea, or green juice. Make a list of the things that really make you feel good, strong, and healthy, then play around until you figure out the right combination of non-negotiables for you.
7. Trying to change up your diet too drastically.
"I know when I was struggling, the last thing I wanted was someone to judge me," he said. "I know people have their own ethics, and I respect that—and I'd never push mine on you, and I wouldn't want you to push them on me." He's adamant that people can lose weight on a vegan diet, and they can lose weight on a paleo diet. "Go with what feels good for you."