I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. She’s watched my transformation and has regularly remarked, “I don’t know how you do it!!” She often asks how I managed to make such dramatic changes in my life while juggling a stressful job and the normal demands of life.
One day we sat down and as I tried to explain to her how I knew she could do it too, she responded with one reason after another why I was so different and she couldn’t possibly do what I’ve done. I felt myself getting frustrated because everything she said was totally untrue – she had so many misconceptions about me and what I’ve done to lose weight and get healthy. I looked her in the eye and said “You’re making excuses. You’re convincing yourself that you can’t do this.” She was totally wrong about my approach. The difference between failure and success is not the degree of your intensity, it’s how successfully you embrace moderation.
In the months since then, several other people have said similar things and I what I’ve realized is that people make a lot of assumptions about the “behind the scenes” things I’ve never really talked much about. I decided to address a lot of these misconceptions because I don’t want anyone to see my story and think “Yeah, well I could never do that…” When you start to do that you’re either misinformed or you’re making excuses. I can’t make you stop the latter but I can clear up some common misconceptions.
Misconception #1: I’m hardcore.
I’ll admit that I have a tendency to be an “all or nothing” person. I spent most of my life alternating between periods of extreme restriction and periods of constant indulgence. However, what has allowed me to be successful in losing over 100 pounds is avoiding that hardcore mentality. I changed my eating patterns gradually. When I first started out I allowed myself a cheat meal every week. I’d go all out enjoying everything I’d been craving all week. After a few months of seeing results and gaining momentum, I didn’t feel like I needed the cheat meals anymore.
At that point, I transitioned to usually protein bars as periodic indulgences. I loved Quest Bars and I’d sometimes have one every day for a little sweet fix. Just like with the cheat meals, after a few months I didn’t feel like I needed that anymore.
Now, I keep careful tabs on my cravings and every few weeks I’ll enjoy a special treat – a cup of ice cream or a milkshake – something that I’ll really savor.
I’ve actually come really see the “all or nothing” mindset as a hindrance. The more I deprive myself and hold myself to impossibly high standards of perfection, the less capable I am of moderation. I’m not hardcore. I don’t want to be hardcore. I’m moderate and I’m kind to myself.
Misconception #2: I’ve always been a healthy eater.
Compared to some people, this might be true but I definitely don’t have a history of eating salmon and brussel sprouts. I grew up in a house where we ate “healthy” as one would consider the Standard American Diet. I don’t consider it all that healthy. There was a lot of cereal, a lot of pasta, a lot of processed food. Remember, I also experienced food restriction growing up because my mom wanted me to lose weight and this drove me to overeating and sneaking food. I was a candy-monster. My mom would keep After-Eight dinner mints hidden in the dining room and I’d pull one chocolate out at a time, eat it, and put the empty wrapper back in the box.
The transition to a Primal way of eating was a very gradual one. I battled sugar cravings and had to figure out a way to work it in to my lifestyle. I didn’t wake up one day and cut out everything processed. I made slow, moderate changes and gradually added changes as it felt comfortable.
Misconception #3: I spent hours a day working out.
Oh how far from the truth this is!! When I 300+ lbs I didn’t set foot in a gym. I didn’t own a treadmill. I’m not sure I could have spelled the word exercise, never mind spend any amount of time working out. Not a chance. Even when I started changing my eating habits I wasn’t ready to workout. I didn’t start going to the gym until I after I had lost 50 lbs.
Not only that, I’ll be the first one to tell you that while I think working out is a great way to stay healthy, you can make it a long way towards your fat loss goals without adding exercise. The majority of your results will come from what you eat and how well you balance your hormones.
I workout now because I love it. It makes me feel strong and I enjoy challenging my body. I think that if I worked out less and allowed my body more time to recover I might see better fat loss results. The bottom line is this: I am not a gym rat and you certainly don’t have to be to achieve major fat loss success.
Misconception #4: I spend a ton of time cooking and meal prepping.
Oh my. This is SO not true. When I am hungry I want to eat. Like, immediately. I’ll eat my hand before I’ll spend an hour prepping a meal. Most of my meals are ready to go in 15 minutes or less. Usually less. I don’t make complicated recipes. Most of my meals have 4 ingredients or fewer. I eat foods I love and I prepare them simply. Washing my dishes takes more time than prepping my meals and that’s probably because I don’t use the dishwasher.
Misconception #5: I had to let everything else in your life go.
I wish I could have!! I’ve sometimes envied contestants on shows like the Biggest Loser because they don’t have jobs and other outside commitments. For the majority of my weight loss journey (the first 130 lbs) I was working 50-60 hours each week at a very stressful job. I was taking care of a 2,800 sq foot house and of course I was (and am) married. I had other interests and commitments.
I didn’t have the luxury of letting up on my job. In fact, it required more and more of me each month. I worked my butt off and that company certainly got the majority of my time and attention. When I got home from work I had take care of cleaning, laundry, bills – the normal stuff that most working women manage.
What I did do was make my health a priority. I got up a little earlier to ensure that my meals were prepped for the day. I packed my lunch most days. I tried to schedule windows of time before or after work to get to the gym or workout at home. I didn’t commit to things that weren’t important to me because I knew I had enough on my plate. The only thing I let go of was my hopelessness. I started believing that I was capable of creating massive change in my life and I made it happen.
When something is important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not important, you’ll find an excuse. I spent years making excuses until one day I was ready. When I was ready, no excuse mattered and I regardless of what was going on in my life, I found a way. If you’re trying to sell yourself on all the reasons you can’t do it, you’re either not ready (and that’s fine) or you need to give yourself a little tough love and not accept anymore excuses and commit to action.