How I Lost 65 Pounds
I had never been overweight as a kid, but when I hit my mid-twenties, my weight started skyrocketing upwards. My diet had deteriorated, I was getting no exercise, and — worst of all — I had developed a serious drinking problem.
As I reached the end of my twenties, I crossed the threshold into obesity. My weight had hit 216 pounds and showed no signs of stopping.
The story of my weight loss began with me getting sober. Although I had tried to diet without cutting the alcohol, it had never had any real effect. Once I quit drinking, my weight started dropping with very little effort (at first).
I had been drinking so much beer that getting sober immediately removed hundreds of calories from my daily diet. I fell out of the “obese” range within a few months, and dropped below 200 shortly after.
Then my weight loss stalled. Quitting drinking had helped, but it only took me so far. My next step was counting calories.
I downloaded My Fitness Pal, and for a few weeks logged literally everything that I ate. I used a kitchen scale to weigh my food, to make sure that the measurements were as accurate as possible.
Counting calories taught me to better understand how the foods I ate contributed to my diet. I learned which foods I needed to reduce or cut entirely, and which snacks were surprisingly healthy.
Even after I stopped counting calories, I continued to try my hardest to maintain a healthy, well-rounded diet.
The final piece of the puzzle was starting to exercise. Although they say that weight loss is 90% about diet, getting a lot of exercise certainly didn’t hurt. When I began running regularly, I saw my weight finally hit my target.
I had lost over 60 pounds total — over a quarter of my starting weight.
How I’ve Maintained My Weight Loss
I was thrilled when I initially hit my target weight, but also apprehensive. While counting calories, I had spent plenty of time reading weight loss forums, and I knew all too well how common it was to quickly regain weight after a diet ended.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to maintain my weight loss instead. In the two years since hitting my target weight, I’ve reliably stayed within about a ten pound range. I even managed to get through quitting cigarettes without any noticeable weight gain.
The secret to my success has been to focus on lasting, sustainable changes to my diet and lifestyle.
The biggest change that I’ve made is, of course, getting sober. Quitting drinking has improved my life and health well beyond weight loss, but it definitely also helps keep my calorie intake lower.
Even for people who don’t have a drinking problem like I did, alcohol might be adding many more calories to your diet than you realize. I was shocked when I first started adding up just how many calories a few IPAs can contain. Even a six-pack a week might be adding nearly a thousand calories to your diet.
I have always had a sweet tooth. When I was at my heaviest, I regularly ate a candy bar each day. At the time, I actually saw this as moderation. I’d buy a pack of cigarettes and a candy bar from the liquor store each day, and then be proud of myself for only going through that much.
I still love candy, and I’m not planning to ever cut it out of my diet completely, but I have drastically reduced how much I eat. These days, I buy one candy bar per week, and it normally lasts a few days. This saves me hundreds of calories each week.
As I cut the alcohol and candy from my diet, I replaced it with tons of water. Staying well hydrated keeps me feeling less hungry throughout the day. It also gives me something to do with my hands and mouth, so I don’t feel like I’m missing something by not drinking beer or snacking.
One of the simplest changes that I’ve made is to always keep healthy snacks around my house. I buy much more fruit than ever before. When I’m in the mood for chips or other junk food, my strategy is to eat a piece of fruit first.
Sometimes, eating a healthy snack is enough to resist the junk food entirely. Other times, I still end up eating junk food afterwards, but I at least eat much less, since the fruit has helped fill me up.
No Fast Food
Since losing weight, I’ve also eliminated fast food completely. I’ve never liked the taste of fast food, but I used to eat it because it felt convenient. These days, I don’t eat it no matter what, and I can’t say I miss it one bit.
I run a lot: almost always at least 20 miles a week, and sometimes twice that. Each mile tends to burn a little over 100 calories, which means I’m easily burning a pound worth of calories every week or two.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that if you exercise more you’ll just end up eating more to make up for it. In my own experience, that was true when I was running just an hour or so each week, but not now that I’m running so much. On my heaviest running weeks, I actually have to make a real effort to make sure I’m eating enough not to unintentionally lose more weight.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve also worked to reduce my meat consumption. Eventually, about half a year ago, I stopped eating meat entirely. I’ve saved this for last because it’s honestly hard for me to judge how much this has contributed to maintaining my lower weight.
I stopped eating meat for moral reasons — I felt that eating animals was wrong, and for far too long had ignored those feelings. Although I think vegetarianism might be helping me keep off the weight, I’d certainly still have stopped eating meat regardless of how it affects my health.
Sustainable Weight Loss is Possible
Keeping off my weight has felt like just as much an achievement to me as losing it in the first place. The best part is that I get to keep celebrating this achievement day after day.
Everyone’s strategy for maintaining weight loss is different, but I hope that some of my techniques can help others as well.