On Saturday, I posted a comparison of my 12-week progress picture alongside Ryan’s 8-week. His results have absolutely blown my mind. In case you missed it, prepare to be amazed:
Once I posted this, the questions of “what are you guys doing?” flooded in (again), and I couldn’t help but reflect on the years of failed attempts and countless drastic measures that I have personally taken to lose a few measly pounds. I touched on this briefly in my About page, but I feel like the topic of what simply isn’t worth your time and/or money warrants more elaboration. I’ve tried SEVERAL different things, and I’ve never gotten as far as I am today with any crazy fad diet, pill, or even cosmetic surgery. I’ve never been comfortable enough to talk about my failed attempts until now, and the fact that I’m even writing this is kind of a big deal. It means I’m comfortable enough with my body to reflect on my tumultuous, fruitless, and frustrating past. It’s the PAST, meaning I’m not going back there. :o)
If you’re looking for a quick-fix, you probably won’t like me by the end of this post. I searched for the silver bullet of weight loss for 7+ years, and as it turns out: if you want your results to stick, there really is no easy, fast solution. Here’s a list of 5 ridiculous weight loss methods I’ve tried and WHY they didn’t get me the results I wanted:
1. Fad diets/cleanses: Sure, you might lose a few pounds on a 10-day master cleanse or if you only eat soup for 2 weeks, but these things are NOT SUSTAINABLE. You can’t live on cranberry juice and dandelion root tea forever. Starving yourself isn’t good for your body, and the second that you return to normal food, you’ll probably balloon right back out to where you were before. Cleanses are meant to reboot your system; not for permanently losing 10-20 extra pounds. Strict “diets” usually don’t help your metabolism and aren’t easy to maintain. Plus, the psychology of being on a “diet” is inherently negative. It implies that you’re depriving yourself for a set amount of time. Once you’re out of that time frame, it’s easy to over-indulge. Instead, think of changing your overall eating habits. I know this sounds big, but in reality, it’s a compilation of multiple small changes. Cut out processed foods. Cook at home. Make smart choices that help you move toward your goals; avoid things that set you back. SUPER important: cheat meals are okay. I aim for no more than 1-2 a week, and I keep my nutrition in check during all other meals. I had a burger and some chips with queso on Saturday night, and I’m not mad at myself about it. (Equally important: these are cheat MEALS, not cheat DAYS. I’m absolutely guilty of the “Well, I already had a fat stack of pancakes and butter at breakfast… Might as well have pizza for dinner and call it a day” mentality. That used to happen every weekend and was a huge setback to getting where I am now. BIG NOPE. Don’t do that to yourself.)
2. Packaged “diet” meals: I’ve tried Nutrisystem. I’ve tried only eating Lean Cuisines/Healthy Choice/Smart Ones. Regardless of which brand of boxed, fake, preservative-laden food you choose, they all taste like crap compared to a home-cooked meal. Worse: they have little to no nutritional value and are surprisingly carb-heavy. These really aren’t worth their price tag, so don’t waste your money. Invest in cooking your own food and learn how to navigate the produce section instead of the freezer aisle. Hint: if you absolutely must buy packaged, process meals (which I seriously hope you won’t), check the nutrition facts before throwing it in your shopping cart. If the carbohydrates outnumber protein by a long shot (more than 1-1.5g carb per 1g protein), don’t buy it. If there are tons of additives listed in the ingredients (sugar, preservatives, things you can’t easily pronounce, etc.), don’t buy it. Fire up the stove and cook your own meal. Your taste buds will sing your praises, your wallet will stay a little more full, and your body will be pleased.
3. Diet pills (Phentermine): My parents are both pharmacists. I absolutely believe that pharmaceutical drugs work in many different cases, and that medical science is a WONDERFUL thing. However, I was on and off Phentermine for the better part of the last 5 years. My weight fluctuated a lot while I was on it; one month, I’d lose 10 pounds. The next, I’d gain 3 back. I felt like I was depending on medication to fix the way I approached food in general; I didn’t need to change what I was eating because the pills would do the work for me by curbing my appetite. ALL COMPLETELY WRONG. As soon as I stopped taking the pills, I gained everything back. I hadn’t trained myself to have a healthy relationship with food and didn’t feel like I was in control. Diet pills were a crutch. The last time I started on Phentermine (for my third time), nothing happened. At all. I lost nothing (except a chunk of change spent at Walgreen’s to get the prescription filled) despite being on the maximum dosage allowed. Plus, these drugs aren’t good for your heart. There’s a reason you can’t pick it up at the grocery store without having a doctor give you the go-ahead. Just say no.
4. Cosmetic surgery: Bleh. This is the hardest one for me to talk about, so I’ll just start by telling the story. In December 2007, I was a freshman in college preparing to go through Spring rush for my future sorority. I’d seen/heard advertisements by Westlake Dermatology for a new procedure called SmartLipo, so my mom and I went in for a consultation. The claim was that once they sucked the fat off, it wouldn’t ever come back. Sounded FANTASTIC. Once I was identified as a good candidate, we scheduled an appointment to get it done right before my first round of finals. The procedure itself wasn’t terrible — I was awake through the whole thing, and it wasn’t painful (because they drugged me up) — but the aftermath was worse than I could have ever imagined because of 4 different things. #1: they sucked off a grand total of 3 pounds. My jeans were slightly more loose after the swelling finally went away (which took about 2-3 weeks), but not by much. The end result didn’t meet my expectations and was far from what the doctors cracked everything up to be. #2: the price was unreal. Sure, it was a Christmas present and I didn’t have to foot the bill, but looking back, I feel terrible for making my parents spend thousands of dollars on something so ineffective. I guess it DID get me where I am now, and I learned a lot from it, but still… NOT WORTH IT. #3: This one’s the kicker for me. I’ve had a weird (and very rare) condition since I was 15. My brain occasionally acts like I have a tumor when there really isn’t one up there, and my cerebrospinal fluid doesn’t absorb as it should (meaning it builds up in my skull, causing one hell of a headache, double-vision, and tons of vomiting). I’d only had one other instance in my entire life of a “fake tumor” happening, and it happened because of a skin medication that I was on in high school. After the SmartLipo procedure, I was on a ton of anti-swelling/healing vitamins that caused another pseudotumor flare. After my finals wrapped up, my brother and I drove 20 hours to see our family in Arizona for Christmas. I started getting a few headaches and my neck tensed up on the drive, but I shook it off. A few days later, things got bad. My parents whisked me to the ER where I was given a super-painful spinal tap. I spent the next 24 hours with a morphine drip and got sent home on December 23. Things didn’t end there. By Christmas morning at around 3am, I was sprawled out on the bathroom floor at my grandparents’ house puking my brains out, my poor mom at my side trying her best to comfort me. Later that morning, my dad had to rush me to the hospital to get ANOTHER spinal tap. The neurologist said that the pressure in my brain was the highest that he’d ever seen, and to have it happen twice in less than a week was incredibly uncommon (meaning I was really jacked up). I spent Christmas in a hospital bed. I missed out on my very last chance to have a holiday meal with my grandma at her nursing home because I was in the ER. I know my story is a very unique corner-case, but in reality, you never know what side effects or complications you might face when undergoing a surgical procedure. These things put your body under some serious pressure, which opens the door for unexpected physical repercussions. Missing that Christmas is one of the VERY few things that I regret in my life. #4: Scars. 6 years later, I still have little tiny scars all over my sides from where they shoved giant lasers into my stomach. They’re almost unnoticeable, but I can see them. They remind me of a whole bunch of negative stuff that I’d rather not remember.
5. Out-training a crappy diet: The first thing that people tend to ask me is how often I work out. NO, NO, NO. You should be asking what I eat instead of how much time I spend in the gym. I work out 6x/week, 45min/day because I enjoy it. I love ending my days at boot camp, and it’s part of my routine. Exercise is definitely important, but diet is what matters the most. If I only worked out 3-4x/week but still had my nutrition on point, my results would probably be pretty similar. If you think you can go to the gym and work off a pint of Rocky Road, you’re wrong. The body doesn’t work that way, and an hour on the StairMaster won’t magically erase the shit you just filled your body with. I firmly believe in the 80/20 rule: 80% of your results come from nutrition, and 20% come from exercise. I worked out, HARD, 5x/week from November 2012-June 2013 and didn’t see results because my eating habits were terrible. Plain and simple: good eating habits are KEY.
The sure-fire way to make changes and get in shape is to know what you should be eating, cut out refined sugars and processed foods, and PLAN your meals out. Here’s my plan for the week:
It might seem boring to some, but I don’t mind eating the same breakfasts/lunches because my dinners kick ass. Here’s a dinner dish that I cooked two weeks ago when I was craving pasta (I told you guys Italian food is my weakness):
Shrimp Pasta with Parmesan Zucchini
Cook time: 25 minutes
– 2oz. (dry) whole wheat spaghetti noodles (OR brown rice pasta — it’s better for you!)
– 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
– 12oz. shrimp (deveined, tails removed)
– 2oz. feta cheese
– 2c. raw spinach
– 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
– 1 tsp. pink himalayan salt (or sea salt)
– 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
– 1 zucchini, sliced
– 1 yellow squash, sliced
– 2 tbsp. reduced-fat Parmesan cheese
- Cook spaghetti noodles in boiling water until al dente
- While noodles are cooking, cook shrimp in EVOO, half of the garlic, spices, and spinach over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add feta, and stir until melted
- In a separate pan, saute remaining garlic with zucchini, yellow squash, and any other seasonings you’d like. Cook until tender (5-7 minutes), reduce heat to low, then sprinkle with Parmesan and stir
- Once noodles are tender, strain and add in your shrimp/feta/spinach mixture
- Serve with zucchini/squash mixture on the side