7 Harsh Weight Loss Truths to Accept to Make Your Life Easier
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of my weight. Not only when I was struggling with it, not only when I felt chubby or fat, but even in times when I was at my thinnest. Managing my weight has always been somehow in the focus, or when it wasn’t and I decided not to care about it, I paid the price of it later, when I finally took the courage to step on the scale, terrified of the weight gain.
I have been a chubby teenager and a chubby adult, and even when I slimmed down to thinner than normal, I still felt fat. My body image has never been great, and my life circumstances with an abusive ex-partner didn’t exactly help it either. I have been struggling with accepting myself for who I am, embracing my curves and loving my body. My weight fluctuated a lot throughout my life — mainly because of strict dieting periods alternating with lazy periods — and I have always thought about it as my cross to bear, not a part of life I had to manage.
This year, right before the first wave of the pandemic, I decided to embark on a weight loss journey, to lose weight — this time for good. Even if I started it before knowing we would go into lockdown, when it was there, I considered the pandemic and social isolation an opportunity to turn my life around for the better — with no deadline to get a bikini body or no company event where I need to appear already thin and pretty.
It’s been a hell of a ride so far, and I am starting to realise that this is a journey that won’t ever stop.
When I started it, with a strict diet and a very active exercise program, I expected instant changes and quick results. For the first couple of weeks, I welcomed the changes and I was extremely motivated. This is the time I am giving to myself; this is a way to take care of myself; this is my way of giving my body what it wants — I kept telling myself.
But months went by and while I had mild success, it was nothing near what I really had anticipated. 4 months into my journey, I still didn’t have a body to show off on the beach. I still couldn’t fit into my favourite inspiration- jeans. I didn’t feel all that great, even when I saw inches and pounds going away. It was slow and tedious — and I hated it, once again. Just like all those years before, it was a struggle.
And then all of a sudden, I realized that I was looking at it all wrong — yet again.
In my dieting journey throughout my life, I tried everything. And when I say everything, I mean literally every diet and everything that was promising results. Short of any surgical intervention — thankfully, I never needed it — I am familiar with every fad diet, every method, every weight loss miracle drug.
I tried keto and vegan diets, I tried low-carb and literally no-carb, I tried intermittent fasting and 60-day juice fasting. I tried one meal a day. I tried eating the same meal every day for months. I bought metabolism booster teas and fat burning coffees. I tried to combine it with exercise and I tried with no exercise at all.
I don’t want to exaggerate, but I feel that every method available has already been on my radar. And while I am not a health professional, I am quite knowledgeable about nutrition, diets and calorie deficit. I have been devouring all sorts of information about dieting, weight loss, weight management and exercise — but I never really focused on the mental part of it.
This time, I finally figured out that weight loss is not a physical journey, but an emotional one too. And I realized there are some harsh truths that I refused to acknowledge before. I wish I had because it would have saved me years and years of struggle.
Today, I am 9 months into my last weight loss journey, and I lost 45 pounds (20 kgs), countless inches and a few dress sizes. I feel lighter and I look a lot thinner. I am still in the overweight category as per my BMI, but I am no longer considered to be medically / statistically obese. It is a huge success and I am embracing it and I am celebrating it by sharing these emotional factors that I wish I had accepted before.
#1 Slow and steady wins the race
Do you know how many of the diets I tried actually worked?
All of them!
It’s incredible, but it’s true. Because they all work — whether it is about restricting portions, or a certain food group, or limiting calories or excluding solid food.
The real question is not whether they will work — because they will — but whether you can stick with them for a longer period of time, potentially for life.
When I was in my twenties, I thought that weight management was about doing a fasting day or two to drop 5–8 pounds. It was water weight and as soon as I started to eat normally again, it all came back. When I was more conscious about it and kept to the rules, I could lose a lot more — a lot slower.
Now, in my forties, there are no quick-wins and shortcuts anymore. Dieting for a day or a week doesn’t do anything. I am simply past the time when I can deceive my body, it knows better. Quick results don’t happen and never stick.
In my first 4 months, I lost less than 10 pounds (4 kgs) in total. It was miserable. I was miserable. I did everything right. I was persistent. I chose a way to cut enough carbs but to still enjoy eating. And I exercised 2–3 times a week at least an hour and I did shorter interval training 2–3 more times.
Then I started to see results and the weight loss started to happen. It still wasn’t 10 pounds a week, but more like 10 pounds a month — slowly but steadily adding up.
I wish I could have accepted it before that it will be a long journey, maybe a neverending one — instead of setting deadlines and milestones, I should have just went with it every time I started, finetuning what works for me, figuring out how much I can push myself to still deliver results.
#2 You won’t lose weight every week
When I thought of weight loss, I thought about it as I think about everything in my life. With objectives and plans and steps to carry it out.
The bigger the effort, the better the results — was my motto. I had to face it, this wasn’t happening. When I lost 3 pounds a week, I wanted to recalibrate my whole journey, calculating with a steady 3-pound weight loss weekly.
I would write down how much that would mean in a month, by the end of summer, by the end of the year. And then for a week, nothing happened and I was struggling to keep those 3 lost pounds off.
I hoped for a linear result, a steady sloping line of weighing myself every Saturday. And it’s been a zig-zagging line going up and going down — in a downward form, thankfully.
Sometimes I ate a lot and the scale surprised me with a lower than expected number. Other times, I was barely eating anything and the scale showed more than the day before. In my attempt to try to figure it all out, I got lost in the numbers and I — once again — let them define my days.
I wish I could have accepted that temporary weight gain is not the end of the world, and a quick drop might not mean to continue it with that pace. Now, knowing how fickle it all is, but with persistence and patience the number on the scale if slowly approaching to my desired weight, I am less impacted by the scale than ever before in my life.
#3 Weight loss and weight management is for life
I used to be envious about people who are naturally skinny, and even those who struggled to put on some weight. I always thought that I was dealt bad cards and that my genes and body type were to blame for all the failures I had had with my weight.
I looked at others who could eat whatever they wanted and stayed slim, and I was green with envy. They made it look all so easy. And to be honest, social media and the hordes of influencers with their photoshopped images did not actually help to make me feel better about me. It all felt so unjust. Why can they have it when I can’t?
I realized that I was looking at the results only and never really their efforts and sacrifices. Actors and models — spending hours in the gym, eating low-carb food — were just as much the objects of my envy as some of my friends and more fortunate family members.
I never really noticed that my skinny friends have different habits that keep them from gaining weight in the first place — and that’s the reason for them not having to go on restrictive diets. I never really understood that weight management is not easy for anyone, and everyone (except for some of those very very skinny types) could put on huge amounts of fat if they let themselves go for long months, just like I used to.
These past months were eyeopening for me. I might be a late bloomer and a very slow learner, but I wish I had understood before that weight loss is just one part of weight management, and while weight loss might be temporary, keeping the weight off and maintaining a healthy weight requires just as much effort — preferably with strings of good, healthy food and lifestyle choices that can last a lifetime.
I used to think that when I reach my goal weight, I would be able to go back to eating whatever, whenever — while I ignored the fact that my skinny friends have never been eating whatever, whenever. They might not go on diets and juice fasts, they might not starve, but they also have their weight management tools that might be so natural for them that they wouldn’t even mention them or complain about them. Portion control, alternating lighter and heavier days, having control over the scale by regular measurements are all part of the toolbox — and it is for life.
Accepting that I will have to manage my weight for the rest of my life was a relief — and a realisation I arrived at way too late in my life. Now I am trying to find ways for the long run: ways to eat, ways to exercise, ways to keep the weight off and to keep the control. If I think about it as lifestyle choices, it doesn’t sound as bad as life-long dieting and exercising. I wish I had enough sense before to grasp it, instead of reaching for quick fixes in the hope of going back to eating whatever, whenever.
#4 Hunger is not a bad thing
These past months I have been hungry — a lot. And it’s not a bad thing because I have come to terms with my hunger and I don’t think of it as something terrible. When you are hungry every now and then, it can upset you and you feel that you have to fix it immediately because it catches you off guard.
These days, I am making friends with my hunger. I don’t hate it anymore and I don’t think it’s a punishment of some sort. I am starting to recognise the different types of hunger I face.
There is real physical hunger when my body needs food and calories — after a 90-minute kickboxing session or after a day of fasting. Sometimes it surprises me only to go away after drinking a huge glass of water, indicating that hunger and thirst can be mixed up even when you are an expert of being hungry.
The other one is a hunger for a certain taste, a craving for the texture of some food. It’s a better hunger because it doesn’t need huge portions to fulfil the craving. I tend to crave the taste of sushi or something savoury, the tart taste of olives or the bitterness of lemon zest. These cravings can be specific, and while they might go away, it is easier to indulge in a little bit of it, than to let it wash over me, and make me eat something different, in much larger quantities. I also noticed that the craving for sweet taste goes away quite quickly and it’s more of a sugar addiction than an actual craving. I tend not to give in to sugary cravings and it helps a lot not even to touch it.
The last type of hunger for me is the emotional hunger and this one is the most dangerous. It is not real hunger, not in the sense that it requires food or calories to make it go away. It’s more of an emotional void, of loneliness or boredom, it is a craving for human touch, socialisation or external feedback — that if remains unfulfilled might appear in the form of feeling hungry. It is a good indicator that I need something other than food, and if I manage to control it and fulfil it with emotional bits and pieces, it will stop me from binge eating and having to manage major cravings.
Being hungry has been part of my life — and by know, I know it completely. But I never got to the point of embracing it and using it as a way to listen to the real signals from my body.
I wish I could have understood before that hunger is not a bad thing, it’s not unnatural and it doesn’t cause any harm to me. It would have been so much easier to control mentally than to complain about it.
#5 Cheat days and reward meals are not for everyone
When I was looking for the right diet that is sustainable and pleasant enough to last a lifetime, I obviously came across tons of advice and meal plans where cheat meals or cheat days are allowed. And of course, I had to try it.
The point of having cheat meals or even full days of cheat meals is that you could have something to look forward to and have a meal or a whole day when you don’t restrict yourself.
I found out that this is not for me. I tried it, and while I was supposed to eat without guilt, giving in to pleasures I was staying away from, it made me miserable. It felt nice to devour a whole high-carb meal and I enjoyed every bite of it, but I felt awful right after. I felt that I ruined everything, the whole progress, the months I sacrificed before. And on top of this, I felt too full, I felt bloated and for a whole day, I was walking around regretting it.
I have a complicated relationship with food. It is about dominance. It’s either me being in control, or it’s the food that controls me. Cheat meals took away my control and even the name felt wrong for me. Cheat meal. It is admittedly cheating. It is obviously wrong. It is going against every rule I set for myself.
I stopped doing cheat meals, and I never once did a full cheat day. I do it differently, because mentally it doesn’t work for me. I have a weak spot for the most ridiculous food on earth, a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s. How very ordinary! Recognising that if I call it a cheat meal, it will make me feel awful, I decided that I deserve it every now and then without labelling it cheating. It is part of my diet these days. Every 2 or 3 weeks, I set a date and I decide to go for a double cheeseburger — to eat it guilt-free, slowly, enjoying every single bite. I take my time with it, and I adjust my calorie intake and exercise around it. It’s not cheating, because I am adhering to my rules. It’s not cheating, because it is planned and executed as planned.
And most importantly, because of my difficult relationship with food, I don’t call them a reward either. If I eat a cheeseburger, a cookie or drink a glass of wine, it is not a reward for my efforts. I am not a circus dog to perform tricks to eat a meal I enjoy. I am not rewarding myself with food — like I used to. Because food is not a medal to earn. It is something to enjoy without feeling guilty and without having to work for it. And because calling them cheat meals means that I am doing something wrong, and calling them a reward means that I don’t deserve it without work — I cut these terms from my vocabulary. Now, it’s just food — that I decide to eat or I don’t.
I just wish I had accepted this before.
#6 Willpower doesn’t work — not having the choice helps
My mum always tells me that whatever I decide to do I can do because I have so much willpower and grit that anything seems possible. I am sure it looks that way from the outside — when it comes to work or exercising or dieting — but it’s far from the truth.
This year’s lifestyle changes proved me that my willpower is literally non-existent. And acknowledging it helps a great deal to find another way to cope.
When it comes to exercising, I replaced willpower with accountability. If I had counted on feeling like exercising or training, I would have gone once or twice — especially during the darkest days of the lockdown. But now, I have a personal trainer, who expects me to show up. He is there only because of me, I can’t let him down just because I am in a bad mood. I can’t cancel on him, because he told me that if I cancel our training sessions and I don’t take it seriously enough, he will kick me out. On top of this, I paid a large amount of money for three months of training sessions — in advance. These factors combined give me the feeling that I don’t have a choice, I just have to go without thinking. So this is exactly what I have been doing. I just go.
When it comes to eating, I don’t do willpower either. Because I know it doesn’t work. My solution is to not have anything at home that could tempt me. I don’t keep really yummy things in my fridge or pantry. I don’t go food shopping when I am hungry, and I stopped buying overpriced coffee at Starbucks — just to avoid the temptation and the guilt after.
When I don’t have a choice, I make the right decisions. When all I have is one path to follow, it seems easy and effortless. I might be struggling inside, but I know I can’t trust myself to make the right choice if there are too many wrong options laid out.
+1 Don’t tell people about it
It’s really great if you can find someone to discuss your lifestyle changes with. A really good friend, your coach or your mum could be great choices. But be picky about it. It helps not to tell everyone that you are on a diet. Whenever people learn that you are trying to lose weight, there are useless conversations that can hinder you emotionally. Everyone has an opinion about weight loss and they seem to know what would be good for you, even when they have no idea about you or your relationship with food.
I usually come across comments that suggest that I don’t even need to restrict my calories or that it’s impossible to live on 1600 calories, or that I should eat more fat or more carbs or more protein — based on the person speaking. Some say I should eat more, others that I should eat less. Some share their best advice that worked for them, not having any idea whether it would work for me. Helpful comments are not that helpful — for me. If I allow it to become a topic, my choices can easily become a discussion for those who have nothing to do with it at all.
Whenever someone asks anything about my food choices, this is exactly how I reply: this is my choice. I can eat anything, I just choose not to. I am allowed to eat chocolate cake, but thanks, I don’t want it now.
I find it easier to stick to my plan if I don’t have to explain it to anyone. After all, this is my plan, my life, my diet, my health — and it’s my business and mine only.
Weight management sounds a lot better than weight loss. Lifestyle choices sound much better than restrictive diets. Looking at dieting differently — as a choice not as an obligation, as a long term decision instead of a short fix of temporary weight problems — helped me rewrite my whole dieting narrative. So far it is working and I believe that it is thanks to the mental shift I did. Accepting the harsh truths is not easy, but it helps especially in the days when it’s difficult to persist and have patience. And isn’t that a good thing?