Losing weight is a losing game
I’ve spent most of my life trying to lose weight. My genetics are against me; my dad and his family has always been overweight. I’m also a volume eater, where I always feel like I could eat more. I also love sweets and chocolate. If this is you, keep reading. The good news is — I’m an expert at losing weight. I’ve lost 50–70 lbs three times over the course of 10 years. The first time I did it through intensive exercise, the second time through calorie counting /tracking and the third time, I signed up for a meal replacement program. I aced it every single time. What I’ve been a failure at is maintaining the weight.
I’ve realized that the prize isn’t a number. The prize should be a complete mindset and behavior change. That’s why focusing on losing weight is actually a losing game. The by-product of such an overhaul usually does involve weight-loss, but the primary benefit is cultivating the tools, mindset and behaviors for permanent changes.
There are shortcuts that really do help with rapid weight loss. There are programs that focus on meal replacements (HMR, Lean Cuisine etc). This makes it really easy for anyone to not have to think and lose weight as they go. There are other programs that have bowling bumpers like Weight Watchers, where you have to start to do some of the thinking. Then there are other restrictive programs like Paleo and Keto where certain foods are wiped out of your food vocabulary. They all work — if your body responds to it and you can sustain it for life. You’ll have to try it to know. I did the HMR program for a year and while rate of weight loss was phenomenal, I had a hard time weaning myself off the meal replacements. And when I faced the world without them, I wasn’t equipped to make the right decisions and the weight just kept piling back on. I fell back on exercise as a crutch and spent a year intensively training to hike half dome hoping that inspiration will keep me active and fuel the calorie deficit. It helped, but not enough. Once that goal had come and past, the weight gain accelerated. I don’t regret my decision at all, but what I should’ve had is a game plan for after. So my personal POV is that these programs should be viewed as catalysts, not the cure.
What is the cure? This year I was exposed to 1:1 nutrition coaching through a program called StrongerU. It’s nothing earth-shattering, just good old-fashioned coaching. We count calories, but in terms of macro nutrients.
The great part of StrongerU is that we are based on the concept of flexible dieting.; which means no restrictions within your own dietary restrictions. There is no specific meal plan, which allows you to plan in your foods that fit your lifestyle, as long as it fits within your macro goals. — My StrongerU coach, Tracie
I was frankly very disappointed when I first signed on with StrongerU. I was emailed a guide and I wasn’t actually told what to eat (here’s a blogpost explaining why). I was given some guard-rails and off I went. From day 1, I had to plan my entire day’s meals. And I was asked to plan the whole week in advance! I didn’t think I would last, but weeks later, I’m starting to develop muscle memory. It made me realize that the help I was receiving before from some of the other programs actually hurt me more. Because I didn’t have to think. When life threw me curve balls or when I was faced with temptation, I didn’t know how to deal and usually ended up making poor decisions. Coach Tracie is always a text away. When I’m in unchartered waters, I’ll send her a text. She usually drops a truth bomb on me. See below.
Each interaction I have with her, I learn something about myself, my behaviors, my environment that helps prepare me for whatever comes next. In addition to Tracie, I have the support of an amazing community of 10k+ strongerU members. It’s so encouraging to be reading everyone’s success stories (and struggles) and problem-solving our way together as a community.
My weight has been dropping since I started my time with StrongerU. I could post my weight loss graph or some before/after pics. But that really isn’t the point I’m trying to make here. I have never been more in control (and informed!) of what is actually happening to my body and the scale. I don’t feel deprived or like I’m missing out. If I want bacon, I’ll make bacon happen. If I want to join in with the family on ice cream nights, I will do so. I just have to plan for it to happen. Through adjusting my macros, I also realized that I’ve been eating far too little fat. That’s why I rarely felt satiated. Yes — - I get to eat more fat.
I won’t lie, it is work. Every Saturday morning, I spend about 15 minutes planning the meals for our entire family so I know what to grocery shop for. I wake up every morning and I spend five minutes reviewing my meals for the day so I’m fully aware of what is happening that day. I think ahead for challenges that may be coming my way and proactively put together a plan. There are some shortcuts I do take (e.g. Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi!) but not many. I meal prep about 80% of what I eat. I also decide sometimes that I’m just going to screw it and enjoy our 10th wedding anniversary dinner. As long as I’m on point 95% of the time, the 5% really doesn’t matter. Ever since I got my peloton bike, I exercise almost every day because I am addicted to my peloton bike/community. I’ve had to however, shift my mindset that exercise is not my free pass for eating. Burning 500 calories is 45 minutes of busting my ass. Eating an unplanned 500 calories however, can happen in under two minutes at a coworker’s surprise going away party. So this is how I see exercise — It’s my free pass for longevity and a healthy heart. It does however give me some buffer whenever the 5% hits. You know what they say is true.
Abs are made in the kitchen.
You have every right to call bullshit on me. I don’t really have a great track record. But this time, I ain’t calling it a success. I bet I’ll write another essay in a year or two and might have new reflections then. Meanwhile, keep rooting for me!
There are many 1:1 coaching programs out there like StrongerU. Some are more prescriptive and will give you meal plans. What I like about SU is that they play the long game. No short cuts or gimmicks. So they will not be crutches for you, you’ll simply have to put in the work. People often ask if they’re paying just for a coach and that’s simply not true. Their sweet spot looks like this...
Exceptional coaching and lifetime access to their amazing content/resources and super-engaged community. If you decide to look into it, please let them know you were referred by me.