Losing 70 pounds is tough. Keeping it off for more than a decade is even tougher. Trust me, I tried everything. Once I lost the weight, I thought I'd feel relieved and proud all the time, but what I didn't expect were the feelings of panic and fear.
I was constantly afraid that I'd end up back where I started and keeping the weight off became an obsession. When I overindulged or wasn't able to work out, my first thought was that I was going to gain the weight back. It was exhausting and nerve-racking.
But somehow I've managed to keep it off and eventually found a way to do it that's effective, effortless and doesn't mean living in fear. Here's what I've learned about what it takes.
1. Workouts that I dread.
I used to assign value to workouts purely on the number of calories that they burn so I stuck to brutal, high-intensity workouts that sorta made me miserable and ultimately got me injured and left me feeling burned out. Then, it occurred to me that I'm more than just muscle and fat. So I started only doing workouts that felt good in my body and contributed to the overall well-being of my body, mind and spirit. Now, I actually look forward to my workouts, which means I've got no problem getting them in regularly.
2. Eliminating entire categories of food.
Legit food sensitivities and allergies aside, cutting out a whole classification of food is not sustainable, making it a one-way ticket to Frustration City. Our bodies were designed to take in quality fats, protein and carbs (in moderation of course) and each plays a vital role in proper bodily function. Now, over time, I've learned that there are certain foods that don't make me feel the greatest — for example, gummy candies cause my skin to break out, cereal makes me gassy and fried foods make me sluggish — but will an order of fries, a few celebratory cocktails or a birthday cupcake (or two) derail my inner peace and send me into a downward spiral of self-loathing and guilt? Absolutely not. I don't give food that much power over me anymore.
3. Thinking in terms of calories.
Calories get far too much attention considering that they only tell a small part of the story. So many other things have a direct effect on your body weight and overall health and well-being — for example, hydration, sleep and stress levels all affect how well your body's internal processes work, including digestion and metabolism. When we focus on calories, we learn that low-calorie means better … but it doesn't. Many of the most nutritious foods on the planet are calorie dense and many very low-calorie foods have little or no nutritional value. Remember that food is fuel, so quality and nutrition definitely matter.
4. Punishing myself for "slipping up."
Workouts aren't punishment and deprivation is cruel. Think of it this way: if your child or pet screwed up, is it okay to run them into the ground or withhold a meal from them? No. So why, oh why, it is okay for us to do it to ourselves?
5. Ignoring the need for recovery.
I used to wear my perpetual muscle soreness like a badge of honor and told myself that I had to work out every day in order to "earn" my calories for that day. Honestly, I wish I could get back all that time I wasted — it didn't make me stronger, leaner or happier. Our bodies can self-heal, but only if we give them the time to do so. Pushing yourself to the limit every day may seem bad-ass, but it's robbing your body of the chance to rebuild, adapt and grow stronger.
6. Choosing my workouts based on what I want to look like.
My current workout routine reflects how I want my body to function so that I can do all the things that make my life fun and enjoyable — like teaching yoga, running ultra marathons, playing with my 3-year-old niece and carrying all my groceries in one shot. Here's the thing: I've been a size 18 and I've been a size 0 — and everything in between — and it didn't change how I felt about myself. Losing 70 pounds didn't make me any less self-conscious about my body. You know what did make a difference? Learning what my body is capable of and developing my strengths. The shape and size of my body don't define me or affect my overall quality of life.
Have you successfully maintained weight-loss long term? Tell us what you've learned. —Alison