Weight loss is a daunting term. One can't help but conjure up images of eating raw kale pitifully while sweating in a Zumba class. A weight loss-oriented lifestyle is especially hard to create while you're a freshman in college, yet I somehow managed to lose weight without changing my daily routine too drastically (or without eating bushels of kale).
I didn't step foot in the gym once, but I managed to beat the Freshman Fifteen three times over and still uphold my sweet tooth. Before I begin, it is important to know that every weight loss story is personal. I don’t have this down to a science, nor can I guarantee that what works for me works universally. Everyone has a different metabolism, body type, and dietary needs.
A Little Bit About Me
I’m from Atlanta. A quarter of my blood flows with Coca-Cola. Any meal without meat, butter, or something fried just feels wrong. Gaining some weight my senior year was easy because of frequent access to fast food and the disposable cash from my part-time job. Unhealthy foods were always accessible and always enticing.
I wanted to start somewhere. Yet every time I tried to get started, I didn't know what to do. One cannot scroll down Instagram without seeing a thin celebrity idol swearing by the weight loss pills or weight loss teas that sponsor her. Or another diet fad could be making its rounds on Facebook and Pinterest with instructions for the hottest food cleanse.
Everywhere I looked, “health experts” were giving advice left and right that contradicted the other “health experts,” and I didn’t know who or what to trust. I decided to start independently. I had to figure it out on my own. I didn’t garner these lessons from a magazine from the checkout at the grocery store. I only lost weight after I discovered what worked and what didn’t worked for me.
I Started Eating Breakfast
Mom wasn’t kidding. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. In high school, I skipped breakfast in favor of an extra fifteen minutes of sleep. By lunch, I would overcompensate by gorging myself, rationalizing with an “even-it-out" rhetoric.
By starting class later in the day my freshmen year of college, I had time for breakfast and eventually found out how important breakfast really is for my health and even my academic performance. Studies show that eating breakfast helps improve results in school. And breakfast doesn't have to be limited to bland cereal and juice; there are plenty of healthy breakfast options that won't neglect your taste buds.
I Refused to Count Calories
Obsessively counting calories not only drives me crazy, it doesn't even work. My university’s dining services has an app that offers calorie-counting and gathers nutritional data based on the daily menu, but I simply didn’t have the time in the morning or during lunch to build my plate and analyze the data.
Plus, it's hard to calculate the caloric intake when the nutritional information only applies to one serving, and I don't have time to measure out exact portions of food.
Counting calories can spook you away from a meal if you're not sure how to read the nutrition data. Also, nutritional labels can be misleading. By refusing to consult the calorie count before eating something, I didn't begin obsessively worrying about percentages and numbers and instead focused more on how much and the quality of what I was eating.
I Didn’t Weigh Myself
Setting goals is important, but the pressure of meeting a goal weight overwhelmed me. When I first started out, I had hoped to lose five pounds by the end of the month. When I hadn’t met that goal, I was ashamed of myself. It didn’t motivate me, and I was just discouraged. I wallowed in hopelessness and promptly gave up.
Eventually, I learned that by staying away from the scale, I could focus on what was more important: not the numbers, but how my body was actually feeling. Did I feel energized? Did I feel out of breath? Was I feeling confident? The answers to those questions were more important than any number on the scale.
I Learned that Moderation is Key
You know that episode of The Office where Michael Scott grabs a handful of brownies, saying that he'll "parcel them up and eat at his leisure later on," but instead eats them all in one sitting? That was me when it came to snacking and soda-drinking. Not only that, but I’m a caffeine addict. Giving up my Diet Coke meant giving up the ability to function without headaches.
When I was working at my restaurant job (where I had free access to soda throughout my shift), I was drinking almost two liters of soda a day, including the soda from my school’s cafeteria during lunch and from the vending machine. At my university, I still have unlimited access to soda in the dining halls, but I drastically lowered the intake of soda per day until I could manage to go a day without soda.
Moderation also extends to how much bacon I'm piling on my plate or how many cookies I take after dinner. I could eat what I liked, but I ate less of it. My tip to others: eat until you're full. Don't push yourself to finish a meal if you're stuffed.
Exercising was an Ironic Dilemma
I hate the gym. My self-esteem was low because I didn’t go to the gym, but I wouldn’t go the gym because I was embarrassed of how I looked. I didn’t want to be huffing and puffing, red-faced on a treadmill, sweating like a storm with people around.
I found a compromise: constant walking. Any Athens native knows that the city is built on a hill. No, the founders in the 1700s couldn’t have made Athens in a nice, flat cornfield. They had to make everything on an upwards slope.
That very decision, however, had me walking up steep hills to get to class each day. Not only that, but I was skipping the bus to walk to class. I was absolutely exhausted my first day, but halfway through the semester, I was making it to class without breaking a sweat.
Not only that, but I didn’t need to go to the fitness center to do pushup and sit ups. I just needed some blankets on the floor and the timer on my phone.
I learned that weight loss is an individual feat, which takes time and patience. Doing one sit-up and drinking a bottle of water won't immediately change anything.
I’m no health expert, and most of my revelations came with trial and error, mistake, or simply by noticing gradual results after it had already occurred. The number on the scale is not as important, but what really matters is how you feel inside and how you feel about yourself.