I’ve been struggling with weight loss for the last couple years of my life. In the last 4–5 years I have managed to lose 80 or so pounds, I went from a whopping 330 pounds down to 240, then back up to 270, and am now 256 and dropping. My weight loss journey will come to an end when I come to an end, it’s as simple as that. Weight loss is a life long battle that doesn’t just end when you lose the weight, keeping the weight off is just as important. As of right now I have no real long term goal in regards to my weight, my goals as of now are to make cardiovascular exercise, core exercise, and strength training a part of my daily routine, and to eat better. My journey isn’t over, not by a long shot.
When I say that I want to eat better, I am referring to the sizes of my portions and how many portions I eat. Usually during a meal I will eat until I feel full, then get more food simply because I love the taste and must have more. I end up feeling bloated and sick, it’s a vicious and disgusting cycle that I have broken and plan on keeping it that way. Another aspect of food that I get wrong is my snacking, I used to snack between each meal and a couple of times late at night, often times eating a big bowl of chips right before going to bed. Not only did I snack too often, but my snacks were too large and very unhealthy.
This leads me to the first item on the list:
Changing the way you eat is much more important than exercise
This may sound like common sense, but at the end of the day it truly isn’t. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in terms of weight loss was in the year 2017, I had just begun working out on a regular basis. I had a nice little routine going, five days a week with two rest days that weren’t back to back, my schedule was Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday working out with Tuesdays and Fridays being my rest days.
When I started my strength training, I felt as if I was doing more than enough for my weight loss. Then, when I added cardio to that routine, I was sure that the weight would melt off. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. This was due to the fact that despite living a more active lifestyle, I still ate like a human garbage disposal. At that point I still actively drank several 12-packs of Mountain Dew every month, I still ate food until I was sick, and gorged myself on the worst of snack foods. That’s not to say snacks foods are terrible in moderation, I simply was not consuming them with any sort of moderation in mind. Because of this, I became demotivated and stopped working out all together.
Oddly enough, I didn’t see a huge change in my body despite giving up on exercise entirely. I then decided in 2018 to stop drinking soda altogether, and immediately I dropped almost 15 pounds in the first month.
This lead me to the conclusion that exercise without diet change will not lead to weight loss, but diet change without exercise will lead to weight loss. Meaning that if you are planning on making any sort of changes in your life, start with the way that you approach food. Once you feel comfortable enough in your eating, to the point where you don’t have to think as much about what you eat to still eat a healthy meal, then you can add exercise to the routine.
You might be thinking to yourself, “why not just do both and lose twice as much?”
Make Small, Manageable Changes
I tried doing both in 2019, and I very quickly became overwhelmed by the change and simply reverted to my old ways. Funny enough, I made the changes backwards, I started with the daily exercise in 2020 and just recently started focusing on my eating habits. I also just now started to see weight loss, which is by no means a coincidence. This may seem like a practice what you preach moment, but it is because I have done it wrong that I am able to tell you just how wrong it is.
Don’t try to change both right away, changing your diet and adding daily exercise to your routine can be overwhelming and lead to you giving up quicker than if you had simply made smaller, more manageable changes over time. Like I said earlier, focus on the diet first. This will lead you to quicker results, which can have truly positive results on your weight loss journey. It provides a lot of motivation and shows you that you can do this.
Whenever I see a success story where someone loses a ton of weight, I’ve noticed that they refer to it as a weight loss journey. Whereas all of the failures I’ve witnessed referred to it as dieting. This may seem like a very minor detail to most people, and up until very recently I would have agreed. Who cares what they call it? Either way they’re doing the same thing, right? Wrong. The slight difference in vocabulary speaks volumes to the difference in mentality and the chances of success.
Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint
This difference in mentality shows us who is in it for the long haul and who is just looking to cut a bit of weight before going back to detrimental eating habits. Remember, weight loss isn’t a sprint, you don’t drop a ton of weight over night, this is a marathon that lasts your whole life. You don’t get to diet for a couple months then go back to eating the way that you did, because in the end, you’ll find all of the weight you lost. For me, I found all of my lost weight in sweets.
The biggest downside to looking at this process as a quick one is that your eating habits are what got you to your current weight in the first place. If you lose a ton of weight, then proceed to eat like a dumpster again, you will end up at the same weight you were or higher. When you lose weight, your body doesn’t magically start to burn more calories, in fact, when you weigh less your body has to work less which means that you don’t burn as many calories naturally meaning you have to work harder to maintain your weight than you do to lose the weight.
Your body changes a bit, but what truly changes is your mind.
Weight loss is a mental journey rather than a physical one
This one may seem confusing, I promise you it isn’t. Sure, when you exercise, you may struggle with it due to aching joints, physical pain, or just lack of stamina. These are nothing compared to the mental struggle of weight loss. If you’ve ever attempted to, or successfully lost weight you understand this fully.
Running out of breath during a walk/run makes it harder to finish the run, but at least at that point you’ve made it to the walk. There were times where I just couldn’t be bothered to exercise, I struggled to find the motivation or the Discipline or whatever you want to call it.
Then there’s food, I get cravings for junk food all the time, especially chocolate, god damn if I could, I would eat chocolate for every meal. I used to give into those cravings consistently, to the point where if I got it in my head that I wanted chocolate, I would waddle to the store and buy a few bags of it. Then proceed to eat a full bag of chocolate in a sitting. Thousands of calories worth of chocolate in one sitting, I always felt gross afterwards, but I knew I didn’t have the will power to resist chocolate’s calls, it was like trying to resist the Siren’s Song, it didn’t happen.
The important thing is that you understand that you don’t need junk food, healthy alternatives will fill your belly just as well at the end of the day. With the added benefits of feeling better and your body being able to process what you eat.
That being said, don’t forget most important rule.
Cheat days are a necessity
When you are changing your diet, you might consider cutting out all forms of junk food. Meaning snack foods, fast foods, carbs, and sweets. This sounds really good and looks great on paper, but in reality you enjoy these foods to much to never eat them again. If you stop eating them all together it can feel like you are actively punishing yourself, this is not good. Diet and exercise should never be looked at as punishment, you should enjoy the process, since the goal is to make it a permanent change in your life.
This is why cheat days are so important. You can do one a week or one every two weeks. This isn’t a green light to eat like shit for a day, don’t go from eating 1200 calories in a normal day to 4000 calories in a cheat day. Don’t go overboard, but at the same time you should let yourself enjoy something that you would normally enjoy. You want a couple oreos? Go for it. You in the mood for some pizza? Order it. Allow yourself a cheat meal or cheat day so that way you don’t relapse and stuff your face with all sorts of junk food.
I wanted to keep this list short and sweet. But there is so much that to talk about when it comes to weight loss, I figured I’d throw a couple bits of information at the end and briefly cover them.
If at any point you injure yourself and know for a fact that you can’t exercise you need to take a break. Taking a week off is better in the long run that causing real damage to your body and losing several months of exercise.
It’s okay to slip up, there may be meals where you lose sight of yourself and eat to your hearts content and there may be times where you don’t get your daily exercise in. That’s okay, don’t overthink it, just accept it and move on. Use that failure as a learning experience to drive you and motivate you to keep kicking weight losses ass.