in Health

What it takes to lose 50 pounds

In the corner of my bathroom lies a square, glossy, onyx colored weighing scale. It measures about eleven inches in diameter and sits firmly attached to the ground, safely nestled between tile trims. Above the scale and adjacent to the wall is a gargantuan circular mirror, perfect for those night outings where you need to assess your full attire in the greatest detail.

Every morning at dawn, before breakfast and before a toothbrush runs rapid across my teeth, I lunge out of bed and jump on that scale. Staring down beyond my feet and witnessing a weight drop is like getting that much desired gift on Christmas morning as a kid. That immediate feedback of hard work and tenacity is reciprocated by those simple blue LED digits on the scale.

But this morning, it reads: [REDACTED] lbs, a full 0.4 lb increase from yesterday. What happened? I lift my head up and look at myself in utter disgust. The gargantuan mirror is not in any mood for remorse. It stares back a shameful person who snacks and craves, who scoffs and devours and pleads at the sight of food. 0.4 lbs is the quantity of failure today.

Utter despair crawls up my skin leaving a trail of goosebumps. I’ll never hit my goal weight. What’s the point of this? I need a break and should relax with a cheat meal. I grab my slacks and put them on with swift speed. *WOOSH*. Yeah, if I do it fast enough that outta burn those extra calories.

For some of you this event may hit close to home. For others, it reads like a disorder. Who gets dejected by a slight increase in weight? Fluctuation is a natural part of how our bodies function after all.

When you’re on a fat loss diet, every step towards your goal is a march toward a life change. Hitting that goal weight is a win and the habit slowly builds your identity. When you work tirelessly to count calories, to push that last dumbbell above your head or to break that personal record, that hard work needs to manifest itself somewhere. In our case, it’s losing fat. Changes in your waist size or body weight is immediate feedback that your hard work has paid off. But when it doesn’t go that way, it questions everything you’ve done and jeopardizes your accomplishments.

Who you were before the weight loss remains dormant but doesn’t change. If you ever loved or craved food, that will most likely remain. Bad eating habits will exist outside of the diet restriction you’ve temporarily jailed yourself into. At it’s core, dieting is a fundamental lifestyle change. It requires a complete mindset shift to integrate with the rest of your life. You know that restaurant your friends love to frequent? Sure, it’s heavy on the calories but it’s important to have a social life without such a rigid devotion to nutrition.

It’s no secret that only 20% of those successful in reaching their weight loss goal actually keep the pounds off. It takes years, even decades to reach an unhappy weight. We expect to burn that fat as quickly as possible. But bad habits die hard and you’ll find yourself sliding back into your old ways.

In the beginning, the weighing scale is your friend. It serves its manufactured purpose. But over time it becomes an oxymoron. What’s supposed to help you track and motivate progress can serve a dual purpose of discouraging you. Just as I had seen my weight increase slightly, that infinitesimal bump can have a psychological impact. That’s why I like to say: the scale can lie. Your body fluctuates in weight naturally. That could be due to water retention or meal timings or any number of factors. What the scale shows is not always the truth. Or rather, how you interpret the scale’s reading is not always the truth.

Persevering through those fluctuations and plateaus is a test of discipline. Every event of resistance to temptation is a coin tossed into the habit bank for discipline. Keeping yourself resistant to that quick self gratification hardens your new identity.

You might be thinking that a calorie restricted diet can only bear bland or downright disgusting food. That is not true. An excellent way to alleviate this myth is by sharpening those cooking skills. I’m not saying you can’t survive on Chipotle, but you’ll quickly realize the cost and inflexibility of eating out. It’s easy to track your macros when you actively measure what you eat. It’s also a skill that will pay dividends over time. It will feel frustrating at first as you get your bearings on how to cook a tasty meal, especially while under restricted calories. But over time you’ll fine tune your meals to squeeze every ounce of taste and macro you can find.

Eating out is hard while on a diet. You’ll have trouble calculating macros and portion sizes at restaurants, especially those that don’t have their nutrition information readily available. As a result, you’ll find yourself guessing every calorie and every portion size when outside your cooking zone.

And finally, snacking can be the hidden culprit of weight gain or stagnation. What seems like a few calories quickly adds up as you munch on snacks throughout the day. I have an entire post about snacking and how to combat the pesky behavior.

Losing fat can be daunting. From macro crunching to consistently being present in the gym, it takes discipline and effort to crush your health goals. I noticed an immediate change in how people treated me after I lost my first 50 lbs. I was treated with more respect and people paid more attention to me in work and outside of it. I think it’s a subtle, unconscious bias that many are simply not aware of. There will be ups and downs in your journey as is the case for any great endeavor one undertakes. But remember — all is not lost if you don’t see a decrease in weight for a few days.