Five Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Weight-Loss

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Credit: chefranden

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There’s so much information/misinformation about losing weight. Here are the things nobody told me; the things that I wish I’d known when I started losing…

1. Throw Away Your Scale. No, seriously. Throw it away. For me (and I think for many people), the scale was just a way to torture myself and continue my cycle of treating myself poorly. Gain a pound? I thought I was awful and should just stop eating at all. Lose a pound? I’m great and should celebrate by eating a pizza. The natural up-down fluctuation of our body weight shouldn’t drive us crazy, but it can and for a lot of us, it will.

Still want to use the scale as a tool and not a crazymaker? Use a scale at the gym, or that one at the supermarket. Just don’t keep one in your house. It can be very addictive, and it’s frankly a bad way to rate your progress. I fluctuate up to seven pounds in a given day due to water/food, glycogen retention and a lot of other issues. Weigh yourself at the same time of day in the same clothes, no more than once a week. Buy a tape measure and measure every two weeks. (Taking pictures once a month is something I really wish I’d done!) Rejoice when your pants fall off (mine did it in the produce section…luckily I pulled them back up before anyone noticed, I think). And, throw away your scale.

2. Fitness is a three-legged stool. You need to do cardio, weight training and flexibility training. Just do cardio, and you’re on your way to skinny-fat. I see plenty of women who just do cardio, and they look alright in street clothes, but when they come into the spin room, they’re just as jiggly as someone who could stand to lose a few. Just do weights and don’t incorporate flexibility training, and you’re on the way to bunchy town: short, tight muscles that don’t feel or look good. Just do flexibility training, and you won’t burn many calories. I do cardio, yoga and weights. This also goes a long way in preventing workout burnout. I shudder at the mere thought of just doing an hour on the treadmill every day. Boring. Mix it up. Your body and your sanity will be better for it.

3. What you eat is really, really important. You can lose weight eating packaged, processed food with little nutritional value. But, yuck. You’ll be hungry. The portions won’t be large, the nutrients will be lacking, and you’ll feel deprived. One time, I got a frozen pad thai from the grocery (hey, I had a craving). There were five bites in it (after much profanity when I saw the size of it, I actually counted). Four-hundred calories later, I was still starving. Most nights for dinner, I have a salad in an enormous stainless steel bowl. (It’s comically large.) Ten cups of greens, a homemade dressing with olive oil and lemon juice (or balsamic), and sometimes I throw in some chicken or flank steak, or nuts or an ounce of cheese. I struggle to get that enormous bowl up to 450 calories. It’s huge.

Moral of this story? Eat your vegetables, eat your lean protein sources (and occasionally not so lean—good fats in moderation are a good thing). Eat a handful of nuts. A teeny-tiny ounce of nuts takes the edge off my hunger for hours. When I first started dieting, I would have never eaten them because an ounce of nuts is nearly 200 calories. Now I know that those nuts have it all going for them: They’re portable and they keep me full. Keeping those nuts in my purse (I always have them) has saved me from many a low-blood sugar induced eating frenzy.

Calories equal energy. That’s its definition. Choose calories that are full of energy, not full of chemicals and crap. Anything that’s marketed as “good for you” (I’m talking to you, 100-calorie packs) most likely isn’t. If it needs marketing (when was the last time you saw a TV commercial for an apple?), it needs to be sold. Don’t believe me? Just Google around and find some cigarette ads from the 1940s, when those were marketed as healthy and natural. The 100-calorie pack is the low-tar cigarette of our generation. Be smarter than the food industry. Eat foods with one ingredient. That’s my best diet/health advice in one sentence.

4. The diet and fast food industry want you to stay fat. Any “get-thin quick” scheme is just that. They want you to “get results” and then pack the pounds back on and come back because “it worked so great the last time.” Any diet that you can’t be on the rest of your life is a bad one. You can’t repent for a month and suddenly never gain weight again.

Any industry depends on repeat business to keep afloat. The diet industry is no different. If diets worked, everyone would go on one, lose weight and keep it off and never have to shell out any money ever again. The same holds true for the processed/fast-food/chain-restaurant food industry. They want you addicted to their food, craving more and coming back. They don’t care that what they’re selling can make you fat and kill you. They just want your money.

Now, I’m not perfect. From time to time, I indulge in junk food. But it’s rare, and it’s an indulgence. I hardly ever want it anymore, though, because it makes me feel awful. I can’t believe sometimes that it used to be the cornerstone of my diet. I was McDonald’s prize demographic, and every aspect of my health suffered. In order to lose weight and keep it off, you need to change how you eat. Forever.

5. You will go into mourning for the old you. I’ve saved this for last because it was the most shocking to me. I lost 85 pounds, became a fit and healthy person and then got really, really depressed and didn’t know why. On some level, I finally realized, I missed my old life. I missed going out and not caring what I put into my body (it was fun at the moment). I missed feeling bad about something and knowing that as soon as I got that ice cream home it would all go away. I missed being invisible once I started getting more attention (especially from the opposite sex).

After I lost the weight, my life as I knew it was over. I got divorced from food as a coping mechanism. Food was, for a period in my life, my best friend. I had to mourn that loss. I had to spend time figuring out who this new person, who would rather go for a walk than for pizza, was. I lost friends in the process (I made new ones after a while). I had to re-learn how to cope with emotions. I had to learn that it was OK to cry rather than eat. I had to learn that it was alright to say I was upset about something out loud, using words rather than food. I had to learn that it was perfectly well and good to stand up for myself rather than eat. I had to learn how to do a lot of things rather than eat. If your change is true and lifelong, you will most likely go through this process, too. Accept it as part of the journey you’re taking. —Vivia Kieswetter

Vivia Kieswetter knows weight-loss. After gaining weight due to fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis she lost 80 pounds and went from a non-exerciser to gym rat. She’s used Zumba, group cycling, boxing and yoga to maintain her weight loss for six years. Vivia lives in Toronto and is pursuing a PhD at York University. She blogs regularly over at My Fitness Pal.



Comments

  1. sjohn says

    I know Vivia and she is such an inspiration to me. Yay for powerful women that lead the way for us! YAY!

  2. Rebecca says

    Brilliant! I definitely wished I’d known these when I was younger – it would have saved me a whole lot of problems. Perhaps they should be part of the school syllabus to catch all those teenage girls before they start dieting and walking the ED path!

  3. Amber K says

    I know EXACTLY what you mean for #5! I have been dealing with those same feelings recently. I have lost over 90 pounds and sometimes I wish I could just eat junk and not know how bad it is for me. I do sometimes mourn my old life! It sounds crazy, but it’s definitely real.

  4. Laura says

    I felt I was reading my own weight loss story here. After being obese for a decade then doing the dieting yo-yo for a few years, I promised myself that no matter what the scale said I weighed, I was going to eat real food, as local and seasonal as possible, and exercise. I have lost 50 lbs. over 2 1/2 years. Not sexy secrests, won’t sell a book, but it’s real change that will last. Like you, I do strength and flexibility training along with cardio. My mom told me recently, I look like a whole different person. Eating whole foods and exercising improves more than just your weight- your skin, your smile, your disposition and energy level, it’s amazing. If I had known how good this feels, I might have never got sucked in to a fast food, couch potato lifestyle.

    I’ve never read anyone articulate Number 5 before, but it is so true. As a happily married woman, I preferred the life of non attention from other men. It’s funny how I used to be able to talk with them as friends and now that I look better there’s all these overtures and unwanted touching and even assumptions I’m coming onto them. And even though I don’t preach to anyone about how they should eat, I think my new eating pattern annoys some of my friends and family. When I’m nervous, I still will occaisionally remember how that used to send me to a Drvie-through in the past, though back then, I never really connected the feeling with the eating.

  5. Emrana says

    #3 is SO TRUE. I talk about that on my Sparkpeople blog too, and on comments on others’ blogs. It’s not just about how many calories you ate, it all about the quality of your food.

    I eat the huge stainless steel bowl salads too, though not ten cups at once. I love my big ol’ dog bowl. Soup or salad, I can create marvelous meals in there and be completely satisfied. Far cry from Weight Watchers Smart Ones…I laughed at the five bites of pad thai. Been there! No more!

  6. Kathy says

    I just joined today was excited to hear the author had fibromyalgia and been on antidepressants for years to help with the symptoms. I get lots of exercise and probably cut my food intake too much and yet I never lose a pound. I have been frustrated and discouraged so many times so I hope this life style change will work.

  7. cindy says

    Vivia, thankyou. I too have fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and am currently recovering from a 4th back fusion…so I’m not too far away from ‘couch-potato’ status. I lost 80# in 2001 and kept it off up until about 2 years ago –when it started creeping back on, as I became more and more sedentary – the FM, OA, and back pain became just too, too much! Now here I am 45# up. I’ve had my surgery, feeling much better, FM and OA have, unfortunately, only gotten worse… as was to be expected…but I can now walk again.

    Somehow I just seem to have lost my motivation for getting back into the physical arena, the socializing game, the just ‘gettin’ out there and doin’ it all over again’ game….does that make sense? I was so motivated the first time; it came off so easy, I enjoyed every moment of being that light, exercising and just all of it…but losing friends did happen to me too (I still haven’t figured out why I was fine as the ‘fat’ friend for 20 years, but no longer worth being a ‘slim’ friend when I became 80#’s lighter?) The attention from men was just as nice, however, a bit more shallow than when I was heavy…and so says just about every single woman nowadays :-)

    With all that said and done, I was still motivated to give it another try and the heck with what others said or felt…I liked the weight off my body, I liked being able to move faster, I liked feeling more comfortable in my clothes! But weight loss this time has sure brought on it’s own set of problems to deal with (old friends out, new friends in, constant self-talk to self, etc.) In the long run I know it will all be worth it… for my physical, mental and emotional health and well being…but darn Girl sometimes one sure feels all alone out here…so thanks again for your words and all the other gals comments.. You’ve all helped me today more than you can imagine.. God Bless

  8. Bree says

    This was an amazing article!

    My favorite part:
    I had to re-learn how to cope with emotions. I had to learn that it was OK to cry rather than eat. I had to learn that it was alright to say I was upset about something out loud, using words rather than food. I had to learn that it was perfectly well and good to stand up for myself rather than eat. I had to learn how to do a lot of things rather than eat. If your change is true and lifelong, you will most likely go through this process, too. Accept it as part of the journey you’re taking.

    Still struggling to learn this. Such an inspiration!

  9. Janet says

    For nutrition–I found a couple of grocery stores that use a number scale from 1-100 called nutrival, which was developed by a bunch of doctors with an algorithm to make it easy to tell that, for example, raisins are waaaaaaaaaay more nutritious than, say, craisins. It’s very cool. An epidemiologist recommended it to me–I hadn’t even noticed the numbers before at my store. He said to try to eat over 50, and it’s been amazing. It feels kind of like a video game, because I want food with higher points. I can’t believe, for example, that the oatmeal in the packets is 15 points lower than the oatmeal in the box, but it turns out there are additives.

  10. Muyi O says

    This is an interesting article and very insightful. I agree with #2 on the list above, as not doing the trio will only leave you with results that you are unhappy with. I used to struggle with the workout and I could not simply keep up with it. Well, what have helped me in the past is herbs and supplements. The results I obtained were not tremendous at the start, but over time they were impressive. If you would like to know more about some of the herbs and supplements, please visit http://www.meta-ehealth.com/site/office/index.jsp?id=002590 .

  11. Bazanye says

    This really is an eye opener, i didn’t think that after loosing the weight you miss your old self!!! Really interesting! I cant wait to get to that point!

  12. Melinda says

    I want to comment on #5.
    In 2.5 years I have lost 145 lbs and I’m under 30. I have moments when I try on an article of clothing, look in the mirror and feel lost, like I don’t know who is looking back at me. I’ve learned that being overweight isolated me from social nuances that I’m having to learn now. Once complaining that no one ever took a second look at me, I often wish now that people wouldn’t take that look because I don’t know how to handle situations when someone does. I’m learning how to tactfully express the things that used to lead me to eat and the people around me don’t know how to react. The depression? True but it’s getting better.

    To everyone who has taken their own health in hand – rock on!

  13. Jay says

    I have struggled with a poor diet and limited exercise all of my life. It is good to see my struggle in writing and to now move forward into a healthier me. Thank you.

  14. kay says

    I was able to keep my weight down when I was younger, but as I passed 30 it’s been a struggle. I too eat emotionally, however after losing 10 pounds recently and another 10 after a surgery I am trying to keep the weight from creeping back on. I read a book, “The PH Miracle”, telling you to keep animal protein and starch in separate meals. This food combination causes many health problems within the digestive system which leads to many other health issues and as well as improper PH.

    Limit carbs (eat complex carbs), eat lotsss of vegetables (60-70% of the meal), whole foods and lean protein. While fruits are good they are still high in sugar so be moderate. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas. What Vivia said is true, eat loads of greens or healthy low calorie foods first and you won’t have much space for the high calorie junk. I do an omelet using one egg mixed with a touch of almond milk, and piling in the veggies to super size it. I also make pizza with low sodium pita bread, light on the tomato sauce and plenty of veggies with soy or rice cheese drizzled on top.

    It is true also to combine all three aspects of exercise for overall good results and get plenty of rest as well. Make sure your last meal is a few (3-4) hours before bed.

    Good luck!

  15. Danielle Letina says

    Thank you so much for this! Sometimes you know something but it takes someone else saying it.
    I’ve lost more than 60 lbs, but its coming back and I know why now. It is just as wonderful to read the comments, knowing I’m not the only one going through this. I’m going to divorce food! Thank you so much for the inspiration.

  16. Jenna says

    One more thing…I lost 50 and noticed myself feeling guilty around overweight women. Of course, after years of trying and strugglingI finally got it together and did it. But I kept thinking, “why am I able to to this and not them…I want them to do it too”. i know how much they are struggling and I got through it an am no longer in that place….made me feel bad, bad, bad for a long time.

  17. lee says

    I NEED TO PRINT THIS ASAP! Thank you for this insightful article that was screaming my name. I cannot throw away my scale right now but I can say I went from weighing daily to just the other day after a month! That’s progress. I felt free and happier. The scale was up a few pounds but I knew I had kicked up the weights, muscles are dehydrated and I’ve had a bit more sodium than usual. You hit the nail on the head – Everyday I am trying to figure out who I am. I think about the fridge and then I go for runs and midway I break down in tears. I stop crying and all is better.

  18. Luke Rappaport says

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  19. Jeanne says

    Love this! I’ve been slowly (very slowly) losing 140 lb’s I’ve gained over about 15 years. I’m done about 30 so far. I would love to throw away my scale, but I am using it to track my progress. However, I have quit being a slave to it and pay more attention to how my body feels and how my clothes fit. This had made a huge difference to me, so while my scale may only show a 1 lb loss – I can feel my pants looser or that I’m healthier b/c I can climb the stairs without breathing heavy. Overall fitness and health are my goals now, not just a number on my scale anymore.

  20. Lucy Perry says

    I thought this article was a fantastic read, especially #5, once I stomached the value you put on what a woman looks like in a gym. “Just do cardio, and you’re on your way to skinny-fat. I see plenty of women who just do cardio, and they look alright in street clothes, but when they come into the spin room, they’re just as jiggly as someone who could stand to lose a few.” Wow…as a person who lost 85 pounds, IMO you of all people should realize that for some people, it’s a battle to commit to eating whole foods on a daily basis, let alone dealing with the stress of whether you meet someone else’s expectation of how you should look in a gym. That’s the reason so many of us won’t set foot in a place that could do us so much good. And FBG! Just today you posted the following: “Comparing humans is like comparing apples and oranges. Or watermelons and pineapples. We’re all wonderful and delicious and come in all shapes and sizes!” My point: Who CARES if your skin jiggles so long as you’re healthy?!?!?!

  21. Heather says

    Wow! That is all I can say. This really helped me and opened my eyes.
    Thank you for writing this article. I just started back eating ‘right’. Well, counting calories…it’s a long story but it’s all I can do at the moment…so this is helping me on my journey. I have also decided NOT to mess with that satanic thing we call a scale! LOL! I have put too many hours into working out and busting my butt to get on something that can only tell me what the gravitational pull weight is just isn’t worth me beating myself up anymore. I will maybe get on it once a month…but I was like you, if I lost a pound I would go crazy and eat a whole pizza or pint of ice cream…then if I gained I would beat myself up and hate myself the rest of the week. It’s a vicious and terrible cycle.

  22. Jenn says

    Good for you, Heather! :) There’s more to life than calorie counting. Do what works for you and what makes you feel good — all with a lot of self love! Woot!

    —FBG Jenn

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