In April of 2015 I met Jenno. Jenno struggled with her weight her entire life. From the age of 17 when she starved herself to fit into a prom dress until she reached her highest weight of 236 lbs. at the age of 41, she tried numerous diets. Each time she lost between 30 and 50 pounds, but later gained it all back.
When I met Jenno she was willing to do just about anything to break the cycle of food addiction, self-sabotaging habits, and accompanying feelings of defeat and hopelessness. Her issues with her weight were affecting every area of her life. She was depressed and skeptical that I could help her, but knew that doing the same thing and expecting different results was the definition of “insanity.” She told me right off that bat that she would never be able to give up the hot dogs and soft pretzels at her son’s baseball games and, while she was willing to make small changes to her diet, she didn’t have time to exercise.
One year later, on May 1st, 2016, Jenno (age 45) ran 10 miles in the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. Despite the cold, rainy weather, she achieved her goal of completing the race in under 2 hours. She describes the feeling of crossing the finish line as one of deep satisfaction. She had started from zero, trained for months, made a promise to herself and all those who sponsored her to RUN THE ENTIRE THING, and she had lived up to that promise.
Jenno has since added running a full marathon to her bucket list.
So, how’d she do it? How did someone who struggled with weight loss for 30 years finally turn her goals into a reality? How was she able to ditch the diets and make a permanent lifestyle change?
Here is her advice, in her words, for how to achieve and maintain your weight loss goals:
1. Don’t try to change everything at once.
I had good success with the 21 Day Fix Workouts but I would not recommend them as a starting point for anyone who isn’t already exercising and whose diet is out of control. Trying to eat clean, practice portion control, and implement daily exercise all at once is a recipe for disaster if you’re not already doing well in at least one and probably two of those areas. Starting the 21 Day Fix Program after already losing 20 pounds in Jen’s 60 Day Program worked well for me. But first I had to JUST eat clean. Then I had to start increasing my steps but not do aerobics or lift weights. Then I started exercising portion control. All that took more than 2 months before I was equipped to be successful with daily workouts. At that point, I was able to begin 21 Day Fix and lost 35 pounds after two rounds of the program.
2. Don’t aim for perfection.
The 85/15 rule (i.e. eat healthy 85% of the time) worked well for me because I was more or less “cheating” every week – not trying to go 21 or 60 days without eating something “bad.” When you accidentally eat a cookie, or three, leave it in the past and make better choices at the very next meal – don’t wait until the next day. Even when I was following the 21 Day Fix program I would plan for 3 meals and 2 snacks “off” from eating healthy per week. By allowing myself to eat what I wanted during those meals I didn’t feel deprived. When you’re out with friends, give yourself permission to be a normal person, not a “dieting” person. Eat the cheese dip, have the dessert and the cocktail. Live your life. Then most of the time, eat clean.
When it comes to exercise, I learned not to set the bar so high that I’d never be able to reach it. I had to be okay with not being the pinnacle of fitness or having a rock-hard body. I had to set goals that were achievable for me in that phase of my life. At first, that was just walking. Then, I added in yoga and exercising twice a week. I gradually built up from there, raising the bar each time, but not making it so far out of reach that I was doomed to failure. The 30 minute workouts were doable for me. I was able to get in a good workout and then get on with my day.
3. Lose weight the way you plan to keep it off.
You can’t do one thing to lose weight, then go back to your old ways once you reach a goal weight. That means that whatever you’re doing to lose weight has to be something you can live with (see item #2 above). A lot of people want to lose weight fast because dieting sucks so bad, but the more draconian the diet and the faster it works, the more guaranteed the rebound after you stop following those strict rules. It is eminently better to lose weight slowly and not hate every second of doing it. This is the only way you will keep it off.
4. If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.
Autumn Calabrese says this in one of her 21 Day Fix videos and it stuck with me. It helped me tremendously on the days I would overeat. I would tell myself it’s just a bad day, it doesn’t entirely negate my progress. Instead of giving up because I screwed up, I would keep going and try to make a better decision the next time.
I’ve learned that losing weight and being healthy isn’t a battle you win once and then you’re done. It’s a lifelong process of self-improvement, learning as you go, trying new things, finding what works and what doesn’t. When you stumble and fall, you get can get back up and get going. You never run out of chances.
5. Address the underlying issues that lead to emotional eating, low self-esteem, and other self-sabotaging behaviors or thoughts.
I started therapy for my food addiction and overeating a year and a half ago after my mom died, and I’ve stuck with it throughout this weight-loss journey. It’s really helped to have a place to deal with my “stuff” instead of eating my pain. Behind every self-sabotaging behavior is a self-deprecating lie that you are telling yourself. When we convince ourselves that those lies are true our behavior naturally starts to back them up. To break the cycle, you need to address the underlying issues and replace the lies with positive affirmations. For example, replace “I’ll never reach my goal,” with “I can focus on one day at a time, one moment at a time, one decision at time.” Focus on taking that first step, no matter how small, and just keep going, doing something each day to move you closer to your goal.
6. Find a “why” that isn’t about vanity.
Before I was able to lose the weight and keep it off, my reasons for losing weight were generally about looking and feeling better for myself. But if a person doesn’t feel worthy, that “why” won’t work. My “why” now is that I don’t want to be elderly and obese – it’s about mobility, safety, and avoiding chronic pain rather than about my clothing size. My heroines are the 70-somethings at yoga class who don’t have swimsuit bodies, but they have good balance and full range of motion. When your “why” is deeper than your physical appearance, it carries more weight (pun intended) and you’re more likely to stick with it.
7. Love yourself throughout your journey, not just when you reach your goal.
You have to love yourself while you are “fat” in order to do the very hard work that is required to become “not-fat.” You do NOT have to love the fat. You do not have to love BEING fat. But you have to love yourself, who you are, while you are *still* fat. If you’re waiting to love your appearance before you love the person you are inside, you’re doomed. This is easier said than done, especially for women in our culture, but you’ve just got to get in touch with your worth as a human being, your God-given gifts, your talents, what you offer as a partner/parent/friend, and embrace the goodness and value of all that, before you can have the power to change your outside. Changing the outside is HARD. You have to believe you are worthy of the hard work because YOU ARE! Self-sabotage is a sign that you don’t feel worthy, so starting by addressing these underlying issues is more helpful than starting with Shakeology or a FitBit. You have to change the inside before you can change the outside. A true transformation starts by a renewal of our mindset – this mindset lays the foundation for long-term, sustainable change.
In May 2015, Jenno enrolled in my 60 Day Online Fitness & Nutrition Program. In two months, Jenno lost 18 pounds (read her testimonial here), but more importantly, she discovered strategies for how to make her new habits permanent. Since then, Jenno has lost an additional 40+ pounds, has found a balance in her life that works for her, is happy with who she is, and is motivated to keep going.
“The 60 Day Program really worked for me because we were all in different places and we were doing different things – it wasn’t one-size-fits-all program. At first I wasn’t exercising at all, but with Jen’s encouragement I started walking and gradually built up from there (later adding in the 21 Day Fix workouts and portion control system). I felt like there was room for me to take my baby steps and I didn’t have to keep up with what someone else was doing. Small changes that resulted in some weight loss helped me keep going and not give up. She and the other members of the challenge group provided me with so much that I needed to succeed: motivation, support, and accountability, not to mention recipes, meal plans, exercise ideas, and guidelines for making smart choices when grocery shopping and eating out.”
If you’re reading this post, chances are “lose weight” is at the top of your list of New Year’s Resolutions. If you’re looking for accountability and support, I would like to invite you to also participate in my 60 Day program, called Rock Your Resolutions in fitting with the New Year. Click HERE for more information about what’s included in this online program and click “GOING” on the Rock Your Resolutions Event Page to reserve your spot (spaces limited to 20 participants). Our next round begins January 18th (last day to register is January 11th).
“One of the most powerful components of Jen’s programs is the accountability – having a partner to check in with daily, knowing that others in the group are on the same journey. The group gave me the power to do what I couldn’t do on my own. With Jen’s help, I’ve made lifestyle changes I can live with. She gives you so much more than diet and exercise – she gives you what you need to change your mind and heart to reach your goals and sustain your success.”
Jenno also recommends the book You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be by Holley Gerth. If you would like to reach out to Jenno for support, please email her at email@example.com.
I hope that Jenno’s advice has been helpful and that 2017 will be your year to achieve and maintain your weight loss goals. If you’re not yet ready to join a challenge group, but would like support in living a healthy lifestyle, please consider joining my free Fueled Fit Focused Facebook group or checking out my blog for tips and resources on focused fitness, nutrition, parenting, and faith. If you like what you see, please subscribe to my blog for weekly updates.
CALL TO ACTION: Share your goals for 2017 and what tools and resources you need to achieve those goals! Click HERE TO JOIN my Rock Your Resolutions Challenge (Jan 18th – March 19th) or HERE TO BECOME A MEMBER of my Fueled Fit Focused Facebook group for ongoing accountability and support to turn YOUR goals into a reality and make a permanent lifestyle change.