I had been overweight since childhood and I was the chubby kid in my class for most of my life, going back to kindergarten. When I finally decided to lose weight, I was 23 years old. I was 5’10 and 230 pounds. My knees would hurt daily, I was winded just walking up the stairs to our 400 sqft. studio apartment, and I never exercised. It was a mix of me hating exercise and also lack of time. Although, I’m not sure which one was the greater driving factor that resulted in me being 230 lbs.
But there I was. Of course I wanted to lose weight but I never knew how. I never knew how calories came into play. No one ever told me. I began to research losing weight and the turning point for me was when I discovered that 1 pound is roughly 3,500 calories and that an ordinary person weighing 230 lbs. would naturally (just by my usual daily life) burn off around 2300 calories each day. Now I had a formula. Now I could grasp what a pound actually was and how to lose one.
In my opinion, I see a lot of people make two mistakes when trying to lose weight. First is the mistake of eating almost nothing and expecting to lose weight. It actually has the opposite effect. Your body thinks you are starving and will hold onto calories in order to keep you alive. It’s a survival mechanism. So you still need to eat. Secondly, are the people who just exercise way too much. They end up eating more food to replace all of the calories they burn while exercising. In my opinion, both of those methods are common but counter intuitive. It’s important to find a balance. I didn’t do any exercise other than walking and I didn’t starve myself either (not too much at least)
My usual calorie intake was around 3,000 calories per day. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and never cared about calories or the nutritional facts. Food was something that made me happy and feel good. When I woke up in the morning, I would even think about what I could eat for lunch and dinner that day and then look forward to it all day.
Having my new formula about calories meant that if my body naturally burned off roughly 2,300 calories a day and I was taking in 3,000 per day, I would have a surplus of roughly 700 calories per day. This is the exact opposite of what I wanted and why I kept gaining weight. So I cut my calorie intake in half, down to 1500 calories a day. If my body naturally burns around 2300 calories per day, this will create a deficit of 800 calories per day. I had the recipe. I just needed to follow it.
Here is where the discipline, self control, and hard work come into play. I knew if I wanted to lose weight successfully, I needed to cut out some of my favorite foods. Mayonnaise, gone. Sugar and sweets, gone. Whole milk, gone. White bread, gone. Fried foods, gone. Butter, gone. Snacking, no more. I set a very strict daily regimen. I was only focused on calories. I was not concerned with fat or other nutritional info, only calories. Before I tell you my regimen, keep in mind that this was MY regimen and obviously won’t work for everyone but I was able to set this regimen and stick to it.
Each morning I would eat a cup of yogurt, sometimes with fruit and granola. For lunch I would eat around noon and have a small/6inch veggie sandwich on wheat bread. (no mayo or cheese of course) When I needed a change, I would have a salad with only veggies and a vinaigrette dressing. So at this point, I am 2 meals into the day and I’m right around 850 calories. I did not snack in the afternoon and then by no later than 5:30, I would eat dinner. If I was at work, I would eat a microwave dinner that had the calories labeled on the box. The ones I ate were usually around 600 calories or less. If I was at home, I would eat a baked chicken breast rubbed with herb/spices, some plain steamed veggies, and a small portion of brown rice. All day long, the only thing I drank was water because drinks can be calorie and sugar bombs. There you have it. That was my diet. Every day, for almost 6 months.
I am NOT a gym person. So during my weight loss, I did it all through diet and no exercise at all. The only exercise I did was walking. I would walk on the weekends at the park nearby my house, with my son in his stroller for 1-2 hours. I would just walk and talk to him. He was too young to talk but the time I spent talking to him was still important to me. I would also take him for a walk after dinner every evening. We would walk around the block for 30-60 minutes. If I didn’t have time to walk in the evening, then I would take walk at work during my lunch break the next day, for at least 20 minutes. I made sure I was walking everyday. No matter what.
Something that really helped me mentally was I bought one of those paper desk calendars. On day 1, I wrote my starting weight and I would weigh myself first thing every morning. (weigh yourself in the morning, not in the evening. You are lightest in the morning because you’ve been fasting for 6-8 hours). Anyway, I would weigh myself every morning and I would write my weight down on the calendar. It was a huge motivator to see my weight dropping. Also, the practice of writing my weight every day made it real and it made me aware of my weight at all times and I knew that if I was tempted to cheat, I would regret it when I had to write my weight on the calendar the next day. Writing smaller and smaller numbers was really good motivation to keep going. One note I want to make here is, don’t get discouraged if you don’t drop weight from one day to the next. More importantly, look at your week over week loss. As along as it goes down, you’re on the right track.
In the beginning, the weight really flew off. Then I learned as people lose weight, it will slowly taper off, losing less and less as time goes on. There will be a time when your weight will plateau. No matter what you do, your body just won’t lose anymore weight. Don’t get discouraged here. This is what I considered my body’s natural preferred weight. So if you want to drop below that, you need to kick your regimen into high gear.
I know I had a very strict regimen that required a lot of discipline on my part. There were many times I felt like quitting or giving up. But look, it’s not easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. You need to really make the change in your mind to do it. After 1 month of my regimen, I would give myself a cheat day once a week to keep my sanity. Usually on a Saturday or Sunday. I allowed myself to eat a small portion something I enjoyed. for me it was french fries. I never ate sugar on my cheat day because sugar is a very slippery slope. Once you have it, it makes you crave more sugar and I wanted nothing to do with that. My regimen was hard enough as it was.
Throughout my weight loss process, there were two things that kept me going. The first was delayed gratification. I told myself I can eat whatever I wanted just not right now. The second thing was that I knew it would be easier to maintain a constant weight, than it was to lose a bunch of weight. My target weight was the finish line. I knew if I just kept my head down, had discipline, and worked as hard as I could to get there, I could maintain it. In total, lost 85 pounds in a little under 6 months. In next week’s blog, I will discuss how I was able to maintain my weight loss.