Well everyone, I did it! I lost 40 pounds in six months and met my HealthyWage deadline in the nick of time!
I feel wonderful! But I have to admit, those last two weeks were a real struggle, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I still have a ways to go, too. But when I look at those two photos side by side, I feel incredibly accomplished and proud.
Everyone’s support has been invaluable! I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement, positive reinforcement, and all around great energy. It took a village, and I could not have done this without you. THANK YOU.
I’ve been told many times since I posted my victory photo that I am inspiring. That is an incredible thing to hear, and something I do not take lightly. I know better than anyone how difficult substantial weight loss can be. And many people have since emailed me with one question, often written exactly like this:
Like so many others struggling with their weight, I truly feel that I have tried everything. So it’s no surprise to me that people think I may have some secret method they haven’t tried before. The fact is that I don’t. I have been writing about my weight loss journey here for some time now. But it is true that I have had great success with specific tools. So I evaluated all that I’ve done and all that has helped me over the past several months so I could tell you how I lost 40 pounds in six months.
10 Things I Attribute Most to My Weight Loss
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
I know it may be risky to start with this, but please don’t stop reading. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has changed everything for me, and so deserves the top spot on my list. In the simplest terms, CBT is a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns. It may sound technical, but it’s not. CBT helped me to identify and understand the destructive thought patterns I was literally trapped in, especially when it came to food and ideas around my body and weight. Read my post Cognitive Therapy for Weight Loss for more information and to see this process at work.
I am absolutely convinced now that true, lasting weight loss must start in the brain. How can we possibly repair our bodies without repairing our thought patterns and habits first?
2. Competition: Fitbit Workweek Hustles
I am a competitive person. Knowing this about myself, I use it to my advantage. I love my Fitbit and diligently track my steps. The first week of January my friend, the talented writer, Glenn Walker invited me to a weekly Fitbit challenge called a Workweek Hustle where up to ten challengers compete for bragging rights. One week of friendly competition turned into six full months! Every week (and many weekends in the Weekend Warrior) a group of Fitbit “friends” compete for a virtual trophy, monitor each other’s progress, and talk a little smack. It has kept me active and getting more than my fair share of daily steps.
Many thanks to my friendly Fitbit community!
3. HealthyWage (Financial incentives)
Last December I made a bet with HealthyWage in order to utilize the power of financial incentives. I honestly don’t think I would have hit that forty pound goal if it weren’t for the $1,548 prize pot at stake. Check out my post Betting on Myself with a Drastic HealthyWager for more details on HealthyWage.
4. Meticulous meal planning and preparation
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Without my meal plan, I am a sailor at sea without a map. And so every weekend I take the time to meticulously meal plan for the week ahead, including breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It keeps me organized, minimizes stress around food, and prevents unplanned and last minute calls for takeout. (As an added bonus, meal planning also saves us money and prevents food waste. A meal plan makes creating a grocery list a breeze. No more guesswork or buying anything that goes unused.)
5. The support of friends and family
You know those days when you’re really being good and eating well, and then your husband suggests pizza and mozzarella sticks for dinner? Or a girlfriend calls you up and invites you out for wine and nachos?
Me, too… but not these past few months. That’s because my husband, Mike, family and friends have been incredibly supportive and mindful of my goal and desire to eat healthy. Incredibly so!
For example, a few weeks ago I was shredding cauliflower for a cauliflower crust pizza, when Mike said he was going to order his own pizza. I burst into tears. No, it was not an appropriate response, and not fair to Mike, but I couldn’t help it (like I said, weight loss is an emotional journey, too.) I was instantly terrified and didn’t know how I would resist the temptation of his delicious white flour crust pizza next to my cauliflower one.
“Okay, okay,” he said. “I don’t want to eat that though,” he said pointing at the mountain of cauliflower “snow.” “What if I order a wrap? Will that be better for you?” It was, and he did.
When Philadelphia Restaurant Week came around this past winter, Kathy declined my invitation to our traditional lunch.
“You know,” she wrote, “I have given this a lot of thought, even before your fitness/weight loss challenge. And I am going to decline. I will though, include a challenge: let’s look at the menus and see if we can recreate, with healthy/light ingredients some of our favorite dishes. We can recreate restaurant week, and still meet our fitness goals.”
I was so surprised, and then disappointed. Restaurant Week only comes twice a year! I expressed my disappointment, but reluctantly agreed. As usual, she responded with greater wisdom:
“This is where we compare and prioritize what we really want; and make the grown-up choices of how to choose the path that gets us to where we REALLY want to end up in the long term. Is it going to be disappointing along the way as we have to say goodbye to choices we otherwise would have made? Hell yes, darling. That is the pain of being human. I do know though, that God does reward us tenfold; we just never can see it until later. Proud of you!!”
See what I mean about support!?! I consider myself extremely fortunate.
And those are only two of hundreds of examples. It’s my Mom baking me sweet potatoes instead of white; friends running restaurants past me when making plans; my friend, Suzanne picking a place for happy hour that has awesome custom salads; Mike eating what I eat (99% of the time); people giving me the space and time to make good decisions, non-judgement, compassion…
I could NOT have done this without that support and patience and LOVE. Every single one of the most important people in my life wanted me to succeed. And they all did their part to help make it happen.
I wish I could name everyone who was supportive of this challenge personally, but there are far too many of you. Please know that I noticed, and that I appreciate you.
6. No junk food in the house
I could convince myself all day I’ve learned enough and am now strong enough to keep “treats” in the house. Maybe I am, but I see no reason to test myself. All I’d be doing is tempting myself. And decision fatigue happens. Shitty days happen. And it’s best that I don’t have something to reach for in those moments of weakness.
And so I don’t keep junk food in the house. It’s that simple.
7. The adoption of a simple philosophy: “Eat real food, mostly vegetables, not too much.”
Author and activist Michael Pollan wrote that. I have finally succeeded in being turned off by artificial (toxic) foods, flavors, and colorings. If it was made in a plant and has more than ten ingredients, many of which I can’t pronounce, I DON’T EVEN WANT IT. That includes you, Doritos. There are healthier alternatives. Organic non-gmo popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast; salt and vinegar potato chips made with only four ingredients, including healthier oil; real ice cream made with real cream… Our food has gotten so far from actual food that it literally turns my stomach. I don’t want it anymore. I’ll take the real food, thank you.
And so that is precisely how and what I eat: real food, mostly vegetables, not too much.
I love to cook, fortunately. I admit that certainly gives me a slight advantage. Our meals consist of real food every day, and yes, lunch and dinner is mostly vegetables. I am also mindful of portion sizes after years of weighing, measuring, and counting calories (which I no longer feel the need to do.) Something I learned the French say has also helped prevent me from eating too much. They don’t use “hungry” and “full” the way we do here in the states, as if there are two only options. They use “hungry” and “without hunger.” That stuck with me. And so now I always try never to eat until I am full and uncomfortable. I eat until I am without hunger.
I gave up calorie counting several years ago after years of dutifully doing it and seeing no results. I concluded it doesn’t work for me long term and causes me stress. If it works for you, then cool, keep doing it. What does work for me, however, is food journaling. I write down everything I eat every day, as well as my exercise, and I assign myself a grade from A+ through F based on a personal rubric I designed. I calculate an average GPA at the end of every month. (Data nerd, remember?) As you may imagine, this recovering perfectionist strives for A’s and B’s.
Call this the accountability factor. If I eat it, I write it down. And I don’t want some late night binge dragging down my entire GPA.
9. Daily weigh-ins
I weigh myself every single day. And I recently wrote a post 7 Reasons Why I Weigh Myself Every Day, so I will direct you to that for more on why this has been so beneficial.
It has pained me to give up yoga these past few weeks as I cut my calories so much during crunch time that I didn’t have the strength for class. Now that I have taken the weekend to rest and eat and regain my strength, I am eager to get back to yoga.
Yoga has taught me so much about my body, its limits, and its capabilities. Yoga has helped me feel strong and empowered. Next to walking, it is my favorite form of exercise. Probably because it is so much more than exercise. It is an experience of body, mind and spirit. I enjoy seeing how far my body has come, and what it can now do that it recently could not.
So there you have it. That’s in large part how I lost 40 pounds in six months. My advice: keep trying tips, methods, programs, and tricks until you discover what works for YOU. Tell people your goals so that they can support you in them. We’re all different and motivated by different things. If I learned anything at all, it’s that all journeys must go through a process. We must discover what doesn’t work for us in order to discover what does. Don’t stick with one program because people tell you it’s best if you’re not seeing results. Give yourself the freedom and flexibility to experiment!
After all, that’s what I did for years. And it eventually paid off. That’s how I lost 40 pounds in six months.