How I Finally Lost Almost 50 lbs — My Food, Exercise, & Mindset
I can tell you that once, not too long ago, maybe even this time last year, I was ashamed of everything about my body, and I hated the way I looked. Every stretch mark and scar that adorned my belly and thighs and ass were like the faded lashings of an angry master. The way my boobs looked was unappealing to me, and I seemed to carry weight in my face like I carried shame on my back. I hid myself in baggy clothes, willing myself to lose 50 lbs overnight, so I could wake up happy and begin living. It never happened. Until one day, finally, it did.
Ever since I’ve noticeably lost a considerable amount of weight–almost 50 lbs at this point–and brought my more revealing wardrobe from my younger, thinner days back out into the sunlight, people have asked me how.
“How did you lose weight?”
“How are you so confident?”
“How do you dress like that in public?”
“How do you deal with men staring and making rude comments?”
And so on.
I have to say that every answer to every possible question anyone could ask me in that vein will just make people angry. Honestly, I won’t have any answers that anyone wants to hear. If anyone wants to know the God’s honest truth to these questions and any ones similar, I can provide it.
I’ll admit that, initially, I tried the “beating yourself up” route. For years, I slaved at the gym for hours at a time, convinced that if I didn’t go home drenched in sweat and too sore to move the next day, I had received no benefit. I tried counting calories; to put it simply, if I die and go to hell, my sole eternal mission will be to track the calories I ate, for eternity. This is not an exaggeration, counting calories made me so goddamn miserable and set me back so far, I wish I had never gotten the notion in my head to even attempt the weight loss tactic. Each day, all damn day, I was starving and frustrated. I could never meet my goals no matter how hard I tried or how hungry I went. “Correct” portion sizes were never satisfying, and I would constantly kick myself for eating a single cookie at 9pm that would set me over my 1200 calorie goal and make me feel like each day was pointless.
And finally, I tried the self-harm route. Mentally berating myself to get myself to work harder was one way I did this, while purging all of my “bad” food (which I considered to be almost everything I ate) by making myself throw up was a thoroughly unpleasant and painful experience. Yes, I flirted with the edge of that cliff…I could just feel the high that the emptiness in my stomach left behind. But I managed to look at all the cons before I threw myself off the cliff of this apparently easy weight loss technique, plunging towards what was almost assuredly my doom, or at least a hospital visit.
So those are my failures. What about my triumphs? How did I finally manage to shed 40+ lbs in less than 6 months? It started with something easy: yoga.
The gym had always been my haven. Even before I gained a bunch of weight and struggled with weight loss for those few years, I loved spending hours at a time at the gym. Partially because I had nothing better to do, but it also started becoming somewhat of a therapy–and not only because I got a free therapeutic membership to a sweet health club because I was going to physical therapy for my back at the hospital that owned it, (talk about a windfall). I liked seeing the results and it just felt good. That got away from me somewhat, unfortunately, with the gym becoming more of a punishment than an activity (or at worst a chore) I enjoyed doing.
Once I started seriously practicing yoga, a lot of weeks, I only went to the gym for yoga class. I was going 1-4 times a week, usually twice a week on average, and it became super important for me not to miss yoga. I started doing it at home with YouTube videos as guides, and eventually I was able to do a 30 minute practice at home all on my own. I’ve praised yoga in the past for its countless benefits, including balance, meditation, strength, centering, breathing, peace, stress relief, and not to mention the fitness aspect of it. It truly helped me build up my strength, physical and mental and even spiritual, as well as helped me find my confidence again. It wasn’t lost, just hiding.
Though at this point my body image began to improve, the weight still wasn’t really coming off, and I still wasn’t happy when I looked in the mirror. I was still covering up in too-large leggings and baggy T-shirts and thrifted sweatshirts.
Sure, I noticed the improvement in my overall fitness, and I noticed my body beginning to have more endurance and become more toned, but it wasn’t enough for me. Even after incorporating regular workouts of cardio and weights into my yoga schedule in hopes of bolstering my fitness regimen, I still was not even close to satisfied. I knew the thing that would give me the most trouble, the thing I was most dreading, would be the biggest, and perhaps final obstacle in my way on my journey to self-love.
This was, of course, my relationship with food.
Variety boneless wings: garlic & herb buttery sauce, barbecue sauce, buffalo hot sauce, w/ homemade fries and veggies
I have had a fucked up relationship with food for a good long time. I ate like shit as a child and young adult, and when I first moved out on my own, I scarcely ate at all. Then there was a time where Taco Bell was literally the only food I would consume, if I ate anything at all. Shortly followed by a time when a 14-piece chicken wing from Domino’s stretched out over 2 or 3 days was the only thing I could eat, and of course that was closely followed by a drastic loss in weight. I hit my lowest weight around this time, getting down to 115 lbs at 5’5″ when I was 19.
Then I finally started spending actual time and money grocery shopping, but I still made mistakes. Once I got a full-time Monday-Friday job, I bought way too much, and too much of it was bad. Sure, I was loading up on fresh produce and super foods like spirulina and protein powder and chia seeds and what the fuck ever else, but I hadn’t nailed down exactly the grocery run routine and shopping list that would work for me.
Believe it or not, beginning to be self-employed and just being a content creator full-time, and thus having way less money, actually helped with this effort a lot. Okay, now that I think about it, maybe that isn’t that hard to believe. I mean, less money inevitably means less buying food, which means less shoving food down your gullet.
Here we arrive at the first answer that will piss everyone off. The secret, easy, foolproof way that I finally lost weight. The way that most people will probably need to lose weight:
You’ve gotta be hungry. You’ve gotta stop shoving so much goddamn food into your fucking mouth. Hunger must become a feeling that you are well acquainted with, and used to. Only then can change happen.
One of my many yummy variety fresh fruit plates I made all throughout summer (check out my IG feed to see more fruit plate inspiration)
The accompanying exercise plan couldn’t be simpler: 5 sets of fork put-downs and 5 sets of plate push-aways. I wish I could take credit for that bit of brilliance, but I can’t. All I can do is support it and repeat it to anyone who comes to me for advice. Stop eating so much fucking food and, pretty much no matter how much you workout, provided you aren’t glued to an office chair 8 hours a day with absolutely zero physical activity at all, you will lose weight.
I know there are debates, trends, fad diets, and an entire industry built on marketing the exact opposite, and you can continue to buy into that if you want to. But if you’re feeling even half as miserable and hopeless as me, I suggest giving this a go, see how ya feel.
I can tell you right now how you’re gonna feel at first, when you initially try to eat less: shitty. That’s right. It’s no walk in the park, and it may be easy but it’s not painless. The first few weeks are gonna be torture. You’re going to be cranky, irritable, tired, and hungry. But it is all worth it, and it is temporary. As long as you are eating enough and getting the nutrition you need, you will be fine.
Buffalo Baked Cauliflower Bites
See what this pain is, is mostly mental. It’s your stomach and your brain being like “what the fuck, you gave me like 5 times this much food yesterday, what gives?!” and thus punishing you for “starving” it by making you feel like you’re dying. Trust me, I know how hard this is. I’m one of those that, if I wasn’t eating at least a snack every two hours, I felt faint, sick, tired, nausea, all that fun stuff. It did eventually subside; my stomach shrunk, my appetite got smaller, my brain shut the fuck up…whatever happened, it finally happened, and eating less got extremely easier. Present day, it is completely under control. I eat probably 75% less than I used to, and my appetite is at a very comfortable and manageable point for nutrition and sustained weight loss.
I must stress the fact that I am not suggesting that you starve yourself, or go on a hugely restrictive diet. You can absolutely take it one day at a time and just decrease your food little by little, bit by bit, until you are eating significantly less than you were previously.
I used to eat an entire Jack’s pizza for dinner by myself. I started by cutting the slices smaller, so instead of 4 larger slices there were 8 smaller slices, and then only eating three-quarters of it, before eventually half of it was enough to satisfy me. I decreased portion sizes on everything, from food that I prepared at home, to fast food and takeout. Larger burgers and fries became medium, became small. I switched from using large plates to small–although I still tried to make healthier things, such as salads and oatmeal, in larger bowls, so as to try to get as many healthy ingredients and nutrients in me as possible. Cutting portion sizes, which used to be the equivalent of death because it nearly always included counting calories and using exact measurements, a laborious and horrible task in my mind, was now as easy as switching which dishware I was using, or changing my order.
My portions weren’t the only thing that was changing. The amount of times a day I ate and the number of meals I ate were also changing. I hear and read a lot of talk lately about intermittent fasting in all its forms, and I must say, it is quite interesting, and remarkable enough to the point of warranting more research into the subject, on both my part and the part of science.
Baked Ham & Bacon Veggie Cheese Egg Muffins
I definitely experienced what it could possibly do for me, first hand, and I have a personal experience with it that I can lend to other people who might also think that it is good for them.
I used to make it a point to try to eat a ginormous breakfast, along with multiple coffees with cream and sugar, a morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and some type of dessert. That doesn’t sound abnormal to most people, but even typing it now and reading it for editing later, it kinda stuns me. That’s a lot of eating in one day no matter how you spin it, and for someone who spends most of her days sat at a desk making content, it was not necessary. Hell, even working a retail job on my feet right before I became a full-time content creator last year, I didn’t need that much food. But the uncomfortable and oftentimes painful way my body reacted to not receiving that much food each and every day said otherwise.
So, in addition to cutting portion sizes, I also cut down on the number of meals and snacks I had.
Breakfast, if I have it at all, always starts with multiple cups of coffee–I’ve learned to ditch the cream and sugar and just have coffee with almond milk creamer or coconut milk sweet creme. If I do eat food, it’s usually bacon and fruit, oatmeal, a decked-out avocado, whole grain waffles, or egg scramble with veggies. I don’t have breakfast very often though, and a lot of times, “breakfast”, meaning “first meal of the day”, isn’t until brunch time–11am, noon, 1pm…
Organic whole grain waffles topped w/ organic blue agave, blueberry just-fruit spread, & cinnamon, w/ thick-cut bacon on the side
If I don’t have breakfast, lunch is usually a salad with some sort of protein–be it chicken or steak or black beans. Avocados feature heavily on the menu, as breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Smoothies are always on the table, as are meals featuring rice or pasta. Shrimp is also an option, as are vegan tacos with black beans.
Again, like breakfast, sometimes lunch is skipped. If I know I’m having a large dinner, an unhealthy dinner, an early dinner, I’ll sometimes not eat until then, or just have a super food smoothie or decked-out, veggie-filled salad, to ensure my body has some sort of nutrients and nourishment that day.
Deli chicken & provolone lettuce wraps
Dinner is where I usually have my “worst” food. Takeout and fast food are some of my favorite indulgences in life, and though I’ve cut down remarkably both on the portion sizes of my orders as well as the frequency with which I purchase these types of foods, I still must admit that I get them at least a couple of times a week. From burger joints to tex-mex to fried foods galore, pizza and Chinese and sandwiches and more, I simply love to buy a meal like this. Just apply the above guidelines to keep your potential take-away habit in check.
Saltine Cracker-Crusted Crispy Fried Chicken Tenders w/ boxed shells ‘n cheese and canned green beans
If I’m not buying dinner, I usually cook it. I’ve definitely increased the amount of dinner that I cook at home. It’s not always the healthiest, but I usually keep the same recipes on rotation. If I make chicken or pork–be it pan-fried, deep-fried, or baked–I usually also make some kind of carb side–such as mac n cheese, pasta, extra starchy vegetables, potatoes in any form–and then a vegetable side–usually something less starchy, or even a leafy green salad or veggie medley. This formula also goes for whenever I make steak. I also make burgers and fries, and they are so good, I could probably open my own burger joint. I usually make fries from scratch, starting with peeled and cut potatoes. I also make pasta with meat and tomato sauce, chili, tacos, nachos, and oven pizza. These are usually the things I have for dinner, although I’ve been known to try other recipes here and there as well.
I’ll have to share some of the recipes I’ve incorporated that I’ve found have worked really well for me–both the “good” and the “bad”.
I’m not going to say that I intermittent fasted or fasted at all. The name of my weight loss game was me playing it fast and loose–or rather, natural and loose. I tried to incorporate as many fruits and veggies, fresh produce, super foods, and plant-based recipes as possible, while also increasing the amount of dinners and meals I made at home, and decreasing portion sizes drastically in all fast food, takeout, and pre-prepared foods that can all be considered “bad” food.
I stopped thinking of food as “good” and “bad” and just started thinking of it as “food”. If I wanted something, such as a cookie at 9pm, I ate the damn cookie and enjoyed it. I no longer pace around the kitchen deliberating for 20 minutes whether or not I should, before quickly devouring three and then feeling terrible about myself for the remainder of the night. And if I eat my one cookie and enjoy it so much that I want another one, I eat another one, and feel amazing about it.
Banana Blackberry Porridge w/ organic unsweetened vanilla oat milk, organic blue agave, and dark chocolate chunks
A lot of it is changing how you feel about food. I can’t stress enough how treating food as sustenance and fuel, something to be enjoyed and not feared, is vital to the weight loss and wellness process, not to mention how it does wonders for self-image and body positivity.
You don’t beat yourself up if you have something unhealthy or “bad”, or if you have a pig-out day, or one too many apps and margaritas while out with friends. This is called “life”, and “eating” is a gigantic part of that, socially and beyond. You don’t restrict yourself to the point of starvation, but you don’t overeat either. You eat when you’re hungry, you stop when you’re full. You eat what satisfies you and what you enjoy, and you enjoy every bite of it. You eat every bite only if you want it, but you’ve gotta drop any “clean your plate” mentalities that might still be lingering. You have to eat healthy, too, so try to squeeze some healthy stuff in there. If you don’t like mushrooms, kale, or almond milk, don’t eat mushrooms, kale or almond milk. Eat what you do like.
Make your salad out of greens and veggies you actually like, and put some protein in there, like deli chicken and hard-boiled egg, maybe some avocado or beans if you’re vegan, so you don’t get depressed looking at it, and it can actually fill you up. And if you hate vinaigrette but love ranch, put a few squirts of ranch on that bad boy. Same can be said for pretty much anything.
Make your pizza at home so you can control toppings and stuff. Top your oats with fresh fruit and some dark chocolate chips. Order a small burger and fries instead of the Extra Large King Size versions. Put your pizza on a small plate so visualizations of portion sizes work in your favor, not against you. Eat only foods that you enjoy and taste good. If you have a limited palate, find spices, produce, add-ons, and recipes incorporating your small list of faves, to liven up your menu and add variety and nutrition. There are endless possibilities of ways you can take control of your food, so it doesn’t take control of you.
(clock-wise from top left) Deli Chicken & Provolone Lettuce wraps w/ tomato, avocado, mayo, mustard, pickle; fresh fruit for snacks; Bacon & Egg White Veggie Breakfast Scramble w/ cheese
You must change your mindset if you are to change your actions, including your diet and the foods you consume. Instead of me consuming the food, it felt like the food was consuming me. Not only was I eating constantly and obsessing over every single thing I put in my mouth, but also, when I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about eating, or thinking about food, or how hungry I was.
As I mentioned above, not keeping a consistent flow of food in my stomach had (what I thought to be) physical effects. Only once I mastered my portion sizes and eating schedule did I regain control over the very mental effects this had on me.
I was also obsessed with what I was gonna eat and how much. I tried to input my calories into the tracker app at the beginning of the day, to encourage myself to stick to it, and if I had even the slightest opportunity to stray, such as someone at work bringing in food to share, or a last-minute invite to the bar, or a dinner plan for a family diner, my mind would be in near turmoil. I never enjoyed these things. They simply caused me strife.
Well, the ending to this story is a happy one, and a rather obvious one, I think. Once I changed my mindset and how I felt not only about the foods but the situations in which I consumed them, I began to enjoy them a lot more.
Food is a hugely important part of my life and it brings me some of the most joy that I experience. I appreciate my ability to have food, and foods that I enjoy at that, because there are so many less fortunate out there who are unable to enjoy or even obtain it, for various reasons.
I appreciate how food nourishes and fuels my body and mind, for everything from yoga to writing. Food is a huge part of my life, but it no longer controls my life. The weight loss is an added bonus. The increased sense of self-worth, body positivity, and positive body image, are outstanding perks that come along with it.
But whenever anyone asks me how I did it, or how they might be able to do it too, I have to attribute it all to my healed relationship with food. I only say it’s “easy” because, compared to all the torturous and failed methods I tried before finally finding this better one, I suffered. Now, I live. Sometimes, there’s nothing easier than that.