Staying positive while losing weight
August 11, 2015 1:12 AM   Subscribe

I need to lose a lot of weight, but I have trouble sticking with tracking my food or an exercise routine without backsliding into depression and frustration with myself. Please help.

I need to lose at least 50-60 pounds in order to not be medically overweight. I've lost weight in the past, but it all came back over the past couple of years, probably because of overeating and antidepressants making me tired (reducing my activity level).

I know I need to do this for my health, but I have a terrible attitude about it. Every time I hear thin people obsess over their weight, I just feel exhausted again and think, what's the point? I've never been good at any sport or activity (really uncoordinated and a slow learner), and have spent my whole adult life slightly overweight to obese. And tracking calories gives me a headache; I'd rather just eat my food in peace, you know? It all feels like an uphill battle. Like uphill on an elliptical machine, where there isn't even a hill you can see and you're literally not going anywhere.

I know how to lose weight-- tracking food and working out regularly has worked in the past, slowly-- but the part I struggle with is sticking with it. I'd love to hear what worked for other people who are/were fat, hated gym class, or are prone to depression, especially advice that is body-positive and based in compassion. How did you keep going, even when you didn't see any progress?
posted by thetortoise to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
When you were thinner, did you look or feel better? Hold on to that. Imagine looking and feeling better and fitting into your clothes better and all of the other good things that come from not being unhealthily overweight. Let that motivate you. Every time you feel gross or sickly, remember what it's like when you're less heavy. That is a goal you have achieved in the past. You've proven you can do it.

Subject yourself to a somewhat unpleasant period of eating less of the kind of food you want, and less food in general. Don't let yourself feel deprived all the time. But the next time you're at the checkout counter and you are tempted to buy a candy bar, tell yourself that you'll eat a piece of fruit or something when you get home instead. Try to avoid snacking, and if you do snack try to make it healthy stuff. You can still have cookies and cakes, but have them less often and have less of them.

Go for walks. Dance. Find something physical that you enjoy doing, or at least hate less than going to the gym. Get better about stuff like housework and other chores that get you up and moving. At least with that stuff, when you're done you can see results.

Before long you will be a bit thinner, and it will feel like a real victory. Keep at it. Don't step on a scale very often, as long as you are doing the right things and you know you are losing some weight. Once you get down to your desired weight, you can get a little more loose with your diet but follow the scale pretty closely. If your weight starts to creep up, eat less for a few days.

Try to have only boring, healthy food in the house. If there's no food, you can't give in to temptation. That works for me. Having roommates or other humans in the house complicates this, as it complicates so many things. Humans are pesky creatures.

Get used to going to bed hungry. Get used to being hungry in general. If you can get used to it, it's not so bad and can even give you a certain smug little zing.

As your stomach shrinks, you'll require less food. Someday soon you may be amazed how little it takes to fill you up. Won't that be a happy day?

Good luck.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:37 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I feel you. I've struggled with my weight all my life and am prone to anxiety, not depression. Not the same thing exactly, I know.

Is it possible for you to focus on one thing first instead of trying to overhaul everything at one go? I feel like, if the entire thing is a huge trial and makes you feel exhausted and depressed it is likely that you will experience burn out.

A lot of people get a kick out of the self-satisfaction of feeling hungry etc, of tracking workout minutes, etc - but a lot don't, and that's OK. You just need to find your personal motivator.

Have you looked into Intuitive Eating? I am a big fan and it has taken a lot of the stress of eating away from me, and I generally listen to my body and eat healthier because that sense of constantly battling with myself has gone away. I don't binge on ice cream anymore because I know I can have it anytime I want. That sense of panic has gone. I sometimes eat healthy food and sometimes eat heavy rich food and I can make decisions like "I am going to have a salad at lunch today because I'm going to eat out tonight" without feeling deprived or stressed out, but just because it seems to make sense and my body feels at peace about where its food will be coming from. Does any of this make sense? Anyway, hopefully the link I provided to the Ellyn Satter institute will be a bit more lucid. At my most recent check-up, my doctor was very happy with my blood test results and pressure.

I also looked into various different types of exercise till I found what I really enjoyed. That was really the kicker for me. For me, it was different kinds of solo cardio with peppy music, but for you it might be Zumba, running or weights. You don't know till you try. So try out as many different exercise options as you feasibly can. Again, try to come to it from the point of view that, your body is your friend and you want to be happy, you don't want to punish it for being fat by dragging it through exercise routines it hates.

I am significantly healthier and smaller now (I have no idea what I weigh, but I take regular progress pictures and I have had to jettison a bunch of old clothes because they were falling off). I think the reason it seems, touch wood, to be sticking this time around, is that I didn't approach it from the point of view that my body is my enemy and I must BEND IT TO MY WILL!!1!! but more like, trying to befriend my body and really listen to what it wanted.

Good luck, I hope you find what works for you!
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:09 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Beeminder works really well as a weight tracker for me because it helped me see the fluctuations as part of a trend and give myself plenty of grace for days up and about. I've also been pretty happy with a simple "eat three more apples every day" rule because that took care of 80% of my snacking immediately, but I love apples. I think you could swap in any high-fibre fruit for that - I used beeminder to track my apple goal for a while too until it became a habit, with the plus that my kids now assume we will always have a full apple bowl and plenty of fruit around, not other snacks.

Hoever. The real reason I started losing weight is getting divorced and the grief leading to exercise and no appetite. The apples and beeminder helped me keep it together on a healthy track, but horrible trauma was key to the weight loss. I don't recommend this as a diet option.

I think you need a goal beyond a number on a weighing scale. It's so easy to lose weight through unhealthy ways to get that number, so you need to have other goals that are health-related to keep the weight from being the only measure. Physical stamina and strength work for me - how many pushups can I do? How far and hard can I bike? Did I make it through a gruelling day with plenty of energy left over, or worn out? If you have cholesterol numbers or blood pressure goals, make those as important as the weight number.

Another huge win is to fall in love with food and cooking. Use this as a time to figure out what tastes and cuisines you love eating or to discover what you love cooking, if you like cooking. That makes food into an adventure to explore with an added challenge of healthy eating, not something to dread.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:30 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

First stop thinking about losing 50-60 pounds and set yourself a series of goals. Lose ten pounds, get into a size (whatever), get back to the weight you were when you were 20, etc etc. At each point along the way, you will look and feel better and if you reach the point where you are happy enough with your weight not to want to put yourself through any more dieting, you can always stop.

You don't say what you've been eating but if you have been trying to eat mega-healthily and therefore forcing down a lot of food that you don't actually like. It is okay to eat some less healthy food if it makes your diet easier to stick to. You might find it makes tracking calories less tedious too!

Exercise: stop thinking in terms of "being good at it" as you don't need to be any good at it to get the weight/health benefits, you just need to do it. Find something you enjoy. I like running, walking and cycling in the open air. Go at a pace comfortable for you. Set goals for this too, like running 1/3/10 miles without stopping, then doing it in a certain time. Try to beat your own records but don't worry about what other people can do.

Buying gadgets such as a Fitbit, wifi scales, a Garmin and lots of nice exercise clothes has always helped keep me motivated. You don't *need* these but they are a much healthier treat than food.

Chuck out any clothes that are too big.

Good luck!
posted by intensitymultiply at 2:40 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I hate obsessing over the scale, I hate counting calories, and I hate exercising with other people. Most of all, I hate goals. I've been the weight I should be, and no, it did not solve all of my life's problems. (I also hate that a lot of the answers you're getting are HERE'S HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT, when that wasn't really your question.)

So, I try to remember that I also hate how I feel when I'm not taking care of myself. Physically and mentally. I also try to remember that pushing through the depression-related stuff to eat and move does genuinely make me feel better.

When all of it works together, avoiding carbohydrates lets me not bother counting calories and eat in relative peace. I walk regularly and turn down well-meaning walking buddy offers. I do my best to do the things I know will make me feel better, because I'm the only person who can do them.
posted by gnomeloaf at 4:54 AM on August 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

I found it helped to get a personal trainer at the gym with regular appointments I have to keep. It has been well worth the money, and my blood sugar is much better than it was at the start. I am so good at making excuses not to motivate myself, but when I am answerable to someone else, I keep the appointments and do the workout I would never do on my own. I also walk for half an hour on the treadmill 4 or 5 days a week. I can't run, knee issues, but I am much more active now than I was for many years.

I lost about 50 lbs, but now am stuck because I still eat too much. I hate scales, keeping track of calories, and diets, but I did find that cutting back on carbs and eating more fruits and veggies and nuts helped. At least the weight has not come back except for 5 lbs that comes and goes. Like you, I am easily discouraged, suffered from depression for years but am now off anti-depressants but take thyroid meds and am still tired a lot.

My husband, much more disciplined than me, cut his portions in half, but still ate mostly the same food except for replacing fat snacks like potato chips with things like carrots, kimchee, pickles, and bullion soup. He also started running again and now runs at least 3 miles a day. Unlike me, he weighs himself every day and being a computer geek, tracks everything on the computer. That would drive me nuts. But it works great for him, he has lost 100 lbs and is down to his high school weight. Everyone is different, find what works for you and what you can stand without getting too discouraged.
posted by mermayd at 4:58 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Keto (or more precisely, LCHF) is also what worked for me (100+ lbs down.) For a long time I did literally zero tracking and ate literally as much as I wanted and the weight just fell off. I'm not sure I could have done it with just calorie counting.

I can tell you it's absolutely one of the best things I've ever done in my life. A++++++++++++ would recommend.

Therapy was incredibly useful at the beginning as well. There is a HUGE mental component to it. Besides therapy, google for cognitive-behavioral therapy exercises both for weight loss and in general (for depression, self-esteem, etc.) The book Feeling Good: A New Mood Therapy is my favorite, but there are plenty of websites as well.

Be mindful of your thoughts. Some are very demotivating. Even "I need to do this for my health" can be very demotivating, because it confers a sense of obligation. How about "I want to be healthy" or "I choose to be healthy" or "I choose to be happy, healthy, and fit?" Or if that feels too optimistic, "I am working towards being healthier."

Losing a lot of weight is amazing. It feels so good and you get to be proud and healthier and almost everything in life gets easier and clothes fit better and just everything is better. Try not to think of it as something you have to do, but something you GET to do.

Some things I do/have done to keep motivation up other than therapy: read /r/keto, watch YouTube videos, have exercise goals, play sports, and join Facebook support groups.

Feel free to message me.
posted by callmejay at 5:01 AM on August 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

I wrote about what works for me a while back. I've fallen off the wagon a bit since then, but I'm starting to get back into it now and I'm down another 2kg or so. I am definitely still a fat person.

Key points: Try to frame this as self-care, if you can. You'll feel better if you eat right and move your body in a way you enjoy, no matter whether you lose weight or not. If you mess up one day, it's just that day. Your body is constantly changing, so tiny differences in how you move and eat do add up to changes to your body. I have never been a sport or exercise person, but it turns out I love yoga, and I will walk and walk if I have my fitbit and a podcast or audiobook to listen to. Calorie-counting after every meal made me feel a bit resentful, so I just write down what I've eaten at the end of each day.
posted by escapepod at 5:17 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

So, there's lots of research out there that trying to lose lots of weight and keep it off permanently just does. not. work. I don't say that to cause you despair or anything -- just to say, this is a hard thing you're trying to do, and you might want to assess whether it is worth it, especially if it is causing you mental health symptoms. (After all, mental health is health me, it is not worth sacrificing mental health for weight loss.)

My feeling (and I'm on my phone so not able to find all the links, but there are plenty of studies out there that speak to this) -- if you're eating generally healthy food and getting movement into your life, I think you're going to end up healthier than someone who happens to be thin because of (reasons) but eats junk food all day. The number on the scale is not the only measure of human health that matters!

I would focus on eating good food that really makes you feel good -- I like the intuitive eating stuff linked above, Jamie Mendell is great on this as well and has a 21-day online intuitive eating challenge you could try if this approach appeals to you. I find that if I fill up my day with healthy, wholesome foods that I really LOVE (i.e. not choking down green smoothies, which I cannot stand), they tend to "crowd out" the junk (although I will NEVER tell myself I can't sometimes have a treat!). And figure out how YOU like to move. I tried to be a runner for a long time because I thought that was the "right" way to work out. I hated it with a fiery passion (and got shin splints). Now I swim, do pilates, lift weights, and walk everywhere, and I am so much happier. If you're eating in a way that makes you feel good, and moving your body in a way that feels good, I think that is SO much healthier than starving yourself and throwing yourself into a depression over weight. The good thing about this approach is also that if you're doing it because you FEEL GOOD doing it, you're not going to stop once you lose some weight and then gain it all back!

Another resource you might check out is Sarah Jenks. Her paid program is somewhat expensive (personally out of my budget!), BUT she has a ton of free resources on her website that you might check out. I think her attitude towards healthy living and weight loss is super inspiring and postive, and all about letting go of the guilt and embracing a full life.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:38 AM on August 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

Rather than relying on willpower, can you create a positive feedback loop where exercise and/or diet adherence provides some kind of reward that reinforces the healthy behavior? (More discussion here--this guy writes in various places about this concept.) To make this concrete, you can try different strategies, such as setting small, relatively quickly achievable goals so you feel success which creates motivation to continue. You can create exercise or dietary routines that you enjoy for their own sake: is there a type of exercise you enjoy (zumba, martial arts, exercise classes), or a way you can make it enjoyable (walking with a loved one, only watching a specific television show while you exercise)? Can the exercise or diet behavior provide an inherent reward: strength training has inherently measurable markers of improvement; beginning exercisers tend to see immediate fitness gains regardless of exercise; what healthy foods DO you enjoy, or would you enjoy gamifying your diet?

To take this one step further, perhaps you can make eating healthy and/or exercise a habit, where you identify a cue to trigger the healthy behavior that causes the reward. (Information on habit formation and the cue-behavior-reward cycle here and here, with a specific example about avoiding junk food in the second link.) In this case, the loop can look like this: after work (cue), I go to the gym (behavior) where I watch Gilmore Girls on the treadmill (reward). Or for diet: get home in the afternoon and feel peckish (cue), have a glass of club soda (behavior), which carbonation is an acceptable substitute for snacking (reward).

The creation of these loops does take work, which is why it's important to keep them small in scale. It also may feel silly, but it may help to brainstorm with another person--I know I get locked in my own viewpoint and have difficulty coming up with alternatives.
posted by mchorn at 6:31 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Shopping is your first behavior to change. Once you master shopping, everything else gets so much easier.

1) Buy smaller plates so that your servings look larger (yes, this works).

2) Never, ever, under any circumstances, buy processed or diet anything.
a. If you want dessert, make it from scratch, eat what you like and share the rest.
b. If you want bread, make it from scratch, eat what you like and share the rest.
c. If diet food worked, we would all be super models. Stop buying that crap!

3) Buy everything fresh!

4) Shop for groceries every few days. Stocking up is a dieting disaster. Don't do it.

5) Buy what you are craving for that day (not processed). By listening to your body instead of a meal plan, you are giving yourself what you need and will feel satisfied and not keep eating, trying to feel the void.

6) Most importantly, during times of stress, buy binge approved foods like watermelon and grapes (freeze them, they are more fun to eat that way).

7) Buy one high quality treat a week, like a $5.00 chocolate bar or artesian ice cream. Savor it.

Cook with full calories, using butter, but only cook small quantities. We all crave fat. If you can get it in the first few, delicious bites, then you will eat less and enjoy it more. If you rely on leftovers, cook one protein and eat it with veggies.
posted by myselfasme at 6:52 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've lost 100lbs, and I have done it a lot of different ways over the years. Came here to agree with previous commenters, that keto (low carb high fat) was by FAR the easiest and most effective way to lose weight that I have tried. I did no tracking (apart from carbs) and the weight just fell off, especially off my stomach which is awesome. Plus, the food is delicious. And I was able to be full rather than perpetually being hungry and feeling deprived. AND there were a ton of weird side benefits I wasn't expecting, like my complexion improved, I had more energy, my IBS disappeared, and my joints stopped hurting all the time. YMMV

Try keto. Its da bomb!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:06 AM on August 11, 2015

Also, regarding keto and motivation, I found it MUCH easier to stay motivated and on track because the food I was eating was delicious. Went to the Keg with my husband and he got Billy Miner Pie for dessert, which normally would have made me super covetous and jealous, but instead I ordered bacon wrapped scallops for MY dessert and man, I didn't give two thoughts to his pie after that. Scallops FTW.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:16 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have never struggled with weight, but I never gave a crap about fitness until I found physical activities I enjoyed where being fitter would help me. I love martial arts, yoga, and running, but will only ever strength train or sprint to improve my fitness for the stuff I actually care about. Those two, incidentally, have phenomenal return on investment. I just couldn't bring myself to care until there was a *reason* I wanted to be strong and explosive. It's the same thing for diet as I try to improve my body composition.

Martial arts gets me in the door 5 days a week, I have a blast, and if I'm not there folks ask after me. I do kung fu and BJJ. BJJ in particular has a reputation for being extremely fraternal as well as a great workout.

Many fitness or martial arts classes will offer the first one free or heavily discounted. Take advantage of that! Don't sign any contracts immediately after the class; sleep on it first. Keep searching until you find one you love, then get after it!
posted by hollyholly at 7:17 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Another low carber here. So far it's the only thing that works because as other have said upthread it doesn't need tracking. I've done tracking before. I'm good at for bit and then just don't and fall off. With low carb, just avoiding carbs and focusing on protein and veggies has meant weight loss.

I also give myself one carb day a week. Means I'm not giving up my french fries and gravy completely and it helps on those days when I'm tempted because I know that in X days I can eat whatever. So far this works for me and doesn't screw up the rest of the week. I refuse to beat myself up and feel deprived.

As for exercise I'm horrible at consistently doing standard exercising. What I've done is found things that just get my body moving. Doesn't matter what it is just moving helps. My favorite is dancing. I do this in private. In my mind I'm the most amazing and talented dancer. In reality..... yeah not so much. It doesn't matter though. It's just me, my favorite music and making my body move to it without worrying about and thing. It's quite freeing actually both psychologically and physically. Feeling motivated? Look up different types of dance tutorials on you tube and have at it. Last week I was Riverdancing around my room.

If dancing doesn't seem appealing look for something that involves movement that you like doing. The main thing is just moving.

The biggest thing that's motivated me to keep going is to understand that my brain has formed habits and wants me to keep doing what is comfortable. It doesn't like changing. It will tell me not to do things and give me signals to do things even if I know that it's not good. You're battling comfortable patterns. What are your patterns? I've done a lot of figuring out what my patterns and triggers are. I've broken them down and then concentrated on changing them one at a time. Brain doesn't like changing too much at once.

As an example, one of my downfalls is snacking while doing work on my computer. I feel uncomfortable when I don't have snacks. Most of my snacks were things like chips and crackers. I figured I had a choice between no snack or different snacks. Brain did not like no snacks. It rebelled. So I went with different snacks, protein crips, celery, cut up veggies. Brain grumbled at not have carby snacks but eventually the need to snack overwhelmed that and I ate the new snacks. Soon enough brain got reprogrammed. Snack urge = new type snacks.
posted by Jalliah at 7:34 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Instead of counting calories, try just halving the portion size of high-sugar/high-saturated-fat foods you normally eat and replacing them with an equivalent volume of fresh vegetables.

That sort of replacement -- filling up on healthier foods instead of whatever you used to eat -- will take you a long way.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:35 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't naturally like exercise a lot either, so I sympathize with you on that point. Nonetheless it's gotten to be a pretty major part of my life, and I've lost about 65 pounds (with more to go) while becoming fitter than I think I ever have been before.

It's great if you can find a form of exercise you love, but I would suggest you don't make getting in better shape dependent on that, because you may not find something. Not everyone does. I'd suggest finding a form of exercise you can tolerate instead. Walking is probably the best starting point; I motivated myself at first largely by listening to podcasts that interested me that I otherwise had a hard time making time for.

Then pay attention to your mood: even if you don't enjoy exercise, it does make you feel better afterwards -- that's not a myth, and if you pay attention you'll notice how much better it feels once you're done. That has helped me feel a little more motivated when I didn't otherwise. With time, building habits, and getting into better shape, exercise will also become, at very least, less unpleasant. I feel better about it when I don't feel pressure to find it joyous in itself -- it's just another dumb thing I have to do, like laundry or washing the dishes, in order to have a decent life, and it's not horrible, just less fun than other things I could be doing.

Personally, I track my calories most of the time, and I like it because it allows me to feel okay about having treats, because I can look, see that I have 300 extra calories in the budget today, and then know that having something sweet isn't going to get me off track. But you don't like that. I also find it helps to get excited about food -- I'm a food person anyway, so it's easy for me to get excited about a new recipe, or a fruit or vegetable I've never had before, or just a fruit that is finally back in season and in stores again. That stuff works with healthy food just as much as with unhealthy food. (Come to think of it, notice that fast food restaurants try to exploit the same thing by getting people excited over "seasonal" burgers and stuff.)

It's the same basic thing as just about every other aspect of life -- you have to give up some of the immediate gratification and find ways to find satisfaction in pursuing longer term goals (no, I'm going to wash the dishes now, not watch TV, and I'm not going to buy this because I'm saving up for that). And you will start to hit those goals, eventually; I no longer have anywhere near as much trouble pushing myself to exercise, because eventually, I've gotten enough fitter that I feel better and am really excited about becoming fitter yet. (Setting lots of short term goals helps me, too, like going down a notch in my belt or running for three minutes longer.) Eating a healthier diet has the same kinds of long-term positive effects, and like exercise, people really do get used to it eventually.
posted by mister pointy at 8:29 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

What helped me stay positive about getting healthy was finding a class at the gym I hated least, getting blood work done every three months so I had proof it was doing some good, thinking of every hour of exercise as another week I wouldn't have a stroke/whatever nasty family medical condition, and not telling anyone what I was doing or joining in anyone's weight loss griping. Framing it as a permanent change purely for current and future health and not thinking solely of weight loss really helped. Good luck!
posted by shazaam at 8:31 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I had some success with losing weight last year when I had a different kind of goal (rather than lose X pounds or just the vague "be healthier"). We were taking a vacation to Europe and going to be doing a lot of walking. I really wanted my knees to not hurt and I really wanted to enjoy the trip and not feel miserable at the end of the day/in the morning. I lost about 20 pounds that way because I was excited about the reason I was exercising/dieting. And even if I didn't see clear weight loss, I knew every time I got on that treadmill, it was going to make my vacation that more fun.

Can you afford a vacation? Or do you have some event coming up that you are looking forward to? I put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the cheese bin in the fridge and that helped. What do I want more? The same old blah cheddar I always eat? Or to eat incredible cheese in Paris? When I wanted a snack, I did some travel planning instead to remind me why I was doing all this. Good luck! You are not alone!
posted by Beti at 8:35 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a major depressive disorder coupled with a minor social phobia. Places like gyms freak me out. I have lost 55 pounds since September of 2014. Like you, I knew how to lose weight, because it's science. I can tell you that I was not successful until I started to accept the science behind mental health issues, work on improving my self perception, and truly understand self worth.

Honestly, for me, it's been 75% mental. That meant redefining my goal to something slightly less measurable. I aspire towards a healthy, vibrant, energetic self. That took the focus off of numbers and emphasized the fact that I am a person worthy of good health and a feeling of vibrancy. I wanted more energy because for years, my energy has been so low. I wanted dewy skin and bright, clear eyes. Believing that I deserved those things was the hard part when I had a deeply engrained belief that "people like me" don't belong in a yoga class or at a gym.

I know that I have to actively manage my depression and anxiety, and physical health is no different. Accepting that was tough for me, because I so desperately wanted to switch to auto-pilot and disconnect from my body entirely.

This book helped me a lot. I speak to a counsellor every two weeks. I realized that I need a lot of sleep, and have a hard time functioning if I'm not well rested. I categorize that as a mental thing because instead of seeking validation from others via text/email/social media, I started to build resiliency. I started to rely less on others and began realize that getting a good night's sleep will do more good than endless scrolling on my phone. I pick up this book and flip through it when I need a boost.

The other 25% was the easy part. I made conscious choices that I knew I could sustain for the rest of my life.

- walking. I dusted off a Fitbit I had tucked away in a drawer and started using it. The badges are corny but I love them.
- MyFitnessPal. I was loathe to count calories, and my best friend suffers from an eating disorder. I expunged the words "calorie counting" from my lexicon and refer to it only as tracking. I automatically assumed tracking my food would lead to unhealthy habits and restrictions. Instead, I found it empowering. It's been a great way to follow my progress.
- I still drink beer, eat pizza, and enjoy treats - just less than I used to. I want to enjoy these things for the rest of my life, and am striving for a balance. I am honest with myself and am slowly starting to accept that there will always be days that are less than ideal.
- In the winter, I get up and use an exercise bike for 30 minutes. That's it. I made a kickass playlist on iTunes of shameless pop songs and use that when I walk or ride my exercise bike.
- Yoga. I tried to go in September and remember laying on the mat with tears streaming down my face. Three months ago, I started to feel stronger and more confident on my own, so despite my anxiety, I took a foundations class once a week for six weeks. Now I go three times a week. For me, yoga is a physical and a mental therapy.

This got a bit long winded, but I wanted to let you know that you deserve to feel healthy and good. Overcoming that mental hurdle is the hardest part.
posted by nathaole at 9:47 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think part of the issue is that it sounds like this goal is externally imposed - you feel you have to move from one BMI category to another for medical reasons - rather than one that's coming from a strongly felt internal motivation. You resent it, so find it difficult to locate anything within the weight loss process - like getting excited about new recipes or activities - that's rewarding in itself. (In addition to finding much of it aversive because of the fatigue you're feeling from your medication and your discomfort with physical activity).

A lot of people find themselves motivated because something's happened in their lives and created a window of opportunity for change. Like they've just broken up with someone and want to date again. Or they're getting married and want to fit into a particular dress. Or they've experienced a health scare that is unignorable and immediately salient.

In the absence of a moment like that, I agree with others that it might help to work on visualization. Was there a time in your life when you felt energetic, strong, physically capable - can you call on those kinds of memories? If not, you might have to push through with fitness for a month or so until you experience this (which happened to me :) ).

Or alternatively, think of something you've always wanted to do, but haven't bothered to try, because weight (or feelings that might go along with weight) got in the way. Some life experience that you resigned yourself to thinking you'd never have. I think it would help to build up to wanting and visualizing that so that it's more real and present in your mind, or at least competitive with your dislike of aspects of the process.

As far as tricks, 2nd much of what's been said - lowish carb worked for me to help moderate hunger. I also said no to packaged food in the house, and shopped and planned so that healthy foods were always available. Making a rule to do some kind of activity every day ("never let the sun go down without doing something") really helped for the first couple of months, while my body was adapting to activity, after which, I felt and saw the benefits. I also really got into new recipes, and thought more about how I was adding tasty and healthy stuff, vs. subtracting things.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:48 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

On the topic of calorie counting, I found that if I had set meals that I knew were set calories, that took the pain out of calorie counting to a certain extent.

I think I read somewhere that planning your day of meals ahead of time rather than counting in the moment was easier and more prone to success. I found this as well. If I knew that at least breakfast and lunch were already all planned, I would be more successful.
posted by vunder at 10:00 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

but the part I struggle with is sticking with it.

What has worked for me is hiring a personal trainer. I know myself and I know that I'm not going to go to the gym or go for a walk or find my own activity. I've tried and I just don't do it past the initial day or two.

But paying money to somebody to have them tell me what exercises to do and to stand there and watch me do them and push me past where I would ever push myself is the only way that I've found to actually consistently get exercise for myself (and I like the side effect of having someone to chat with as I work out).

While it's easy for me to excuse myself from going to the gym if I've had a long day, I won't skip a workout with my trainer because it's not just me being affected if I don't go, it affects someone else, too. He's scheduled me into his workday and spent time planning a session for me and that's a good motivator for me.
posted by lea724 at 10:36 AM on August 11, 2015

Ignore exercise for the first bit. It will increase your appetite and make it harder to cut your calories. Cutting your calories now, lower than you have in the past, is the way to lose weight. If you "just want to eat your food in peace" without counting, then sit down some afternoon and create a series of __ calorie meals (250, 400, 550, etc). Then you can know "Ok today I will have a fried egg (200 cals) for breakfast, my tortilla wrap with tuna (300 cals) and my dinner will be fajita steak with veggies and a small tortilla (600 cals). Rather than sitting and having to track every morsel, just stick to a few stock meals with occasional meals out. Protein forward, high fat and lots of (non starchy) veggies is probably going to be the easiest way to do it.

Over time, you can add in exercise slowly until you are doing SOMETHING 3-4 times a week. But wait until you've lost at least half of the weight you want to lose. It's a lot easier to exercise once you've lost some weight.
posted by SassHat at 11:38 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's a thread on the blue about a particular weight doc; worth checking out. My own experience is that eating less and eating foods with lower calorie density is effective.

If you are obese, you're at risk for diabetes, which can be a devastating disease. One way to help regulate blood sugar is to eat fiber. Switch white to whole grain for wheat and rice. Eat oatmeal for breakfast a couple days a week. Eat vegetables and fruits. Whole grain pasta. Not a magic bullet. Just one step that helps.

Exercise helps regulate appetite and blood sugar. Exercise is critical for being at all healthy.

Which leads me to Dance and Music. I hate to run. I hate most stuff that is exercise. But I will be a lot more active when I put on some Motown, show tunes, rock-n-roll or [insert your favorite dance music]. I'm in a recreational dance group. I go out with friends to bars with dancing. Dance music is mood-lifting. Exercise helps only a tiny bit with weight, but moving makes you feel good. I have never consciously felt endorphins from exercise, but moving with music feels good.
posted by theora55 at 2:00 PM on August 11, 2015

Something I find particularly motivating is actually something Chris Pratt said about losing weight: "Now mealtimes are sometimes lame, because that's the way it can be when you're eating healthily. But all the time between meals, I feel great."

It basically echoes what other people have said above -- hone in on the goals of feeling more energized, stronger, being less winded, etc. Straight up recognize that parts of achieving these goals are going to be really lame, like paying attention to what you eat and having to do some boring and difficult exercises. But those are just necessary lame blips in your day (like being stuck in traffic or having to run errands), that will make your life easier in the long run. They're blips that are sandwiching the good parts of your day - good parts that will get better and better the more you stick with it.
posted by thebots at 2:33 PM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you have some big goals that could be broken up into a bunch of tiny steps. Then make the tiny steps as easy as possible. This will help form habits and automatic behavior that will get you toward your big goals.

For example, instead of saying to yourself "I will eat 5 servings of green vegetables a day," and then beating yourself up at the first sign of failure, break it down. How about, "Next time I am at the grocery store, I will buy one bag of frozen Brussels sprouts." (Pick a vegetable you like, pick fresh if you like.) This goal is specific, easy, and measurable.

Then your next step is, "When I am hungry for dinner, I will look in the freezer at my bag o' veg." The vegetables are there, so the effort is reduced. Do a little cheer for yourself. It's cheesy, but giving yourself positive feedback for small steps helps form the habit. Celebrate small victories.

As these little things become habits, you can add further steps on top of them.

The key is to set yourself up for success by making things easy.
posted by expialidocious at 2:57 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like your question is actually "how do I become healthy?" That question will take you in a much different direction than the question "how do I lose weight?"

This will likely sound crazy, but if your focus is HEALTH above all else, losing weight is not what you want to do. There is a plethora of literature on this topic, and the *scientific* consensus is that:
- overweight is not detrimental to health (except in very extreme cases);
- losing weight repeatedly (also known as weight cycling) is the cause of many of the health problems associated with obesity, such as hypertension, high blood pressure, and kidney damage;
- obesity is not the cause of type-2 diabetes, but rather an early symptom (as type-2 diabetes is a genetic disease);

Oops, accidentally posted early. Will finish in a second comment.
posted by switcheroo at 5:33 PM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

switcheroo, good point. "How do I become healthy" is closer to my goal than just weight loss, for sure.
posted by thetortoise at 5:46 PM on August 11, 2015

The idea that losing weight is the solution to overweight is misinformation that has become common knowledge due to NIH expert panels that have been dominated by leaders of the diet industry. But that is beyond the scope of your question.

The most beneficial program for promoting health is known as Health At Every Size. There is a book with that name by Linda Bacon, which I highly recommend. It's a great book, based on facts rather than information promoted by special interests. The main goals of the program are health and self-acceptance.
posted by switcheroo at 5:49 PM on August 11, 2015

I should clarify... losing weight should not be a primary goal. It may happen to some extent through the course of becoming healthy, but for about 95% of people long term weight loss is not possible.
posted by switcheroo at 5:55 PM on August 11, 2015

Wifi scale. One, it's a largish gadget investment, so it's motivating from that standpoint. Two, it's just so easy. Just step on it every day, you don't even have to pay attention to what it says. Once a week or every other week, look at the app to see what happened to your weight with a nice trend line so you can ignore daily fluctuations. It definitely helps me know that I'm making progress, even when the progress is slow (which is just right!).
posted by anaelith at 4:53 AM on August 14, 2015

What is the benefit of buying the wifi scale over just stepping on a conventional scale once a week? I assume it offers features a conventional scale doesn't.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:29 PM on August 14, 2015

I used a conventional scale for a couple of years before breaking down and getting the wifi scale. The conventional scale was annoying because I had to bring a pencil and paper, remember the numbers it showed for long enough to write them down... (laugh all you want, this was the real hard part for me), and then go to the computer and enter them into my spreadsheet by hand. And with one data point per week, you're still always wondering if it's randomly high or low, but adding more data points means remembering the pencil...etc.

With the wifi scale, you just step on it and it does everything else, and then your weight magically shows up on your phone in a lovely graph with a trend line. It's easy to step on the scale as part of your daily routine and then just look at the app once a week or so and see what's actually happening with all of the fluctuations smoothed out.

Two minutes per day saved is an hour a month, and we've had two people using the wifi scale daily for over three months now. I love it, much better than expected, would buy again (but hope I don't have to, it definitely was pricey).
posted by anaelith at 4:56 AM on August 15, 2015

Tracking and counting just makes me obsessive and sad. You're smart, you did your research, you already know what you should be doing. So you don't need to beat yourself up and rehash the same ol' material every time you veer off road! Changing habits is hard, it takes time, you're gonna fuck up.

Really, it's the overall pattern that counts. Are you eating healthier in general? Are you working out more? If so, then don't worry about skipping a day here or there. Just make sure you're on an upward trend. If your average number of walks per week is three, hold that number. Then go to four. When you feel good at four, try five. Don't slip down — but don't worry too much about going up!

I find it's way better to add and replace than to force or deprive. You have to start with things you LIKE and WANT to do. Are there any weird foods or treats you dig? Next time you get a sugar craving, pick out a $5 jar of fancy pickles instead of eating a $5 pint of Ben & Jerry's. At dinner, skip the extra slice of bread and add in a salad or a glass of bubbly lemon water. Buy yourself a small fork and a small plate, and spend time making your food at home look pretty. You'll eat less without even thinking about it! (Also, don't shop when you're hungry. Our brains love impulse buys!)

How about movement. What's the most badass skill you'd like to learn? Salsa dancing is pretty cool, wouldn't you'd love to learn a fast turn? It'd be wicked to swim across a whole pool in one breath right?

Are there any places in your town you want to visit, but haven't? Pick a new spot every day and walk there. Bring a great album, people so rarely make time to just *listen* to music. And now you have a great window to do that!

Framing is everything. You can do this!
posted by fritillary at 6:06 PM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

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