I’ve tried to lose weight and get healthy many times before I was successful at it. I tried different methods, different diets, and even different fitness and exercise plans only to come up short each time and, to my horror, end up gaining it all back and then some! After years of trying, I began feeling defeated and hopeless. It wasn’t until my cousin got through to me and told me about Whole30 and Paleo. I was so beat down by feeling tired, embarassed by my appearance, and fear for my mortality that I figured what the hell; might as well give this a go since it worked for her. It changed my life.
Why did Whole30 and Paleo work when all the other diets failed? It comes down to a number of reasons, first and foremost of which is my dedication to sticking with it, but not in the way you’re thinking, though. I truly believe that when people set out to change their diets and to start an exercise plan, they do it with the same amount of dedication and motivation I had when I started. They truly want to make changes, and to even start any program takes a level of motivation those who don’t even try don’t have. The problem is that once they get started, they start facing some challenges that are truly difficult to get past and are way beyond what they thought they were getting into. Some of these things include:
- Exercising too hard, too soon results in pain and sore muscles. Taking it easier and allowing the body to heal between workouts is a much better way to get into an exercise plan. Someone going from sedentary lifestyle to a 5 or 6 day a week workout schedule is asking for lots of pain, discomfort, and possibly (hell, even likely) injuries that will keep them from being able to continue.
- Palate fatigue which comes from eating a very limited selection of food. I know people who were hugely successful eating chicken breast and salad for every meal. Every. Single. Meal. I couldn’t do that. After a few days, I’d be going crazy. I need variety in the food I eat, and that food also needs to be filling, something that salad just doesn’t do for me.
- Bad diet plans that concentrate on limiting calories instead of limiting bad sources of excessive calories. Sugar addiction is where a lot of our obesity problems come from, and any diet that avoids or doesn’t address it is already going to make it more difficult to succeed due to the continued cravings one will experience.
When I look back at my previous attempts to get healthy, lose weight, and get fit, they all ended with exasperation. I felt that I had done the work, I was following the rules, and each time, I ended up defeated. I wouldn’t see the results I was looking for based upon the effort I was putting in, or I felt so bad, that it just wasn’t worth the discomfort. Heck, we want to get healthy not ust to weigh a certain amount, but because we want to feel better. When I was feeling far worse than any time before I started these diets or programs, why would I want to continue? Humans seek comfort; living in constant discomfort goes against the very grain of our existence.
That’s why Whole30 was so important to both Sherry and me. It allowed us to change our lifestyle by eating clean foods with a transition period that had discomfort, but it was well-documented and up-front. We knew, based on all the information, that this discomfort period would be short and that when we got past it, we would feel amazing. The great part was that the information we read was correct; we felt amazing! THIS was what healthy eating was all about! Even if we didn’t lose weight, we FELT BETTER.
Then, a crazy thing happened. I started losing weight. A lot of weight. Once we we completed our Whole30 and transitioned into Paleo, that trend continued at a steady rate for another 10 months. In all, I lost 110 lbs in 12 months. Since then, I’ve lost another 40 lbs, but that involved a lot of running as well.
Why didn’t Calories In/Calories Out (CICO) work? Because not all calories are created equal. 100 calories of apple is a lot different than 100 calories of a donut. Our bodies process them differently, use or store the energy differently, and the net calories after digestion are very different, not to mention the additional nutrients the apple has over the donut. Trying to live CICO was difficult for me because I never felt satisfied with the number of calories I was supposed to be eating. It was also very easy to overeat on CICO, and I’m pretty sure I overate all the time.
Adkins and South Beach: tried them both. They were bland and limiting in a way that kept me from being excited about food, and never got me past the cravings. Regardless of what I ate, I found myself wanting snacks between meals. I was in a constant state of hunger, and it’s one of the prime motivators of human activity: acquire food. That’s why it’s one of the strongest feelings we can experience. Food equals survival. If you can get rid of the cravings, you allow yourself to be free from centering your life around eating and making food something that merely fuels you instead.
Exercise for weight loss? I tried that, too. There are some who are able to push themselves to physical discomfort day in and day out, for weeks or months at a time. Physical activity burns calories, and yes, you can burn a lot through some strenuous exercise, but when you’re obese, that’s both dangerous and difficult. Obese people eat a lot of calories to keep from feeling hungry, and that number of calories is hard to make a dent in through exercise alone. I never was able to quite break the proper ratio of calories eaten/calories burned through exercise alone. I know many people who continue trying to do this, and watching them fail year after year is heartbreaking. I think they are amazing for sticking with exercise for so long without the results they are looking for, but with a diet change, they could see so much improvement in a very little period of time.
Mistakes were made. I’ve learned from them, and I hope to inform others of my experiences so that they can avoid making the same mistakes and find success in getting healthy, losing weight, and getting fit. It doesn’t take any programs, products, pills, powders, patches, shakes, or crazy exercise regimens. All it takes is clean eating, cutting out some foods that are hyper nutritious and detrimental to our health, and a reasonable amount of movement three times a week. That’s all I’ve done, and I’ve lost 150 lbs in a year and a half.