Long story short, I’m a fan of “plans.” It started in high school when I discovered Slim Fast and dropped 15 pounds. I gained that back in one summer. During college, I was captain of my women’s basketball team, which kept the pounds under control. But when I entered the working world, I packed on plenty of extra “cushioning.” I tried Weight Watchers for about a month, but always skipped meetings and under counted my points. Then there was the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Lipodrene diet pills, and the cayenne pepper/lemon juice cleanse (Beyoncé put me on to this one).
I’d lose 5-10 pounds with each program only to gain it back in a few months. I had officially reached a point where I was failing at every weight loss system. I was a 5’8” 25-year-old who weighed 179 pounds and felt “less than stellar.” I had to get it together. I refused to let another day of my 20s go by without rockin’ short shorts, high heels, and lots of swag! This is when I accepted my weight control Slip-up #1: I tried to be perfect.
I have a super Type A (read: slightly neurotic) personality, and had no problem getting really pumped about a new diet or workout plan. But if I slipped up even once, I’d beat myself up and eventually quit. (And turns out being mean to myself doesn’t help me lose weight.) So, I had to accept the reality that most “plans” aren’t doable for the long haul. This meant getting rid of my “all or nothing” weight loss mindset. Instead of feeling guilty for slipping up, I started keeping a mental note of what I ate and tried to match my food intake with equal calorie burn. For example, if I killed a burger and fries at lunch, that was cool. It just meant I’d have a small side salad for dinner followed by an extra 30 minutes of cardio. Simple, right? Not quite.
Despite having this revelation and starting to feel more balanced, I wasn’t losing as much weight as I wanted. What was the problem? After downing a bag of trail mix one afternoon, I realized Slip-up #2: I ate too much. Simply put, it goes like this:
- Choosing a healthy snack = A good look
- Eating five servings of a healthy snack = Not a good look
The fact that I ate too much was the most difficult truth for me to accept because I actually ate healthy food! The problem, though, was I simply ate too much of it. So, it was really hard to burn more calories than I consumed, which is the only way to legitimately lose weight. You’ve heard it before, “eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.” Well, it’s true. I had to accept that portion control is just as, if not more, important than food choice.
On that same note, I discovered Slip-up #3: I overestimated my calorie burn. Since I work out regularly, I always figured I deserved a diet “buffer.” But, turns out our bodies don’t blast as many calories as we think. Calorie counters and heart rate monitors often over count calorie burn. This is because several factors like hydration, stress, diet, genetics, and room temperature aren’t considered. The bottom line is this: The harder you work, the more calories you burn. So, I started using the Talk Test to quickly and effectively measure my Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and indirectly measure my calorie burn. If I’m breathing really heavy (like, sucking air) I know I’m torching calories because I’ve reached my anaerobic training zone. Now, when I work out, I try reaching and staying in this calorie blasting zone to maximize the burn!
I’m not going to lie, after weeks of trying to eat less and move more, I was having some serious hunger pangs! Luckily, I found that simply drinking a glass of water did wonders for my cravings. It true that oftentimes when we think we are “hungry,” we are actually “thirsty” due to dehydration. Also, dehydration makes us feel lethargic and can increase cravings for sugar and other simple carbs that don’t exactly help out in the weight department. So there you have it, Slip-up #4: I didn’t drink enough water.
Now, I was on a roll! After a few months proactively addressing my weight control “slip-ups,” I was feeling good, slim, and energetic. So one day I decided to weigh myself. Up 6 pounds? What?! How did that happen? Then I thought to myself, hmmm… I had indulged in ice cream the night before and a little bacon at breakfast… and pizza on Friday night. That’s when I clearly saw Slip-up #5: I needed a reality check.
After that random weigh-in, I started weighing myself every morning (yes, every day) and have done so for over one year now. This habit is controversial because body weight fluctuates for a variety of reasons (mostly due to hydration levels). However, the fact of the matter is that the number on the scale is your body weight at that moment in time. The truth will set you free (or at least it did for me)! Being mindful of my weight on a daily basis makes me think more deeply about what I am consuming, my digestion patterns, hydration levels, sweat output and calorie intake/burn. While my daily weigh-ins help keep my weight in line, my “heavy days” can be very discouraging. I have to constantly remind myself to keep the big picture in mind — my fitness, health, and happiness — not just the numbers on the scale.
My slip-ups have taught me that weight management isn’t about the latest and greatest diet or workout plan; it’s about continuing on a lifelong journey of developing and strengthening healthy habits. There will always be good days and bad days, but success comes from balance. Now, at 27 years old, my weight ranges from 150-155 pounds. I’ve maintained this weight range for over a year without the use of any expensive weight loss plans or diet pills. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I feel authentic. Most importantly, I ALWAYS rock my short shorts, high heels, and lots of swag.
Do you have a slip-up to add to my five? What are some of the “craziest” weight loss plans that you’ve tried? And what have you learned about yourself in the process?