August 14, 2018

The Simple Mind Trick That Helped Me Lose Weight for 52 Weeks in a Row

Jerry and I had an interesting conversation today, and I thought it might be fun to write about on the blog.

My weight loss is old news. Very, very old news that I'm sure nobody wants to hear about anymore. So much has changed since I first hit the scale and saw that I'd lost 125 pounds!

Katie's 125 pounds down weight loss comparison
A comparison when I reached the 125-pounds down mark. The was shortly after breaking
my jaw, which is why you can see my scar and maybe even the wires on my teeth.

However, in thinking about this recent weight gain, Jerry asked me some questions about when I lost the weight in the first place, and there are a couple of details that I never really went in-depth about. They were crucial to my weight loss, though, so I really ought to write more about them.

Anyway. To quickly recap, in a nutshell, how I lost the weight in 2009-2010:

I reduced the amount of food I was eating (counting calories/points).
I ate whatever I wanted to eat, just in smaller portions.
I started exercising after I'd lost 60 pounds--walking first, then running.
I ate some sort of treat every day--usually dessert.
I didn't give up any foods or food groups; nor did I count macros.

Everything I've ever written about my weight loss could probably be summed up in those five sentences.

There was another piece of the puzzle that was a big factor, and I don't know that I've ever really written about it. It's nothing ground-breaking; just something that kept me going when I really wanted to quit.

I decided that I didn't want to play the "what if" game anymore.

For years and years, I was always saying to myself, "What if I'd just done it the right way a couple of years ago? I'd have been at my goal weight already." "What if I never started binge eating?" "What if I had quit buying and eating pints of ice cream the first time I decided I shouldn't?" "What if I had learned, as a child, how to eat intuitively?" "What if I didn't use food to curb my anxiety?"

(Bear with me, this will make sense in a minute. I hope.)

For 52 weeks straight, I lost weight. I didn't gain weight and I didn't maintain my weight. I lost it! For an entire year! That's pretty impressive. And I can tell you exactly why it happened...

No matter what the scale read each week, I wanted to be able to know that I did everything in my power to make the right choices and follow my plan--I didn't go over my calories/points at ALL. Because, if I had, I would have gotten on the scale and thought, "What if I didn't eat that extra bowl of ice cream this week?" or "What if I actually measured out my portions more accurately?" etc.

I wanted to be able to KNOW that I did EVERYTHING that I had control of--that there was nothing I could have done differently.

I fully trusted my plan (counting calories/points) and I knew that eventually, it would get me to my goal weight if I just followed it long enough. (I didn't expect that I would lose weight every week--that was just a cool bonus.)

By putting complete trust in the process (lower calorie intake), I was 100% confident that I would lose the weight. I knew that if I started overeating or binge eating, I would get on the scale and think, "What if I hadn't binged?"

Considering my weight loss is old news, and I've gotten older and (I like to think) wiser, I don't feel quite so rigid (and maybe that's why my weight is up right now). But my belief is still the same--if I just follow my plan, doing all the "right" things that I have control over, eventually I will get back to my goal weight. And I won't be able to say, "If I had just _____, I would be there already."

In other words, if I do what I am supposed to do, it's totally out of my hands. What happens on the scale doesn't matter--I would feel good knowing that I did everything "right"--so I wouldn't have anything to question. There wouldn't be anything that I "should have" or "could have" done to change the outcome.

There were some weeks that I lost 4 pounds, and other weeks were I lost just 0.5 pounds. My average weight loss was approximately 1.8 pounds per week (125 pounds lost in about 16 months). That's not a ridiculous amount in either direction.


If I had quit halfway through, months (or even weeks) later, I would have asked myself, "What if I just hadn't quit? I'd be down X amount of pounds right now." And that's an easy way to beat myself up. I was really tired of doing that, playing that "what if" game in my head. So, I stopped.

Another benefit to this way of thinking about it was that when I did finally have gains on the scale, I knew exactly why it happened. I could say, "Well, I didn't follow my calorie plan, and I ate too much. That is why the scale is up." I couldn't be upset about the gain, because I would know that I didn't follow my plan to the best of my ability.

Now, I want to make it very clear that I am not saying that everyone will lose weight every single week for a year if they adopt this mentality!

I was willing to accept ANY weight gain on the scale as long as I knew I was giving my plan my 100% best effort. I knew that eventually, the weight would come off if I followed my plan.

There are also other reasons for the scale to fluctuate each week--sodium intake, a change in exercise, menstrual cycles, etc. There are always some outside factors that affect our weight, so we basically have to look at the overall trend--if, over a long period of time, we are losing weight, then we are doing what we need to!

I never understood why women at Weight Watchers would eat very lightly the day before their weekly weigh-ins, or why they took of their shoes or jewelry, or even strip down to some very skimpy items (I've seen it all!). Those things have nothing to do with our body composition.

I could drink a gallon of water and get on the scale weighing eight pounds more than I did a moment before drinking the water... but that doesn't mean that I've gained eight pounds in my body composition. It's literally just water sitting in my stomach that I will pee out in the next few hours.

So, when I did my weekly weigh-ins, I stopped worrying about what I was eating the day before. I stopped trying to avoid sodium, I stopped eating only lightly, I stopped taking off my shoes at Weight Watchers. I knew that what I was doing was the right way (for me) to lose weight, and that I was following the program. If I was following the program, I would eventually get to my goal, shoes or no shoes.

I simply followed my plan to the best of my ability and I trusted the process. That's it!

Where does this leave me now? The reason Jerry brought this whole thing up was because lately, I've been feeling desperate to get my eating back on track. I even did something that I am super against--I started thinking of fad diets that I could hop on board for a little bit to get back to goal quickly.

But that is a cycle that I was in ever since I realized I was overweight at age nine or so until I was 27. I was always trying fad diets and then quitting. I never got anywhere!

This is what caused me to create my advice of "Don't do anything that you're not willing to do for the rest of your life." If you don't want to be on this fad diet forever, then my advice is not to do it now. If we pick plans (or create our own!) that we can stick with (and not just CAN stick with, but are WILLING TO stick with), then we can trust the process, no matter how long it takes, that we will get there.

I had a really great day with the calorie counting today, and I'm going to bed soon (I'm trying to make a bed time of 11:00 now, with school starting soon). I can wake up tomorrow knowing that I did what I could today to inch my way toward my goal. Whatever the scale says, I know that I wouldn't have done anything differently.

I am still struggling big time with getting back to my "happy place". Ideally, I would wake up early and go for a run first thing in the morning, then come home and have breakfast. I would read a chapter of the Bible as part of my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old List, and read another book for 30 minutes. I would work on my blog, do "chores" around the house, run errands, and all the other stuff that needs to get done. I would cook a good dinner for the family, and then clean up the house a bit before relaxing with a book (or a good TV show) and my dessert of some sort. Then I'd be in bed at a decent hour.

This is what I used to do! And I felt really good about myself when I felt like everything was "right". Lately, since gaining the weight, struggling with exercise, being unproductive, and just feeling like I'm falling more off track on the daily, my anxiety has gotten out of control. And the higher my anxiety gets, the further behind I feel until I get to a place that feels like I'm "too far gone".

I've certainly been feeling like I'm too far gone lately, and that is a totally hopeless feeling. So, I really need to get it together. I know I sound like a broken record, because I'm saying this constantly. I feel like I did 100 pounds ago--super overwhelmed with all of the things I want to get back on track.

I've been doing a LOT of thinking this week about the things I'd like to change and how I can (slowly) go about doing that. Instead of jumping into all of these ideas that I have, I just want to stay grounded and do what has always worked for me in the past: count calories, and trust the process. Even though it's going to suck getting back at it after so much time, I know without a doubt that I will feel a hundred times better about myself after even just a week of it.

This was after my Wednesday run--the humidity was INSANE. I felt amazing afterward!

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist at 9:00 in the morning (it's a 45 minute drive), so I'll need to get up early (thankfully, I don't have a run on the schedule!). But I think getting up early will be good for me.

It's a start!

(So much for getting to bed by 11:00--it's now 12:15. Blogging takes so much longer than one would think! I'm not going to read through this for errors, so I apologize for spelling/grammar issues.)


14 comments:

  1. Katie, you are absolutely right about lowering your intake consistently and trusting that it will work!

    I have a poster board size graph where I graph my calorie deficit and weight loss--one below the other on the same scale. Over the long term they track together even though my weight goes up and down a lot(!) in the short term. Knowing that I have that control keeps me from getting frustrated and using "good" or "bad" weights to rationalize going off plan.

    I know that staying "on track" will get easier for you when your mood stabilizes in a better place. Hang in there!!
    ~Kathy

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  2. I like this post. I love reading all about you and your journey now, but your weight loss is still hugely relevant, and inspiring, also. I am still in the "what if" phase, but I appreciate the simplified view of how you set your mind to succeed!

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  3. I really enjoyed this post! I have lost and regained weight multiple times and also suffer from anxiety at times. Recently I was down almost 30 pounds and then life threw some challenges my way and I stopped watching my diet. I really like the straightforward way you talk about your method of weight loss and no What ifs. Thanks!

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  4. Thank you for this brilliant post. It inspired me to determine that I too no longer want to play the “what if” game - with my weight, my marriage, my career, and my housekeeping. I look forward to going to bed (at a decent hour) at the end of each day knowing I did my best instead of ruminating about the “what ifs”. I love your perspective that you have shared. Truly illuminating!

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  5. "I can wake up tomorrow knowing that I did what I could today to inch my way toward my goal. Whatever the scale says, I know that I wouldn't have done anything differently."

    This is what I keep telling myself. I want my goal to be to lose a pound a week and everything I do, or don't, put in my mouth in that week should be towards that goal. I am a daily weigher - I have the most success when I do this. As soon as I stop, I fall of the wagon, which I have been for 4 years now (lost 50 out of 80 over 18 months and have regained over 4 years). I know about the normal fluctuations, but I do need the daily input from the scale. But to be successful I need to be able to go to bed knowing that the scale most likely will be down from the previous day due to the choices I have made that day.

    Right now I am tracking, but not putting amounts (oz, TB, cups, etc) and it is helping tremendously. I need to be in the habit for when the kids go back to school because afternoon snacking has been a huge contributor to the weight gain (I work, so being home in the afternoon when they get off the bus means I am wearing 2 hats for a few hours - very stressful).

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  6. I wanted to give you a different perspective on this post. I lost 85 lbs on Weight Watchers, in about 10 months. I hit a plateau and struggled for ten months to get the scale to move, with no luck. I tried all the classic plateau busting moves. I changed things and would give my changes about 4 to 6 weeks before moving on to something else. No luck. The only things I didn’t try were strict no carb and running as those are not long term options for me.

    I am in two pretty popular weight loss support groups on Facebook. I read multiple posts daily about how “if you work the plan, the plan works”. This used to be so disheartening, because when I reached out for help, there seemed to be an assumption that I was cheating, when I wasn’t. I have seen some other rare posts about people struggling similarly. Most are middle-aged women like myself. I truly think this is hormone related, although taking hormones didn’t help.

    My weight is currently up about 10 lbs from where it was. I put myself on a maintenance eating plan which allowed too much and have struggled to get back to where I was. I take full ownership for that.

    I recommend women try to lose weight before they get to this stage in their life. I know it can be done, but it is much harder.

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  7. I can relate to this very much. thanks.

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  8. Thanks Katie. Love this post. So much to think about.

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  9. Heather at Half Size Me had a great podcast this week on how to deal with regaining weight. I’m up 20 lbs and going to follow her advice.

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    1. Thank you for posting about that podcast. I listened to it this morning and found it very helpful. I will also try and follow her advice. I don't want to set myself up for failure by trying to go from overeating and binging all the time, to trying to have a deficit every single day. It's just too abrupt.

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  10. Hey Katie! This was super timely for me as I’m struggling for similar reasons. Thank you!

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  11. I appreciate your post Katie. Coincidentally, this morning I logged in to my calorie counting app and tracked my breakfast, with the intent to keep tracking for a while. I counted calories religiously at different moments throughout my never ending weight loss journey, but at this point, it has been a very long time since I've done it. I couldn't even tell you, but more than a year that's for sure. My weight has gone up and down over the past decade, depending on now I'm doing with depression and BED. 2016 and 2017 were relatively good years as far as weight is concerned. I was at or near goal for the most part. Then, bam! All hell broke loose this year and I gained weight, again. I'm not back at my highest weight, but getting close. Along the way I've completely stopped exercising and I feel like I have no motivation whatsoever.

    I'm at a point where I need to do something, regardless of whether I'm "motivated", because that's what's best for me. My boyfriend is really scared to see me relapse so badly into depression and binging... and so am I. I've been reluctant to count calories again, because I would so like to just eat intuitively.

    You mention how it's best not to make changes you're not willing to live with forever. And that's the thing: I don't want to count calories forever. Still, I feel like it's my only option now. Seeing as you've been though something similar over time, how do you feel about calorie counting, long term?

    Thank you and have a nice day!

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  12. Hi Katie , I have been reading your blog for quite some time now, first learning about it when watching "From Fat To Finish Line (which was a great documentary by the way :) . Your journey has been amazing and you have inspired me a lot . I just want to thank you for being so open about your weigt loss, anxiety, being bipolar and sharing (almost) your entire life with people you dont even know or have never met . I am now on my way trying losing weight after being diagnosed with low metabolism. I am now on medication and also counting calories . You have also inspired me to start running which will be my next project .Running the Key West Ragnar looked amazing ! Keep up the good work ! Thanks Katie best wishes to you and your family ! Rgds Grethe (Norway )

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  13. I love the idea of just doing the calorie counting right then you can't blame yourself for not doing it. (kind of what you said haha)

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