As a health coach, one of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is how unsustainable their diets have been because they are always hungry. They say things to me like, “I’m just so hungry all of the time; I don’t know how you do it.” Another common one is, “You must be much mentally tougher than me to put up with being hungry for so long.” The truth is, however, I can’t remember a single time during my entire weight loss that I was hungry. Not once.
I’ve thought about this for a long time. I felt like maybe there is something different about me. People don’t just lose 135 pounds and keep it off without ever being hungry–but I did. What makes me different? I asked myself this for several years. Do I really have better will power? Am I more self-controlled? I knew those things couldn’t be true because one would hardly call someone “self-controlled” whose weight had topped out at close to 300 pounds. So what was it?
It wasn’t until I starting working with clients as a Personal Trainer and Health Coach that I began to unravel the factors that had contributed to my weight loss success. Discussing my story with my clients and helping them to overcome their challenges is what really helped me understand what steps I took that were different. This insight has enabled me to help a lot of people through my coaching and health writing.
Here’s How I Lost 135–and Kept the Weight Off
1. I changed my mindset.
The first thing that I had to do was to master my mindset. The heart of the problem with being overweight is your mind, plain and simple. If you don’t read the rest of this article, please take the time to read this section as this is the most important aspect necessary to achieve permanent weight loss. If you can’t master your mind, you won’t be able to achieve lasting weight loss. You MUST change your thoughts on food, exercise, and yourself. This means giving yourself permission to fail, changing how you view junk foods and healthy foods, learning to love your workouts, and learning to admit to yourself that you do have a problem that needs to be fixed (and that YOU have the power to fix it).
2. I ate a lot of food (low-glycemic, high-fiber, high-protein foods).
This might sound counterintuitive, but one of the reasons why I was never hungry losing weight was because I ate a lot of food. But how can you lose weight and eat lots of food? Well, weight loss isn’t about starving yourself, it’s about eating the right kinds of foods. Most diets have followers eating a 1,200-calorie diet or lower, and it’s no wonder that most people who go on these diets lose weight at first but then gain it all back (and usually more) when they realize that they just can’t be that hungry every day for the rest of their lives.
Eating lots of foods for weight loss means filling yourself up with the right kinds of foods that give you the nutrients that you need and also fill you up. You wouldn’t catch me at the drive-thru of McDonald’s or pushing through the lines at the local buffet. I chose power foods: foods that are high in fiber and protein, and low on the glycemic index. I learned to think in terms of which foods were going to give me the most amount of nutrition for the least amount of calories.
“Eating lots of foods for weight loss means filling yourself up with the right kinds of foods that give you the nutrients that you need and also fill you up.”
“I learned to think in terms of which foods were going to give me the most amount of nutrition for the least amount of calories.”
3. I created sustainable habits.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been a person who had strong willpower when it came to foods and never was too thrilled about P.E. class or going to the gym. I knew that if I was going to do something for the rest of my life, like lose weight and keep it off, that I needed to do it in a way that lasted.
First of all, I gave myself permission to cheat on my diet. I wasn’t able to bear the thought of never having anything carby or sweet (my weaknesses). I wanted to have those things, and I wasn’t going to give them up. The realization I had was that I need to let myself have foods that I liked; I just couldn’t have those things all the time. I didn’t tell myself “no” all of the time. I set aside a cheat day or cheat meal. Mine were Friday evenings. I would have something indulgent or sweet, and I would have as much as I want and not feel guilty. I still have a cheat day. It tends to be a different day every week, but I always limit it to one day, never more. If you tell yourself that you can never have junk food again, you will never last.
Indulge in moderation.
Secondly, I chose workouts that I liked. Let’s face it. Working out is hard sometimes. It was hard for me at first, too. One thing that I knew, however, was that if I was going to workout for the rest of my life, it needed to be something that I enjoyed. So, I created my workouts by asking myself what I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. For me, it was dancing for cardio (because it is just fun!) and weight lifting (because I love to feel strong and muscle helps burn more calories). Because I selected a workout that was fun for me, I’ve been able to sustain a workout routine 4-6 days a week for the past 16 years.
“Because I selected a workout that was fun for me, I’ve been able to sustain a workout routine 4-6 days per week for the past 16 years.”
4. I substituted.
This is my favorite. Going back to the concept of maintaining sustainable, healthy lifestyle, this one is a must. If you’re like me, you have your food weaknesses. I found all kinds of substitutes for things that I loved. Instead of pizza, I would fashion a meal with similar flavors including tomatoes, olive oil, and spices. You can make substitutions with anything. I use oat bran and flax seed to make my pancakes, and I swap sweet potatoes for white potatoes (which are starchier and higher on the glycemic index).
If I can lose weight, so can you. I don’t have any sort of super-human strength that helped me to control cravings or get me to the gym. The only thing that I did was be strategic about my weight loss and make it fit into my life in a sustainable way. I still enjoy food, have fun with my workouts, and keep the weight off!
Have you tried any of these sustainable tips for weight loss?
Related: How to Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet
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Photos: Kaboompics, Mary Hood Luttrell, Peaceful Dumpling, Crystal Chin, Molly Lansdowne, Amanda Becker