Back in 2010, when I first joined a gym, I weighed 290 pounds, and I used crutches to walk. My knees couldn't function under the strain of the extra pounds -- although at that point, I thought it was the result of an old injury, not my weight.
Almost four years later, I seem to waver somewhere between the 150- to 160-pound mark. I walk, and occasionally I'll even break into a run (although I'll admit, I'm a strength-training girl -- I'm saving my running for a zombie invasion).
Looking back, there are a few things I wish I'd known from the start that would've made the whole process considerably easier -- not least because when I started, I had no idea where I was going.
So, in the spirit of January -- and hopefully to counteract some of the crazy fad diets doing the rounds at the moment -- here are a few things I wish I'd known on Day 1.
Real food is way more effective than any quick fix.
The reason I ended up at 290 pounds is because, you guessed it, I love to eat. Seriously, I'd consider eating up there among my favorite pastimes ever. And as such, there's no way I'd want to live a life without great tasting food in it.
There are a million different products out there that claim to be the "secret" to weight loss, but trust me -- there is no secret. The only thing you need to do is eat real food, in balanced meals. Sure, it takes longer than a crash diet or a crazy pill -- but it'll taste damn good along the way.
Plus, don't forget -- the act of cooking a meal, and clearing it up afterwards, expends energy through something called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) -- which burns calories, and increases your metabolic rate.
Patience is more important than motivation.
All the motivation in the world will get you nowhere if you don't have the patience to go with it. Motivation is the flash and boom that gets you moving, but having the patience to stick with it even when nothing seems to be changing is the secret to success.
It's also a matter of faith. Trust in the process, and the fact that you're making the right decisions, and eventually your patience will pay off. Promise.
The number on the scales doesn't matter.
Now, I know you may need the scales to measure your progress. And that's okay, at first. I don't think there's anything wrong with knowing where you're starting from. But if you make that number your only measure of success, you'll soon find yourself disappointed, even when you're making real progress.
A long-term improvement in your health and fitness levels will result in muscle gain, which is heavier than fat -- meaning you'll plateau, or even gain weight, when your body's changing the most. And really, pretty much everything else you stand to gain through improving your health is more satisfying than that number. Instead of thinking about the scales, focus on how quickly you get out of breath, how much energy you've gained, and how much happier your amazing new life makes you.
Loving your body will get you everywhere.
I spent many, many years hating my body, and gaining weight. Then, I spent a good six months hating my body, and losing weight -- but for some reason, I couldn't keep it off. My reason for wanting to lose it was because I hated myself, but every time I had a little slip-up, I'd punish myself by sabotaging my own success even more.
Eventually though, I realized that I had my priorities all wrong. If, instead of hating my body, I learned to accept -- and love -- my body for what it was, it was possible to make the right decisions out of self-care, rather than self-loathing. Now, I eat well and exercise regularly because I respect my body for what it's been through, and where it's going to take me -- and that's a source of motivation that never goes away.
You will never, ever be perfect (and that's amazing).
I'm pretty sure I spent a good year or so of my journey wondering at what point I was going to become Beyoncé. Needless to say, I'm still waiting, and it turns out it's probably not going to happen.
But that's fine. Because while my stretch marks aren't going anywhere, and while I've still got a bit of cellulite and more imperfections than you could shake a dumbbell at, my body's still an amazing thing, exactly as it is -- healthy, imperfect and beautiful.