The Wellness Practices That Helped Me Lose Over 100 Pounds — And Keep Them Off
Not long ago, I was running between meetings. I was late but I didn't want to miss lunch. Lucky for me, there was a Sweetgreen around the corner. So I ran in, grabbed a salad, and ran out as the Uber pulled up.
"I'm in a rush to get to my next meeting," I said. "Is it OK to eat in the back?" "Yeah, sure," he said. "No problem. What do you do?" I hesitated for a moment because he looked to be about 400 pounds. I could never be sure how someone that size was going to respond.
"I started a company," I said, "to help people do what I did. I lost 130 pounds."
"One hundred and thirty pounds!" he said. "I've been trying to lose weight all my life. I just can't do it. Every time I lose 30 or 40, the weight just comes back."
"It's not your fault," I said. "Ninety-five percent of dieters gain the weight back. That just makes you normal."
"I've come to accept the fact that this is my reality. But is there something I can do?" he asked.
Here's what I told him. These 12 things are what helped me lose 130 pounds and keep the weight off in the long term:
1. Don't restrict yourself.
Restricting yourself doesn't work. Adding healthy items to your regular regimen will start to shift your patterns. The restriction only makes you want more of the foods you aren't allowing yourself to have. Not only that, but research has shown that extreme diets can open the door to behaviors that cause eating disorders.
2. Don't let your brain trick you.
It may be making you think you're hungry when you're really thirsty. I drank half my weight in ounces of water every day. It kept me feeling full. My brain felt like it was operating sharper—and it stopped my cravings. Drinking water also boosts your metabolism and clears your body of waste.
3. Make sure you're doing this for yourself.
Losing weight for other people won't work in the long term. When you lose weight to fit into your clothes to look good for somebody else, it's short-lived. When you do it as an act of self-love because you deserve it, you're tapping into a deeper desire. If you know "why" you are committed, you will stay true to your commitment when you feel challenged. Self-efficacy, specifically the belief that you have the ability to achieve your weight loss goal, has also been linked with successful weight loss.
4. No extreme workouts.
Extreme workouts are not sustainable. In order to make changes over a long time, you have to establish patterns that you can stick with. Begin with a short walk and don't push yourself to do too much. Don't put your body under too much stress by taking on too much too soon. Little by little, a little adds up to a lot. Research shows that the more you are satisfied with your workout, the more likely it will become a habit.
5. Get out into nature.
Put your feet in the grass. Get under the sun. Step in the water. Breathe fresh air. Light a fire. Anything that brings you back to nature relaxes your mind and your body. That's going to help you connect with your body. When you feel a deep connection, you're less likely to (go out and) overeat.
6. Eat mindfully.
If you eat slowly and mindfully in a relaxed state, your body interprets the food differently than when you're under stress. When your body feels like something is wrong, it goes into survival mode. When it's in survival mode, it begins to store the food. When you are relaxed, the food is processed in a normal way. Take three deep breaths before you eat, sit down, and chew your food slowly. One way in which mindfulness practices may be helpful is through a reduction in disordered eating, including emotional eating.
7. Deal with your emotional traumas.
If you don't deal with your emotional traumas, nothing will really change over the long term. Research supports a link between trauma and obesity. Where do you start? Forgive yourself. Meditate. See a therapist. Take a step in the right direction to deal with your emotional traumas. Forgiving and accepting yourself is a great way to start.
8. Be accountable.
Find somebody who wants to lose weight, and then hold each other accountable. Make healthier friends. Who you're around is who you become. If you go to a yoga studio and start hanging around with people doing yoga, you're going to be around people making healthier choices. Simply being around healthier people will lead to healthier choices.
9. Track what you eat.
When you use an app, you're able to record what you eat and look back at it. Don't let shame or guilt stop you from being truthful. Record everything. That brings awareness. There's an old saying: What gets measured, gets improved.
10. Journal every day.
Become aware of your emotions, your patterns, your triggers. Let your own mistakes teach you. Even if you never look back at what you wrote—even if you can't read your handwriting!—you will have processed your feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Expressive writing has been linked to more optimal mental health, through better mood and psychological well-being, as well as better physical health, including lower blood pressure and greater immune system functioning.
11. Visualize the new you.
I cropped a photo of my head on an ideal body so I could start to see what it feels like to be a healthier version of myself. Doing this will help your brain see you in a new way. Research shows your brain doesn't distinguish fiction from reality. Your brain will move toward your goals as you visualize them. Dream where you want to be as if you already are there.
12. Be kind and gentle to yourself.
Treat yourself with patience and compassion. One day you're going to realize the fat version of you is the hero, not the skinny version. It's the heavy person in the photo who had the courage to get through the obstacles. Don't resent the heavy person when you are that person. Love that heavy person. Because when you get to the finish line, it's still going to be the same you.
There was a lot more to talk about, but I was glad to have given him some basics by the time we reached my destination. I recommended that he read a book that opened my eyes to a lot of these lessons: The Gabriel Method by John Gabriel. I told him how this book had really affected my life when I was heavy.
"Make you a deal," I said. "Read the book and I'll help you." He typed the title into his phone and turned around with a big smile on his face, then he stuck out his hand.
I wish every lunch would feel that good.
Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.