On weight loss

There’s no magic pill.

There’s no secret.

There’s no special food.

There’s no trick.

There’s no “easy way.”

As many times as I’ve tried to find other ways, I’ve discovered there is one surefire way to lose weight. It’s damn simple, but one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It just doesn’t fit into an advertising jingle: exercise more and stop eating junk food.

But the thing is, you’ve got to really want it. If you think of weight loss as something temporary, like you’re just going on this diet for a month, for a year, until your reunion, so you can fit into an old pair of jeans or a dress… it will be temporary. One big thing that Weight Watchers taught me is that to really lose weight and keep it off, stop thinking that you’re on a diet. You’re making lifestyle changes. For good.

It doesn’t have to be cold turkey, unless that’s how you quit addictions. Make moderate, gradual changes. Start packing lunch at home instead of grabbing a sandwich or food at a restaurant for work. Just try it for one week, then one more week. It will become routine. Go for a walk one morning. Pick one day a week. Next week, go to two days. Week after that? Three days. Your body will adjust and soon enough, it will crave that morning walk. You will feel weird when you sleep in. This is a good thing.

As soon as I got a gym membership, I figured I’d play this smart. I decided to take a class, so that I’d have some kind of structure. At the very worst, the presence of other people would guilt me into staying. And I did. I took a spin class Monday mornings at 5:30 a.m. I had never even touched a spin bike. I lasted 30 minutes that first week, but it was OK with me. That’s 30 more minutes than I had done last week. That’s progress.

I took a couple days off after that. I took an aerobics/step/weight class on Thursday, taught by a woman they called “G.I. Kim.” She didn’t like breaks. By the time the hour was over, my shirt was absolutely soaked with sweat. It looked like someone turned a hose on me. But that feeling I got right after the class was over… I can’t describe it. It was addicting and I wanted more of it. I felt accomplished, and the classmates encouraged me. Taking classes at the local gym helps you get some semblance of structure (now I’m going three times a week for an hour each time) and you make friends who keep you on track.

Again, nothing too life-changing. It all just started with one class. Then I built from that. Now if I don’t work out one week, my body just doesn’t feel right. The human body is an amazing thing. It adapts to changes, both positive and negative. This is really the first time in my life I started making widely positive changes. Trust in your body.

Next step? Cut back on bad food. I made a New Year’s Resolution last year to not eat a bite of fast food. That was huge for me. All throughout college, I was more focused on my job and classes. Myself (and my health) came a distant third. I was working as an editor for the school newspaper, taking 20 units of classes and interning/freelancing for the big daily newspaper. I was 20, 21 years old and basically all I knew about cooking was ordering out, putting something quick in the oven or microwave or throwing meat on the George Foreman Grill. On top of that, when I got home, I was exhausted. I didn’t feel like cooking at all. So I ate fast food on a damn near daily basis.

That was about four years ago. It took until last year to realize that I need to come first. You should too. I started carving out time for myself and cooking, even with my limited skills. I found out that there’s some delicious food out there that doesn’t come on a dollar menu. Plus I can make turkey burgers that are exponentially tastier than McDonalds. For those, like me, who can’t cook worth a damn, find substitutions. I buy Lean Cuisine or Weight Watchers pizza when I have that craving. When I want a burger, I make a turkey burger on a thin bun. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found it works for me.

Does it taste the same? No.

Is it 100x better for your body? Yes.

That’s the important thing. Small changes to your diet and to your daily routine.

When I decided to give up on fast food, it was tough. To get home, I drove past Burger King, Jack in the Box and Wendy’s. Every day. After a long stressful day, I just wanted to grab three things off the 99 cent menu and call it dinner. I just told myself that I can get through one day. After that day, I can get through the week. After that week? I can get through the month.

After two months, I rarely craved it. I still wanted it, for sure, but I knew that the consequences far outweighed the rewards.

I stopped worrying about the scale, something that’s very hard as a Weight Watcher. There was a two-month period where I’d work my ass off (literally) at the gym, and gain weight. I kept under my points limit, but my body was trying to hold onto weight. After a long period of frustration… I just went with it. I focused on the positive (my increased health) instead of the negative (temporary weight gain). I knew that the pounds didn’t come from eating garbage. Once I let go of being so scale-obsessed, I was able to just enjoy my life.

You can too. Just don’t look for shortcuts.

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