I Finally Lost 100+ Pounds By Trusting Myself. Here’s What I Wish Everyone Knew

Photo: Eric Mueller

Our bodies, no matter how many layers of clothes we use to cover them, will always be "public." In my experience, being unhappy with your body can complicate your relationship with how you view the world and how you think the world views you. Pressure from outside can seem so overwhelmingly real that it might discourage you from taking any action at all. I’ve been there, too.

Historically, I had some ups and downs.

When I finished college, I weighed well over 300 pounds. Five years later, at my master’s graduation, smiling for pictures was much easier because I weighed more than a hundred pounds less. Doing the math in my head, I realized I had lost a little over 20 pounds a year for the last five years.

Some years were better than others, but I wanted to lose weight at a sustainable pace. One summer, when I was a teenager, I lost over 40 pounds only to put it all back on that fall. I didn’t want that to happen again. So instead of making all-or-nothing drastic moves, I joined a gym and implemented slow, gradual changes.

From team player to solo sport.

Most of my training in life has been through sports teams—namely relentless football workouts. I wanted to find a more personal path to weight loss, to transform my body the way I wanted to instead of having to prioritize the team. Plus, I had my own goals, and although it’s fun to have workout buddies, I was ready to hold my No. 1 workout buddy accountable: myself.

Proven methods of training that work for thousands of people weren’t working for me. And the truth was that I was so unhappy with how I looked, I didn’t want to be around anyone else. Creating an invisible barrier with my giant headphones, I finally became my own gym buddy.

Doing it in this way, on my own terms, allowed me to listen to my body and create lasting change. Here are a few realizations that helped me:

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1. Educate yourself.

Whether you’re just starting your fitness journey, or starting again for the 10th time, professional supervision can be helpful. As a former college football player and high school football coach, it’s something I’d recommend to make sure you don’t hurt yourself. If that’s not accessible, however, there’s an abundance of fitness and wellness knowledge in books and online. I try to use a variety of different sources like mbg’s own TMac, Fitness Blender, and the Tim Ferriss podcast, to name a few. I’m always looking for new things to try in my diet or fitness routine. There’s not enough time to learn everything, but staying plugged in makes the journey far more engaging.

2. You are in the driver's seat.

Don’t want to do core that day? No worries. Were you supposed to do arms but your legs feel the need for a burn instead? Aye, OK. Feeling overwhelmed by all the stress you’ve been putting your body through and need to take an active recovery day to get your butt in gear for tomorrow? Do it.

Training for yourself, and by yourself, means you won’t have the accountability of a training partner. If you know yourself, you know the amount of slack you can give yourself. Knowing yourself and how much slack to give (if any) is incredibly valuable information. Accountability is like a muscle, too: It only works when you practice it.

Having trained with teams for a decade, I had the benefit of knowing and understanding my body in a way others who are just starting may not. Of course, if you crave the accountability of a trainer or workout partner—go for it. But leave room to hold yourself accountable and see it through. You’ll learn so much and build confidence and trust in yourself.

3. More isn't always better, even when it comes to exercise.

I once experienced a weight-loss bump doing two-a-day workouts. Many professionals use this style of training, especially those with day jobs that keep them sitting all the time. I’d wake up, lift in the morning, go to work, coach football, then do cardio at night and pass out. A lot of eating took place in between my two periods of sleep, and I wasn’t properly addressing it because I was still losing weight—just not the healthy way.

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4. There's no one to blame.

Without trainers, friends, mothers, or coaches to weigh in, it’s just you with yourself. You’re on your own team. This can be difficult—getting to know yourself and what motivates you, what excuses you use, and what transforms you is great information. On the flip side, when you’re successful, it’s also just you. Making personal accountability a priority is empowering because you’re the main beneficiary: Lose the weight for you and not anyone else.

5. "Are you still losing weight?" is the worst question ever.

This question terrified me. You should never ask it—in my experience, it’s deeply personal, kind of intrusive, and just feels sharp. "How is the fitness going?" is a much cooler way to find out said information.

One of the reasons it’s prying is because it can draw attention to the not-so-sightly side of weight loss that other people don’t know much about. Losing a lot of weight is weird—flaps of skin came out of my chest and lived under my armpits, for example. It's so deeply personal—even when you're happy about losing weight, the way your body changes takes some getting used to.

On the other hand, if you’re going to keep someone out of your weight loss journey, you should be prepared for questions across the board. People often don’t know how to properly express their excitement or pride—sometimes it comes off as jealousy or judgment.

6. Plateaus suck.

Anybody on a journey, fitness or otherwise, encounters them. When you’re going at it alone, it can be six months before you really notice that you’ve sunk into a rut. My advice for dealing with plateaus? Step up your nutrition game, return to fundamentals (take a look at your goals, your progress, and what’s changed), and emphasize your core.

Lowering my sugar intake always helps. Looking at the fundamentals often helps me realize I’m not maintaining good posture when I rest and lift, am slightly out of line in my squats, or that I’m not stretching well enough. As for my core, I’m convinced I went a couple decades without one now that I’ve constructed my very own in recent years. I feel it in there somewhere, and I know if I continue chipping away, I’ll see it eventually.

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7. Small changes can seem big; big changes can seem small.

Changing my habits was the hardest part about losing weight for me, and I know it is for many others. Getting myself to stop working out like a football player was difficult—in addition to novel moves and ways of training, it involves learning a new mentality. Cutting back on the sugary snacks and processed foods that I had been raised on was even harder. Sometimes I would make a small change, like giving up soda or condiments, and see major results. It really is the little things you do every day that make a difference in the long run.

8. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

The most important lesson I learned, though, is that you can never learn everything. Finding some kind of community, one that best fits your needs and that you can hopefully contribute to in some way, is a necessary piece in the solitary weight loss journey. Internet forums and social media buddies are helpful, and even a fitness-inclined co-worker is great—you can bounce ideas off each other and work out together, which, yes, can be awkward sometimes, but in the end we’re in this thing together.

We’re living in an age of community fitness. Yoga, spinning, Zumba, HIIT groups, fun runs, warrior challenges, group options for personal trainers—all of it can feel overwhelming and invasive to an introvert or someone who feels like they have a lot of weight to lose. Remember that group classes are marketing, too, often with Photoshopped models and near-impossible body standards. If you’re out of shape, you might not feel "worthy" or "good enough" to even participate. You are. Navigating your own body always starts from within, no matter what surrounds it. With all of the advice and community that’s available, it can be hard to truly listen to yourself to find out what’s best for you. My journey has been full of solitude, but I’m open enough to know that it may not always be.

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