Image: Playin’ college basketball in 2006 – feeling FIT
This post was originally published as a guest feature on Greatist.com, the fastest growing site in health and lifestyle content, reaching more than 3 million visitors in just one year! Follow @jshakeshaft, the amazing fitness editor, who helped me with this post!
Long story short, I’m a fan of “plans.” It started in high school when I discovered Slim Fast and dropped 15 pounds. I gained that back in one summer. During college, I was captain of my women’s basketball team which kept the pounds under control. But when I entered the working world, I packed on plenty of extra “cushioning.” I tried Weight Watchers for about a month, but always skipped meetings and under counted my “points.” Then there was the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Lipodrene diet pills and the cayenne pepper/lemon juice cleanse (Beyoncé put me on to this one). I’d lose 5-10 pounds with each program only to gain it back in a few months. I had officially reached a point where I was failing at every weight loss system. I was a 5’8” 25-year-old who weighed 179 pounds and felt “less than stellar.” I had to get it together. I REFUSED to let another day of my 20’s go by without rockin’ short shorts, high heels and lots of swag! This is when I accepted my weight control Slip up #1: I tried to be perfect.
I have a super Type A (slightly neurotic) personality and get really pumped up about new a diet plan or workout regimen. But if I slip up even once, I beat myself up and eventually quit. Being mean to myself does not help me lose weight. So, I had to accept the reality that most “plans” aren’t doable for the long haul. This meant getting rid of my “all or nothing” weight loss mindset. Instead of feeling guilty for slipping up, I started keeping a mental note of what I ate and tried to match my food intake with equal calorie burn. For example, if I killed a burger and fries at lunch, that was cool. It just meant I’d have a small side salad for dinner followed by an extra 30 minutes of cardio. Simple, right? Not quite.
Despite having this revelation and starting to feel more balanced, I wasn’t losing as much weight as I wanted. What was the problem? After downing a bag of trail mix one afternoon, I realized Slip-up #2: I ate too much. Simply put, it goes like this:
- Choosing a healthy snack = a good look 🙂
- Eating five servings of a healthy snack = not a good look 🙁
The fact that I ate too much was the most difficult truth for me to accept because I actually ate healthy food! The problem was that I simply ate too much of it. So, it was really hard to burn more calories than I consumed, which is the only way to legitimately lose weight. You’ve heard it before, “eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.” Well, it’s true. I had to accept that portion control is just as, if not more, important than food choice.
On that same note, I discovered Slip-up #3: I overestimated my calorie burn. Since I work out regularly, Ialways figured I deserved a diet “buffer.” But, turns out our bodies don’t blast as many calories as we think. Calorie counters and heart rate monitors often over count calorie burn. This is because several factors like hydration, stress, diet, genetics and room temperature aren’t considered. The bottom line is this: The harder you work the more calories you burn. So, I started using the Talk Test to quickly and effectively measure my Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and indirectly measure my calorie burn. If I’m breathing really heavy (like “sucking air”) I know I’m torching calories because I’ve reached my anaerobic training zone. Now when I work out, I try reaching and staying in this calorie blasting zone to maximize the burn!
I’m not going to lie, after weeks of trying to eat less and move more, I was having some serious hunger pangs! Luckily, I found that simply drinking a glass of water did wonders for my cravings. Check this, most of the time we think we are “hungry” we are actually “thirsty” due to dehydration. Also dehydration makes us feel lethargic and we crave sugar and other simple carbs that make us fat. So there you have it, Slip-up #4: I didn’t drink enough water.
Now, I was on a roll! After a few months proactively addressing my weight control “slip-ups,” I was feeling good, slim, and energetic. So one day I decided to weigh myself. Up 6 pounds? WHAT?! How did that happen? Then I thought to myself, hmmmm… I had indulged in ice cream the night before and a little bacon at breakfast… and pizza on Friday night.
That’s when I clearly saw Slip up #5: I needed a reality check. After that random weigh-in, I started weighing myself every morning (yes EVERY day) and have done so for over 1 year now! This habit is controversial because body weight fluctuates for a variety of reasons (mostly due to hydration levels). However, the fact of the matter is that the numbers on the scale are your body weight at that time. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE (or at least it did for me)! Being mindful of my weight on a daily basis makes me think more deeply about what I am consuming, my digestion patterns, hydration levels, sweat output and calorie intake/burn. While my daily weigh-ins help keep my weight in line, my “heavy days” can be very discouraging. I have to constantly remind myself to keep the big picture in mind – my fitness, health and happiness, not just the numbers on the scale.
My slip-ups have taught me that weight management isn’t about the latest and greatest diet or workout plan; it’s about continuing on a lifelong journey of developing and strengthening healthy habits. There will always be good days and bad days, but success comes from balance. Now, at 27 years old, my weight ranges from 150-155 pounds. I’ve maintained this weight range for over a year without the use of any expensive weight loss plans or diet pills. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I feel authentic. Most importantly, I ALWAYS rock my short shorts, high heels and lots of SWAG!
What are some of the “craziest” weight loss plans/cleanses that you’ve tried?
Do you have any “slip-ups” to add to my 5?