I, like many American women, hate the emphasis our culture places on youth and thinness. Of course I do. And yet, in the past year-and-a-half, I've lost over 50 pounds. So how do I reconcile those two things?
Well, because technically, I'm still overweight. According to BMI measurements, I'd need to lose another 10 pounds to be considered a "normal" weight, and that would be at the very top of that "normal" scale. And that's kind of bullshit.
I chose to lose weight because my blood pressure was high, I was getting frequent migraines, and most importantly to me--and probably most shallowly--I couldn't wear the clothes I wanted to because hardly anyone makes cute clothes for fat chicks.
So, I decided to do something about it. But I chose to do it in a way I felt I could handle: Slowly. My goal wasn't to lose 20 pounds in a month. My goal was to lose one pound a week--at the most--until I got to a point I could live with.
Someone I knew had downloaded and successfully used an iPhone app called Lose It!, and since it was free, it sounded like a good way to go. Basically, it's like Weight Watchers, but without the Points system. You are given a daily calorie budget, and you log your foods and your exercise, and try to stay at or below your given daily budget. Since I'm an anal person who loves lists and keeping track of stuff, I took to it easily. It became like a daily game.
And the great thing is, when you start off at as high a weight as I was at, you're actually able eat a lot of food at the beginning. And that was the key thing to me: I didn't want to do anything where I had to cut out certain kinds of foods completely, because that's just not something I can maintain. Instead, I wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat, just less of it.
Also, when you go from doing no type of exercise to some kind of exercise every day, the pounds kind of drop off. At least at first. (I lost five pounds in the first week and a half.)
When most people ask me about losing weight, they remark that it must have been really hard, and the thing is, it really wasn't. But it didn't happen quickly; it took almost two years. And I think that's the key: When you allow the process to take some time, it becomes a habit, and becomes something that's easier to maintain.
I chose to stop ten pounds shy of my "healthy" weight because that's where my body wanted to stop. Losing more became way too much of a struggle, and I'm at a weight I can be happy with--even if it isn't what's considered an ideal weight by most. My blood pressure is down, and I don't get nearly as many headaches as I used to. And while I can't fit into every outfit I'd like to--the fashion industry is still bullshit on that front--I'm much happier with the clothing choices that are available to me now.
I basically wrote this as a reference for anyone who asks me how I did it. So, for those interested, here's a summation of what worked for me:
Keep track of calories: Once you become aware of how many calories are actually in the foods you eat every day, it can revolutionize the way you eat. It's all just math. (It helps to get a food scale, to weigh things like meat and cheese and figure out portion sizes.)
Try to do some kind of exercise every day: I bought a cheap home stepper machine, and tried to do that every day. At first, I could barely do 15 minutes on the thing; eventually I got up to 45 minutes at a time. The key? I could do it while watching TV. But I also just tried to walk more. I resolved to not wait for any Muni bus more than 10 minutes. If it was longer than that, I'd just start walking. (You'd be surprised how much faster than the bus your feet can be!)
Weigh Yourself a Lot: This seems to be controversial. A lot of people say not to do it more than once a week, because it can be frustrating. But weighing myself almost every day really helped me learn what did and did not work for me. For instance: On more than one occasion on weighing myself after I had gone way under my calorie allotment the day before, I had actually gained weight. Key takeaway: Starving yourself doesn't work.
Drink lots of water: Actually, this might be total bullshit. I don't know if it helps or not, but everyone seems to think this is a major factor, so might as well include it. If you're exercising more, you're probably going to want to drink more water anyway, so it's not exactly hard to do.
Keep some old fat pants: Not because you're ever going to wear them again, but because putting on a pair of your fat pants after you've lost weight and inches feels really, really great, and will mean more than any number on a scale ever will.