In the 2+ years since I moved back to Pittsburgh, I’ve gained close to 30 pounds. Going from living in a city where I worked at an office, walked, and took public transit everywhere to working at home in the suburbs made my activity level plummet. Even having the dogs didn’t help much, since I live in a very hilly neighborhood so I lazily just let them run in the yard instead of walking them.
This new living situation also affected what and how I ate, because it was so easy to just hop in the car and get drive-thru whenever I wanted. In Chicago, fast food was a treat, because it required walking or taking the train somewhere. Here, there were no barriers, and I have a dozen different options within a 10 minute drive.
I also started drinking more as beer became an even bigger hobby of mine. Pittsburgh has breweries opening literally every week, so for several months, having nothing to do on a Saturday night would often turn into hitting a new brewery and sampling some beers. And if I stayed in, I would have a few beers that I purchased from Tavour or go out looking for new rarities.
Add it all up and you get one fat Bethany.
I’ve always been slightly overweight for my height, but with the weight gain, I was bordering on obese. I felt terrible. Between my weight and the drinking, my sleep was awful. I had no energy.
After a trip back to Chicago in October where I ate and drank to the point that I didn’t want to see a beer again for a very long time, I hit the reset button. I stopped drinking for a week. It felt good, so I kept going. I made it to a month, and even now, I drink a lot less than I used to. I focus on drinking beers that taste good instead of drinking just to drink.
I also changed the way that I eat and think about food. I’m one of those people who tends to consider food a reward – I had a bad day, so I deserve drive-thru. The problem is that I was constantly coming up with excuses to “reward” myself. So I’ve been doing some mental gymnastics to get my brain to think of food not as a reward, but as a regular ‘ole thing that I just need to survive. That’s not to say that food can’t be delicious and enjoyable – just that it’s not something that I should use as a reward. There are much healthier rewards for me that don’t make me fatter, like sleeping in or giving myself an extra hour to play a video game before bed.
With these changes, today I hit 20 pounds lost! I’m still planning to keep going and hopefully get back to the weight that I was in Chicago, which is the same weight that I was for most of my adult life.
I am not a weight loss guru by any stretch, but I thought I’d share some tips for people like me who want to change their lifestyle and find it really freaking difficult:
- You don’t have to exercise. Going to the gym and all that certainly helps you lose weight, but it’s not a requirement. For me, I just needed to be getting up and moving, even if that meant parking the car further away from the grocery store entrance so I had a longer walk. Little things add up.
- Be nice to yourself. At least twice in the last month, I had too much to drink which led to getting McDonald’s. I felt terrible about it. And then I weighed myself on the regular day and I had still lost weight. No one is perfect, and you’re going to eat food and do things that get you off-track. The important thing is to recognize it and get right back on that horse.
- Eat what you want, but in moderation. I used to be addicted to Vanilla Coke. I had at least two a day. I replaced them with flavored water, but about once a week if I have extra calories, I’ll have a Vanilla Coke. It tastes delicious. But it does not make me want to go back to two a day. It’s taken me over a month to go through a 12-pack, and it literally used to take me days.
- Do you research before you go out to eat. If you know what’s on a menu and is fairly healthy before you step into the restaurant, you give yourself more time to mentally prepare and commit yourself to ordering it even though you really want the damn tater tots. And honestly, I’ve found that the healthier options at a lot of restaurants are way better than I thought they would be.
- Reduced fat cheese is your friend. I love cheese so much and I was dying without it. Then I found an amazing website called Emily Bites that is all recipes of “lightened up” comfort food. Girlfriend uses reduced fat cheese liberally, and it saved me.
- Have regular standby meals ready. I used to eat a lot of frozen dinners, because I am lazy. I still try to have some on hand (Lean Cuisines FTW), but I also try to keep fresh easy options around: greens for salad, zucchinis for zoodles, tofu to toss in a sauce. Knowing that I have a five-minute option available if I don’t feel like cooking makes me a lot less likely to go out or order delivery that will be bad for me.
Ultimately, I had to change my lifestyle when I was ready to do it, and even with that commitment, it was still difficult. When you’re ready, do it. You’ll feel better, I swear.