So, I've gotten a few questions about loosing weight since my post about my summer diet and thought I should write out a few details about how to loose weight in a healthy way.
First of all, this is NOT me saying that you need to loose weight! I'm sure you're fantastic just the way that you are. Secondly, I'm not a dietician or a nutritionist. I do have experience with gaining weight and figuring out how to loose it, though.
I was kind of a chubby kid, and I ate to relieve my nerves and anxiety. I hated vegetables and a lot of fruits and lived on as much junk food as my parents would let me get away with. By chance, I turned into a very lean teenager during my junior year just because of my metabolism. I still ate really poorly, but suddenly wasn't weighed down by my crappy diet.
Here I am goofing around with my little sister. I'm about 15 here. This is right before I got really skinny because of my teenage metabolism.
At the age of 18, I went away to college and like a lot of teens, I gained a LOT of weight. There was a McDonald's right next to my dorm and plenty of terrible choices on campus, too. I lived on French fries, cheeseburgers, potato chips, greasy omelets, and gallons of sugary soda. By the time I went home for Christmas break, I could barely fit into any of my clothes. During my second semester, I even had a borderline eating disorder, pretending to be a vegetarian to mask my obsessive picky-ness. How can you be a vegetarian and eat no vegetables? Amazingly, no one said anything, and I continued my terrible diet for about another year and a half, completely in denial about what was happening to my body.
Finally, during my junior year, when I was wearing size 12 clothes, I was shampooing and came away with a huge chunk of hair. It was horrifying and I sat on the bottom of the tub and cried. I realized that something wasn't right, and began to try to loose weight for the first time in my life. After a bit of floundering around and trying some really stupid, dangerous crash diets, I began to do a lot of reading about diet, exercise, nutrition, and overall health. I discovered the campus Rec Center and began to go regularly to work out alone, although I was far to self-conscious to take advantage of any of the classes or counseling they offered. I also learned how to cook for the first time and stopped living on packaged junk food. I started to learn how to eat real food, although it was slow, scary, and often painful to re-train my body and my taste buds. I even overcame the texture issues that had always prevented me from eating vegetables. Once I stopped worrying about loosing weight and started making healthy choices, the weight just came off. I never stepped on a scale when I was really heavy. I didn't have one available and would have avoided it, anyway. I don't think I have any pictures, either, since I avoided the camera like crazy then. By my best estimation, I was about 40 pounds heavier than my current 135. (I'm 5' 6".)
At my college graduation with my mom and grandma. I'd been eating healthy and working out for about nine months at this point and was starting to loose weight. (Age 22)
Speaking at my college's graduation breakfast.
And at my Master's graduation a year and a half later with my sister. My skin had cleared up and I was down about 20 pounds at that point. (I turned 24 a month after this picture.)
Me getting married at age 25. I kicked all my healthy habits up a notch for this day and weighed about 125 pounds. I also spent the year leading up to it with a gym membership and worked out using the Body Sculpting Bible for Brides to make sure my arms and back would look awesome in my dress.
I've managed to keep my healthy habits and keep the weight off for almost 10 years now. I exercise 5-6 times a week, even if it's as simple as walking my dogs. When my body feels up to it, I do more vigorous cardio and also fit in yoga and weights several times a week. I'm no longer on a junk food diet and am always looking to fit in more fruits and veggies.
So, how did I loose the weight?
1. Get active:
I work out 5-6 times a week, sometimes very vigorously and other times more gently depending on what my body wants. I walk my dogs almost every day, use my stationary bike for 30 minutes, use hand weights, and go to yoga studio or use a yoga DVD. My goal in a typical week is to exercise 5-6 times. Sometimes I am to busy to meet this goal in a given week, and I don't make myself crazy about it. I actually feel pretty crummy if I don't work out for a few days. It doesn't matter what you do, just get up and DO something!
2. Avoid processed food:
This one was huge for me. I was a "Snickers Bar vegetarian" in college, totally living on packaged, processed junk food. Now I focus on eating whole foods and limit the junk to an occasional treat.
3. Eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains:
I'm always looking for ways to include more plant foods in my diet. I eat fruit at breakfast, for snacks with yogurt, and for dessert. Veggies appear at lunch and dinner, usually in the form of a big salad, steamed on the side, or incorporated into the main dish. I buy whole grain bread, wraps, and pasta, and try to eat unprocessed grains (brown rice, oats, quinoa) 3-4 times a week. They help with weight loss because they are filling and provide fiber that keeps your digestive track working.
4. Stick to low fat or fat free dairy and lean proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, and tofu:
When I was in college, I used to totally over do it on the dairy products. I drank a gallon of milk a week all by myself! And cheese... oh, the cheese. It wasn't meat, so I felt free to down as much of it as I wanted. Now I stick to moderate amounts of low fat dairy. If I go fat free, I read the labels carefully since a lot of them have added ingredients. I still don't eat pork or red meat, but I have skinless poultry or fish almost every day. I typically eat tofu when I'm out at an Asian restaurant since I'm not good at preparing it.
5. Drink lots of water:
Most people don't get enough and in addition to not being healthy, it can actually make you fat! I've read that people often mistake thirst for hunger, so I have a big glass of water when I feel hungry at an odd time and wait a few minutes to see if that takes care of the urge.
6. Don't snack at night:
This one was huge for me! I used to eat a LOT after dinner to help ease the anxiety I felt about school. I initially had to set a time that I wouldn't eat after, but now I just automatically stop after dinner and wait an hour to see if I would like a dessert. When I have one, I try to make it something healthy like berries with yogurt or a spoonful of fat free Cool Whip.
7. If you obsess about it, don't keep it in the house!
I had a lot of bad habits to overcome, so initially I had to completely let go of certain things that I just couldn't seem to eat in moderation. Kettle Chips were a big one. I'd let myself have them on the weekend, but never, ever during the week, even if that meant throwing a half-full bag into the dumpster.
8. Let yourself have a day off regularly and on holidays, but don't go overboard:
The concept of a "cheat day" was really hard for me at first. I would go overboard and eat everything I'd managed to avoid all week. It took a lot of practice to learn how to do it in moderation. I actually resorted to writing out meal plans so that I had to pick and choose. After all, I would be able to have it again, so there was no need to eat it all. It wasn't my final meal. I still have a cheat day once a week, usually on Sunday, which is a nice psychological boost for the coming week. I also cut myself some slack on holidays, but I try to sub them for my cheat day as much as I can.
All told, it took me about a year and a half to loose the weight. I averaged 1-2 pounds a week, nothing crazy or dramatic. But I've also kept it off through grad school, starting a career, getting married, and a lot of other big life events at this point, so I think it's by far more effective than a crazy diet of loosing 10 pounds in 10 days or whatever.
What is your weight story?