Losing weight is not rocket science. Move more, eat less. The formula can’t get more basic than that. The problem is that it’s not always easy to do. You’re constantly surrounded by temptation. There are times I can actually hear the Burger King insisting I need a Whopper with cheese. Mmm. I’m getting hungry.
Where was I?
Oh right, losing weight.
There are things no one talks about when it comes to losing weight. Things that can derail, discourage, and surprise you. In an effort to save you some of the time that I spent learning these things the hard way as I dropped from a size 16 to a size 6, here are a few of the things that I know now and wish I’d known then…
You’re going to be hungry
If you’re used to consuming over 2000 calories of delicious, fat laden food, you’re going to notice when there’s a deficit. And that’s when Wendy suddenly becomes an irresistible Frosty-pushing siren. It’s like you’re body is protesting, “hey, I’m onto you,” in hopes that you’ll go back to your usual Twinkie diet. But if you want to lose weight, you have to accept the fact that your stomach will be growling. The only upside to watching what you eat is that it will have the biggest influence on your appearance. Skipping dessert is a lot easier than jogging for 30 minutes, in my humble opinion.
Working out isn’t fun
Speaking of jogging, no one tells you that you might not ever come to love working out. I understand — theoretically — the psychological benefits of exercise. The endorphin high does exist and vigorous activity is a great way to deal with stress. But people who are really into exercising are generally not people that need to lose weight. For people who are just getting started, the gym can be an intimidating and unpleasant place. Exercising is uncomfortable. If you’re doing it right, you’re breathing will be labored, your muscles will be exhausted, and you sweat a lot. Which is not my idea of a good time. Plus, if you’re new to a gym environment you’re surrounded by tight-bodied gym rats and probably don’t have a clue how to use the machines or even where to start. A box of Toaster Strudel is much more straightforward. Just accept the fact that you’re going to be uncomfortable in numerous ways and get your ass in to the gym anyway.
You’re going to be moody
I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry and/or tired, I’m the mental equivalent of a three year old and I will throw a tantrum if I don’t get a cookie or a nap. Dieting can take mood swings to a whole new level, but no one bothers to warn you (or anyone within your five foot radius). Do yourself a favor and find ways to deal with the unpredictable emotional rollercoaster you’ll be on until you reach your goal weight. Hot baths, herbal tea, breathing exercises, or curling up with a good book can be a nice distraction from your tendency to think about all of the things you can’t eat.
It’s a lot of work
Losing weight takes effort and you have to consciously think about it all the damn time. Every meal, every craving, every well-intentioned-hospitable-food-offering comes down to one decision, “Do I stick with my diet or give in to temptation?” Sure you want to run around naked with confidence. That’s not asking too much! But tracking your meals and making time to go to the gym requires effort and sacrifice. I’ve given up carbohydrates and drinks with the girls on a school night in exchange for feeling comfortable in a bikini. The only thing that makes the sacrifices a little easier is surrounding yourself with people who are in a similar position. Get a workout buddy or take a group exercise class — misery loves company and having support keeps you on track.
Your family and friends might not always be supportive
As I began losing weight, I had many people who were incredibly complimentary and would exclaim, “Oh my god, you look amazing!” Shortly thereafter they’d say, “You have to tell me how you did it.” I’m always happy to share the information I’ve learned during my weight loss journey — hence this column. And as sappy as it sounds, I am grateful for the support I received along the way and I’m humbled when people are brave enough to ask me (or anyone else) for help — that’s hard.
But for as much encouragement as I got, there was even more criticism. It’s hard to change your habits when your roommate is constantly bringing home Double Stuff Oreos; it’s even harder when she’s berating you for not indulging with her. “Come on, you bag of bones, it’s just one cookie… don’t be so uptight!… omm nom nom.”
I was criticized for being “too thin” even though I was at a healthy weight. I was told:
- “You look ropey.”
- “Oh my god … Eat a sandwich!”
- “You lost all your curves. You used to be this voluptuous sex goddess before and now… well…” Womp, womp, waaahhh.
Geez! Everyone’s an effing critic! But when I was 210lbs, no one was in my face telling me, “Put down the donuts, because you could stand to lose a few.” It’s a double standard — while it’s socially acceptable to tell someone they’re too thin but, it’s not okay to tell someone they’re too fat?
The worst is when the criticism is disguised as concern. “I’m worried you’re not losing the weight in a healthy way … Do you have an eating disorder?… I’m just concerned you’re being too rigid with your diet and it’s a manifestation of a bigger psychological problem.”
What the hell do you say to that?
I lost weight because I started taking better care of myself. The reason I was overweight a few years ago is because I was unhealthy. You don’t end up fat by accident. It’s the result of consistently poor eating habits which can stem from explanations as simple as “I like junk food” to the slightly more complicated “I don’t know anything about nutrition” to the really complicated “I like to numb my emotional pain with pizza and brownies.” It runs the gamut. But once you figure out why you’re eating poorly all the time and you make the effort to reverse the trend, be prepared for criticism — and assorted medical diagnoses — from people who have no idea what they’re talking about.
What hurt me most about the constant running commentary was that not even once did anyone ask me how I felt. No one asked me if I was happier or healthier after trading in my 34DDD’s for lower cholesterol and the ability to walk into any store and find something that fit me.
You may not feel any better about yourself
Before I delve any further into this point, let me say that I love the fact that I rarely have a mental meltdown in dressing rooms anymore. My biggest issue when it comes to clothes shopping now is deciding what to buy because most outfits look really good on me. And, no, I don’t care how egotistical or conceited that sounds. I worked my ass off (physically and emotionally) to be able to say that. I think women in general need to be a little more egotistical and a lot less critical of themselves — and for sure less critical of each other — when we dare to say something positive about our own bodies. But that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother column.
That being said, there are definitely times when I’m still self conscious and feel frustrated. I admit that I’m not 100% confident in the way I look 100% of the time. I always thought if I were “thin,” I’d be happy and would never feel even a fleeting glimpse of self doubt. Ha! There are plenty of days I feel just as awful about how I look as when I was 5 or 6 sizes bigger. I even get angry at myself for feeling bad because logically it makes no sense. But that’s precisely why it’s important to remember that the physical transformation is only a piece of it.
For a long time I couldn’t understand why the way I felt didn’t match how I looked and took quite a bit of time for my brain to catch up with my body. Just keep that in mind as the weight starts coming off that there’s a psychological transformation that you have to go through as well.
My transformation took years. It wasn’t just about going on a diet. It was about changing my eating habits and changing my whole outlook on life. There are a lot of things I learned along the way. The most important thing is that it’s okay that my body is far from airbrushed perfection. It’s okay that it never will be airbrushed perfection. But just because my body isn’t perfect doesn’t mean I don’t look good or don’t have a right to feel good about myself. And nobody has the right to tell me otherwise.
“The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Health and Fitness” is a column on Kate-book.com running every Tuesday at 10:30am. It is written by the irrepressible Kate Richlin-Zack, a former plus-sized model turned fitness enthusiast who lost 50 lbs in the process. She loves food and views exercise as a necessary evil in her quest for looking good and feeling confident in hot pants. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.