Ok, I lied. It won’t be simple! I’m not an expert and I don’t have some fat shattering discovery that will help you lose weight quickly.
I’m going to be straight with you; healthy weight loss is dependent on you changing your habits to create a lifestyle that supports your desire to be a better you. When I say a better you, I just mean a version of yourself that makes choices that promote a happy and healthy lifestyle that is sustainable for your body and mind.
I was unsure of writing about my fat loss journey, as it feels like a tale told one too many times, but I’m writing this in hope that it might help someone along the same path.
Three years ago I got a wake-up call when I saw the above pictures of me boozing it up on holiday and looking particularly large. I knew then that I was unhappy about my weight, but it wasn’t until I saw these pictures that I decided to do something about it.
When I first weighed myself I was 76kgs heavy and a size 14. I was extremely uncomfortable with my body and sad that I had let myself get to that place.
To date, I’ve lost 15kgs and I’m now on a mission to gain muscle and become lighter for bouldering. I lost 10kg in the first year, while over the last two years I’ve gradually lost another 5kg more and gained some muscle.
It wasn’t one specific thing that unlocked the door to a healthier me, it was a multitude of different things that impacted my progress. Thinking that there is going to be one thing that fixes all your problems is like thinking that you can bake a cake with only one ingredient – it’s simply not going to happen. We’ve all been there, crash diets and get slim gimmicks that we try in those desperate moments before an event, a holiday or when we’ve just had enough and want a new version of ourselves.
Here are the main ingredients that helped me along my path, and honey – by no means am I saying, ‘I’ve arrived and look at me’. I’m still walking this road daily and I’m happy for the company if you want to join me.
Examine your habits
Identify which of your habits are working against you and be honest with yourself. Do you eat a lot of takeaways, have sugary high carbohydrate foods or drink a lot of alcohol? Do you exercise because you feel guilty about what you ate, or do you even exercise at all?
Have a good think about what you are putting into your body. It’s important that you can see where you are going wrong in order to change. Make a list of all the habits you think are negatively impacting your life. My list included: drinking, smoking, eating lots of high carbohydrate foods on a vegan diet and not doing any exercise.
Invest in a few good apps. I initially used MyFitness pal to help me, as I didn’t know which foods were causing problems and I didn’t know how many calories I was consuming. It is vital that you make informed decisions about what you eat. Instead of just eating senselessly, track what goes into your body. Yes, it’s a bit of a schlep at the beginning, but after a few weeks, you will know exactly what foods and meals cost in calories. This will enable you to mentally track what you are eating without much hassle later.
Calories are not equal, so find out about your macro and micro nutrients. Trying to eat at a calorie deficit on unhealthy foods will not work, and even with a healthy diet, fat loss will be slow. Eating a balanced diet is important, but find what works for you.
We all have preferences and I’m not here to tell you what to do. This is just what worked for me. I personally found that cutting carbohydrates (especially sugar) from my diet made the most significant difference to my body. I’ve eaten a largely paleo, LCHF and ketogenic diet for 3 years now, and have prioritised healthy fats, vegetables and nutrient dense foods.
You’ll find a list of tools at the end of the post for some helpful aids to get you started.
Once you have made your list of bad habits it’s time to set goals – and be realistic! There is no point saying I want to lose 10kg in a month or something ridiculous like that. That’s simply setting yourself up for failure and you will only disappoint yourself.
Weight loss is not an overnight fix. Slow and steady is the best way to keep weight off for good. It has been shown that the healthiest weight loss happens incrementally and that around half a kilogram a week is good for weight loss that stays off. Yes you can do it faster and yes you can starve yourself, but it is not sustainable and all that work will be for nothing. In order to change your body type you need to be kind to yourself and take it slowly. I cannot stress this enough.
Break your goals down into two parts. Long term goals and short term goals. Long term goals should span a year or six months and short term goals should be around 6 – 12 weeks, but your short term goals should be broken down even further into one week achievements.
Track your progress week by week and reward yourself for getting through the week and staying on track. This doesn’t mean having a glass of wine or eating a doughnut. Soz. Replace your unhealthy rewards with beneficial ones. I used to buy myself a bunch of flowers every week for being good, this can be anything that makes you personally happy, but it has to be aligned with your goals.
Choose a day of the week to do your weigh-in and stick with it. Take photos of yourself from the front, back and side, and make a note of your weight on MyFitnessPal. These photos will feel horrible initially, but once you start to see the progress these will serve as a reminder about how far you have come!
Here’s an example of what my goals looked like:
My one year goal (long term) was to lose 10kg, feel stronger and quit smoking.
My 12 week goal (short term) was to exercise more, eat a healthier diet and read a book about smoking, as I wanted to educate myself on why I kept this clearly unhealthy habit.
Food is such an important part of weight loss. I ate a fairly poor diet while I was a vegan but it wasn’t being vegan that made me fat. It was me being a lazy ass vegan that made me fat. That being said, I have found that I am able to eat less and stay fuller for longer with foods like eggs, butter, coconut oil and meat.
I’m not suggesting you start eating meat if you are vegan or vegetarian. I’m just telling you what worked for me. I eat a lot of vegetables and salads. I thoroughly enjoy eating a plant-based diet, but I’ve added animal products for convenience and to be able to get into ketosis, a natural fat-burning state, quicker.
Educate yourself about how your body handles the different components of food, and empower yourself to make informed decisions. Don’t take all recommendations at face value, and trust your own ability for critical thinking, and most importantly, trust evidence-based research and your own gut feelings.
Explore different activities until you find what makes you happy and inspires you to push yourself physically. My partner introduced me to bouldering and this made me want to be lighter and stronger, so that I could climb harder routes.
I did not love exercising when I started doing it. I made myself do it until I loved it, because I knew it was good for me and would help me gain what I wanted: strength.
As mentioned previously, when I started out I set myself a 12 week short term goal of doing more exercise. I used the BBG programme by Kayla Itsines for workout plans. The programme is broken down into three HIIT training days for your arms and abs, legs and full body. This helped me build up my strength and lose weight at the same time. Since then Kayla has released an app, which I highly recommend! It’s a very straightforward workout app and has everything from diet plans and yoga to help you along the way.
I also started running to help complement my HIIT training and even ran the London Marathon this year.
I think if you had told me three years ago that I would love bouldering, be 15kgs lighter, not smoke, not drink, have quit sugar, be eating animal products, following a ketogenic diet, exercising 5-6 days a week, would run a marathon and would be going into the health and fitness sector, I would have laughed in your face.
These were not the goals that I set out with, but these are the habits I have embraced along the way. Don’t be afraid of going into the unknown, there are many exciting things to discover!
Change the way you think
Change is a funny thing; we never really know how our decisions will impact the rest of our lives, but if we make positive ones it can only bring us happiness and rewarding opportunities.
This was probably the hardest thing to do, but it has been the most important as it enables you to achieve all of the above. Feeling overwhelmed, lost, fat, disgusting, any of that negative mumbo-jumbo is not going to get you anywhere. It is literally only going to keep you where you are – unhappy.
I really struggled to find motivation, so I got real simple about it and stuck reminders and positive affirmations around my house, wrote out weekly workout and food schedules, and you can be damn sure I made myself read them everyday. I made a ritual of getting up, reading all my notes in my bedroom, then in the bathroom and then in the kitchen. There was no escaping it; I forcefully reminded myself what I really wanted until it became a new habit.
It’s just a case of deciding what you really want and working towards it. Don’t change everything at once, be patient, be kind to yourself and have fun along the way, because there is nothing better than a healthy and happy you.
You deserve it.
Two good recipe books to invest in if you’re interested in paleo eating or looking to reduce your carb intake:
- The Real Meal Revolution by Prof Tim Noakes, Sally-Ann Creed and Jonno Proudfoot
- I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson
If you smoke and would like to quit, read this book: The Easyway to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. It’s a highly repetitive book and slightly obnoxious, but it works, so try it if you want to quit. He recommends you smoke while you read it. Bonus.
Two apps to get you leaner and stronger: