Today, I have officially entered maintenance! I lost 63 pounds, going from 208 to 145. During this time, I found reading other people's success stories to be hugely inspiring and helpful, so forgive me if I go into overly-much detail below (feel free to scroll to the pics at the end!). I just want to give an overview of how I achieved what (I hope) is a sustainable weight loss in order to help anyone else trying to achieve the same.
I am 5'8, 26 years old, and have been overweight or obese pretty much my entire life. Back in college (in 2011) I lost about twenty pounds using MFP, but I lost this weight mostly through overly-restricting my calories and sheer force of will. I didn't build any sustainable habits, thus the day I decided that I could live with my weight, I stopped logging, stopped weighing myself, stopped exercising, and went back to doing everything that had gotten me overweight in the first place.
This time around I took a much slower and much more sustainable approach. I purposely took my time getting started; I did a lot of research on the MFP forums (seriously: all you old-timers who post insane amounts to newbies about how CICO is all that matters for weight loss--thank you! You guys heavily influenced everything I did and caused me a huge amount of success) and I took my time formulating a plan. In September of '16 I started walking my dog a lot more regularly (at first once every morning, and then I added in an evening walk as well). For me, this was the perfect first change to make: easy, enjoyable (for me and the dog!), and something I could keep doing without worrying about it. In October I weighed myself for the first time (eek! That was not a fun number to see on the scale!). After that, I started weighing myself daily and just tracking the weight. This really, really helped motivate me--waking up every morning and staring that number in the eye made me 100% serious about actually committing to changing that number permanently. On the first of November I started logging my food seriously every day. In January '17 I started running, at first only thirty seconds at a time (with a three minute walking break in between each running stint), but I gradually increased it over time--I now run a 5k every day. In about February I started focusing a lot more on incorporating foods that filled me up: more fiber, more protein, and a fair amount of fat. This was really important for me, as the idea of losing weight while not feeling hungry was really revolutionary. Since that point I have slowly continued incorporating sustainable habits, one at a time, trying to really get them down before I add anything new.
For me, these have been the true keys to success:
1. Using a food scale to weigh everything.
Seriously. I don't know why anyone would not
use a food scale--it is faster, easier, cleaner, and way, way more accurate
than cups and spoons. I cannot advocate enough for the food scale, it made the process of losing weight so much easier this time around for me.
2. Recognizing that weight loss is not linear.
Back in college, I weighed in once a week: if I had lost weight, I was a success! If I hadn't, I was a failure. This was part of what led to me quitting as soon as I felt okay quitting--I hated weighing in. It completely determined my self worth as a human being. This time around I weigh in every morning and track my weight on a weight trending app (I use Libra because I have an Android, however, I have heard good things about HappyScale for Apple and TrendWeight for desktop). For me, this has been hugely empowering. I now know that my weight is incredibly cyclical--I tend to lose almost all of my weight right before my period, gain weight during my period, and then slowly even out again until my monthly whoosh. Seeing this helps me to know what is going on and not feel like a failure for three weeks out of the month. Also, other things that tend to easily effect my weight: going out for ramen with my husband (+4 pounds--yowza!), constipation, and stress. Note that all of these effect my weight, not my fat loss. My water weight tends to fluctuate constantly.
3. Finding what keeps me full.
For me, this tends to be mostly protein and fiber with a healthy amount of fat. For other people it's carbs. For others it's high fat. It took me awhile of experimenting to find out what works for me. Things that other people swore kept them full just flat-out did not work for me (one example: for some reason both carrots and apples make me ravenously hungry. I initially included these as snacks because I felt like I "should." This led to me overeating later on. I since tend to avoid them or only include them in full meals). I really recommend experimenting and having fun figuring out what keeps you satiated.
4. Being my own scientist.
This was a really great piece of advice that I read on MFP. After reading this (I forget who/where from) I started really playing with my macros and micros, meal timing, drinking water, etc. in order to find what kept me both full and happy. This means that I have tried a lot
of different things (including, but not limited to, eating six meals a day, eating two meals a day, eating low carb, eating until I felt full, eating only normal food that I ate before, eating mostly health foods, etc.). Some of the stuff I tried, some of it I modified to work for me, and most of it I ditched. If it wasn't sustainable, I didn't keep it--even when it sounded like a really nice idea. Which leads me to . . .
5. Only making changes that I plan on keeping up permanently.
This was the real shift for me--leaving the dieting mindset behind and specifically focusing on using my weight loss time in order to figure out what would work in order to maintain my goal weight permanently. Sustainability is the name of the game--if I tried something that I didn't feel like I could do for the rest of my life, it had to go.
6. Purposely incorporating treats
. Overall, I am for eating with nutrition in mind about 80% of the time. However, I do purposely incorporate desserts into my diet. Planning for ice cream on Wednesday night makes it much easier to turn down the cake on Tuesday.
7. Moving forward after making mistakes.
After any mistake (weight related or not) I have a tendency to beat myself up pretty mercilessly. I really had to learn how to shake this. If I over ate on one day, then shamed myself about it for a week afterward, I inevitably caved again ("well, since you're already such a failure . . ." says the internal voice). Instead, I've learned how to make a mistake and treat the next day as a new day. It's not about any one day, it is about consistently making positive choices over time.
8. Budgeting calories weekly.
This is something I only started doing over the last two months, but I have found it hugely helpful. It is much easier to be accurate if I aim for a fifty-calorie target range for the week as opposed to a fifty-calorie target goal for the day (as daily variances can add up). Also, I love to bake and cook. The more time-consuming to make and unhealthy the food, the more fun it is to bake! I know this about myself, and I know this will not change. Being able to save calories up for the dessert of the ages that I plan on making over the weekend (and sending with my husband to work first thing on Monday) makes managing my caloric balance so much more sustainable. When I calculated calories purely based off the day I found myself inevitably freaking out every Friday night when we had a dinner party and I had to starve myself all day in order to afford a slice of cake in the evening.
6. Learning from a wide variety of friends.
I have friends who are older than me, younger than me, shorter and taller, have a long ways to go, and are already at goal. I have friends who are vegan, keto, IFers, planners, and seat-of-the-pants types. I really love this variety--I have learned a huge amount from my friends list, and I attribute a lot of my success to their encouragement and many examples. Seeing so many different approaches and struggles has helped give me flexibility as well as a willingness to try new things. Thank you all so much!
As I am entering maintenance, not too much is changing. I am gradually increasing my calories (in fact, I have been doing so for quite awhile). I am increasing my daily calorie average by 100 calories every two weeks until my weight stabilizes. I do have some goals that I am going to keep working on: diet wise, I want to work on not taking taste-tests while baking--I really struggle with this, and they quickly add up! I need to save it until I actually enjoy the dessert itself. Exercise wise, I have two goals: First, I want to work on getting 10,000 steps a day (I used to do this, but stopped when it became summer and, as I live in the desert, it was just too hot to walk the dog in the evenings). Second, I want to add in resistance training. I know everyone says that you should do this all along, and frankly I probably agree with that, but it really wasn't a sustainable habit up until now. I am working on building it into a new and sustainable habit.
Because I haven't been strength training, I am still pretty flabby. Honestly, however, I am okay with that. I don't need to be sculpted or anything at this point (if ever)--I am a work in progress, and I am seriously proud of how far I have come thus far.
Finally, here are some pictures:
These are both from when I was in high school. I don't know my specific weight, but it has to be well over 200:
Here are some comparisons. The ones on the left are from 2015. Again I don't know my exact weight, but it was definitely in the 200s. The pictures on the right are from today--145!