Losing Weight and Taking Control of Your Life
I lost 60 pounds in about a year and I’ve kept it off for 2 years. People tend to ask me “how?” I never thought I’d be the type to write about losing weight, but I also used to think I’d be obese my entire life. The film Dodgeball perfectly sums up what I think most of us are looking for when Peter La Fleur says:
“I’m here to tell you, you’re perfect just the way you are. But if you feel like losing a few pounds, gettin’ healthier, and making some good friends in the process…”
I, by no means, am a miracle in weight loss or a pinnacle of fitness. I don’t run 100-mile marathons or climb rock walls. Hell, I don’t even go to a gym. I’m too busy between my family, work, and hobbies. I’m probably a lot like most of you. I want to have a healthy diet, but don’t want to eat lentils and kale for every meal. I feel the draw to exercise, but don’t have a lot of time I’m willing to sacrifice to become an Olympian.
But do we really feel like we’re perfect the way we are? How many of us get out of the shower and are completely disgusted by what we see? I did. Shit, I still do sometimes. We see a flabby, unchiseled mass of dough covered in skin. Even while progressives march toward a “body positive” culture, we all still struggle with our weight and the terribly critical eye of self-perception. Depression is correlated to obesity. Or is it that obesity is correlated with depression?
These statistics resonate with me. The heavier I was, the more depressed I felt. Whether there is correlation, causation, or its complete bullshit, it feels like they are related for me.
My story starts in Iceland and Norway
Weight has always been a struggle for me. My family ate sugars, fats, fast food, TV dinners, and processed foods all the time. I was born to young parents who didn’t have money. We were on welfare for a lot of my childhood, so we ate what poor people eat: garbage. That sugary and salt-loving food pallet stuck with me. When my family added wealth to the equation, quantity of food changed, but not quality.
Three years ago, I went to Iceland and Norway. It was my first time outside of North America. I looked around and noticed I was the largest person everywhere I went. My first thought was: these rich ass Europeans eat better and don’t work as much so they have time to exercise. That could have been the case until I experienced the proportions, which were 1/3 the size of stuff you find in America. 1/3! This stuck with me. My paradigm about weight and habit shifted. How was my lifestyle so different than these beautiful Vikings? After a little research, I found a few differences:
- Processed sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are used too much in American foods. See the chart below.
- They walk a lot more and sit in cars less. American cities were built for cars.
- Portions are huge in America. Like really, really huge.
Well duh. Most of us probably know this. Seeing it firsthand inspired me to think about my body and habit differently. A few months later, my wife and I had a daughter, which was the last bit of motivation for me to fashion a healthier life. I didn’t want her to inherit my eating habits.
How I lost weight
- Frame everything as a step function. I think people are told they can just start exercising, eating healthy, and controlling their portions all at the same time. The film critic Devin Faraci wrote a post about losing weight that helped me: “ If I had made myself dive into a big exercise regime when I started dieting I would have failed — it was too much change. I needed to make changes in steps.” I took it slow. I made a soft weight goal of 210. I was at 270.
- Come to terms with the fact that sugar is the fucking devil. For real. If you didn’t know this, go do some research. I took it seriously and cut most sweets out. I got rid of any snacks with excessive amounts of sugar. Now, I probably eat a dessert once a month (if that). At first, it was hard. My extinction burst tried seducing me to down candy at work and scoop raw sugar out of the pantry into my salivating mouth. I still get strong urges because candy is everywhere, but I do my best to give them the finger.
- Forced walking into my routine. I am among the lucky few Americans next to good public transit, which presented me with the opportunity to walk more. Instead of walking to the station next to my house, I chose to wander to further stations where I catch the train. This took more time, but I love music and developed a love for audiobooks, so I was able to enrich my life beyond just getting exercise. Soon I found my body wanting more activity, so I started doing pushups and running. Now, I walk everywhere that I can. I skip the car or train if it’s reasonable.
- A salad a day keeps the fat away. This one was simple. I would try to make either my dinner or lunch a salad. Salads are cheap to make at home and to bring to work. If you are in an urban area, find some overpriced and trendy salad place and explore their menu.
- You will relapse and gain again. For me, vacations killed me. I went to Arizona and had way too many tacos. Then months later, I went to Texas and had even more tacos. Upon returning home it would take a week or two to get back into the swing of things. Just don’t give up. You worked hard to build this “new” you. Don’t throw it away.
- You aren’t dieting. You aren’t cleansing. You aren’t getting a beach body. You are becoming a healthier person that has better habits. You will fail if you catch a fad or a new “diet,” because those things aren’t changing how you live in this world. Those things are tricking you into doing something unsustainable to your body for a quick win. Health is a longterm investment, not one with short gains.
- Try to stop hating yourself and blaming others. Once you can stop hating yourself, you can also stop the blame game. You know this game. It’s the one where you blame your eating on genetics, your significant other, or circumstances “outside of your control.” When you finally get past the blame and self-hate, you’ll start to take responsibility for your habits and hopefully change them. I know for some of us hating ourselves is in our DNA. I still struggle with it, but losing weight is the one good thing most of us have control over. Taking control of your body set you on a path where you feel like you can take over the rest of your life.
Results? I lost 60 pounds and am happier about myself. I love it when people tell me I look good. I dress ways I never would have in the past. That said, I’m not done. I want to keep building better habits. I still have a hard time with portion control or listening to my body when it is full. That’s my next step. What’s your next step?
If you dug this story, press the ❤ button and share with anyone struggling to take control of their weight and eating habits. You can also hangout with me on twitter, @nlsayers or follow me here.