Why do women want to lose weight? If you paid attention to lifestyle magazines (think beauty and fashion), you might be convinced that we all want to do it for the same reason — to look like paper thin mostly Caucasian adolescent models or under 30 celebrities. The assumption is that there’s only one beauty ideal.
Forget subjectivity, culture (yes, in mine, the curvier you are the better, which had me wishing for a bigger derrière and hips as a teen and doing all kinds of crazy but that’s a story for another day) or any other reason that might be just a Google search away. Maybe it’s just ignorance or pure laziness on their part. Whatever it may be, we find comfort in knowing that it simply isn’t true and feel an obligation to dispel the myth.
So go ahead, ask yourself today, why do you want to lose weight? Better yet, what’s YOUR ideal weight – not what others want or tell you it should be, but what you’re most comfortable with? You might fall into one or more of these categories:
- Vanity – you just want to look good or to get your body beach ready for the summer so you can finally wear that cute or sexy swimsuit you bought for yourself (hey, do you, no shaming here!)
- Special occasion – you have an upcoming event (wedding, reunion, graduation, birthday, anniversary, etc.) – yours, a friend’s or family member’s – and you want to look gorgeous during the event
- Life changing event – you want to shed the baby weight
- Health – your doctor advises you to lose weight or you just decide you want to do it on your own
- Save money – you can’t afford or simply don’t want to replace your wardrobe
- Be happy – you want to feel good about yourself
Whatever category/s you fall into, the key takeaway is that you’ve discovered your motivation to help you accomplish your weight loss goal. Basically, you’ve conquered your biggest hurdle and you’re off to a good start.
Today, I fall into the health and save money categories but 5 years ago when I made the decision to achieve my ideal weight, it was for (1) vanity (I wanted to look good based on my own standards), (2) life-changing event (needed to shed baby weight), and (3) saving money (I had invested way too much in my closet to replace the whole damn thing! Besides I like my clothes, which are mostly classics.)
Surprisingly, losing the weight and maintaining it was not as challenging as I had anticipated. It required:
- Discipline – just like everything else in life, you can’t have anything and everything you want
- Common Sense – just ask yourself, can you really go back to your adolescent or early adulthood weight? Do you even want to? Does it make sense to give up bread or your favorite dessert completely? Since childhood, I was accustomed to having buttered bread with strawberry jam as a snack for afternoon tea, a habit that I have continued into adulthood. It’s virtually impossible to get me to give it up. It’s too nostalgic and frankly too delicious to forfeit.
- Compassion – be sympathetic to yourself and give yourself the tools you need to be successful
- Humor – it’s not that serious! So go ahead, laugh at yourself!
- Creativity – change it up! There are many ways to get to your goal. Discover the things that excite you the most and stick to them!
- Adaptability – hey, life happens, work with it. As you get older, your life gets more and more hectic. Spontaneity goes out of the window, especially when kids come along and spare time is non-existent. It’s easy to throw your hands up and give up. If you’re used to going to the gym and cannot anymore, bring it to yourself. And no, it doesn’t require lots of money. I invested in a treadmill – you can pick one up for less than $100 bucks, some dumbbells for less than $20, Yoga Matt for less than $10, free and low priced (between $2 to $4) Yoga apps, free Yoga videos, dance classes for the price of a couple cups of coffee or beers, and planks anywhere (work, home, beach), and walking or hiking in your neighborhood or picturesque locations in your vicinity (you’d be surprised how many you have yet to discover!.)
- Forgiveness – don’t be too hard on yourself. Unless you’re doing it because of a life-threatening situation, let it go! The less you beat yourself up for falling off the wagon, the more likely you are to get back on track.
I set out to get to my ideal weight within a year by losing 7 pounds. I ended up shedding 14 pounds without ever going on a single diet program!
Here’s how I accomplished my goal and maintained it for the past 5 years and how you can do it too:
1. Listen to your body
Your body is constantly communicating to you how it feels. Whether it’s hungry, exhausted, neglected, or overworked, you’ll know it if you’re willing to listen to it, acknowledge it, and fix it. I try to give my body what it needs at the moment. I make sure never to miss any meal, especially, breakfast. I typically have 3 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and a mid-morning and late afternoon snack.
This keeps my blood sugar level high making it harder for me to munch on unhealthy food. I pack my own breakfast, lunch, and snacks when I’m out of the house. I know, seems like much but all you need are grab and go foods, such as crackers, pretzels, fruits, nuts (love cashews) for snacks, and boxed salad, leftovers, homemade sandwiches, or even a healthy TV dinner for lunch, plus yogurt, bagel, cereal, fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Oh, and I treat myself to a waffles breakfast every Friday! We even refer to this glorious day as “waffle Friday!” It’s a simple but lovely treat to look forward to.
If I feel exhausted, I try as much as possible to get some rest (I struggle with this one because of FOMO – feel like I’m missing out on something if I nap during the day. It’s a work in progress.). Finally, I avoid the feeling of neglect by doing yoga and strength training twice a week (in my house), walking on my treadmill once or twice a week, taking a couple of dance classes every other week (used to be once a week but my schedule doesn’t allow it anymore), and a hike at least once a month.
2. Take a mental note of your caloric intake
Who has time to literally count their calories or weigh their food? We know that on average, we’re allowed a certain amount of calories a day to lose or maintain our weight. With that knowledge, I make a mental note of the number of calories in the food I consume for each meal or snack during the day. For instance, If I have oatmeal in the morning, I know that it’s roughly 100 calories per serving (you can look at the packaging if not sure).
This means that if I’m allowing myself 1,800 calories a day, I have 1,700 more to go, which is quite exciting! Since I love and enjoy food, that means I can have 600 – 700 calories for my mid-morning snack and lunch, and have the remaining 1,000 calories allocated to my afternoon snack and dinner.
3. Beware of those portion sizes!
Portion control is by far my most effective method because it’s easy to do. For instance, I was accustomed to eating 3 pieces of chicken and 2 scoops of rice or a couple of my favorite chocolate covered cookies at tea time. To reduce the portions, I simply reduced it to 2 pieces of chicken and I scoop of rice and 1 cookie. The best tip I can give you today is to use a smaller plate when you serve your lunch or dinner. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you get used to the smaller portions.
4. Monitor your frequency of eating red meat and sweets
I love me some steak and lamb chops and I’m not about to give them up anytime soon. But I’m also aware that too much of it is bad for me so I regulate my intake. I allow myself to indulge in red meat no more than 2 times per week and sweets once a week. I’m not giving up my occasional cheesecake or chocolate cookie with chai anytime soon either! 🙂
5. Eat like a baby
I can’t take credit for this tip because it came from my sister. A few years back I hadn’t seen her for a couple of months. When she came to visit, I noticed that she had lost a tremendous amount of weight. I asked her how and she answered: “I eat like a baby!” Yikes! Did this mean that I needed to start eating mushy and sometimes very bland stuff? Well, not exactly. Her philosophy was that she doesn’t do anything that she wouldn’t do to a baby. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Would you feed a baby too much sugar or red meat? Would you give your baby fried food? Would you allow your baby to drink soda? Would you keep your baby away from water? Would you deny your baby the nutrients she needs to thrive (vitamins, carbs, proteins, fiber, healthy fat, etc.)? If you answered no to all these questions then you understand why it’s effective. Anytime you find yourself going for something that you know isn’t good for you, ask yourself, would you feed it to a baby? It works!
This one’s a no brainer. You’ve got to keep your body moving to burn those calories. Find the things that you enjoy doing the most. Make it interesting for yourself so you don’t get bored and give up. I do yoga, dance, walking, and hiking. If you’re a foodie like me, make exercise your best friend. It allows you to eat your favorite food with the knowledge that you will burn the calories later.
7. Don’t beat yourself up when you stray
We all fall off the wagon so give yourself a break. Who cares if you didn’t adhere to your portion size, ate more sweets than you should have or even missed your exercise routine? You’re not obliged to do these things. It’s your choice. So let it go and start up again tomorrow. It’s just not that serious!
8. Have cheat days
These are my favorite! Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all bets are off. I allow myself to indulge in whatever my heart desires then I return to my disciplined self on Monday through Thursday! It’s delightful! 🙂
9. Reward yourself
10. Never weigh yourself
Your clothes don’t lie! Why weigh yourself when you have a whole closet filled with clothes that tell you whether you’ve gained or lost weight? It’s much more motivating to strive to fit into your favorite pair of jeans than to step on a scale every morning or evening. Oh, and only do it periodically. Be realistic. You’re not going to shed the weight overnight…and you shouldn’t.
11. Don’t conform to anyone else’s ideal
It’s your body and only you know what you want! Ignore the noise from magazines, TV, and digital media. There’s no room or need to compare yourself to anyone else. Do you!
Achieving your ideal weight and maintaining it doesn’t have to be daunting, unpleasant, and boring. With discipline, common sense, flexibility, compassion (towards oneself), humor, and creativity, plus our 11 simple tips above, it’s easy, attainable, and most importantly, sustainable. Your success depends not on short term diet programs but on whether you can make your weight loss and maintenance goals part of your lifestyle.
Your turn gapmusers, how did you go about reaching your ideal weight and sustaining it? Share with our readers today so they too can achieve it.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and adventurous Summer!