Journey to Better Health (and Weight Loss)
Just a few days ago, I did something I don’t normally do and shared a personal accomplishment on my social media pages regarding my recent weight loss.
In April, I made a decision to lose 10% of my body fat, but more important I made a decision to start making better choices regarding my eating habits. So I started my Smartloss Program by Bodykey in order to do this. The program is 6 months long and while it does emphasize the importance of better eating habits in order to lose weight, it also puts great emphasis on this being a lifestyle change and not just a ‘quick fix’ diet. While a program may not be necessary for you (it just depends on how you operate), it was really great for me and I don’t think I would’ve progressed as well otherwise. Even without the program, the individual products I used along the way were clutch.
Like a lot of African Americans, I have a family history of both Diabetes and Hypertension. Despite being fully aware of this, I was still always eating what I wanted when I wanted and without regard to what time of day it is. I was eating a lot of high sodium snacks, instant meals, high carbs, and eating late in the night. However, because I do a lot of walking, I had been able to maintain my weight. Key word, maintain. My weight had been remaining stagnant–never straying a few pounds more or less than– 127 lbs.
I honestly feel that my weight and overall body image before showed how much more people valued an actual body image more so than good health. On the outside I looked pretty normal; thanks to a lot of ‘sucking in’ and smart clothing options, I was able to mask my “problem areas” for a very long time. I wore a size Small in shirts, and a size US 4 in women’s pants/jeans. On the surface, I was what a lot of people would mark as an ideal size. But, in actuality, I was not living a healthy lifestyle at all. So when I was telling family members that I had plans to lose weight, their immediate reaction was:
“You’re already small enough as it is! What you need to lose weight for?!”
Regardless of the feedback I was getting from every middle-aged Black woman I told about my decision, I was sticking to it. So far it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve started and I’ve been able to lose 11 lbs (as of the date of this post). With this progress I’ve also been getting questions from people around me who seem to also have weight loss goals for themselves. Of course, this is only coming from my experience because it’s the only one I can speak to:
So I’ve come to find out that I’m something author/blogger Gretchen Rubin calls an “Obliger”; to make it short, I’m the type of person who will always rise to meet external expectations but not always inner expectations. A person like this needs to create external expectations for themselves; for me, this meant telling as many people as possible about what I was doing! I told my mom, my sister, my best friend, my mentors, my coworkers, anyone willing to listen about it. By doing this, I put myself in a situation in which I created an expectation in other people to have an expectation in me. It sounds ridiculous, but if I tell one of my mentors that I’m going to do something, and then I don’t do it, I really don’t like the feeling that occurs afterwards. I’ve made my inner expectation become an outer expectation. In actuality, no one was probably going to be “disappointed” in me if I didn’t reach my goals, but planting that idea in my head really made it work for me.
Set Attainable Goals
What I liked about doing an actual program is that I was able to set a realistic and, keyword, healthy weight loss goal and not just throw out a random number. I’m only 5 feet (152cm) tall, so a weight loss goal from 127 lbs to 114 is actually pretty reasonable. But I also had to be real about my progress. At first I had a lot of learning to do; like the fact that fruit counts as carbs (don’t laugh, I sincerely didn’t know this). Maybe numerically you don’t know what your goal should look like; it could be more along the lines of “I want to get rid of belly fat”, “I want to fit into this dress”, “I want my clothes to fit better” than it would be worth consulting with a health professional (aka doctor, personal trainer, etc) of what a healthy weight loss would look for you.
Don’t Fool Yourself!
Time and time again, I would always encounter people who would offer me something delicious that I love but I would immediately say: “I can’t eat that”. But then they would break out this famous one liner: “Can’t you just work it off?”
One reason we don’t get the results we desire is because we tend to underestimate the amount of works it takes to “work off” a heavy meal or fatty dessert. For example: I love Chipotle. Let’s say I order a burrito and build it this way: Chicken, white rice, black beans, salsa, sour cream, and cheese. That adds up to about 1,020 Calories. In order to properly burn that off, I would have to spend 1 hour and 30 minutes on a treadmill*!
What this experience has taught me is that weight loss and health is much more than just working out like crazy. In fact, it’s a lot more about what you eat, and how much you are eating. As the saying goes “abs are made in the kitchen”! Rather than splurge on something that I know I shouldn’t have, it’s much easier to have an alternative meal that is still satisfying but won’t give me those repercussions. This isn’t to say that you can never eat the foods that you like ever again, that’s just not realistic. But what I am saying is that I had to lay off on certain heavy meals, especially if I wasn’t going to put in the strenuous activity to “work it off”. Not only that, but I wanted to focus on making changes for the long run. So the sooner I got off this idea that I “need” Panda Express, Chipotle, Five Guys, etc. the more likely I would learn to eat that stuff in moderation.
It’s Not That Bad (Really, it Isn’t)
When we make the decision to eat better, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. We start thinking about the stuff that we can’t eat, the things we can’t do, the things we have to do. I had to develop a “get to” mentality. I “get to” be better prepared by meal prepping, I “get” to eat lighter/healthier meals and feel more energetic, I “get to” work towards my goal. Personally, I think my first 2 weeks were difficult because I was so fixated on the food I wanted and not keeping my mind where it needs to be. Honestly, I think it should be expected that it’s difficult to get used to at first. You’re making a lifestyle change so there will be some difficulty along the way. But eventually my cravings for certain foods started fading. Yes, I still love those high-carb foods but I don’t necessarily feel like I’m depriving myself anymore. There’s literally a Chipotle on the first floor of my job and yet I hardly even think about it. You’ll find as time goes by, you’ll start losing interest in those things. Also, if you’re like me, you’ll be so excited about the progress you’re making that you won’t want to do anything to set yourself back.
As I said before, getting healthy and losing weight isn’t always about doing intense workouts all the time. In fact, my activity of choice is simple: Walking. You’d be surprised how much can get done just by sticking to your meal plan and getting the proper amount of steps in (or surpassing your step goal like I do). I think those intense workouts are definitely great and can help you progress a little faster, but it’s honestly much more simple than people make it. Because of what I do, there’s a bit of walking being done when I’m in the office. I also take walks during my lunch break as well as after work. I also have the convenience of having malls near where I live, so I take walks there too if I need to. It’s all about what works for you, but walking is definitely my go-to.
This kind of ties in with the Accountability factor, but I do have friends around me who are doing the exact program I’m doing. It helped me so much knowing that I had friends going through the same struggle points, getting the same victory, and going after the same goals as I was. It was really great for me when I was still trying to navigate how I would be going to dinner with my friends who aren’t watching what they eat. We could easily give each other advice and confide in each other about our points of improvement. Its amazing how associating with people who are working towards similar goals can stir up a drive in you to do better and to keep consistent!
So these are a few things that have helped me. I’m still working on it, but I’m very glad about the progress I’m making. Plus, I was able to be rid of my gut something I’ve been super self-conscious about for years. I have more energy now, I don’t get winded when I go up a few flights of stairs, and I haven’t been experiencing as much ache in my joints or back. The biggest thing I can’t stress enough is that the main focus should be focused on your health. If you focus on making good choices and being healthy, the results will come as a byproduct of that.
*Estimation created on the claim that 20 minutes on a treadmill at 6 mph burns about 230 calories