“Jon, how did you lose 230 pounds?” This question, or some version of it, is the one I probably receive the most even though I’ve gained back 100 pounds. It makes sense that people are curious as to how I did it. For many folks, losing 20 or 30 pounds seems overwhelming, so it stands to reason that there’s some amazement when people hear or read in my book that I lost 230 pounds!
I usually get the sense that the person asking wants specifics. If there are others in the room, I often sense they are waiting on bated breath to hear the miracle plan that will once and for all guarantee their weight loss success. They want to know what diet plan I followed. They want to know if I used a particular person, place, or machine to exercise. They want to know how I had the willpower to do it.
I expect they may feel some disappointment when I tell them what I did.
1. I focused on health and not a number. I did not weigh myself regularly and only knew what I weighed when I visited the doctor periodically. Let me tell you, it’s a lot more motivating to hear “You’ve lost 90 pounds since you were here six months ago!” than it is to look at the scale daily or weekly and see you’ve wobbled up or down a pound or two.
2. I paid attention to what I ate. I educated myself using a variety of sources, and I read labels. I would sometimes use a food tracker, but more often, I would simply keep a daily log with the goal of staying around 2,000 calories or less. One important thing to note that I think often sets people up for failure…if you’re as big as I was when I started, 2,000 calories is not enough. You will get hungry and likely fail. I used an online calculator and figured out I was eating 6-7,000 calories each day just to maintain 430 pounds. So, I began by dropping to 4,000, then 3,000, and eventually 2,000. Combined with regular exercise, this was enough to lose weight.
3. For the most part, I ate a low-carb, high-protein diet with as many vegetables as I could stand. I indulged and ate whatever I wanted at special occasions and holidays. The only two things I put on my “banned food” list were donuts and snack cakes. Eventually, the desire for those went away. But if you read my book, you’ll find out that it was a “donut lapse” that started my weight gain trend. Donuts and I do not have a platonic relationship.
4. I exercised regularly, with occasional episodes of more intense exercise/training for certain events such as a half-marathon or century ride.
5. I sought community to help me stay focused, motivated, and encouraged.
That’s basically it.
I realize this approach looks simple, but I also realize that it looks a lot simpler than it actually is. I have no magic advice for how I came up with the willpower to stick to it. All I know is that once I started losing weight and feeling so much better, that became a powerful motivator.
This plan worked for about five years, and then I began a slow creep back upward that culminated where I am now – about 100 pounds heavier. So, I’m with you on the journey of figuring this out again, too. I don’t know if the same plan will work for me again or if I’ll need to try something different. What I do know is that my focus remains on being healthy and not on an arbitrary number.
What do you do to motivate yourself to stay healthy? Do you have any tips? Leave your advice in the comments below.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional or a dietitian. The steps I’ve shared worked for me but should not be taken as professional or medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a different diet or exercise plan.