I never thought I’d be an after photo.
You know the ones I’m talking about—they’re probably invading your newsfeed and TV screen right about now, each one touting a different diet or workout routine that promises life-changing results that’ll get you “the body you’ve always dreamed of” for your “best year yet.” Just ask Susie from Wisconsin, who lost 50 pounds eating naked in front of her mirror for five months straight!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried them all—sans eating all my meals in the nude while looking my reflection in the eye. In college, it was Weight Watchers, which I chased with some weird diet powder that was supposed to curb my appetite. Post-college it was the Metabolism Reset Diet, which eliminated all carbs (even the ones found in fruit) for three months, then tabled off as a “low-carb lifestyle” diet. There was the 500-calorie diet I did a week before my cousin’s wedding, which left me on the brink of passing out during a yoga class (but damn did I look good in those wedding photos).
To be fair, I saw some success with each of these methods, and was even able to keep the weight off for a few months at a time here and there. But then something would derail me. The warm weather would set in and my calendar would suddenly be packed with outdoor happy hours, and my low-carb diet and plans with the gym would get drowned out by margaritas. Or I’d just get tired of counting calories and give into my old eating habits, swearing I’d do better next week but never following through. For me, every new year would mark a new opportunity to do something about the weight that I put on so easily but could never manage to get back off. But this year, I’m not looking at other people’s before and afters and making empty promises with myself to pick a new diet or exercise plan. Because I actually kept my weight loss resolution for 2016. Like a goddamn unicorn.
How I Did It
Having tried pretty much every other diet out there, I decided to do the Whole30 with a friend last January. If you’re not familiar with the premise, you spend 30 days eating extremely clean while also eliminating food groups that tend to cause digestive issues such as dairy, legumes and grains. That leaves you with fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. I’m not going to lie to you, it was fucking hard (and you can read all the gritty details here). This diet tested every ounce of my willpower, and it is not made for the Regina Georges out there who really want to lose three pounds. This is the diet you do when you’re so desperate to feel better that you’ll sit through a company dinner and savor your salad leaves instead of ordering the most decadent meal on the menu, or forego drinking on your birthday. Whether you’re at that level, somewhere in between, or just trying to lose those last five pounds (bitch), there are a few things I’ve learned from actually keeping this weight off that I believe will help anyone be successful—regardless of your weight loss goal.
Step 1: Learn How To Cook Healthy Food That You Actually Enjoy Eating
Do you really like that plate of steamed spinach you’re force-feeding yourself in the name of eating healthier? Is your mouth watering over the sad salad you brought for lunch that consists of like, three vegetables and leaves you feeling hungry an hour later? Don’t eat food you don’t like because it’s “healthy.” Yes, everything that I made during my time on Whole30 was healthy and fit within the diet’s guidelines. But that shit was also delicious, and by the end of my 30 days on the plan I had a whole document full of recipes that I never got around to trying out but still wanted to, which motivated me to keep eating this way. People: We’re cooking and eating in the age of the Internet, which means there are literally hundreds of thousands of recipes out there that are healthy and also taste good. In the time it took you to read that last sentence, a hundred new recipes were invented by food bloggers who are trying to make money off their kitschy healthy eating sites powered by SquareSpace. There’s no reason to be chomping down on romaine leaves on the regular when you can be treating yourself to a healthy version of wing night with all of the flavor and none of the regret. Bottom line: If you don’t learn how to make food that is healthy and good for you that you are also really and truly excited to be eating, you’re not going to be successful at this whole weight loss thing in the long term. So start pinning those recipes, stock up your spice rack, buy yourself a cute apron and get cooking.
Step 2: Find A Workout That You Don’t Dread Going To
Sure, January marks the start of a new year, providing the opportunity to make new resolutions. But real talk, the dead of winter is really not conducive to starting a workout routine. It’s fucking freezing out, and the urge to hibernate is so strong that going anywhere you’re not technically required to is pretty much unfathomable—unless it’s something that you really want to do. Which means that in order to start and actually stick to a workout routine, it needs to be something you enjoy doing. There’s nothing that inspires less love from me than a gym full of equipment I have no desire to use. Yet each year I’d join a new one in hopes that the proximity or price point or even the training package that the membership came with would spark a new flame between the elliptical and I. But no dice. Throughout this past year I’ve worked out using ClassPass, a class-based workout membership that gives me access to a ton of classes in my area across cardio, strength training, dancing and even boxing workouts (my new fave). If gyms aren’t your thing, stop trying to force a relationship with them. Figure out an alternate method for getting the exercise you need in order to meet your goals. Back to weight loss in the time of the Internet—if you don’t want to leave your house during winter but you still want to work out, that’s a completely plausible thing to achieve. There are so many workout tutorials available online designed to be done at home, some of which are completely free, and the only equipment needed is your own body weight. Don’t be afraid to date around before you settle on a workout plan, either. I’d put money on there being a ton of free trials offered throughout the month of January at fitness studios and gyms in your neighborhood, so use them to your advantage until you find something you really like.
Step 3: Identify Your Problem Foods
Whether you do this by partaking in an elimination diet like I did, get yourself tested for food allergies, or seek out a nutritionist to help you build a plan of action, figure out what foods or food groups (if any) are negatively impacting your digestive system and overall body function. One big reason why I was successful at losing and keeping the weight off this time around was that I went on a diet that forced me to confront how certain foods affect me. Prior to Whole30 I had never cut dairy out of my diet for an extended period of time—a day without cheese was a day wasted in my book. But I had no idea that consuming it regularly was not only wreaking havoc on my digestive system, it was also the culprit of my chronic allergies. I’ve had a standing agreement with any co-worker I’ve ever sat next to that one “bless you” per day was sufficient — because sneezing somewhere between 20-30 times during an 8-hour day was just my normal. Cut to two weeks into Whole30, and I was going entire days without grabbing for a tissue. The sight of a well-constructed cheese plate still gets me weak in the knees, and occasionally I’ll give in to temptation. But since I know that doing so means I’m going to be feeling the wrath hours later, I make sure that I’m choosing the exceptions that I make wisely.
Step 4: Find A Friend Who’s On The Same Weight Loss Path As You Are
We all have that one friend who can eat whatever the hell she wants and not gain a pound. Find the opposite of that friend. Someone who’s riding the same weight loss struggle bus as you are who can act as a support system during this whole process, who can keep your ass in check and make you accountable for what you’re putting in your pie hole. If you think it sounds sad that I’m suggesting you need a babysitter in order to lose weight, refer to my before and after photos and shut your mouth. In addition to doing the Whole30 with one of my best friends who had similar goals in mind, we also joined a Facebook group full of women who were on it as well. I’m talking incredible women who were working 12-hour shifts as an EMT, breastfeeding a newborn, and still mealprepping on a Sunday. Find a person or group who will deliver that type of reality check when you feel like everything is awful because you have to pass on the Munchkins during your Monday morning meeting.
Step 5: Eat Like A Person Who’s Already Healthy
I don’t mean developing a forced affinity for kale or tofu. By the end of my Whole30, I truly felt like someone who was healthy and fit—despite having more weight to lose in order to reach my goal. But this newly acquired attitude of existing as someone who was already making the right choices and in good shape changed my whole outlook around my decisions regarding food. Suddenly a menu wasn’t a list of things I shouldn’t or couldn’t have. It was just a list of options, and if I did decide to order something fattening or carb-y out at dinner with friends I could do so, because the majority of my week had consisted of healthy meals and workouts. Since I was already a healthy person, eating something bad wasn’t going to derail me. It was just a detour that I decided to make after weighing all the options on the menu.
As for this year? For the first time in my adult life, my resolution has nothing to do with my weight—but it does have to do with feeding myself. I’m a pretty solid cook, but this year my goal is to get even better at coming up with recipes that taste delicious and don’t call for a ton of crap that’s bad for you. Who knows, you may even see me running the food blogger rat race in 2017. “Plates By Page” kind of has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
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