Even at my heaviest, I never thought I looked overweight. I still pictured myself as a teenager with broad shoulders and a great jaw line. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
I have been obese since I began college. Most people gain the infamous "Freshman 15," but I think I gained the "Freshman 40." In fact, between the ages of 18 and 27, I think I gained almost 90 pounds.
I loved food. Eating made me happy in so many ways—the texture of the food, the satisfaction of being full and, of course, the flavor. If a plate of brownies was set before me, I shamelessly ate every last crumb. Give me a pie, and before the day was over, it was gone. Pizza? Hope you ordered your own because I alone could eat an entire one…effortlessly.
It wasn't until my body began shouting for help that I realized I had to do something about my weight. I was 27, yet I developed the problems of an unhealthy 55-year-old man. I was pre-diabetic and nearly hypertensive. I had both a high heart rate and high cholesterol, and I began experiencing sleep apnea. I realized that if I continued to gain weight, my health would be in serious trouble. I didn't have much of a goal in mind, and I just thought I'd try to get healthy. I wanted to see my jaw-line again. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to lose weight.
My biggest challenge was cutting back the amount of unhealthy food I ate. Instead of eating excessively until I was uncomfortable, I began focusing on a few small meals and snacks until I was satisfied. Calorie counting and portion control were key. I looked at an item's calorie count, noted the portion size and then determined if eating the item was worth the calories involved.
Best of all, I got cooking! I realized that opening a can of this and adding a jar of that doesn't constitute cooking…and those convenience products can pack on calories quickly. By staying away from processed foods, I instantly felt healthier.
Once I got the cooking bug, I quickly learned how to double, and sometimes even triple, recipes. This way I had plenty of leftovers, ensuring I'd eat right throughout the week.
I also began exercising. Since an expensive gym membership didn't fit my budget, I found ways to exercise for free. I ran outdoors and took advantage of a weight set collecting dust in my basement. I also followed an exercise DVD.
By changing my habits and staying consistent, I began losing weight. When I lost 80 pounds, and saw how close I was to reaching the 100-pound mark, I found the motivation to keep going. Like everyone trying to lose weight, however, I eventually reached a plateau.
While it's a very discouraging feeling, I realized that I had to push through the plateau in order to start losing again. The best way I found to deal with the situation was to change my exercise habits and even my diet. I gave my metabolism a run for its money with a good offensive game plan.
I thought of this as a competition. If my opposing team, my metabolism, caught on to my tricks and tactics, I simply changed my strategy a little. I mixed up my workouts; I ate breakfast earlier or lunch later. I was surprised how well this worked!
I also allowed myself the chance to occasionally eat the foods I craved. When I convinced myself that I could no longer eat cookies, for instance, I ended up telling myself that I just "had to have those cookies one last time." I constantly found myself having a "one-last-time" experience.
Now I tell myself that I will, indeed, have those cookies…just not today, just not right now. I know that if I watch the calories I take in, then I'll be able to enjoy a cookie or two another day. Or, better yet, I can try to find a low-calorie recipe for those same cookies and work them into my menu plan. I'm able to enjoy my favorite comfort foods as long as I eat them in moderation, take portion size into consideration and account for their calories.
By pushing myself and making changes to the way I ate, I far surpassed my goal, changing my life for the better! I lost a total of 110 pounds, and I went from a size 40 waist to a size 30. Best of all, that jaw line I missed so much? It's back for good, and I couldn't be happier.
3 Ways to Make a World of Difference
- Shop locally. I purchase my meat from local butchers who don't use growth hormones, and I shop at public and farmers markets. I even go so far as to visit independent coffee shops and restaurants. These establishments are special because of the owner's capability to use fresh, organic and local foods. It is such a refreshing feeling to know where the flavor and the foundation of your cuisine stems from.
- Drink up! Make water your new beverage of choice. Not only does drinking plenty of water help fill you up, but you'll be amazed at how it helps your skin, too. I've always had acne problems, and those issues decreased substantially once I started drinking more water. Best of all, water is an easy, healthy and economical choice.
- Go lean. Health-conscious people tend to avoid meat as a protein source. While fat and cholesterol play a part in meat proteins, remember that meats aren't bad for you in moderation…and you need the protein. It's essential to think smart when choosing proteins. Fresh tuna, for instance, is a great way to work lean protein into your diet.
More Ways to Lose
Make grocery shopping therapeutic.
Now that I cook healthier, I love to go to public markets and high-end grocery stores. I take my time and check out the fresh produce. I research new ways to cook with the foods I purchase, and thoroughly enjoy the overall process.
Count, count, count!
You may be surprised at what you find when you count calories. I recently bought a can of flavored almonds, for instance. The label noted 170 calories per serving, but the serving size was 30 almonds! I thought that was a great a deal! I actually have the calorie counts of many foods memorized.
Enjoy morning morsels.
If you have a desk job like I do, you don't need a great, big breakfast. Eggs and toast…a piece of fruit and yogurt…a granola bar and cup of cottage cheese make great morning meals. It's important to get your metabolism going early in your day, but it doesn't take much. This can be a challenge for me because I'm simply not hungry on most mornings. That's why I bring something to work with me and eat it when I finally do get hungry.