On Losing Weight Without Losing Your MindLifestyle
Last year was an exciting time– I had just moved to a new city, got my first proper job, started dancing, and had met someone I really liked. I felt productive and as happy as can be– except one thing; my weight.
I wasn’t obese, nor was I worryingly overweight. I was, however the heaviest I had been. Three years of eating less than clean as a university student with a stressful workload and then some did my diet habits no favours. And at 5’3, an extra 20 pounds give or take to my frame was pretty substantial.
I’m sure many people can relate to this feeling; that you know you’re actually not happy with your body image, but don’t know how to go about ‘fixing it’. You feel out of your depth, a bit terrified, and filled with a lot of shame and doubt about how you got this way to begin with. The gym is scary, making other food is scary, and on top of that, your mind is fighting you on it– that perhaps by trying to lose weight is you obeying society’s strict parameters of attractiveness anyway, so what sort of person are you to participate? You’re fine, you don’t need to lose weight. Etc, etc.
My decision to change and as cliche as it is to say, embark on my ‘weight loss journey’ came on very suddenly. I just woke up and decided one day, “I’m going to do this”. Within 4 months I had lost 20 pounds. So how did I get in a position where I was ready to start losing, and how have I maintained it without losing my mind?
I counted calories
I discovered a small packet of crisps wasn’t as filling or delicious as an entire punnet of strawberries.
Say what you will about it, but CICO (Calories In Calories Out) works. I’d describe CICO as a pretty tame, reasonable diet. You aren’t forced to eradicate all your favourite foods from your arsenal whilst on it. You just need to moderate the amount of calories you choose to put in your body. You can eat your favourite chocolate bar, but be aware– that if you eat all of it, you’ve effectively wasted 300 calories of your daily budget. You’ll be hungry, and likely grumpy because of it for the rest of the day. However, If you just have two blocks, you can still get the satisfaction and not ruin your progress that week!
I found my tastes changed when I was logging all my calories with CICO for those initial 4 months. I started to prefer fruit and yoghurt to my usual family sized bag of Doritos. It was fresh, sweet and delicious AND I didn’t feel bloated and sickly after. Who would have thought it, right?
If you’d like to give CICO a try but don’t know where to start, I can recommend a couple of things. Firstly, the subreddit /1200isplenty really helped me out with support, advice and recipe ideas. The subreddit is specifically for shorter women (and some men) who have a mostly sedentary lifestyle, suiting me to the T. This is why the 1200 daily calories budget is so low. Someone who works out, is taller or is a male should look to upping their calories to at the least 1500 dependent on their TDE, as going lower can be dangerous and unsustainable. That said, there is still a ton of advice on there on how to get started, and I’m sure it’ll be a lot of help to a lot of people.
MyFitnessPal was also an essential tool for me in accurately logging what I ate each day. The phone app is amazing, and also has a bar code scanner that comes in handy when you want to quickly work out the calories of something specific you have in the pantry. The tool allows you to set a daily calorie limit, log your daily calories for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. You can also record your weight as you go, which can be super motivating when you see your progress from day 1.
Thirdly, invest in a food scale. One of the single biggest things that helped me understand portion control. Who knew how much 100g of basmati rice was, and who knew how many calories was in it! Weighing your food will help you figure out what you’re willing the splash out on calorie wise, and what you’re willing to leave at the wayside. Buy one off of Amazon, you won’t be disappointed.
I gained a healthier mindset
Being with someone who makes you feel good about yourself has some real benefits.
No one wants to be told they should lose weight. We want to come to that understanding on our own, and be the one in control who makes that first step. Telling a friend they should just try over and over will have little effect, at least that’s been my experience. It’s much better to suggest things that will make them happy, which involuntarily helps them become healthier. Sometimes a shock in your life can propel you to starting your progress too– like a breakup, a particularly nasty insult, moving somewhere new etc. For me, it was very much the ‘starting afresh’ rhetoric, mixed in with meeting someone who never made me feel bad about my body image, but would often suggest more physically active activities for us to do. His zest for good physical and mental health encouraged me to be take active steps in being better and try harder like him.
If you have a friend that has expressed their unhappiness about their weight, suggest a hike somewhere beautiful. The beach, a game of tennis, dancing, running, rock climbing– anything that lets your mind wonder and your body work harder than ever before. Suggest a cooking class– try a vegetarian dish that you’ve both never made before. This can ease someone into a new hobby and lifestyle, and you may find them deviating from their unhealthy habits in favour of these newer, healthier ones.
I exercised without realising it
Lindyhop is the perfect dance for high energy cardio. The music is also pretty fabulous too.
I started learning how to Lindyhop in March 2018, having had a wonderful experience in a jazz bar the year before. I love the music, the cheekiness and spirit of swing dancing. You’re always on your toes, and even when I make a mistake, a giant grin spreads across my face. No other dance has made me have that reaction, and it’s addictive I tell you! Not only do I get to dance with some great people and hang out with the ladies whilst we fan our beet-red faces, I get in some serious cardio several times a week. I was attending two classes a week, plus social dances on the weekend which was a great way to get my my heart rate up. The best thing about dancing to help with weight loss is the fact you’re loving every minute of it. Even if you’re sweaty and exhausted, you’re a slave to the rhythm– and damn happy about it!
I’ve recently also found out that the runner’s high is a thing. I never used to like running, but now I feel I’m just getting into it! Even though the initial draw was to shift the plateau periods I was facing in my weight loss, I now can see the long term benefits of it. It clears the mind, knackers your body and gets those happy chemicals flowing. Sometimes the best thing for your mental health is to temporarily stop thinking, and running could do that for you too.
I made cooking a hobby
Need. More. Sushi.
A truly unexpected bolt-on of weight loss has been my interest in cooking. I found cooking a sort of stress reliever before, but that was when I was cooking big batches of spag bol and fish pie time and time again. Now, I’m always trawling Reddit and a couple of independent food bloggy people for new recipes to try, particularly Asian cuisine (Japanese and Korean food mostly). I enjoy following the instructions and slowly tweaking bits and bobs before splitting them up into different dinners for the week. My most recent adventure has been a Korean Gimbap, similar to sushi but with cooked meats and vegetables, with sesame oil used instead of rice vinegar to season the rice. It was tasty, though I’ve decided I prefer the fresher taste of the sushi rice! Sorry! Next I want to experiment with some traditional Japanese omelettes 😉
Well that’s it for now– I hope someone somewhere found it helpful in their own way. Share your experiences of weight loss with me by posting a comment below!