Losing weight can be a challenging experience for many. From the stresses of life to not knowing how to prepare meals, there’s always so many factors that can interfere with one’s mission to become healthier. I’m no stranger to it. What I found through my journey, is that hearing from someone else’s experience can be a big help.
Growing up I was always overweight. Part of that was because I didn’t do sports or exercise much, but the bigger component was my diet. My parents didn’t really prepare well balanced meals. On top of that, since they worked nights, I would make my own dinner half the time. When you’re a kid, your first instinct isn’t to make a salad, so I ate more meat and carbs than anything else. Towards the end of high school, my lifestyle was catching up to me as I was gaining more and more weight. It then got worse when I started college. The “Freshman 15” is real, although in my case it was more like “Freshman 20.” It culminated with me becoming morbidly obese, weighing in at 285 pounds by my second semester of college.
At that point both myself and my parents knew that this couldn’t go on anymore. I started an extremely strict diet. I would have an apple or orange for breakfast and for later as a snack between meals. For lunch and dinner, I would have 3-4 ounces of lean meat and 10 ounces of a single vegetable. I had to drink 6 to 8 liters of water a day. Cooking with oils and using seasoning or dressing were not allowed. Meals for example, would consist of a small piece of bland chicken and two whole cucumbers for lunch, followed by a thin piece of veal along with an entire bowl of mushrooms for dinner. Bleakly, I was also taking supplements to make up for any nutrients I’d be missing.
I was limiting my daily calorie intake to about 800 a day, give or take. It is very dangerous to consume so little calories over a long period of time like that, which is also why for this diet I couldn’t exercise at all. It is important to stress that this is not a diet that anyone should emulate. I was on a diet plan from a company specializing in weight loss and regularly seeing nutritionists. The plan was something specifically tailored to my body.
For 40 days I followed this diet plan and lost 40 pounds of fat. After that period, I slowly started incorporating foods I liked back into my diet. I would still limit my portions and balance my meals but would ultimately eat whatever I wanted. I also started exercising regularly for the first time in years. The primary way I exercised at first was swimming, since it was always something I was good at and is a very good cardio workout. I was able to lose another 45 pounds over the next 3 months by swimming almost every day.
By the start of my sophomore year of college, I felt comfortable enough with my body that I stopped actively trying to lose more weight. The effects of that much weight loss over a short period of time were immediately noticeable. In general, I was happier, more energetic and more alert than ever. For the next year, through regular exercise I was able to maintain my weight.
Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors I lost control of my weight again. The two biggest reasons were my father passing away and the shutdowns due to COVID-19. Because of my father’s passing in late 2019, I simply didn’t have the motivation to regularly exercise. Subsequently, with the COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020, I was unable to go to the gym for months. Over the year of 2020, I gained 25 pounds. That realization was very upsetting, as I started to feel like all that effort I went through may amount to nothing.
However, I also finally learned the lesson of dieting at that point; it can’t be all or nothing. The thing is after I had finished losing the initial 85 pounds, I gradually stopped thinking about what I was eating again and would just consume as much as wanted. I was only able to keep the weight from coming back for a year by doing a high calorie burning exercise nearly every day in the form of swimming laps. I was ultimately doomed to gain weight again if my eating habits required intense cardio to balance them out. Thankfully, I was able to get back on track since then by moderating my food and exercising regularly again.
Looking back, the original weight loss diet is not something I would consider doing again. It was useful for rapid weight loss, however it was not a sustainable lifestyle. It didn’t teach me how to enjoy eating healthier meals; that’s something I had to teach myself.
What I would recommend to anyone trying to lose weight is to cook your own meals and give yourself a wide variety of vegetables while limiting your carbs, fats and processed sugar as much as you can, with supervision and recommendation by a nutritionist or medical professional. Fruits are always best in the morning so the natural sugars can give you energy for the day. That’s not any groundbreaking advice, but by preparing food all yourself you can learn to love the journey along the way.