At a holiday party last month, an acquaintance I had not seen in months asked, “Have you lost weight?” When I replied that, yes, I had, she asked with a fair amount of trepidation, “…on purpose?”
She thought maybe I was sick.
I’m not sick but I did lose a lot of weight last year. On purpose. It’s really the only resolution that I managed to stick. Though, like any good resolution, I waited until around March to really make an effort.
I get asked about my weight loss often. And, the initial query is inevitably followed by questions about how I lost weight. The questions never bother me although, I fear my response is always kind of a letdown. “Diet and exercise,” I reply. I think people always expect me to say I went Keto or started Whole30. I don’t know what those things are but I don’t think I’m allowed to have Little Debbie snack cakes on either of them so they were never really an option for me.
So, in case you, like me, find yourself over forty and wanting to make some changes, here is how I managed to lose weight.
(And, I should note, I feel qualified to share my approach since I managed to survive the two months between Halloween and New Year’s Day without gaining any weight. In fact, I continued to lose weight. That, my friends, is a holiday miracle. Helped in no small part by a terrible stomach bug that snaked its way through our entire family two days after Christmas lingering for more than ten days but WHATEVER. The dehydration was worth it because it cancelled out all of the Christmas ham.)
Step 1: I stopped eating all of the food.
I’ve never been that into fast food (though I strongly believe an Original Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A with a single packet of mayonnaise and three pickles is one of the ways our creator shows their love for us). And, I’ve never been the type to, say, hide a shoebox in my closet filled with candy bars (although if you do this, please invite me over and I will bring Butterfingers as a contribution). My issue has never been consuming too much fast food or too many sweets or eating too much fancy cheese. It’s just been eating too much food all around.
I love food. I love it so much. I love to make good food. I love to buy good food. I love to eat good food other people make. Food is fantastic and good food is such a lovely part of life. But, I consistently ate too much good food.
Losing weight for me involved being more conscious of what and how much I was consuming. That was the key. I started tracking everything I ate. And, look, I know. I KNOW. Tracking what you eat can be laborious. But, I use an app on my phone and after months and months of logging everything on my plate or in my bowl, it’s become second nature.
I don’t place any restrictions on the type of food I eat. I just keep track of it ALL. And, I have a REALISTIC daily calorie goal that I try to hit but I also don’t stress too much if I don’t hit that mark.
The side benefit of tracking the food I eat – of being more aware of what I’m consuming – is that I’ve naturally moved towards healthier food choices and more moderate portion sizes. I can navigate a dinner out with friends or a potluck at a neighbor’s house without overindulging or eating, say, all of the pie and none of the grilled vegetables.
That’s a big deal since one cannot subsist on Little Debbie snack cakes alone.
Step 2: I started moving more.
Even though I would rather be doing literally anything else, I started exercising daily – or almost daily.
Integrating consistent exercise into the routine of an indoor cat was a challenge but I managed to do it by, surprisingly, heading outdoors. Turns out, I loathe every piece of indoor exercise equipment we have sitting in our basement. Daily hikes outside have been the thing that has kept me motivated and kept me exercising. I don’t like the extreme cold or the extreme heat but I do like moving and how it makes me feel and so, most every day, I go for a hike.
And now, to absolutely everyone’s surprise, most of all my own, I’ve taken up running. At one point, last fall, I went out for my daily hike and the weather had turned cold so I figured the quickest way to warm up would be to just start running. Then, I didn’t stop. I’ve been running ever since. The thing about running, besides the fact that it absolutely trashes your knees, is that it also trashes your feet. Running is amazing but also terrible but also THE BEST but also the worst and ZOMG, do you want to talk about running because I think Bob is tired of talking about running with me.
Look, exercising is time consuming. There’s the stretching beforehand, the stretching afterwards, the extra care I have to take nightly with my old lady feet, the precious minutes I spend worrying about the pain I’m having in that one knee. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve had to ignore to make time for the entire process of daily exercise. But, I’ve always ignored household chores anyway. Exercise has given me a legitimate excuse.
Moving more for weight loss just means finding your “thing.” And, that thing may change over time. As we head into the long, dark, seemingly endless months of January and February, I know I’ll find it difficult to head out in the cold. I would much rather be warm, underneath bed covers, watching BBC mysteries and eating Little Debbie snack cakes. As a result, Bob is trying to get me to go swimming with him but I think we should go running instead.
I recently found a picture of my sixteen-year-old self, lounging by a pool, wearing a bikini. I can barely remember ever having skin that… smooth. When did it become so unsmooth? Everything is more… ripply now.
My body has changed in incredible and irrevocable ways over the past couple of decades, most notably growing three children. It continues to amaze and horrify me regularly. I’ll never have that same bikini body again. But, I haven’t regretted the time I’ve spent this past year taking better care of the body I have now.
I feel so much better. So much more like, “me.”
And, weight loss works better with a support system. So, if you want to go for a walk or a run or need encouragement or want to be friends on MyFitnessPal, let me know. We can do this! We ARE doing this! We can help each other!
I will bring Little Debbie snack cakes because it’s all about balance.