I’ve read my fair share of articles providing advice on weight loss. They were either hawking supplements, drawing conclusions from questionable clinical studies, or repacking common knowledge. But occasionally a fresh nugget of wisdom would find its way into my brain. I don’t know your life, and I definitely don’t know your body. Many things that helped me will be irrelevant to you. When I read this post back to myself there’s more than a few lines that make me roll my eyes. But hopefully there a little wisdom in here somewhere.
1. This was nothing new
Because I wasn’t blessed with the metabolism of a hummingbird, my weight is something I’ve kept my eye on since high school. College courses and life away from home caused me to gain about 10 pounds, but nothing made my attention drift like my dad ending his life at the end of 2011. Gaining weight was the last thing on my mind as I shoved another cinnamon roll down.
I avoided scales, but I knew I was bigger. I told myself that I was the right size for my frame as I walked out of Old Navy with a bag of XXL shirts. I had a brave moment in the early days of 2013. I let that rectangle in the bathroom shatter my delusion. Exposing the truth of packing on 35 pounds since the events of a year prior. Making me realize that I wasn’t a healthy size for my frame.
At my absolute heaviest I weighed 280lbs. And for the better part of two years, My weight wandered in the 270’s.With a little running and self-control by August 2013, I found my way down to the 240’s. For the next few years, I stayed relatively active with my weight hovering between the 240’s and 250’s.
When 2017 rolled around I had lots of experience gaining and losing weight. And you know what they say “practice makes perfect.”
2. There was no resolution
According to a handful of self-help books, a real goal requires some kind of paper trail. The was no weight loss pact with a friend. No written goals. No new year’s resolution declaring 2017 the year of major progress. New Years Day 2017 just marked the end of the holiday season sparking a desire to be better.
As helpful as a written goal or pact may be, I often find such things incredibly frustrating. When progress on the scale isn’t reflected as quickly as I might want. Frustration leads to negative feelings and negative feelings lead to the dark side….of the freezer where the ice cream is kept.
A desire to be better, was just a blurry goal. While a blurry goal may seem weaker its lack of physicality somehow prevents frustration. I was working to become better, not be thin. Some days were definitely better than others, but there is value in measuring success by actions instead of results.
3. Learning to love running
I ran my ass off in 2017. At this point, I can honestly say I love running. It’s not an easy love – like my love of chocolate or amazon prime. Sometimes I have to force myself to run and other days I can’t wait to lace up my shoes. I don’t know if there’s such thing as a runner’s high but I do believe there is a “runners satisfaction”. In the end, I find it to be an enjoyable form of exercise that gets me outside and clears my head.
4.Eating well is more important than exercise
I lied I didn’t quite run my ass off. It definitely helped but over the years prior I was relatively active at the gym or on the trail and I never dipped below 240. I ate any extra calory I burned. I was active, I felt better but my waistline wasn’t shrinking.
I have to run about two miles to burn off one cookie. And let me make one thing clear I LOVE cookies – I refuse to cut them out of my life. For me making certain foods off limits seemed like a punishment. So I enacted that cliché from weight watchers commercials I ate anything I wanted….as long as I budgeted for it. So that’s what I did, usually, I just kept track in my head, but if I was fighting to crash through a plateau I’d use the “Lose It” app for a few days.
5. Hello soup, jerky, almonds, and spinach
I ate less in 2017 I also I differently. If i felt like baking, I had to have an exit plan for most of the goods. I also remembered a progressive soup commercial from when I was young promoting soup as a “diet food”. A meal that is basically hot salty water may seem like a dumb idea. But a can of Cambell’s Chicken Enchilada soup is only 380 calories, and hot soup takes forever to eat so it’s pretty satisfying.
I haven’t grabbed a pack of crumb donuts or ding songs in a while because I have made Jerky my go to gas station snack. It’s tasty, all protein, and doesn’t give me a sugar crash. I’ll even throw a couple of packs in my camera bag to get through a long wedding day.
I’m gonna try switch to sunflower kernels soon because my wallet is tired of shelling out for almonds, but they make for a good snack and anytime If I don’t have a bag of them in my pantry the numbers on the scale begin to slowly creep upwards. Spinach is also a go to, but building a good salad is a hassle. But I discovered that a protein shake spiked with spinach is only little more disgusting than your standard chocolate protein shake.
6. Developing a healthy relationship with the scale.
I generally hate any time an aspect of my life is quantified with a number. Numbers that tell me I’m too old, too poor, or in the case of my bathroom scale too chunky. Sometimes the digits that pop up making my day, other moments they make days of effort seem meaningless.
A lot of the time when I’m nervous to step on that electronic square I say to myself “knowledge is power”. If I know where I’m at it’s easier to get where I want to be. The scale isn’t my friend or my enemy. It’s a tool that lets me know if I’m putting in enough effort, or wasting time.
7.Celebrating any kind of progress
Stepping on the scale often felt like pulling the lever on a slot machine. As the digits on the LCD screen bounced around I’d think to myself is this going to make my day or ruin it. So as my relationship with the scale matured I also found other things to celebrate. I’d text my sister everytime I hit a new personal best with my running. I’d give myself a mental high five every time I forced myself to lift at the gym. And nothing feels quite as good as buying a new piece of clothing in a smaller size.
8. License to shop
Buying new clothes definitely gets its own section. I do feel a little guilty about how much turnover my closet has had in the past year. But I wasn’t running 4 miles a day and not eating bread so that my clothes could fit me like an eleven-year-old girl who wore her dad’s old t-shirts as a nightgown. So I bought new clothes. I didn’t replace everything in my wardrobe but I did cycles through a few sizes. My t-shirts went from an XL to a Medium tall and I can now sport jeans with a 32-inch waist – Each new purchase punctuated my progress and that really helped me keep going. Even if it meant I only whore a pair jeans for a few months.
9. Needing to accomplish something
This one is kind of a bummer. In 2015 I finally finished my bachelor’s degree, in 2016 my professional life grew a ton, and I bought a townhouse. In 2017, I stayed relatively busy shooting weddings and filming the occasional video job. But there were no big projects or accomplishments for me to focus on, It was basically a year of being on autopilot. So focusing on my health was a rare source of satisfaction. It felt good to crush a run or to fit into a shirt without an “X” on the label. But I’m looking forward to something more in 2018.
10. Pure curiosity
I’m six foot four, and I didn’t really stop growing until I was a couple years out of high school. I had also been north of 230 since I was probably 15.That’s part of the reason I assumed I was the right size for my frame for so long. Part of the reason I was motivated to do the work is that I haven’t seen my form at the weight before. I had to know if it was possible and if it was, what would I look like in the 230’s, the 220’s, the 2010’s….. Luckily it is possible and It’s a wonderfully weird thing at 25, to literally be a shape I’ve never been before.
11. Twelve days abroad
I had a wild hair last April, I found a good deal on plane tickets to London and I was tired of owning passport that had just one sad stamp from the Calgary airport. I had four months to prepare and I didn’t want to be the typical overweight American tourist. Wich gave me enough motivation to get down to 215lbs.
If you’re looking to jumpstart your weight loss I recommend a metropolitan city in a country that has famously lackluster cuisine. The London subway is an impressive piece of public transportation, but there was still plenty of walking to be done. I walked 10-15 miles a day, usually with a stick of Sam’s club jerky in my backpack for when I was feeling peckish. I ended up losing eight more pounds on vacation.
A lesson learned
It’s not a new revelation, but my body is just the flesh sack my spirit uses to experience the world. I’m incredibly pleased that I’ve improved it and maintaining that progress is important. It may sound super corny but there’s more to life than appearances. Being bigger didn’t make unhappy, and being leaner won’t provide success….I might cringe a bit when I look at old photos, but I’m not going to let that cringe tint the happiness captured in that moment.