Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Habits that helped me lose 100+ pounds

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, but I kept second-guessing myself. I'm always getting asked for tips on how to get started, how I lost the weight, how I stayed motivated, etc. I hesitate to even share all that because I truly believe that everybody is different, and what works for me may not work for others; just as what works for others may not work for me. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered what worked for me. My diet was never perfect, nor did I strive for it to be; my exercise was what I was willing to do, but not more; and my thought process was pretty much whatever would get me through the day!

As you know, I've been really struggling with maintenance for a little over a year now, and I just can't seem to get back to the lifestyle and mindset that I had in 2009-2010 when I was losing the weight. I'm not making excuses--I know what I need to do, and how to do it, but I've just been making bad choices for whatever reason.

So, lately, I've been thinking again about this post, and I decided to go ahead and write it--if only for myself. I wanted to gather all of my habits, tricks, and tips into one spot so that I can remember what it is that I did to drop this weight. As you read this, please just keep in mind that I'm not trying to tell anyone what they "should" or "shouldn't" do. I encourage people to find what works for them. But these are just suggestions--things that worked for me--so hopefully they'll help others to get some ideas, too!

I've written this in past tense, which feels kind of awkward; but I would be lying if I wrote it present tense, because I've fallen out of a lot of these habits over the past year. By writing them down, I'm hoping that I'll get back to these habits.

  • I weighed or measured everything that I ate, except for 0-Point fruits and vegetables.
  • I kept a food log, writing down everything that I ate and calculating the Points in each food.
  • I very rarely ate out at restaurants.
  • I stopped eating fast food--not because I didn't "allow" it, but because it wasn't worth the amount of Points I'd have to spend on it. If I did eat fast food, it was Subway, but even that was rare.
  • When going to a restaurant, I always looked up the menu online and decided exactly what I would order; then I would calculate the Points and log it before I even left the house. I used DWLZ.com to look up Points in restaurant food.
  • I switched to unsweetened black coffee. It took some getting used to, but eventually I liked it that way. Later, I quit coffee altogether, and now I find it repulsive.
  • I didn't force myself to eat foods I didn't like (yogurt and salads come to mind).
  • I saved my "big" indulgences for my long run days--typically, desserts with 500-ish calories. They tasted even better when I knew that I'd already burned the calories off ;)
  • I didn't let anyone else tell me how I "should" be eating. I've heard it all--too little protein, too many carbs, too much sugar, not enough vegetables, too much processed food--and I don't care. I know that I eat much better than I did when I was obese, and I will settle for that. (Even on this post, someone will likely tell me some of these habits are "wrong"--but I will continue to do what worked for me.)
  • I had a "safe" snack as my go-to when I just felt like eating. Grapes! They are 0 PointsPlus on Weight Watchers, and I happen to love them. I ate SO many grapes when I was losing weight, despite people telling me that they had "too much sugar". I guarantee they didn't have as much sugar as all the ice cream and cookies I was eating before I lost the weight!
  • I saved enough calories/Points to have a treat every evening. It may have been a dessert, or it may have been a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate... regardless, it was whatever would make me look forward to the end of the day while staying on track. It helped me to say no to a lot of otherwise difficult food situations.
  • I didn't let anyone push food on me. If I didn't want something (whether it was on my plan or not), I just said no. I didn't feel the need to make excuses--I just told the truth and I didn't let anyone convince me otherwise. After they saw I was serious, they stopped pushing food on me.
  • I lost weight the fastest/easiest when I was eating just 3-4 times per day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bedtime treat.
  • I ate whatever I wanted, completely disregarding the carbs/protein/fat/etc. in each food. I only focused on the calories (or Points) in what I ate. By eating what I wanted, I avoided bingeing. Also, trying to calculate all the macronutrients was overwhelming and time consuming.
  • I started drinking a ton of water. I started my day with a quart before breakfast, I'd drink another quart in the late morning, and then a third quart in the afternoon. At first, I wasn't thirsty for that much water; but eventually, I began to crave that water right when I woke up in the mornings.
  • I started using brown rice instead of white rice.
  • I discovered Smart Taste pasta, which is white pasta, but with more fiber. I didn't like the taste or texture of whole wheat pasta, so this was a good alternative.
  • I completely gave up drinking soda. I didn't want to "waste" my calories on a beverage, unless it contained alcohol ;)
  • Pete Thomas (from The Biggest Loser) taught me something that was very helpful when I asked him a question about binge eating. He said that if you're going to binge, at least find something that satisfies the binge but is a lot less calories. For example, instead of bingeing on Haagen Dazs ice cream, try sugar free fudgesicles. Even if you eat the entire box of fudgesicles, you've still consumed less than a third of the calories in that pint of Haagen Dazs. He said that when he was on the ranch for The Biggest Loser, sometimes he'd eat an entire can of Reddi-Whip. It was only 200-something calories, but it satisfied him. (I'm not saying that eating a box of fudgesicles or a can of Reddi-Whip are healthy habits--please don't misunderstand me--but when looking at the less of two evils, those made more sense for weight loss). Here is the post with lots of advice from Pete
  • If I found myself eating too much of something (going back for seconds or thirds...) and I was on a slippery slope to a binge, I would get one more large bite ready, then throw the rest away. After it was in the trash, I'd eat that final bite.
  • I ate popcorn for a bedtime snack very often, and I loved it! I would air pop the kernels, and then drizzle them with two teaspoons of canola oil (now, I would use coconut oil) and a heavy sprinkling of salt. This was very satisfying because it took a while to eat, and the fat and salt made it feel indulgent.
  • I wasn't afraid of processed foods. I know that they are unhealthy, but when I was first trying to lose the weight, I couldn't make that many big changes (eating far less, no processed foods, adding veggies, etc.). So, I ate the processed foods because I enjoyed them. And eventually, as I lost weight, they appealed less to me. I started enjoying healthier foods. Now, I eat a mix of both, and I don't feel badly about it. Nobody eats a perfect diet!
  • I cooked a lot of the same foods I made before I started losing weight, but I made them less caloric by substituting ingredients. For example, I used to buy ground beef, but I switched to lean (or extra lean) ground turkey. Now, Jerry and I (and even our kids) actually prefer the taste and texture of the turkey better! Most of the recipes on my recipes blog are things that I ate when I was obese as well as when I was losing weight; I just changed some of the ingredients to make them Points-friendly.
  • By planning a weekly treat (whether it was a higher-calorie meal at a restaurant or a dessert that I'd been craving, or something else), I found it much easier to turn down temptations on the other days. Also, by planning for that treat, I didn't feel any guilt about eating it.
  • I made a list of common foods or meals that I would eat, and wrote the Points value next to it--when I was hungry, but couldn't decide what to eat, I could just look at the list and something would inspire me.
  • I ate a dark chocolate Dove Promise every evening, taking the tiniest of nibbles to savor it as long as possible. Sometimes I would have it with wine, or sometimes with hot tea.
  • I started drinking hot tea as a way to keep from snacking. I never liked hot tea until I tried adding a touch of cream and sugar to it (half a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of half and half).
  • After a bad day of eating, instead of trying to make up for it by eating as little as possible (like I had in the past), I just continued on with what I was doing before. I found that by trying to make up for the bad day, I would feel deprived and binge, which turned into a cycle of bingeing and restricting--which is hard to quit! So by going right back to normal, I didn't feel deprived, and there was really no harm done.
Social Situations
  • At a party, if there wasn't any food that I could fit into my plan (or that just didn't appeal to me) I ate before I went or after I got home. Nobody says you have to eat at a party. Sometimes, I would just have coffee or tea and sip on that while others were eating.
  • When going to a party, I always asked the host what to expect as far as good goes, so that I could plan ahead.
  • When drinking in a social setting, I would either have a 5-oz. glass of wine (or two) to sip very slowly, or I would drink the low calorie beers (Bud Select 55, Miller 64, or my favorite, Beck's Light). If I wanted something very high calorie, like a margarita, I would have to work that into my plan for the entire week.
  • I brought my own food to my mom's house when she was making a big dinner. I wasn't doing it to be rude, but because I wanted to stick with my plan, and what was best for me.
  • I committed to walking/running 30 minutes, three times per week.
  • I registered to walk the Indy Mini-Marathon (13.1 miles). Knowing that I was registered for the race forced me to train for it. Exercise was no longer a choice, but something I had to do to prepare for the event. Skipping the training wasn't an option. Eventually, the exercise became a habit.
  • I hated exercise, so I didn't start doing it until after I'd lost about 60 pounds, and then I started walking. I eventually set a goal to walk or run 30 minutes three times per week. I was willing to do that! I was not willing to aim for 6-7 days a week of hard cardio, so I chose not to.
  • I got a treadmill so that I wouldn't have any reason not to run or walk when I didn't have anyone to watch my kids.
  • I discovered that I really enjoy doing active games on the Wii--the Wii Fit has a lot of fun games that didn't even feel like exercise. And since I'm competitive with myself, I enjoyed trying to beat my scores.
  • I always had a pair of jeans on hand that were one size too small. Every week, on my weigh-in day, I would try on the jeans. As soon as they fit, I'd buy a size smaller. It was fun seeing the sizes go from 24 to 4.
  • I visualized myself at my goal weight--a LOT. I loved to think about going to Indy for the Mini Marathon with a group of family and friends, and not being the fattest one there. When I started running, I would spend the majority of the run thinking about crossing the finish line of my races. Visualization sounds so hokey, but it really helped me.
  • I took full-length photos of myself every 10 pounds I lost, so that I could see a side-by-side comparison. Seeing that progress really helped me to keep going! The changes were never visible in the mirror, so the pictures were key for me.
  • I read a ton of success stories on SparkPeople.com while I was losing weight. It kept me motivated to keep going.
  • I wrote a list of things to look forward to when I was thin. Things like, "wrapping a bath towel all the way around me", "tying my shoes without getting out of breath", etc. It was so fun to check things off that list! Here is a list of non-scale victories that I noticed during my weight loss.
  • As hokey as it sounded to me, I created a "vision board" of sorts. The ONLY thing that I put on there was the cover of People magazine's Half Their Size issue. I wanted to reach half my original size so badly!
  • I made monthly challenges--things like getting in 10,000 steps per day or not eating peanut butter. I enjoyed the short, direct challenges and felt accomplished when I succeeded.
  • I wrote out goals very often--I liked to imagine what it would feel like to reach those goals. Just listing them made me feel successful, in a way.
  • While watching TV at night, I started knitting and crocheting to keep my hands busy in order to not snack. I also like doing puzzles, and I can't eat while doing that.
  • I stopped looking for quick fixes. I knew I'd probably lose weight faster if I exercised more, or cut back on carbs, or whatever the trend was--but I stuck to what was comfortable for ME, and accepted that it might take longer than I'd like.
  • I used a dry-erase board every evening to plan out the following day's meals. If something changed, I could just change it easily on the dry-erase board.
  • I typed up all of my favorite recipes and calculated the Points value for Weight Watchers in each. Then, I put them all in a three-ring binder, so it was easy to find a recipe and see how many Points it was without having to calculate all over again.
  • I didn't make excuses. Even on my busiest of days, I would make time to track my food or do my planned activity.

Okay, hopefully some of these are helpful! Please don't think of them as a set of "rules" I followed. These are just things that I sort of fell into while I was losing weight. I didn't make a lot of changes at once, because it was too overwhelming; instead, I just did what I felt *I* could handle. Now, I just need to get back to that place ;)


  1. Thank you for this. I appreciate that you recognize that people need to do what works for them - I hate when people tell me I just need to (insert diet fad here).

  2. I have lost 100 pounds over the last year and need to lose 80 more. I already do so many of the things on your list.I want to try adding a few of your other ideas to help me. I look forward to reading your blog because you are so honest!

  3. I have lost 100 pounds over the last year and need to lose 80 more. I already do so many of the things on your list.I want to try adding a few of your other ideas to help me. I look forward to reading your blog because you are so honest!

  4. Awesome post. Plain and simple. Love, love, love!!

  5. I absolutely love your list, and how honest you are about things like how you admit to eating processed foods once in awhile as well as unprocessed but that's what works for you.

    I find grapes are the same for me, they help so much to satisfy a sweet teeth and sometimes it's terribly tempting to punch someone out because "oh you shouldn't eat grapes because they are so terrible for you and you'll never lose weight if you eat them!" grr >.<

  6. This is a great list, Katie! You are truly an inspiration. Not were, ARE! Agree 100% - we have to find what works for us as individuals.

  7. Thanks for sharing!! I need to get back to my old *rules* as well. I've been thinking about getting my old food journals out to remind myself what I ate (and didn't eat) when I was losing 95 lbs. You've inspired me to actually do it!

  8. That is a great list. I do a lot of those things (not all, since everyone is different).

  9. Great list! I love how much you learned about yourself going through this journey. I think I have to pay more attention to MY voice and less attention to the ones around me.

  10. Thank you for sharing, I really needed to read something like this today!

  11. Oh, Katie! I feel like I am right there with you right now. I use to do so many of these things, too. I was so much more motivated to make a change before I became pregnant with my daughter last year. That was my main motivation for losing the weight -- to eventually become pregnant. Thank you for writing this post, I think I need to re-evaluate what I did to lose 40 pound before becoming pregnant, too.

  12. I am so stuck in a 10 pound plateau right now (well for about 6 months actually) so this is perfect timing. I will be saving this. Thank you.

  13. Okay, I had to comment again.

    THIS: "I didn't let anyone else tell me how I "should" be eating. I've heard it all--too little protein, too many carbs, too much sugar, not enough vegetables, too much processed food--and I don't care. I know that I eat much better than I did when I was obese, and I will settle for that."

    Yes! So many critics out there. I recently have been thinking I need to change my ways that I approach weight loss because of critics, but thee ways worked for me, so they might not have been exactly "right" BUT they were right *for me*.

    You're really helping me realize a lot of what has been holding me back lately. Thanks again for your honesty and for sharing your thoughts with us all!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing! Honestly, I could relate to almost all of these back when I first lost weight in 2009! Especially eating out at parties and social events. I remember our family reunion was that summer in 2009 and I actually brought a brown bag lunch and ate that while everyone else had burgers and potato salad and countless yummy desserts. And it didn't even phase me! I ate what I packed and that was that. Now I can't imagine myself doing that, which is probably why I need to lose these 50 pounds I've gained back (yes, 50, doesn't that just sound like a horrible number?? But I need to be honest with myself). I think I need to start pre-planning out my meals again! I'm going to write my own list of what I did back in 2009. Thank you for the inspiration!

  15. Great post! I did most of these when I lost all my weight! I had forgotten and needed the reminder since I'm needing to relose some weight!!

  16. I totally needed this. Thank you for this post! You ARE an inspiration!!

  17. Great list! I love that it lays it all out how all these little things add up to support weight loss...but at the same time is a very moderate approach with room for indulgences, processed foods and flexibility. Sometimes we want to put big strict rules in place, but that never really seems to work long-term. It's all the little healthy decisions that make all the difference. And it is all a process with ups and downs, so don't be hard on yourself for finding yourself in a position that nearly everyone who has ever lost weight does! And I love that you used jeans as a motivation like that! I can see how that would be so rewarding and encouraging :)

  18. You are awesome, Katie! That sucks about people telling you what to eat. I doubt anyone eats completely clean, but they hold people who are trying to lose weight to a higher standard, one that is actually impossible and will cause most to fail eventually. You were very smart about only doing things you were okay with doing forever. It wasn't a diet, it was a lifestyle.

  19. You're amazing Katie! Thank you for being so honest. Remember how good it feels to carry around less weight and maybe that will help get your mojo back! Way to go. Now I am going to put grapes on my shopping list.

  20. Thank you for the reminder that you don't have to be perfect to be successful! You and only you know the areas where you need to give yourself some room. Genius! You are such an inspiration!

  21. Love these tips. Like you, I have fallen off track somewhat over the last year or so. Regaining some, losing it, then regaining it AGAIN! After two and a half years of good maintenance, you'd think I'd have it all figured out, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOO......so frustrating! I did many of the same things you did while losing over 170 lbs., but like you said, we all have to find out what works for us. So many people are know-it-all's when it comes to weight loss, but you and I have "walked the walk," so I respect your advice and always appreciate your disclaimer, that what worked for you, might not work for someone else. Too many people think they have all the answers. If they did, they would be millionaires, because so many people are desperately looking for the "secret" to weight loss and maintenance. There is no miracle, no secret solution, only hard work, and everyone is different. I refuse to go back, so I need to get back on TRACK, your list will help me. Thanks!

  22. Thank you for posting this! It is always helpful for me to read what works for other people and see if I can find new strategies to try. I like the idea of keeping a list of meals and their point values!

    Also, I totally agree with you about focusing on just calories/points. Calculating and tracking fat,sugar, carbs etc. can be so confusing/discouraging to me.

  23. I love what you said about grapes! I actually had grapes for dessert last night. :)
    One thing I've noticed for myself is that I have to give myself adequate time to adjust to something. I have made adjustments (like what you said about coffee, for example) that seem small but then when you look back 6 months later, you think, "oh hey look! I stopped craving sugary coffee drinks!" The little changes can really add up, it just takes time to see it.

  24. Thanks for sharing this list, Katie, and I hope it helps you. As someone who's lost 40 pounds and bounced around for the past 10 years between that low and 15-20 pounds higher, I sometimes have trouble getting motivated to do what it takes to get back to the low. It's hard because it feels, looking back, like there have been times when it was "easy" or natural to lose or keep the weight off. But now I think it's more that in those times there was nothing/noone to disrupt my habits. And being married now (to a fella with a sweet tooth!) doesn't mean I can't assert my habits again. I think it's getting to be time.

    Thank you!

  25. Thank, thank you, thank you!! I lost 60 lbs, and I need to lose another 25 or so. I have been on a plateau for two YEARS!! i made a series of small sustainable changes to lose the weight that eventually did lead me to running marathons and doing all sorts of things I never dreamed of, but I need some new small changes to get to goal. I'm proof that you just can't out exercise a bad diet! I've created a very easy to maintain lifestyle, but unfortunately it means I will stay 25 lbs over weight unless I make some more changes. Thank you for the ideas!!

  26. Great great list! Thank you. Little things add up and maybe sometimes we forget all of them or stray away from them over time - sometimes without even realizing it. I know sometimes we aren't ready to tackle all of these but a comprehensive list really helps to jog our memory of all the habits that worked. This is just awesome. Hugs.

  27. This is incredible. YOU are incredible. So inspiring - thank you.

  28. Awesome and inspirational post. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Out of all your very smart and inspiring comments on your blog, my favorite has always been that you only made changes that you knew you could stick with even after the weight was gone. Soooo true. It really has to be a lifestyle change instead of a "diet."
    Thank you, Katie, for your inspiration to all of us!

  30. Thank you for sharing this. I'm at my heaviest weight ever (lots of stress eating in the past year), though I'm still trying to be active. It's hard not recognizing myself in the mirror. I decided last night to make a change, and reading this post helped me while I was eating my less exciting, healthier lunch today that didn't come out of a vending machine. Thank you for opening yourself up to help me.

  31. Love love love this! I have been waiting for this post and want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing things like this with the world. I am sorry you receive some push back when you should only receive praise. You are awesome!

  32. Congratulations on your weight loss, you set your sights and you won!!!!! and you did it YOUR way!!!! Well done!!!!!

  33. This post came at the right time, for I had gained back most of what I lost last year and was thinking why bother ,or whats the use. Someone of my age (75) knows what should be done, but I feel better about ME and there is hope for me yet. Thank you

  34. great job on your weight loss, great list, it all makes sense to me,
    and I really need to get on the ball, thank you for posting, huggggss

  35. wonderful article- thank you

  36. I'm glad you decided to write this post, Katie... I have followed your blog and only your blog for a number of years now. I follow it because you are real, honest, and courageous. You have the strength to post about your highs and lows to a number of people all reading for motivation but with opinions, judgments, and questions of their own. When you were losing weight, it looks like you really took the time and made an effort to make these differences and didn't look for shortcuts. Doing the recipes/calculations/planning takes a lot of work! You've talked before how motivation fades and what people really need is determination. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. :)

  37. Great post, Katie! Your honesty is so refreshing. I'm right there with you working on getting back on track.

  38. I love this list! I am going to definitely put some of these into play, starting with visualizing myself at goal and making a list of things I look forward to about being thin(ner).

  39. I just joined WW 3 weeks ago and got a Fitbit last week. It has been hard for me to feel satisfied most days and your tips really resonated with me. So glad I happened upon your post. I know that 10,000 steps a day is super unrealistic for me (I bet I didn't even walk 1,000 steps a day before I got this Fitbit!) so I set 5,000 as my goal and in one week I have met my goal twice. Not great, but oh so much better than it was before! Thanks for the inspiration. Hang in there. Oh, and I am visualizing the weight off too.

  40. Thanks for another great post! Your posts are what gives me motivation to stick with it! I like your idea of eating the Dove Promise every night - I think I am going to adopt that idea to satisfy my sweet tooth and remind me to "keep my promise" and stick with it! Thanks again!

  41. I admire your honesty about keeping on track with your habits. Many of the things you listed I've also done but the one thing that is SO HARD for me to work on is cutting back on my sugar. I don't drink soda and I don't eat candy but every once in a while I love cookies and cupcakes. I allowed myself some treats when I was training for my first marathon. I didn't go crazy but I kept allowing myself those same treats when the marathon was over. I gained a couple of pounds and had to cut out my treats. It's so hard! Keep working on it. Since you've already done these things before it won't be as hard to start them up again. Love the post! :)

  42. You have the most honest, thoughtful blog about the lifelong struggle with weight. I'm still at a stage where I have much to lose and it is a struggle, but I can still imagine how overwhelming it would be when you are in maintenance and have no 'number' as a goal. You are incredibly brave for doing this, and I am incredibly grateful for it.

  43. What I love about your blog is the honesty that you've shown. I agree, what may work for you, may not work for me, and vice versa. As I continue my weight loss journey, I'll keep your tips in mind. Who knows, they may also work for me in the future! Thanks for being an inspiration!

  44. "I stopped looking for quick fixes. I knew I'd probably lose weight faster if I exercised more, or cut back on carbs, or whatever the trend was--but I stuck to what was comfortable for ME, and accepted that it might take longer than I'd like"

    Love this.

  45. I just found your blog a couple of weeks ago and I am going back and reading a lot of the posts. You are truly a motivation! I became a Lifetime member at WW back in 2013. I've since gained back half of the weight. I'm ready to re-commit to losing that weight again (and it gets harder as I get older, that's for sure - I'm 42). Reading your blog gives me the motivation to start tracking and running again. Oh - I'm also a Michigan girl - from up in the Thumb!

  46. This is the most encouraging post on weight loss I've ever read! I am a severe pick eater, and have been made fun of by my family for my whole life. Since I've had thyroid cancer last year I gained 100lbs. I am so ashamed and upset and am ready to start my weight loss journey. Thank you for the inspiration!


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