Have you ever lost weight, only to pile it all back on? Me too, too many times to count. Here’s how I lost – and gained back – almost 30 pounds, plus how I finally lost the weight for good, without dieting!
8 years ago I started on a weight loss journey to finally get rid of the excess weight I had been carrying around for half a decade. I was a newly single mom with a full time job, a toddler, and a teenager on the verge of graduating high school; I had also joined the music ministry at my church and committed to weekly practice and singing at 3 services on Sunday morning; plus I led a small group every week. I didn’t know how I was going to fit one more thing in the limited time I had available. But it was important to me to lose 30 pounds, so I made it a priority and launched in full steam to shed those unwanted pounds as quickly as possible.
How did I lose 30 pounds in less than 3 months?
I’d like to say it was easy, but it was through hard work, commitment to my goal, and making weight loss my priority. I am NOT a morning person, but I woke up early every day and worked out in my living room while the baby slept. My mom was my sitter, and I asked her to come an hour early one day a week so I could go to the gym before work to change up my routine and keep me motivated. When the weather was nice, I put my little one in her stroller and walked her around the neighborhood; and at the time I was renting a two story home so I made the stairs an additional workout whenever I could. I also counted calories religiously – every single bite I ate, even a nibble off my toddler’s plate, was counted. I weighed and measured myself every week, and kept a notebook with my stats so that I could see my progress.
Fast forward 3 months, and I’d lost about 30 pounds, dropped 3 sizes, and I looked better than I had in years. In all honesty, I would never recommend anyone take on as much as I did in that time, but I was laser focused on losing the weight and it was the only goal I pursued during that time. Other than keeping the kids alive and safe, everything else in my life was focused on moving me closer to my weight loss goal.
I Was Skinny, But Not Healthy
I hope it’s clear to you, I know how to lose weight. I’d been doing some version of a diet since I was in junior high. What I didn’t know was how to improve my health, to make better food and lifestyle choices that led to improved well being, and that is why every time I had weight loss success, it was followed by weight gain. This time was no different. And while I looked great, I still had a lot of health issues and bad choices that plagued me daily. I drank a large cola everyday and had to take prescriptions to avoid painful acid reflux, which I had struggled with since I was 23. I still suffered from chronic back pain and I was never able to lie on the floor on my stomach with my baby for tummy time because I wouldn’t be able to get up. And perhaps the biggest issue of all: my horrible diet led to chronic constipation, which got so bad that I ended up in the ER with severe chest pains that I thought was a heart attack – I was doubled up on my bedroom floor and I thought I was dying in front of my kids y’all. My weight was great, but my health…not so much.
And Then It All Came Back (The Weight, That Is)
Once I got to my goal weight and was looking fabulous, thank you very much, I began to relax my diet. I had been very proud of the fact that I had lost the weight but still managed to drink that very large soda everyday. As I mentioned before, I was counting calories, and I budgeted calories daily to make sure I had an 300 extra calories to splurge on my habit. I even convinced myself that the soda helped me lose weight because it was keeping me full and keeping my energy level high – if I could knock some sense into my past self for being so clueless I would!
I wasn’t ready for real lasting change, so I get it when people tell me they aren’t ready to make lifestyle changes that will lead to letting go of something they love but isn’t the best choice. It actually took almost 4 more years before I said goodbye to my daily soda habit once and for all and reached a healthy weight without dieting and counting calories, but I did it and I know that anyone can with the right motivation and support.
When the weight began to creep back on, I didn’t go back to my extreme diet right away. It was during a time when, for the first time in my adult life I was not working (I got laid off that summer, which was a total blessing but a subject for another post), and I was enjoying being at home with my girls. I was cooking high calorie meals and we were eating out a lot, mostly fast food. But I was still exercising, so I figured I could afford to gain a few extra pounds and I’d just work them off when I got ready.
Then life changed dramatically, and I became the foster mom to four small children. I was suddenly responsible for 5 kids ages 6 and under. I was overwhelmed, unprepared and exhausted. All those bad eating habits flooded right back into my life, and my dieting, calorie counting, and exercising went out the door. In less than a year, I gained back almost 20 of the 30 pounds I lost.
This was not the first time I gained back the weight I had worked so hard to lose, and while this was a unique situation, if I had better habits I would have been able to rely on them instead of once again relying on fast foods, caffeine and sweets to get me through the day.
For me, weight loss was easy when the motivation and right environment existed, but in the chaos and stress and craziness life, it went along the wayside. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, there’s hope to break the cycle!
How I Finally Lost Weight the Right Way
Educating myself on food and making better nutrition choices to help my daughter thrive was the key to my change. My little one had always struggled with eating healthy foods, which was no surprise given our unhealthy diet, but when she was diagnosed with ASD I knew I needed to make some changes to help her thrive. As I started learning about nutrition and the links between diet and diseases and other conditions, I realized everything I learned about how to eat – think food pyramid, standard American diet, etc. – was wrong. I needed to ditch as much of the bad foods as I could and focus on eating more whole, plant based foods daily.
As I began to make healthier choices, I began to see amazing changes – my skin looked better clearer, my hair and nails were growing, and my clothes were getting too big! I was amazed – I was losing weight without counting calories (I had never lost weight without calorie counting), I had more energy, and I was losing the cravings for processed sweets, including sodas! Studies show that your body begins to crave the food you feed it, so when my body started getting better food, it responded by signaling for more of it, and before I knew it, I had formed new healthy habits!
You see, if I had a healthy lifestyle and diet filled with nourishing whole foods instead of packaged, processed, and fast foods, the transition to foster mom would not have caused me to revert back into my old habits of finding comfort in food and gaining weight again. I know this to be true, because two years later I found myself unexpectedly responsible for the kiddos on my own again without the support I had depended on for over a year, and I didn’t fall back into the same hole. Instead of gaining weight, I handled work, school and daycare drop off and pick up, homeschooling my daughter, and dragging 5 kids off to Sunday services at 7:30 AND my weight remained the same!
So there is a wrong way to lose weight – focusing on calorie counting, reducing the quantity of food versus improving the quality of food, and setting short term goals, then going back to bad habits after the desired goal is reached – doesn’t work. What’s right – and what lasts – is a lot simpler than you think. Here are some tips to help you get started losing weight the right way. Try to add one or two things every week, and over time you’ll have new health habits that will change your life – and your weight – without the diet!
Here’s 7 Simple Lifestyle Changes to Jumpstart Your Weight Loss Today
Work more nutritious foods into your diet daily.
I love using Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate as a starting guide. Aiming for half your plate filled with veggies and fruits may seem impossible; start with adding one additional serving of vegetables and fruit at every meal and increase until you get there. Bonus: improving the quality of the foods you consume will also reduce the quantity, because 500 calories of vegetables will fill your tummy more than a 500 calorie burger will!
Make your snacks count.
Ever heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” There’s some truth to that: apples are chock full of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber, and they provide a quick pick me up so they’re the perfect mid morning or afternoon snack. They will keep you fuller longer and won’t cause the sugar rush then crash like a snack from the vending machine. Other great options – bananas, homemade granola, nuts and seeds, chopped veggies and hummus. Whatever you choose, if you stick with as many single ingredient foods as possible (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds) you’ll be getting some added nutrition while giving your body the fuel it needs to keep going strong.
Make small healthy switches.
Instead of eating fried chicken, how about grilled or baked, or even trying your hand at tofu or tempeh? Switch from white rice to brown, it is less processed, has more nutrients, and is more filling. While you’re at it, work to eliminate all white and processed foods – yes that means bread and pasta! There are some delicious plant based pastas out there – using foods like chickpeas and quinoa – that are full of protein, which will keep you feeling fuller longer. My favorite brands are Banza, Whole Food’s 365, and Trader Joe’s – experiment until you find the ones you love. Another great switch – baked fries for fried ones. Potatoes aren’t a bad food – but the preparation of dunking them into hot oil makes them a bad choice if you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health. Baked fries are just as delicious, and your heart will thank you later! Bonus: bake sweet potato fries for an even healthier choice.
Eliminate empty calories.
Dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, and yes, even ketchup, all have calories and while it might not seem like such a big deal when you’re just having a little bit, we underestimate the amount of food and condiments we eat. A simple exercise is to pour yourself a serving size of your favorite topping, and compare that to how much you’re actually using. I tried this with syrup, and I was shocked at how much syrup I used versus how much a serving of syrup is – I was literally using three times the amount!!!
Say no to soda.
I think this is self explanatory, but if it’s not, you are just drinking artificially flavored corn syrup with bubbles; it has no nutritional value, and it’s highly addictive. Even if you’re a diet soda drinker, you need to let it go – diet sodas actually cause people to gain weight and the chemicals in them have been linked with various diseases. Just don’t do it. If you can’t go cold turkey, drink flavored sparkling water with a little fruit juice for flavor, then decrease until you no longer need the additional sweetness.
Drink more water.
Did you know you need to drink at least half your body weight in water every day, more if you’re an active person? A 150 pound person needs at least 75 oz. of water every day, plus an additional 8-16 oz for every hour of physical activity. If that seems like a lot, try aiming for a glass an hour – over 9 hours you will have consumed 72oz! Drinking water also aids in weight loss – often when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty – so before you reach for a snack, reach for a glass of water and wait ten minutes to see if you’re still feeling hungry. You could be saving hundreds of calories everyday by giving your body what it needs, instead of filling it with unnecessary calories.
Move your body.
While weight loss is considered to be 80% of what you eat and only 20% exercise, twenty percent is still a lot – just imagine if you were offered a 20% raise, would you take it? Of course you would! Exercise has so many benefits for the body, not only in aiding weight loss, but improving heart function, reducing stress, and improving mood and attitude. Any exercise will do – my mom has some health conditions, so she needed a light exercise program; she found a walking series on Youtube and walked off over ten pounds with 20 minutes of activity a day! Find something you like and will stick to and get moving – even if you have to start small, just 10 minutes a day, is better than not doing anything at all.
I hope these tips will help you get started on your weight loss journey – I created a cheatsheet you can download and keep as a reminder. I would love to know how these tips work for you – leave a comment or message me and let me know! If you need support, I have many coaching options available to help you get started. Not sure if coaching is right for you? Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about how a health coach can help you reach your weight loss goals.