5 Insights from Real Weight Loss Success Stories
Hear from those who have successfully lost weight and kept it off
Published: Thursday 17 February 2022
Losing weight is about more than going for a run and eating salads. It’s about reviewing the relationship you have with your body, making changes to your lifestyle that form positive habits and that make you feel healthier in both the short and long term.
But that’s no easy feat - weight loss is a gradual process and involves a lot of learning and a whole lot of discipline. The changes to make regarding the food you eat and the exercise you do might be simple ones, but they are by no means easy. Cravings come and go, your enthusiasm for working out will fluctuate, and it may seem like you’re no closer to accomplishing your goals.
But there’s no better advice than from those who have been in that position, who have failed many times but have found a method that has helped them nail their diet, fall in love with exercise, lose weight AND keep it off.
In this article we explore the lessons learned from people that have had successful weight loss journeys so far, what got them motivated when nothing else could, and the strategies they used to achieve their fitness goals.
Understand What Really Motivates You
Often the most difficult part of losing weight is doing the little things consistently. Changing your habits is not easy, although if you have high motivation to succeed then this becomes easier. But how do you increase motivation? It all boils down to finding something compelling that you can remind yourself about when you feel like cheating on your diet or skipping some exercise - ask yourself “What is the biggest driving force behind me wanting to lose weight?”.
It could be wanting to feel physically fitter, being able to walk or run for longer without being out of breath, or perhaps you want to do some activities you can’t currently do because your weight is holding you back. If you’ve got asthma, your biggest motivator might be to reduce the severity of your symptoms and have better control of the condition. A 2022 study of over 6000 people, who had successfully lost weight (23kg on average) and kept it off, found the common motivations for weight loss included “mobility, appearance, suggestions from family and friends, and the need for change because they often felt tired”. Some cited concerns about diabetes or heart conditions as a key motivator for becoming a healthier weight.
Jacquelyn Fletcher, who lost 45kg and authored Dear Body, Love Me, describes having the most weight loss success once she’d moved past self-loathing and accepted her body as “an amazing vessel” that deserves self-love, and found this mindset has helped her maintain her “mind, body and spiritual health ever since”.
Whatever your motivation is to lose excess body fat, keeping it front of mind during your day will make it easier to stick to your goals and resist temptation when it inevitably presents itself!
Set a Diet You Can Realistically Maintain
“I wish I had known that the way I lose weight would also be the way I eventually maintain it.”, says Amy Gillespie who has lost and kept off 45kg. Fad diets that focus on losing lots of weight quickly are not only unenjoyable but tend to be unsustainable too. 1 or 2 weeks on just 1,200 calories per day of food that doesn’t interest you will lead to unfulfillment and the inevitable high-calorie binge. Your body will also most likely need to convert some of your muscle into fuel, which is counterproductive for fat loss.
When building your diet plan, it’s a given that you should try to eat nutritionally, but don’t completely overhaul your existing diet as you’re unlikely to be able to stick to it. It’s not the best idea to eliminate any food from your diet entirely, as this tends to increase cravings and the feeling of missing out. Instead, focus on cutting down your total calorie intake (not too drastically!) to the point of calorie deficit, which for most people means just a few hundred calories less.
Try to limit unhealthy snacking, and the easiest way to do this is by restricting what comes into your home in the first place; have healthy snacks to hand such as fruit, hard-boiled eggs and mixed nuts for when you’re feeling peckish, and if you do crave more calorific food, you’d need to go out of your way to get it.
Focus on Getting Strong, Not Slim
Concentrating less on losing excess fat and more on becoming fitter and stronger can make your journey a lot easier. Exercising will improve your cardiovascular health, protect against high cholesterol and high blood pressure, leave you feeling re-energised and even reduce body pains. “My knee problems, back problems, and even asthma are all almost completely gone” says blogger and now personal trainer Kim Losee, who too lost over 45kg.
There is also some evidence to suggest that you can improve your metabolism by building muscle, because lean muscle is more calorie-intensive to maintain than fat is, meaning you could increase your calorie expenditure at rest. This is best achieved by doing strength training, simply meaning exercising with resistance; squats, deadlifts and bench press are great compound movements that engage multiple muscle sets. However, do keep in mind that greater lean muscle mass can increase appetite as your body tries to fuel the new muscle, so you’ll need to fight the natural tendency to eat more and keep on top of your meal planning to avoid overeating.
Know that Fluctuations in Your Weight are Normal
It’s easy to get caught up in every small detail about what you should or shouldn’t be eating and doing. Entrepreneur Britney Vest, who went on to lose 39kg, said “I lived in fear of gaining even half a pound if I went out to eat”. Marginal changes in your weight from day to day should not be your focus when trying to lose weight for the long term.
Your weight can differ depending on how much water you’ve drunk, whether you’ve just exercised, or whether you weigh yourself before or after going to the toilet. It can change based on what you’ve eaten, for example, a carbohydrate-heavy meal causes your body to hang on to more water - that doesn’t mean carbs are making you fat, they’re just affecting your water use. ”Now I know that your weight will fluctuate and that is normal”, Britney shares, ”I wish I could have enjoyed myself a little bit more instead of being so hard on myself”.
Ditch an All-or-Nothing Mentality
Don’t expect your weight loss journey to be perfect, to be free from slip-ups, because this is almost never the case. It’s vital not to view this process as a test to see if you can ‘never do that bad thing again’ but rather that you’re moving more in a healthy direction than an unhealthy one. There will be times when you plan to go for a run and it just doesn’t happen, but instead of writing off the day as a failure and giving up on healthy eating until tomorrow, view it in relation to the whole.
Your day is a sum of many decisions, and if more of them are healthy compared to unhealthy, or at least an improvement on what you were doing before, then that’s success. Some days your eating and exercise decisions won’t get you closer to your long term fitness goals, but similarly, if the good days outnumber the bad days, and you try not to binge on too many calories-dense foods, then you’re moving in the right direction.
Make sure to set SMART goals - those are targets that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Expecting too much from yourself typically results in a sense of failure, and setting tasks that are too vague aren’t easy to achieve. Rather than setting the goal of “I will go on more runs this year”, try to follow the SMART framework with something like “I will go on 2 x 20 minute runs this week, on Monday and Thursday evenings when I know I’ll be free”. This goal leaves no ambiguity as to what needs to be done to achieve it, and the gratification from success can be quickly felt. When it doesn’t quite go to plan, evaluate what happened, what you could do differently to make it easier to accomplish the goal, and give it another go.
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