In early 2011, I was tired of being overweight, so I started what ended up becoming a 2-year-long journey to lose weight. Ultimately I ended up shedding 70 pounds.
I wasn’t really chubby as a child, but I gained a bit of weight around puberty and even more after I stopped playing multiple sports in high school. I ballooned to nearly 200 pounds after graduating college. Shortly before my 25th birthday, I vowed to finally do something about it.
I took it slow and easy, adjusting my goals several times over the course of those two years before I finally felt I had found a weight that made me look and feel great. I found out a lot along the way and cultivated a love for running.
Now, I’ve run
four 13 half marathons, four I’ve lost track of how many 10-milers and more than a dozen 5Ks and 10Ks along the way. Today, I’ve essentially kept the weight off — while my scale numbers have crept up a tad, I’m more fit and muscular than when I reached my lowest weight and the vast majority of clothes I bought then still fit. And, I’m still stunned when someone makes a comment about how small and fit I am now.
Here are 10 tips for dropping the weight and, perhaps most importantly, keeping it off for good.
- Try a weight loss program: To get you started on the right foot, research different weight loss programs and groups. Pick one that is right for you. There are several out there, some of them controversial, all of them with their pros and cons. I used Weight Watchers when I started my weight loss journey, and near the end I switched over to MyFitnessPal for a simple, free way to keep track of what I was eating.
- Find multiple exercises you enjoy: Running is amazing — we all know that. But you need to find other activities you like to give yourself enough variety, particularly if you ever get injured. Try out a spin class or take your old bike out for a ride. Find a Pilates instructor you enjoy or go for a swim — every little bit helps you get toward your goal, and you may just find something you absolutely love doing along the way.
- Have a reward system: Have some sort of reward system, ideally one not based on a regular splurge day. It could mean simply giving yourself a huge pat on the back, having a small cup of ice cream at the end of the week or going shopping to buy new clothes to fit your slimmer frame. Find what works for you. I would advise against a “cheat” or splurge day each week that puts your calories well above what your body needs. It’s easy to make that into a cheat weekend, then week, then month and so on.
- Don’t go overboard in cutting calories: Diet is a key component in most weight loss plans, but don’t decrease your food intake too much. To lose weight, you need to eat less than what your body needs energy-wise each day. However, decreasing too much can put your body into starvation mode, decreasing your metabolism and conserving energy. Most experts recommend women never eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day. The recommendations for men typically trend a bit higher. (I would add that if you exercise, especially if you exercise a lot, you really need to eat more. The 1,200 calorie minimum would be for a day when all you did is sit on the couch (and even then it might be too restrictive!) — if you go for a 5-mile run, your minimum should be at least 1,700, for example (and honestly, that minimum is probably too low, too). MyFitnessPal is good about not suggesting you go below the bare minimum even when you add in exercise.)
- Consider weighing yourself more than once a week: This really depends on the type of person you are and can be controversial. Some experts recommend only weighing once a month. Most consider once a week to be a good goal. However, I found success with weighing myself multiple times a week — most often every day. I could see the little fluctuations where sometimes my weight would be slightly up from water weight or bloat, but because I was weighing so frequently there was never a week where I didn’t see some poundage drop, however little. (I would still recommend this, but at some point after keeping the weight off for awhile you need to consider weighing less frequently or throw the scale in the trash.)
- Everything in moderation: Cutting a specific food you love completely from your diet may not be the best idea. You could end up with intense cravings and may overeat. There really isn’t any specific food you cannot eat if you’re on a generic diet. It’s all about portion control. I find 100-calorie servings or lower-calorie snack packs to be particularly helpful. They even make them for things like ice cream. You can also try swapping out higher calorie foods for a lighter version — try using 1% milk instead of 2%, drinking light beer instead of a regular one, or eating reduced fat ice cream. Test out different products — not everything low-fat tastes great. (More and more research is showing that less fat isn’t necessarily better — make sure you check out how much added sugar and unpronounceable ingredients are on the label before switching to a food that touts it is “low fat.”)
- Don’t compare yourself to others: It’s easy to flip through a fashion magazine or see a photo of a supermodel and think, “I want to look like that.” But that’s not reality for the majority of the population, and sometimes the weight those folks are at is unattainable for them (hello, Photoshop) and others, as well as unhealthy. Figure out what weight you feel good at — you want to feel confident without always feeling like you’re depriving yourself. (Amen, and I am still working on this!)
- Occasionally splurge: Eating healthier meals will make you feel better both outside and in, but that doesn’t mean you should never even look at an Oreo again or go out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Have days when you aren’t particularly concerned about the calorie count — just make sure they’re not that often. For me, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners were days I didn’t log into my calorie tracker or care about overindulging. You can also look for ways to decrease your portion size (such as only eating half that meal at the restaurant and taking the rest home) so that you can enjoy your favorite foods without going overboard and undoing your progress.
- Don’t get obsessed with a specific number: It’s extremely easy to have a goal weight and get a bit too obsessive about it. When the scale doesn’t read that particular weight, you find yourself fretting that you’ve gained a miniscule amount of pounds. Instead, have a weight range where you feel comfortable and healthy. A range of about 3-5 pounds works well for me. (I am actually still obsessive about this at times. It’s something I’m still working on).
- Add and keep up a strength training routine: Strength training is a fantastic way to build muscle and stay fit. It helps burn more calories after your workout, too. I originally started with a personal trainer after I had shed about 20-30 pounds mostly through dieting. I wanted to have someone I had to go to each week and work out with. Once I had that one exercise a week on my calendar, I wanted to add more.
Losing weight is never easy, and everyone is different. Find what you like, what motivates you and keep at it. (And don’t believe that because all the Biggest Loser contestants gained back weight that means you’re doomed from the start — the way they lose weight on that show is not sane or sustainable.)
I never thought I’d be where I am today, and yet here I am.