I knew I had to make a change. I was tired of being overweight, tired all the time and just not feeling like myself. I wanted to be able to fit in clothing that wasn’t plus-sized and to feel confident in my own skin.
Luckily for me, I discovered the joy in walking and became addicted to it. This is where my journey began. I hadn’t yet changed my diet, but I started noticing changes in my body I had never experienced before. After getting the exercise down pat, I then decided to shift my attention to diet and changing how I ate. This was when the weight really started to come off.
There was a variety of different things I did that helped my weight go from 190 to 140 pounds. It is also important to realize that everyone is different, and what worked for me might not work for you. Experiment with different foods and exercises, and don’t stop until you find what works best for your own physiology. With that being said, I know many individuals who have lost weight using a combination of these tips, many who continue to look great and feel awesome to this day (including myself!).
Here are my 10 tips to help you kick start your weight loss journey:
1. Develop A Healthy Relationship With Your Scale
Since your weight fluctuates throughout the day (and week), I highly advise against weighing yourself three times a day, or even every day at that. Weighing yourself at the end of each week (say, on a Sunday) and keeping track of your weight weekly instead of daily will help you avoid disappointment. Water weight is a real thing, and women especially can gain over 5 pounds of water weight around their menstrual cycle.
2. Drink Enough Water
I cannot stress enough – drink plenty of water and watch the weight fall off! Drinking water 20 minutes before a meal, or 1 hour after, can significantly balance your hunger signal, and aid in flushing out the body and improving digestion. Many of us are chronically dehydrated, especially with the lack of juicy fruit and vegetables in the diet. The Standard American Diet also tends to be high in sodium, something that water can help flush out. Aim for 3-4 litres of water per day (1 gallon).
3. Don’t Go Cold Turkey
If you think going cold turkey is a good idea, then you might want to think again. When I eased into vegetarianism it took me awhile to completely get rid of all animal-based products. Ditching meat was easy (dairy a little harder – mainly because it is a major ingredient in pretty much every processed food item), but ditching processed food items was a lot harder. I had to re-train my tastebuds to enjoy the beautiful flavours of real, whole, plant-based foods! Start with little things, and move onward.
4. Move Your Body
My exercise of choice is walking – and it has been since day one. It is easy on the joints and pretty un-tiring. I could walk for hours and keep going. When I first started on my weight loss journey I integrated short bouts of running with walking, and eventually switched to running full-time. I aimed for at least 30 minutes of running per day, with 1-2 rest days per week. I also did some basic weight lifting and the weight effortlessly fell off. Today, I focus on dance, yoga, biking, and walking, with some running here and there. I like to vary my exercise to keep it fun, and avoid boredom and engage different muscles in the body! To start, aim for even a 10-15 minute walk per day, and by the end of the month, make that up to 30 minutes!
5. Ditch Animal Products (or Minimize Them)
When I stopped eating meat, I lost a majority of my weight. When I first started on this journey I exercised, and that helped my shed 20 pounds or so, but it was the diet change that made me really lose. When I went vegetarian I effortlessly lost weight. This isn’t surprising, however, given the amount of saturated animal fat in meat. When I got rid of dairy a few years later, a lot of my digestive problems started going away, which was a relief as I had suffered from them pretty much my entire life. A smoothly-working digestive tract will allow your body to absorb nutrients better, too – when I got rid of dairy, my iron-deficiency anemia disappeared, and my iron levels shot through the roof!
6. Eat Until You Are 80% Full
This tip I am still learning to this day (haha) – but it is a good one nonetheless. Eating until you are 80% full will ensure that you don’t end up bloated, groggy, and uncomfortable. Slowly chewing your food and not eating in front of the TV, computer, or other distractions will help you be more in tune to your digestion and fullness levels. For each bite of food, aim for 30-50 chews – this will not only help you slow down, but it will also activate the digestive enzymes in your mouth, which will prepare your food for further digestion in the stomach.
7. Consume Quality Over Quantity
If you are constantly eating junk food, or food with “empty calories” so to speak (food that has little nutrition), then you will eat larger portions of those foods and still never be fully satisfied. This will cause you to over-eat certain foods, but the hunger signal in your brain will stay on. If you eat whole, plant-based foods, rich in vitamins, minerals and crucial phytonutrients, the brain-stomach hunger signalling will shut off, because it will have received what it truly wanted and needed – proper nutrition. Consuming higher-quality foods rich in nutrition over “empty” foods will make sure you eat less, while being satisfied at the same time.
8. Track Your Calories – But Not Forever
When I first started eating better, I tracked my calories to suit my metabolic needs. You can find calorie calculators all over the internet – or you can simply log in your details into Cronometer (it’s free!). It is super helpful to log in what you eat in a day, so you can have an idea of how much you are really eating. I used to track my calories for years, until I became more in tune with my body, and simply knew how much I should eat based on intuition. It’s pretty much impossible to over-eat on a plant-based diet (that is, of course, unless you are eating a bunch of vegan “junk food” like vegan pizzas, burgers, chips, fries, and sugary sweets).
9. Consider A Cleanse
Give the body a fresh start by doing a cleanse. Cleanses I have done include The Master Cleanse, juice fasting, and water fasting, although I wouldn’t suggest water fasting unless you are relatively healthy already (otherwise, go to a water fasting centre where you can be monitored). I find that juice fasting was quite beneficial, and pretty easy to get in enough calories to function normally. Water fasting is more or less time for going completely inward and finding solitude within – letting the digestive tract and other body parts heal (over 80% of our energy goes toward digesting food – once that energy is diverted elsewhere, magical things start happening!).
Cleansing will help the body release toxic build-up that otherwise would take years to remove once shifted to a better eating plan. If you start eating healthy on top of a body that has been eating poorly for years on end, then your body may not be absorbing nutrients properly, and you will either have a hard time losing weight, or you’ll get too thin (like I did when I switched to vegetarianism before cleansing).
10. Develop A Healthy Relationship With Food
If you’re like me, then eating based on your emotions and how you are feeling is a biggie. Back when I was overweight, I ate when I was feeling sad or depressed, and then felt horrible after the fact. Before you reach for those cookies, or other junk-food item, ask yourself if this is true hunger, and if it is, then maybe feed your body real nutrition instead of sugary sweets. If you’re craving something sweet it is likely that your body wants real fruit sugar to help fuel the brain and body. Keep some dates on hand, or beautiful juicy mangoes – your body will thank you!