How fitting that I am writing this in time for Labor Day 2017. I’m a few days out from a work trip and I had to stop at the mall for a few “Fall weather” pieces (I’m going to Chicago and this South Florida dweller needs to look the part). I pulled a few things in XL at a popular store and I was alarmed when I tried them on.
They were too big!
I tried to gather my thoughts as I put back what I pulled and grabbed a size L so that I can quickly get back home to pack and enjoy the remaining part of my long weekend. Today, on Labor Day, I realized that I’ve been indeed laboring for over a year on a journey that took me to the depths of myself. When I say depth I mean depths I didn’t know existed. It was in those depths I grew closer to God who gave me what I needed to go from 260 to 220 pounds with a lot of inches gone.
I don’t even know where to start other than I’ve spent a greater portion of 2016 trying to get control of my health. Rather than me going off on a sugar and pizza deprived rant about how hard it is to reign in one’s waistline, maybe I can share a few things I learned during this time that are outside of the typical advice of “cut calories and workout” with a more personal touch! I desire for the brave souls who want to embark on this path to keep a few things in mind before building lofty goals only to have a number on the scale throw them into a depressive abyss laced with rum raisin Haagen Daas ice cream.
Sugar is evil
There is no way around this. If you want to drop pounds/inches, drop the white sugar/white carbs/processed foods/boxed cereals etc. Brown sugar too! Just drop the sweet stuff. Sugar is stored as fat immediately and if you have metabolic/sugar issues (i.e. insulin resistance) that make it hard to lose weight, the white stuff must get the boot. Oh, and grain gets broken down into sugar too! Carbs equal sugar. Sugar transforms into fat. Get it? Got it? You know the right carbs and you know the wrongs ones. Govern yourselves accordingly!
This journey ain’t cheap. Prepare to spend money.
Organic fruits, veggies, /grass fed/cage free/ free range/wild caught or “birthed on the glistening shores of Lake Minnetonka during the second moon phase” meats are not cheap. Canisters of nutritional shakes both whey and plant based are not cheap. Good blenders are not cheap. The trainers/gyms/crossfit/”insert latest workout studio concept here” that pay their bills from the money of the weight oppressed are not cheap. Herbal teas, juicing, meal plans, smoothies and other healthy eating methods that bombard your facebook feed are not cheap. Get ready to shell out duckets, mulah, cabbage, and scrilla to this movement. Get ready to watch the disposable income you had prior to this new journey dwindle out of your bank account as fast as you can say “diet water” until you can get into a system of finding things at a discount. It’s what it is. Starting out, prepare to spend $$$ if you are indeed serious. Think about it like this. Pay the gym, trainer, farmers market and health gurus now rather than pay the doctors and pharmacists later.
Thou must change thy diet
I didn’t want to believe it when people say, “abs are made in the kitchen” or “you can’t out train a poor diet”. Well, I am here to tell you that you can’t out train a poor diet.
I tried it and failed.
I cheated with my meals and wondered why I hit barriers in my journey. It wasn’t until I let go of the cheats on the weekends that I really saw a change. For me, I had to go drastic and cut the bad stuff out completely for months. Did I still satisfy my “Doritos in the red bad habit” ? Yes, but instead of the regular bag at the store, I opted for one 50 cent bag once or twice a month. By the time I got the hang of eating better, my body wanted the good stuff and the good stuff was snacking on celery sticks, apples, almonds, other fruits, and veggies. Some people have to go “cold turkey” and some start at one meal at a time. Either way, your diet must change for optimal results. BONUS: Incorporate supplements like vitamins into your new eating plan to make sure you are getting everything your body needs.
You will need a decent workout wardrobe and shoes
Back in the day, all I needed was a “half price” pair of “out of season sneakers” from the local Marshalls, a few t-shirts and some workout pants. I was clearly content with my work out gear situation until a buddy of mine who runs 5ks’, 10k’s and half marathons told me I will mess up feet if I don’t have the right shoe. Then another friend who is a sleek looking “gym fox” told me about a concept called “look good feel good” That’s right! If you look good while working out, you will feel good…whatever that may mean. I now have special shoes and clothes for walking/jogging, organized boot camps and multivariate (i.e. Zumba and Tai-Bo style) workouts. A sista gotta look good while she’s in pain right? I will say the shoe thing is true. You don’t want to have back pain, and joint issues because of bad sneakers no matter how cheap they are.
Some doctors will help you, most won’t. Find the ones that will.
I know this may come as a shock. If you have a doctor that is fully invested in your health and not just taking your blood for A1C and Vitamin D levels then you are blessed. If you are overweight and have a doctor that is taking a “wait and see” approach to your health and not guiding you to a nutritionist every time you walk into the office…..Leave.And.Never.Look.Back.
Find a doctor or better yet a specialist who will take a decent look at the factors of why you are overweight, what is keeping you overweight and do extensive blood exams to see what vital nutrients you are lacking. If you are deficient in a few areas, that could hinder your overall health and weight loss efforts. Some doctors will wait until you are fully diabetic with high blood pressure to really DO something. If you are pre-diabetic, some will try and pump you up with metformin then tell you to change your lifestyle. For the love of your health and mind, find a specialist where weight loss and nutrition is their focus. As a woman, I found one that works with weight loss with AND hormones. After several hundred dollars (and failed weight loss attempts) I learned that both go hand in hand.
You will hit a wall
Let’s say the first three weeks are gold. You nailed a food prep schedule and drinking gallons of water on a weekly basis. By the first day of the fourth week, your palate is bored, your body is tired and you are looking at the rest of the year like, “seriously, am I reeeeeaaally doing this?”. That wall will pop up often. There will be a rainy day where you just don’t feel like working out or even making chicken breasts, brown rice and broccoli for the week. Trust me, there will be a time you just don’t feel like it. Don’t run through the wall. Embrace it for a day, have one french fry then keep it moving. It’s ok. Weight loss fatigue is real. Take a mental break so that you can keep moving forward. But don’t break for too long.
Your body will fight you
No matter how strong you think your will, mind and heart is, your body will fight you to the bitter end. Your legs will get sore, your muscles will ache and the fat may or may not budge after weeks of working out and eating right. When the body is used to being overweight, it wants to STAY overweight. Don’t believe me, there are some studies out there including people who have lost a lot of weight only to gain it right back. When your body raises up against your health efforts, look at those sore muscles, your belly, arms and other problem areas. Tell them, “it’s ok to fight me but in the end, I will win”! If you have to do this every day, then so be it.
Your body is different and will respond differently to diet & exercise than someone else.
When folks start posting stunning weight loss pictures on social media, you might look in the mirror and wonder, “whats wrong with me”. I’m here to tell you, not a thing. Everyone is different. I know you’re probably tired of hearing that but it’s true. If you are a woman and you see men drop weight like I drop money at Whole Foods, it’s because their genetic makeup is different. If you were always a heavy kid/teenager/young adult then adult, chances are it might take you a bit longer to drop the pounds. If you never had visible abs, it might take you a bit longer to achieve them. I want you to hug your body and repeat after me: “Body, (seriously repeat after me) Body, you are unique, all the cells that made you are unique, thank you for being you”. Everybody is going to lose weight at their own pace. What quickly works for one person may work slowly for you.
Be happy for small wins..and stay off the scale
If you can wear the jeans or shirt you weren’t able to wear last year, be happy. Something is working. The cylinders are firing off. Fat is being decimated. Something, anything is happening. You might be tempted to run to the scale. Don’t do it if you like your joy and happiness. Don’t do it if you intend to stay on the journey for the long run. Sometimes, fat burn/inches lost won’t budge the numbers. The body is odd like that. If there is a win in the journey, be glad for it but for the love of all things good and holy, stay away from the scale.
Prepare for the emotions
Losing weight can be emotional (depending on your “why” for wanting to lose weight”). Couple that with not having “comfort food” and you have grounds for a blistering and uncomfortable emotional relapse. I remember being on my couch one night miserable and headachy because I completely cut sugar/starches/carbs for a few days. I was already in my feelings because I was doing everything I knew to do but getting slow results. I started to question why I was doing this. I was pounding the gym, pounding these meal preps and laundry (working out five times a week had me constantly washing). My mind brought to memory certain dresses I couldn’t wear or putting on a top and not being able to get my arm through a sleeve. The awkwardness of dating because I didn’t “feel” or “look” like my best self all came to mind. Then an old memory of a certain guy I really liked years back who didn’t feel the same way about me because I wasn’t as “petite” like the other girls popped up. Next thing you know, an all-out bawl fest occurred. As you work through the layers of fat, you might have to work through some “other” layers too. Be patient and lean on God. He’ll get you through those rough spots.
No sacrifice, no reward
If you are not prepared to give up your time, money and sanity, you will not get past week three of the weight loss journey. Losing weight is not quick. Losing weight is not easy. You will sacrifice your favorite foods, time and hair styles. You will alter your former life to fit your new life. You will modify recipes. You will walk past the cookies in the break room at work, give up pizza Fridays and taco Tuesdays. In short, you will give up something to get something that is better in the long run. It could better blood work results, numbers on the scale and clothing sizes. If you want something like weight loss, be prepared to sacrifice for it. It’s not free. I will say it again, weight loss is not free.
Find a tribe and abide with them
You’re not eating bad carbs, but someone offers you cookies. You get invited out and your meal choices may annoy a few people. “Oh a little piece of bread won’t hurt”, “wanna split this dessert, it’s the weekend anyway”. While they mean well, you mean well with what you are doing. Stay the course and remain focused. They are not the ones fighting your battle. You are. There will be times when folks don’t get your workout regiments or pounding the pavement in your neighborhood or local track. It’s ok. I’ve learned when you decide to depart from the person you used to be, your circle and others around you need time to adjust to your new “you”. Sometimes the best journeys are done amongst a tribe of like-minded people who will support you. People are who fighting to workout and eat right. People who are fighting to maintain their health. People who won battles and have tips to share or a shoulder to lean on when the weighted squats become too much to handle. Tank heads, runners, cross-fitters etc, get in where you fit in. And when you emerge from your tribe to hang with family and friends, eat before you leave, look at the menu before going to the restaurant and pick out your healthy meal.
Leave the basket of hot white bread alone…..no dippin’ in your homegirls’ fries either! LOL
If weight loss is not embedded deep in your heart, you are wasting your time.
Heart gets you out of the bed in the morning to work out. Heart tells you to go straight to the gym after work instead of home. Heart keeps you out of the chip and ice cream section of the supermarket. Heart steers you away from the fast food joint. Heart tells you to keep going when you just don’t feel like it. If the weight loss journey is not in your heart then you are wasting your time and your money. The desire to lose weight has to be embedded so deep in your heart that a random cookie or brownie won’t turn your head and Friday nights on the couch can be braved without the pint of (insert your favorite ice cream flavor here).
I hope this personal account will help you ( or someone) along the weight loss quest and keep your sanity while at it. I’ll probablly read this a few times myself as I journey through the last 20 pounds.
Here is the obligatory weight loss pic…The left side was taken Fall of 2016 (260 lbs Size 1X/18W), the right side was taken August of 2017 (220 lbs size L/14-16)