When folks hear I've maintained a 125-pound weight loss for over six years now, I'm (almost) always immediately asked, "How did you lose the weight?" And sometimes, I'm ashamed to be open and honest about my weight loss journey.
No, I didn't have any surgeries, take gimmicky fat burner supplements, follow a fad diet, or rely on meal replacement shakes to lose weight. But what I did to lose weight wasn't anything out of the ordinary.
To release 150 pounds in just 11 months, I switched to a lower-calorie way of eating and exercised every day (sometimes twice a day). It wasn't a miracle; it was constant mindfulness and hard work.
Don't get my wrong, I did a lot of stuff right on my weight loss journey. But in hindsight, there are a handful of things I would have changed to make my weight loss experience more pleasurable and less rigid.
Here are some things I would have done differently if I were starting over again:
1. I would have asked for help more often instead of attempting to do it all on my own.
"One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on "going it alone." Somehow we've come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we're very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves." -- Brene Brown
As much as I know the struggle made me stronger, I could have saved a lot of frustration by seeking out a mentor to work with me on my journey to better health. I was very stubborn and full of pride (and that's gotten me into trouble in more ways than one). At one point at the beginning of my journey, I hired a personal trainer for a couple of private workout sessions. The personal trainer's work ethic was flaky at best, and I imagine I allowed that experience to cloud my judgment when it came to seeking help again. Research suggests that most people are more willing to give assistance to someone over asking for help. Now, I openly take any help someone is willing to give me in all areas of my life. By receiving help from someone, I'm not giving my power away. At the end of the day, I'm the one who made the decisions and took the actions.
2. I would not have lost weight so rapidly.
"The biggest mistake people make is to try to lose too much weight too fast." -- Dr. Mehmet Oz.
I was an obese woman most of my life. I had no idea what it was like to live the life of an average-sized person. Even though my body appeared average after doing the physical work of losing weight, my mind and emotions were still that of my insecure self -- carrying around the extra 150-pound of emotional and mental baggage. I think it's important to work on the person as a whole when losing weight. Otherwise many people don't know how to handle uncomfortable social situations that will provoke anxiety and how to feel sadness or stress without turning to food for comfort.
3. I would have focused more on food quality over calorie restriction.
"While weight loss is important, what's more important is the quality of food you put in your body -- food is information that quickly changes your metabolism and genes." -- Dr. Mark Hyman.
For a long time, I relied too much on protein powders, single serving processed foods, and often had snacks that consisted of celery sticks dipped in low-sugar jellies (no joke). While I still believe it's important to track how much food you're eating in terms of calories and macronutrient content, I shifted slowly to being more mindful of my food quality the more I started to research sugar addiction after losing 150 pounds. Focusing only on calorie restriction left me feeling weak, bloated, and led to senseless food cravings. Now, I track calories a few times a year to make sure my eating hasn't slipped out of control, but overall, I mostly focus on the nutrients in my food.
4. I would have taken group fitness classes sooner.
I was very uncomfortable in group settings and not knowing exactly what to do, so I delayed the experience. Group fitness would have helped me build stronger relationships and support systems with like-minded individuals and improved my self-confidence more quickly. Group fitness classes would have also helped prevent overuse injuries from just relying on cardio equipment and running alone. Now, I take group fitness classes more frequently, I have made friendships with some of the instructors at my local gym, and stretched my comfort zone by becoming certified as a group fitness instructor.
5. I would have dialed it back on my HIIT workouts.
"Excess exercise tends to be counterbalanced by excess hunger, exemplified by the phrase 'working up an appetite.' A few people with extraordinary willpower can resist such hunger day after day, but for the vast majority, weight loss through exercise is a flawed option." -- Dr. Andrew Weil.
While high-intensity interval training is all the rage these days -- you have to know your limits with it. I've always been a "give it my all or give nothing" kind of gal. So, I was doing high-intensity workouts every single day for at least an hour each day. I took it overboard because I grew obsessed over burning calories in my workout instead of doing what my body needed. Over time, this led to a lack of energy and burnout (the exact opposite of what I wanted). Now, I focus on HIIT training for 20 minutes (or less) and only do it a few times a week.
Are you maintaining a weight loss? What would you have done differently?
Photo Credit: Naomi Teeter
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