Lessons in Weight Loss – It’s Not Just a Numbers Game

With my job as a trainer and a fitness writer I almost can’t get through a single day without typing or thinking about the words ‘weight loss.’

If you’re trying to lose weight, you may not be able to get through a day without thinking about those words, either.

And when you think about weight loss, you probably think it should be pretty simple…you know the whole ‘if you burn 3500 extra calories you’ll lose one pound of fat’ deal? Dieting, exercising, stepping on the scale…it’s all part of the lather-rinse-repeat process right?

But, if you’re not losing weight or the changes are happening too slowly for the human eye to detect, what then? Is it really just about dieting and exercising?

If it were, we’d have this weight loss thing licked.

If you’ve been on the weight loss/weight gain loop for too long, you may need to change the way you think about losing weight.

What’s in a Number?

We often look at weight loss as a numbers game. If you burn and/or cut ‘x’ number of calories from your diet, you should see ‘x’ number of pounds drop from the scale.

And, of course, a lot of us feel like we need to track these numbers just to see if we’re doing it right.

Calorie-tracking feels like a full-time job, doesn’t it? A job you hate and don’t get paid for. You have to write down what you’re eating and find out how many calories are in each thing. You have to monitor your exercise intensity and see how many calories you’re burning.

Then you step on the scale and voila! Wait…whoa…no. Really?

Actually, it’s more like, “I lost .3 pounds after eating lettuce and lemon wedges for 3 DAYS?! You’re going down, bitch!”

Yes, the results can be excruciatingly slow.

A Different Way to Look at Weight Loss

Okay, let’s step back from the scale (she’s a big fat liar anyway) and let’s come at this weight loss thing from a different direction.

What if what really changes that number on the scale comes down to one little thing:


What if it’s not about ‘x’ calories this and ‘x’ calories that, but about you choosing a glass of water here and a walk outside there?

What if it comes down to your choice to move more and eat less?

It’s simplistic, I know and I also know what you’re thinking. The choice to take that walk or drink that water doesn’t feel very choicy, does it? It feels like a chore. Something we have to do if we want to lose weight.

Just to be clear, yes you do need to exercise and do something about your diet if you want to lose weight, that isn’t going to change.

But what you can change is your approach to it. Because there is a way to do this without it feeling like someone’s taken away all your favorite toys and given you a box of switches in return.

That was what my grandfather used to threaten me with if I wasn’t a good girl before Christmas. A switch, if you don’t know, is a tree branch used for whuppins. (First, that’s a southern thing and, second, my grandfather never once whupped me or gave me a box of switches. RIP Granddaddy! I’m still a little brat).

Change Your Mind

Your mind is in charge of most of this weight loss thing, which means your perspective on how to lose weight, how to diet and exercise, plays a major role in how successful you are.

If these choices feel more like restrictions, you’re always going to feel like you’re missing out on something and, therefore, you’ll always go back to those things you think you’re missing.

But what if there’s a different way? What if these choices weren’t chores or restrictions, but based on one thing. The one thing most of us are terrible at doing: Taking care of yourself.

If you think about it, all the things you need to do to lose weight are also all the things you need to do to take care of yourself: Eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, eating foods that give you energy and make you feel good.

Taking care of yourself means moving your body and getting out of your chair as much as possible, simply because your body feels better when it’s moving.

Taking care of yourself means getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, dealing with your stress in healthy ways…all things that, when accomplished, can also lead to healthy, natural weight loss.

Learning how to take care of yourself is an important part of the weight loss process. And here’s the thing: You can’t fix all these at one time and please don’t try because you’ll just drive yourself crazy.

If you’ve gained weight it’s because you’ve been following some habits for awhile, probably a long time. If you want to lose weight, it’s also going to take time to change those habits.

So, rather than try to change your life in one day, I have two things you can do right now to start changing your perspective on yourself and losing weight.

2 Steps to Start Taking Better Care of Yourself

  1. Know where you are – Do you even know how well you’re taking care of yourself? You’re probably too busy to really think about it and, like most of us, you’re probably doing some healthy things (I ate a salad!) and some iffy things (I had 3 glasses of wine!). It isn’t always easy facing the reality of our choices but think about it like an experiment. This isn’t to make you feel guilty – You probably do that all on your own (stop it! All this stuff isn’t easy, you know). So, here’s a challenge: Try keeping a simple health journal – I really like this one or just grab some paper and make your own. Keep track of things like sleep, exercise, meals, water intake and general energy levels and stress. No judgment allowed. After a week, notice if just knowing you have to write these things down makes a difference in how you take care of yourself. If you haven’t improved, I’ll eat my hair. Okay, no I’m not doing that.
  2. Check in with yourself – Taking care of yourself starts with being aware of how you feel throughout the day. This is especially important if you tend to eat when you’re not hungry, like I do. Like when you’re bored, lonely, guilty, stressed, binge-watching Game of Thrones…we all do it. But it’s not just that. It’s being aware of what’s going on with you. Are you tired? Thirsty? Need a break or a change of scenery? Here’s your next challenge: Set an alarm to go off every hour and just stop what you’re doing. Is there something you need? What is it? Maybe you can even write it down in your health journal. Handy, no?

Taking care of yourself isn’t easy. Most of us have been taught to just keep going, no matter what’s going on and it’s always easy to deal with stress and boredom and all that other crap with a quick fix – Doritos, for example. Yum.

It’s not easy to change any of that. But it’s easier when you take it one thing at a time. And for now? That’s finding out where you are so you know where to go.

Go forth, grasshopper.

One comment

  1. Andrea Orabona says:

    Thank you, Paige, for breaking down the realities and challenges in life into a comprehensible, can do strategy! Luckily, I don’t care for Doritos, but I do indulge in that 3rd glass of wine on occassion. No guilt…just admit and address it!! Here’s to walking a 5K on July 4th, and knowing I’ll feel righteous about it!

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