5 Things that Helped Me Lose Weight

Before getting into this post, I just want to point out that – no – I didn’t intend for this to be a 5 weight loss tips kind of post. It just worked out that way.

As I mentioned the other day, I’m once again walking down the path to a healthier life. I’ve already lost a fair bit of weight; though for me, it’s a long road ahead. As I was working earlier I started thinking about the last time I lost a lot of weight; specifically how I did it. Now back then it was a bit easier – I had plenty of time to go to the gym and I had the benefit of a 19-year-old’s metabolism. Nowadays, my life is a bit more hectic. I work full time, then come home hang with the kids, and try to carve out quality time with my wife. Add to that church, gym time, and finding time to write and the life balancing act gets a lot tougher. Nevertheless, I am dropping the weight and I believe that this time it’s going to stay off.

Now I’ve always been hesitant to share weight loss advice with others because I am overweight. It’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. But as I thought about it earlier today it really hit me: I dropped nearly 90 pounds. I went from a 3XL shirt and a size 44 waist to a large and size 36. What I did worked in part because of where I was in life, but it also worked because of choices that I made along the way. So while I’m not a nutrition or workout expert (though I’ve been learning a lot in the last few months), I thought I’d share some of the more basic things that I did to lose weight in the past and why they’re still working for me today.

Cut Out Sugary Drinks

I’m sure you’ve probably heard it before, but you really don’t want to be consuming a lot of sugar – especially in sugary drinks. Colorful kids drinks, ICEEs/Slurpees, sodas, pretty much everything on the menu at places like Starbucks and McDonalds; you just want to avoid these things. Sure, they taste good (really good…), but consider the number of calories in a single serving (which is usually less than what you hold in your cup or bottle). A grande mocha frappuccino from Starbucks (a personal favorite of mine from my younger days), is 410 calories. That’s as much as my entire dinner tonight in a single drink.

There is plenty of science on how this sugar is turned into fat in the liver and stored in the belly, though I won’t pretend to fully understand it all. If you want a better explanation of what this sugar does to the body, read this article from Healthline. There are also many more articles about this and studies to back them up which you can find by a simple web search if you’re interested in learning more. The reason I bring this up is because when I first started losing weight back in college, I cut out soda all together. Before then I was drinking 5 or more a day. And it’s not just me, I’ve seen friends and family members give up sugary drinks for a season and they start losing weight (even if it’s only 5 or 6 pounds).

Cut Out Fried Foods

So when I first started losing weight back in the day, this was the other part of what helped me to start dropping the pounds. I was a big fan of eating out (guess what, I still am) and I would often run by drive-thru’s on my way home from work. My favorite fast food joint was Checkers – up north you’d know it as Rally’s. I loved their burgers but their fries were where it’s at. I developed a routine to go their after church each Sunday and I would go there on my lunch break at least once or twice a week. Like most Americans, I just really liked fried stuff.

When I really got serious about changing my diet, soda and fried food were the first to go. It was only a couple of days before I started noticing the difference. The weight started dropping a little later, but right away I started to feel better. I had less stomach issues, and my head wasn’t as cloudy as it had been for a long time. I would get something fried on rare occasions, typically when out with friends, but generally speaking I avoided the stuff like the plague. I want to say it was easy, but at times it was tough. I was on the campus meal plan and there were several occasions when literally everything on the hot bar was deep fried… deep fried mushrooms, deep fried cauliflower, french fries, tater tots, fried chicken. Those days sucked. But I learned to enjoy salads (albeit with way too much dressing when starting out) and honestly I was able to get away with having Lucky Charms every day because I was exercising so much though that probably should have been cut as well. But eventually I learned to eat healthier and developed my palate to appreciate fruit and vegetables for what they are. Now, years later, my family and I eat a modified paleo diet and I’m quite content.

Portion Control is Key

This is the part where I remind you that I’m not a nutritionist. I don’t know how much a good portion is for you. For me, this started out surprisingly easy, and has gotten harder as I’ve gotten older. I don’t know why, but there’s probably some logical explanation for it. Nevertheless, I know that portion control is important.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for calorie counting as a diet solution. It might work for some people, but it’s never worked for me. It’s been effective for short periods of time, but eventually I miss one too many meals, and the whole system crumbles. I preferred just shrinking my meals when starting out. I would take half of what I would have normally gotten on my first walk through the cafeteria line, eat it, then wait to see how hungry I still was. If I went out to eat or got take out, I would try to save some of it instead of clearing my plate. After a little while the hunger lessened and I was able be okay with eating less.

Acquire a Taste for Healthy Foods

This was probably my biggest hurdle when I started losing weight in college, and if I’m being honest it has remained a struggle up until earlier this year. I have a crazy sweet tooth, love fried food and starches, and I will literally take all of the chips and salsa you have. Knowing that, you can imagine the culture shock my taste buds faced when I started eating things like kale, zucchini noodles, riced cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. It took a while for me to really enjoy these foods, but now that I have – and I’ve learned to cook – they are staples in my daily meal prep. But when I was first starting out trying to get healthier it started with getting used to your more basic veggies without a ranch dressing to dip it in. I learned to enjoy the taste of broccoli, I tried hummus for the first time, and I found that I really liked strawberries. It sounds dumb, but when you’ve grown up on a high sugar and high saturated fat diet for the first 18 or 19 years of your life, it’s hard to make that kind of change at first.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Perhaps afraid isn’t the best word here… or maybe it is? In any event, when first starting out I didn’t really ask people for advice. I just figured I’d do my own thing, and to an extent it worked. However, my roommate and suite-mates during my freshman year were all athletes and the resident director of my dorm was a fitness guy so when I asked for advice on losing weight and getting stronger they were eager to help. Ultimately, it came down to trying different suggestions and seeing what worked.

There’s a lot more that I could say on this, but for now I think that’s enough. I know that none of you asked for this, and it’s not really what I’m used to writing but it’s never a bad thing to step out and try something different. I hope this advice is helpful to someone, and if you’re just starting down the path of weight loss and need someone to talk to, feel free to reach out.

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