by Christine on July 28th, 2010
8 Easy Secrets of My 90 99-Pound Weight-Loss Success
I have lost just about 100 pounds on this weight loss journey so far. My goal is to lose 100 pounds, and I am about 10 ONE pounds shy of my goal. The end is finally in sight!
It’s hard not to compare my weight loss this time versus all the attempts at weight loss that I’ve made in the past. What am I doing differently this time versus previous times? What’s working? What tips do I have for others that want to lose weight? This post explains exactly what I’ve learned so far, and why this is working for me and other attempts have not.
I want to preface this list with a quick comment about weight loss surgery. 17 months ago I had the gastric banding surgery. Yes, the surgery has helped me lose weight, but NO the surgery is not necessarily a magic tool that has enabled my weight loss. In fact, my surgeon told me that most people who have weight loss surgery aren’t successful at all! Why not? Because some people don’t change their habits, or learn to “eat around the band,” meaning that they are gobbling up ice cream and milk shakes, which may be “easy” to eat, but are smothered in calories. No, the surgery isn’t magic cure-all, but it has helped.
- Weight-Loss should be easy. I can’t stress this enough, and I know you’re probably sitting there looking at me like I’m off my rocker. I’m serious though. I’m devoting far less effort and energy into losing weight this time around than last time. Sure, this may be due in part to the weight-loss surgery, but not entirely. You see, prior to my recent loss, I was: counting calories, measuring food. I was going out of my way to eat healthfully. I exercised a minimum of an hour a day, six days a week. I worked hard to find the perfect combination of cardio vs. weight training. I paid for a personal trainer. I paid for weight watchers. I obsessed over the scale. I tried Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Master Cleanser, and a zillion other fad diets. And you know what? Those fad diets are HARD because they force you to live dissimilarly than your usual lifestyle. Fad diets are hard work. Let me repeat this: weight loss should be easy. If you’re spending hours and hours a day actively “working on losing weight” then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate how you’re going about your weight loss. This time around I try hard to make good eating choices, but I don’t always get it right. (In the past, I’d be 100% diligent to my plans, but with ZERO success on the scale.) I try to get some exercise in, but I don’t always succeed. The point is, I’m just trying to live well and do the best I can, but I’m not obsessing and going nuts over trying to lose weight, and you shouldn’t either. After all, don’t we have families and careers and more important things that we should be spending the better part of our time on?
- It’s 80% about the food and 20% about the exercise. When I first started out losing weight, I had all but given up on exercise. I don’t like working out. I don’t like going to the gym. At the start of my current journey, I had given so much blood, sweat, and tears at the gym with ZERO reward that I flat-out burnt myself out. So when this new weight loss journey began, I wasn’t exercising at all. It didn’t matter. I’m no scientist, but just an observation of mine: the more weight you have to lose, the less your weight loss is about the exercise. Instead, focus your attention on getting your eating under control, picking healthy options, eating often (more about that below). As you start to lose weight, you’ll naturally have more energy and will pick up the exercise factor, as it fits into your life. As you inch closer to your goal weight, you should exercise more and more. Exercise is crucial to weight maintenance, but not so much about weight loss. Because I’m so close to my goal weight, I exercise perhaps 3-4 times a week, but I don’t freak out about it if I miss a gym session.
- Eat small meals, and eat often. I realized about 30 pounds into my weight loss journey that I was no longer eating “meals” at all. Instead, I was grazing. Snacking. All day long. I’d nibble on this, and I’d nibble on that. This is entirely due to the band, and without the gastric band I never would have discovered this important aspect of weight loss. So this is what my prior-to-weight-loss dieting attempts would look like: I’d either skip breakfast or have some oatmeal. For lunch I’d have a 6 inch sub from subway, with vinegar as dressing. For dinner I’d have some steamed veggies and grilled chicken. Period. The end. The food choices were seemingly good, but I was eating too much, and only at two sittings. Your body apparently doesn’t like this. Today, I eat 5-6 times a day, but only 150-200 calories of food at any given sitting. I never eat a “meal” anymore. The great thing about eating small portions of food is that I can pretty much eat whatever I want, and I think the variety is really healthy for my body. I’m less obsessed over eating “diet food” and allow myself to eat “real food” during these mini-meals. (I eat a lot of soup these days, especially at restaurants, because it’s the perfect portion size!)
- Pay attention to your body, not the USDA. Okay, do a little math now. If I’m only eating 150 calories per meal, 6 times a day…that means I’m eating….900 calories a day? Say what? Are you crazy? No I’m not! So in my quest to lose weight, I scrutinized how many calories a typical woman should be eating, according to the USDA. They say 2,000 for a sedentary female 19 to 30 years old. BMR calculators told me I should eat 1,774 calories. Well, no wonder I wasn’t losing weight! I was either trying to eat “just right” and follow one of those crazy guidelines, or pretty much starving myself trying to save as many calories as humanly possible.Now look. I’m not going to tell you to eat only 900 calories a day. I also don’t think you should listen to the USDA. Instead, listen to your own body. I truly believe that every person has their own calorie setpoint that they like to be at. For me, I think that my weight-stabilizing point is around 1000-1100 calories. To lose about a pound or two a week, I need to target 800-900 calories per day. This is the point that works for me, but it may not work for you. You need to experiment a little bit to figure out what your calorie setpoint is, but the only way you can do that is to pay close attention to your body.
- Avoid carbs, but don’t eliminate them entirely. I mostly eat whatever I want these days, but there are a few nit-picky little trends that I’ve identified. I don’t know if these really contribute to weight loss or not, but I figure they were worth mentioning. Because of my gastric band, I avoid carbs. They get stuck in my stomach and it’s quite uncomfortable. Consequently, I just avoid eating bread products, pastries, pasta of any kind, French fries, rice, and things like that. That means no pizza!! Boohoo!! My favorite food is forevermore off limits to me! On the other hand, I don’t completely cut out the carbs. My opinion is that if you’re going to eat carbs, take them from real living plants: rice, potatoes, quinoa, etc. Stay away from things that are mixed with man-made products (bread, pasta) and are refined, processed, and look nothing like their main ingredient anymore.
- Eat real food. Quit feeding yourself “fat-free” and “sugar-free” and “low-calorie” garbage. Look, the stuff is gross and for good reason: it’s not real food. Treat yourself to real food, and yes, please eat foods that are rich in fat. I’m talking about real cheese. Avocados. Almonds. Eggs. Even indulge in real ice cream on rare occasions, and butter, and olive oil. (You know that candy bars and potato chips aren’t “real food,” so let’s not even go there.) Stay away from foods that are processed and refined and look for food that has real flavor. Now, remember that I only eat 150 calories at any given sitting, so 150 calories of butter or cheese is not going to go very far. I might eat some hummus with 1 Tbs of feta cheese on tomato wedges. Or peanut butter on an apple slice. Watch your portion sizes carefully, but ahead and eat the real stuff.
- Stay away from soda, even diet soda. For that matter, avoid anything with man-made sweeteners, carbonated fizziness (which only helps to EXPAND your stomach), corn syrup, or processed crap. Okay, I’ll have a beer maybe once a week, which I probably shouldn’t, but as a general rule I don’t consume sodas anymore. I used to drink Diet Pepsi like it was going out of style. No more!
- Drink water, but do so carefully. This is a little trick that my weight loss surgeon taught me. One hour prior to eating, chug a shit-ton of water. Then while you are eating your meal and for one hour following your meal, don’t drink anything. The theory behind this is: (1) the water prior to your meal fills you up, and (2) avoiding water during your meal means that you are not physically flushing the food out of your stomach. Because the food remains in your stomach (3) you end up feeling fuller, for longer. It really does work. Try it sometime.
AFTER/IN PROGRESS (about 90 pounds lost):
Added note: The eight observations I made above have been validated by “fitness guru” John Berardi. You can read more in this article by LF Press.
Sample Menu Plans
Here’s three sample menus that I would typically eat in a day. I have links to other food journals and a list of my favorite foods, as well.