After my brother passed away in 2009, my only goal became making it to the next day. It's hard to explain what it feels like to face your own mortality while adjusting to the feeling that a huge giant piece of you was stolen. My brother wasn't just a sibling, he was a part of me. My sister Samantha, myself and my brother were a unit. We were a dangerous trio and when we lost him, it felt like we lost ourselves.
One thing I did not anticipate after his passing was the weight gain. He passed away in June of 2009 and by the end of that year I found myself weighing in at over 200 pounds. How did I get that way? I started snacking when I was sad. My friends would bake with me to help me feel normal. I wasn't necessarily eating out of control, I just stopped being active. It felt like it happened overnight. I didn't recognize the girl I saw when I looked in the mirror. Now on top of figuring out how to live without my brother I had to figure out how to live with new foreign version of myself.
That is until my Mom intervened. She gently encouraged me to muster the courage to make a change and get my life back. 6 months later I wasn't just "back to normal" I was a better version of the old me. Here are the 10 things I learned about losing weight and taking that next step:
1. Ask for Help.
It wasn't easy for me to admit that I needed help because it felt like a failure. I was under the impression that I was doing a really great job hiding my weight gain. I walked around with my head held high, beaming with as much confidence as I could muster. But I wasn't confident, I was drowning in my own skin. Weighing over 200 pounds was physically exhausting but keeping up the, "I love the way I look" facade was ten times harder. Ask for help, you don't have to do anything alone if you don't know how to take the next step. Ask for help.
2. Make Your Own Rules.
I didn’t want anyone to know I was trying to lose weight. I didn’t want the added pressure of people watching my every move, judging everything I ate. When we went out to eat and someone asked me why I was getting a salad I’d just say I was in the mood for a salad. I told my closest friends and family when it came up. But other people like being held accountable. They like having people they can talk to about it. Make your own rules, there's no right or wrong way.
3. Portion Sizes.
Here’s the only thing you need to know if you’re trying to lose weight, you have to eat proper portion sizes. Find a chart and measure everything you eat. It’s annoying and confusing at first but eventually it becomes habitual and you can estimate. Portion sizes are KEY.
4. Plan Ahead
I was in college while I was trying to lose weight so I was at school from 9 in the morning until midnight Monday-Friday. That meant everything I ate had to be prepared and brought to school with me so every Sunday I would go to Costco and get a huge thing of salad, tons of veggies and chicken breasts. I would roast all the veggies and grill all the meat. Then I would portion them into ziplock bags and freeze them. Before I left for school I’d grab 2 bags of chicken, 2 bags of veggie and fill 2 ziploc containers with salad and throw them together for lunch and dinner. It made eating healthy cheap and effortless.
Plan every single meal the week before. If you know there are days you are going to work late, plan for that. If you know you are going out to eat, have a healthy snack before hand so you don't show up really hungry. Split entrees and salads. Have a small healthy snack every 2 hours if you are the type that gets hungry.
5. Don’t Lose Weight to Look a Certain Way, Do It to Feel a Certain Way.
Goal weights are a very crucial motivator and indicator of progress but getting healthy is so much bigger than a number. When you eat healthier and lead a more active lifestyle you have so much more energy! Knowing you’re giving everything you have to be the best you possible is a game changer. It wasn’t until I ran a half marathon that I stopped saying, “If only I could do this I’d look like that” and finally looked in the mirror and loved what I saw. I worked hard to be able to run a half marathon and I felt unstoppable.
6. Cut the Bull Shit and the Excuses.
Let’s keep this short because you know all of this already (What you're saying in your head is probably 10 times worse than this) – but cut the bullshit. The time will never be right, there will never be an easier way, you aren’t alone, no it isn’t hopeless and yes it’s going to be hard. (Did I mention this won’t be easy.) Take the plunge. Dig deep, find the drive and care enough to commit to making a change. You can do it, I promise it gets easier and it will be worth it.
7. Don’t Restrict Yourself.
You know the term “Cheat days” or “cheating”? Delete it from your vocabulary right now and replace it with the word “BALANCE.” If you think you can spend months without something sweet or savory you’re mistaken and you shouldn’t have to try! If you want something sweet, have a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips. If you want some French fries, have a handful. The key to indulging or having something that isn’t the healthiest is to enjoy a smaller portion of it. Don’t sit there crying over the fact that you had a cupcake! ENJOY THE CUPCAKE! Then continue forward with your healthy habits. Diets don’t work because their restricting but healthy habits are forever. Find balance! Stop beating yourself up.
8. Get Active.
Getting active is going to be really difficult. You’ll be huffing and puffing, sweating and looking like a hot mess. FIGHT THROUGH IT. Get on a stationary bike for 30 minutes 5 days a week. Schedule your workouts! Invest in a gym and actually go there. Take two 30 minute walks (once in the morning and once at night). Download RunKeeper and set a goal to eventually run a 5K! There is nothing easy about getting active but the pros outweigh the cons 10 fold. It takes about a month before you start enjoying it. One simple month. Start slow and keep going.
9. Surround Yourself With Positivity.
Are there people who just put you in a bad mood? You know the ones, the pessimistic bunch who drain your soul? Avoid them. Stop hanging out with them because they are going to extinguish all your drive and progress. It’s not selfish to cut people like that out of your life, it’s selfish of them to expect you to put up with it. Surround yourself with people who will help you make your dreams a reality. (And people change! If you see someone has turned a new leaf, let them back in!)
10. Be Patient.
You have, have, have to be patient. You know those articles that say, “Lose 20 pounds in 20 days”? Those are bullshit. Ignore the internet if you can. Don't get discouraged by other people's success stories. Don't compare your progress or journey to anyone else. It took me about 6 months of clean eating and regular physical activity to lose 50 pounds. Could I have done it differently? Yes! I did it the way I did it!
Set small weekly goals, plan every workout and meal, believe in yourself and stay busy. Don’t get discouraged if you hit a speed bump or plateau, just keep going forward. Figure out why you want to make the change and hold onto that. Let that be your guiding light. Nothing is impossible. Never believe that voice that whispers that something is impossible or hopeless. It's bullshit. You're always one step away from the best you yet. Take that step. I believe in you.
Weight gain has nothing to do with laziness. It can happen to anyone. But you are always in control of your life and sometimes you need help to take that first step. I know you can do it, I believe in you. Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.