At the end of my freshman year of college, I weighed 155. I had gained 10 pounds that year, and 10 pounds the year before. I was preoccupied with food. I'd try one of every dessert in the dining hall. I'd eat from my roommate's candy supply. I'd snack on pizza or a pint of Haagen Daz at 3 AM, and wash it down with a Jamba Juice. I was not going to the gym. My only exercise was walking around campus and most of my classes were close to my dorm. Every 3 months, I needed a larger pair of pants.
The summer after freshman year, I decided that the time had come to reverse the last two years of weight gain. I started to read up on exercise and nutrition. It was around that time that the celebrity personal trainer Jorge Cruz published a workout plan called "8 minutes a day." The 8-minute plan included 2 weight/strength-training exercises, each for 4 minutes, both on large muscle groups, like your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, biceps and triceps. I also took a 30-minute walk every day. These were the only changes I made that summer, and lost 10 pounds over 3 months. Down to 145.
When I returned to school, I had to change my behavior in the buffet-style dining hall. Instead of my usual danishes, I had a vegetable and cheese omelet. for breakfast. For lunch AND dinner, I had one grilled chicken breast and covered the rest of my dinner plate with raw vegetables from the salad bar, drizzled with light Italian dressing. I would allow myself ONE dessert with dinner, usually a small slice of cake OR a scoop of ice cream. And then I was done for the night. In 2 months, I lost 5 more pounds.
I continued weight lifting and started working out on the elliptical trainer. Unfortunately, I hurt my back around that time and had to slow down for the next 2 months. When I recovered, I got right back on the elliptical trainer, for 30 minutes a day. And I kept up my eating plan. I swear that lean meat and green vegetables is the path to weight loss - no question about it. By the end of sophomore year, I was down to 135. I bought a pair of tailored gray pants in size 4. I still wear them. In fact, they look better than ever.
Since then, my weight has stabilized at 132. I have worn the same clothing size for the last 6 years. When I weigh less than this, I'd say that you see it mostly in my face and torso, where I am already quite thin. To be honest, there comes a point when you look worse after you lose another pound!
So why am I here now? I am using this site mostly to self-police my eating habits. There have been times when I lost my bearings, and the scale creeped back up to 135 and hung out there for a bit. But those first 3 pounds back down to 132 have always been pretty easy. A little more fiber, a little less starch, and down it goes within a few days. I'd like to see whether it is possible for me to get back into the mid-120s while I'm in my mid-20s, because I know it won't get easier.
On the whole, however, I feel very happy with my body. I have made a lifestyle change for good - before I hit my peak weight, I could never say no to free food, to sweets, to pizza - and now I readily say no to almost everything that I did not PLAN to eat in advance. And I have become a real runner, something I never thought I could be even when I was at the height of my career in competitive swimming (which was at a national competition qualifying level).
As I move forward, and continue to keep off the weight I've lost, I rely on a number of mantras, which I remember in times of temptation. I will share the most important ones for me here:
1. Haagen Daz is the devil.
When I'm serious about losing weight, I never allow a pint of ice cream into my freezer.
2. Don't buy any groceries that you feel "excited" to eat.
If I can't wait to eat it, I know that I'll eat the whole thing.
3. Only single-serving treats.
If I want a treat, I can have one serving: a kid's cup of ice cream, one or two truffles, and I'm done.
4. 2 glasses of wine, 2 beers, or 2 vodka sodas.
There's no faster way to gain weight than drinking mixed drinks. Don't get me wrong: I love margaritas, but if I have one, I'm prepared for the consequences.
5. Never eat free food.
If I didn't buy it, I probably don't know WHAT I'm eating, let alone how much. I believe that there is a real connection in our minds between dollars and calories, and the cheaper food is, the more likely I am to have too much of it. If it has a cost, I'll think about it before I eat a lot of it. And in the end, I actually save money - total dollars spent on food is lower, even if dollars per unit is higher.
Those are my top 5 mantras for keeping 20 pounds off! I hope that some of you give them a try and let me know if they help you to stay strong in the face of temptation.
And finally (though I know this is getting long), what I consider the most important lesson I've learned:
To be thin AND happy, you need to ENJOY burning calories MORE than eating calories.
The key word here is enjoy. We'll only do what we LIKE to do for a lifetime. And we'll choose what we like MORE over what we like LESS. I have learned to take "walk breaks" instead of snack breaks, and to sit in the sun for a few minutes instead of drinking another coffee when I feel tired. There is a full buffet of uplifting things to do in the world that don't involve eating. The trick is to find the ones that make you forget food and just live.