I have heard several people say that you should never take weight loss advice from a fat person. I think this is total crap, and I will tell you why.
I have struggled with weight ever since puberty attacked me in my teens. I also L.O.V.E. food. I love to eat. It makes me happy. Growing up, a lot of our reward systems were based around selecting where we would go to eat. I never grew up eating many sweets, as my mom wouldn’t allow it (probably why I didn’t get my first cavity until I was 33). But we all love to eat. I’m not a drinker, and I don’t do drugs, so food was always my drug of choice. The funny thing about a food addiction is that I think it is harder to kick than any other kind of addiction. “Wait, Liz… harder than heroin?” I can’t be sure, as I have never been stuck on it, but the fact is that you can live without booze. You can live without drugs. You CANNOT live without food. So, unlike other addictions, you can’t simply give it up and stay away for it. You have to deal with it EVERY SINGLE DAY. Or you die.
Over the years, I packed on a lot of weight. Emotional eating is a particular talent of mine, and with my former relationship, that was all the time. Not to mention my ex-husband was also particularly talented at stuffing more food in his pie hole than anyone I have ever met. It is extraordinarily hard to lose weight or eat healthy when there is basically a competitive eating contest going on in your house every day.
As of today, I have lost a total of 66.4 lbs from my highest weight. That’s a lot of weight! I also have a lot more to lose, but I would love to share what I have learned.
“But, you are fat! How can I take weight loss advice from a fat person?” you might be saying. And if you are saying this, you might be an asshole. Just saying. The reason I would trust a heavier person’s weight loss advice over a naturally skinny person is this – What the hell does a naturally skinny person know about losing weight? I never trust trainers or diet people who haven’t lost a significant amount of weight. Because the struggle is different when you are trying to “tone” or “bulk up” or “just stay healthy” than when you have a butt-ton of weight that you need to lose.
Here are some of my lessons learned (usually the hard way):
- You have to EAT to lose. I know, skinny people. It makes no sense. It goes against everything we have really been taught. But the fact is that food is the fuel we need to make our bodies work. And just like your car, the better the food, the more you get out of it. If you are using Bob’s watered down gas, your car will move, but it won’t run it’s best. Using higher quality food will make your body run better and will allow your body to dump the extra fat it has been storing. If you starve your body, it WILL NOT LOSE WEIGHT. Our bodies are way smarter than we are. They know when they can afford to drop the weight and when they can’t. If you aren’t feeding your body enough, it will hold the weight. Try it. Trust me.
- Not all calories are the same. I hear all the time that it doesn’t really matter what you are eating, as long as you stay within your calories for the day. I don’t believe this at all. Oh, I used to WANT to believe it, because it meant that I could eat Twinkies all day as long as I stayed within calories. But you know what? I felt like ass. Eating the right types of food makes you feel better. You get more energy naturally, sleep better, and lose weight faster when your body is getting proper nutrition. I have actually cut out 99% of fast food from my diet in the last couple of months. Mostly because my car window stopped working and I am too lazy to go inside ;). But doing this has made a massive difference in my weight loss.
- You can’t exercise yourself skinny. Exercise is awesome. We need it desperately. But the fact is that you can’t just exercise. I know. I have tried. Back when I was at the tippy top of my weight, I hired a personal trainer to help me get into shape (you know, other than round). I worked out with her like crazy. After four months… I hadn’t lost a single pound. Why? Because I didn’t change my diet at all. 80% of weight loss is diet. My therapist told me once that exercise isn’t for weight loss, it is for stress reduction. And I believe she was absolutely right. Yes, it will help make you stronger, build muscles, and is fantastic for your heart. But it isn’t everything.
- Don’t be a slave to the scale. I know. I am slightly scale obsessed. When I was losing weight several years ago, I would be on there 5 times a day or more. But the fact is that sometimes the scale is a lying bastard. Seriously? How does one take a massive poo and gain a pound? But you can’t let the scale determine your success or how you see yourself. I once lost 47 lbs in four months, followed by four months of the scale NEVER moving again. I would have been super discouraged, except for the fact that I was taking measurements every month. I was able to see that even though the weight wasn’t moving, my body was. I also use my clothes as a gauge for how things are going. Do they look and feel better? Find things that keep you motivated even when you can’t see the numbers on the scale.
- Slow weight loss is better than fast. I know, I know. You are screaming LIAR at the screen right now. But, hear me out. I know we all want to drop 100 lbs in a week, but the fact is that rapid weight loss is dangerous and not likely to last. I am one of those people who drops 20 lbs in a week when I get sick, which used to be a lot. It really fucks with your system to lose that fast, but also it isn’t real loss and that weight is likely to come back on quicker than if your body has taken the time to lose the weight. My weight loss to this point has been SUPER slow. In fact, it has taken me 7 years to lose 66 lbs to where I feel it is actually gone. But I also no longer feel like one bad day will throw me into a gaining cycle either. Another BIG reason I advocate slow weight loss is the skin issue. Anyone who has lost a large amount of weight can tell you your skin doesn’t always follow suit. A big weight loss too quickly can result in a lot of excess skin that you can’t figure out how to get rid of. (There are ways to minimize this without surgery)
- Weight loss surgery is not the Golden Ticket. Look, I know a lot of people who have had one of these procedures done and have been very successful (but also see skin issues). I am not one of those people. In 2006, when I was at my heaviest, a doctor pretty much told me that surgery was my only option for losing weight. I was promised great results. I chose the Lap Band because I wasn’t willing to do the more dangerous gastric bypass. I didn’t want something permanent. I wanted my guts to remain intact. Here’s what they don’t tell you – it won’t work for everyone. I was sick every day of my life for the 3 years I had that stupid thing. At most, I think I lost about 40 lbs, but that was barfing pretty much daily. In 2009, I had it removed. A doctor later told me it sounded like my body was rejecting it like a bad transplant. I believe that to be the case. In any case, only 15 lbs of that weight loss turned out to stick. It is not the golden ticket, and if you aren’t careful it could kill you.
- 1200 calories a day is NOT the magic number. I use the MyFitnessPal app and website to track my food and exercise, and I love it. The one thing I don’t love is that it constantly tells me that I need to eat a 1200 calorie diet in order to lose weight. And I tried, I swear I did. But with only 1200 calories, I want to stab everyone I see. I just can’t do it. I actually increased my calorie intake to 1800 and was much happier AND kept losing weight! Try to find an online calculator that will tell you the calories you need to keep your body running and NEVER GO UNDER THAT NUMBER. That is not the number to lose, that is the number to stay alive and keep your systems from starving and shutting down. Educate yourself on what all the different numbers mean and adjust accordingly. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss.
I have many more lessons learned, but I will spare you for now. Again, there is a reason that companies like Weight Watchers will only hire people who have lost and maintained their weight as leaders and even receptionists. They want someone who can relate to people who need to lose a significant amount of weight. Also, they have DONE it. Skinny Bitch trainer that I worked with in 2001 had no clue how to work with someone like me. She gave me bad advice for someone my size and even injured me by putting me on machines that my joints couldn’t handle. Not cool.
My last tip is to find something that motivates you and keep it in mind. DO NOT SHAME YOURSELF INTO SUBMISSION! This will NOT help you succeed, but will make you more likely to fail and then you will like yourself even less. I would rather be fat and happy than thin and miserable. My favorite game is “How much food can I shove into my face within my daily calorie goal?” Again, I love to eat. This way, I can eat a great volume of food, but it is mostly healthy stuff so I get the most bang for your calorie buck.
Just keep swimming, folks.