“I’ve gained 15lbs and I CAN’T stop eating!”
That’s the text I received from a friend recently. She told me another friend asked — purely out of kindness and concern — if something terrible had happened because they noticed she had gained a decent amount of weight recently. This gain was after a check up where her doctor mentioned she needed to lose about 20 pounds. Eek!
This was the wake-up call she needed.
She was mortified, and while she knew things had gotten out of hand, the idea of trying to lose a total of 35 pounds seemed out of reach. A former Division I athlete, she couldn’t believe she was in this position at age 30.
I knew how she felt; I’ve been there (a few times)…well not the DI athlete part.
In college, I tore my ACL and meniscus. One surgery turned into two and a third all within a year. I gained at least 40 pounds in a few months. I’m 5-foot-6 and I weighed about 200 pounds (no, that wasn’t muscle weight). It was a tough moment. I can’t remember the exact number on the scale at the student health center that day. I knew it was a problem, and I didn’t feel together physically or emotionally.
“I felt hopeless. I gave up. I took a golf cart just to get to class.”
While that might not sound like a huge number, it was “crisis weight” for me. Pre-surgery I was active, working out daily and biking a ton, I weighed 150 pounds and thought I needed to lose 5 pounds (ha!) After surgery, my goal weight felt so far away — I would’ve been grateful to hit 160 — that my approach was, “what’s the point in trying?!”
I felt hopeless. I gave up. I took a golf cart just to get to class. I didn’t do any cardio. I hit up In N Out and then went directly to Krispy Kreme to top it off. I was eating my emotions.
I say this to illustrate that I know firsthand how weight can spiral. Quickly.
Getting out of that slump took years and a combination of logging my meals, making healthier choices, setting realistic goals, taking care of my body and upping my workout routine. I discovered I had more energy and felt better, which was empowering. Until I started feeling better, I didn’t realize I had forgotten what healthy felt like.
OK, back to my friend. I listened to her worries. She vented. We laughed. We came close to tears. Then we started troubleshooting.
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Whether you are starting your weight loss journey, finding yourself in the middle of the struggle or working on maintenance, here are tips to keep you on track:
1. START NOW AND START SMALL
You gained weight…it’s a bummer, but you can’t harp on it: move forward. Stop saying “tomorrow will be the day I start.” Once you start you are closer to finishing. Most people love that post workout high, but the toughest part is starting that workout. On days I don’t want to work out, I tell myself to just do a little cardio. I get on the elliptical and push myself to the 5-minute mark, and I know I’m halfway there. Since I’m already in the gym and sweaty, it’s easier to talk myself into 10 minutes of strength moves, too. Some days 20–30 minutes is enough.
Apply the same philosophy to food and goal setting. Instead of focusing on the 80 total pounds you want to lose, put your energy towards the five pounds you can realistically lose in April.
The most exciting part is, if you’ve fallen off the wagon completely, taking a few small steps typically results in changes pretty quickly.
2. LOSE THE GUILT
It’s easy to feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed if you’ve gained or regained weight. Weight gain happens, so shift your focus from the past and set your sights on the concrete actions you can take to move forward.
So quit beating yourself up over that cup of ice cream you ate late last night, instead focus on what you are going to do tonight. Have a banana, greek yogurt or string cheese on hand just in case that nighttime hunger strikes again.
Make attainable goals and celebrate yourself when you’ve hit them – strive for progress, not perfection. If you are struggling with intense feelings of shame and guilt this next tip might be especially helpful.
3. CONSIDER HELP FROM THE PROS
Whether it’s a personal trainer, nutritionist, medical doctor or therapist, it can help to have someone holding you accountable. Depending on your situation, it can also help to sit down with a professional to unpack why you may have gained the weight in the first place and what you should be doing to make a change that sticks. If you have preexisting conditions, are trying to lose more than 100 pounds or have a BMI of 40 or greater, consulting a doctor ensures you are embarking on the plan that is best for your health.
For me, getting back on track after surgery required checking in with my physical therapist and surgeon about my game plan. It was important to learn what exercises were off limits for the moment and which I’d have to modify or avoid long term (I won’t be running any marathons or doing deep jump squats anytime soon and that’s ok).
4. MAKE A MEAL PLAN
It’s always helpful to plan out your meals when you first start to prevent you from falling back into old bad habits. Personally, I love to cook (plus, cooking at home saves money) and incorporate as many veggies as possible into every meal (even breakfast). If your schedule isn’t conducive to meal planning and getting groceries in advance, try a meal delivery service. My friend signed up for a paleo food delivery service to jumpstart her weight loss plan.
5. REACH OUT TO FRIENDS
Tell your family and friends you are working on your weight-loss goals. They may want to join you, and even do a challenge together. Your family can also create an environment that’s more hospitable to your goals by keeping junk food out of sight or better yet, not bringing unhealthy food into the home in the first place. Sometimes it just helps to have someone to vent to.
Today, I weigh around 165 pounds, have a a decent amount of muscle and feel better than ever about where my body is and what it can accomplish! I’m happy at this weight, which is bizarre, because according to the charts, I’m overweight (with a BMI of 26.6), but weight and BMI can only tell you so much. So I’ve released the power that number held over me. It would be great to lose a couple pounds just to ensure the long-term health of my knee, but I’m no longer obsessing about the number, and I’m embracing myself as I am. My weight still fluctuates (I’ve gained and lost countless pounds), but I’m more focused on how I actually feel and how far I’ve come. I’ve even embraced the athlete moniker, which has made my workouts more effective.
Weight gain happens and weight loss is hard work, so don’t give up or feel defeated if you are struggling: You’ve got this and you are not alone.
I can’t wait to hear from you. Have you ever looked up and suddenly gained more weight than you anticipated? What was your wakeup call? What did you do? And what are your tips for staying on track?
Better Than Ever
We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: Everything from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you!