How to Start Losing Weight – Even When You Think You Can’t

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Because I have successfully lost weight – 90 pounds at my lowest – people frequently ask me how I did it or how to start losing weight themselves. I had tried and failed to lose weight many times in the 15+ years that I was obese. I had a couple of moderately successful loses – one right before I got pregnant with my first. Of course. The pregnancy – and my using that as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted – blew that out of the water.

I frequently tell people that if I can do it, anyone can. I know people say stuff like that all the time, but knowing how many times I failed, I really believe it’s true. The key is not to quit. The times I failed were the times I quit.


photo by jeanette goodrich on flickr

I know losing weight can seem impossible. Even now, I’m struggling to lose the pounds that have crept back on over the last two years. However, I want to encourage you that you can lose weight! Here are the tips that worked for me:

Just start.

I’ve told the story before of how I started my weight-loss success story the Monday before Thanksgiving 2009 – I started to prove I couldn’t do it so I’d quit feeling guilty about not trying.

I lost 4 pounds that Thanksgiving week.

The loss surprised me – and proved I could succeed. So, I got serious and came up with a plan. However, they key was starting. I could have planned all day long, but until I got on the treadmill, quit drinking sodas, and modified my eating, I wasn’t going to be successful.

An important point about starting is to start where you are. My workout level treadmill speed back then is my warm-up speed now. I couldn’t worry about how slow I was moving. I just had to get moving.

Find someone to hold you accountable.

I started a weight-loss blog the day I started trying to lose weight. Even though I didn’t really expect to succeed, I knew I had always been more successful at anything if I told people I was going to do it. Maybe it’s the people-pleaser in me.

You don’t have to start a weight-loss blog, but you do have to find people you can be real with who will hold you accountable. I told whoever clicked over to read that Monday morning that I needed to lose nearly 100 pounds. I had never said that to anyone. Knowing that I was being transparent and that people were watching to see what I would do was very motivating to me.

I’m not someone who likes to have someone police my diet. However, having someone to remind me of my goals was very helpful. I’ve told my husband this go around – as I’m trying to lose the 30-ish pounds I’ve let creep back on – that an occasional treat is okay. A “kiddie” size ice cream cone at Chick-Fil-A once a month or so is occasional; a small cone once a week is not.

Determine what you most need in an accountability partner and ask someone to help you.

Find the right tools for you.

For my weight-loss, a body bugg was an invaluable tool. It told me exactly how many calories I was burning versus how many I was consuming. It showed me why I was hitting a plateau so I could figure out how to get past it. Now, I’m using a fitbit along with My Fitness Pal to track calories burned versus calories consumed.

Your perfect tool may be a certain meal plan, a particular weight-loss plan, or a gym membership. Weight-loss is not one-size-fits-all and there is no universally perfect tool – only the one that’s right for you.

Don’t try to change everything at once.

Weight-loss isn’t all or nothing. It’s a gradual retraining of the body to replace old, unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones. An all-or-nothing mentality will probably soon result in a derailed weight-loss effort.

Choose one or two things to work on until they become habits. Two of the most important initial changes for me were getting more active and drinking more water in place of sugary drinks like sweet tea and Coke. Once I had a good handle on those two things, I was ready to start learning new, healthy ways to cook. (Skinny Taste was and still is my go-to site for delicious, healthy meals made with ingredients that normal people eat.)

Find motivation

I was a huge fan (no pun  intended) of The Biggest Loser when I started my weight-loss journey. I would walk on the treadmill while watching the show each week (instead of lying in bed watching it as I had done in the past).

I picked up a couple of Biggest Loser books for extra ideas and inspiration. I also found some health and fitness blogs that gave me new nutrition and workout ideas along with motivation.

Discover what motivates you. Is it a photo of you at a size where you were happy? An outfit that you want to fit into? An upcoming vacation or life event? Whatever it it, figure out how to harness that motivation to keep you going on the hard days.

The idea of losing weight can be daunting, but it really isn’t rocket science. It boils down to two important concepts – start and, then, don’t quit.

If you have successfully lost weight, what tips would you add to someone just getting started, particularly someone with a significant amount of weight to lose?

Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. GIRL- thank you for posting about this! My husband and I have started a weight loss journey in mid-August, and KEEPING the motivation going can be hard! We recently slipped back into some nasty old habits, so this post today is helping to keep me on track!

    You are an inspiration and an encouragement Kris!!!! :0)

  2. I started using My Fitness Pal after reading a post a few weeks ago from you about it. Keeping track of my eating and exercising was a HUGE eye-opener for me. I added in some stationary bike riding (first I had to take off the clothes hanging on it) and dropped all my after-supper/yay-the-kids-are-in-bed snacking. We take a walk around our block every day to help get us all motivated. The little steps and small changes have resulted in 12lbs lost since Sept. 1st. I’m thrilled and looking forward to losing more.

  3. We need to hook up and be Fitbit friends (for one reason because mine has been laying on my dresser the past few weeks instead of on my arm). I am the queen of starting and then just dropping out after about two to three weeks — even if I am seeing results (and I usually am). I, too, have about 30 pounds I really need to drop and am finding it only gets harder as I get older. Off to charge that Fitbit.

  4. I just started out about a week ago & have about 100 pounds to lose. I’ve been on this journey many times in my 41 years so it is easy for me to focus on the times that I have failed. I don’t want this time to be like the others. Thanks for the reminders & encouragement today!

  5. i lost 40 pounds following weight watchers about 5 years ago. I didn’t join the program, but a friend gave me one of the calorie sliders and it worked well for me. I just had to come to a place where I was determined to make a change. Accountability was a huge help, and I blogged about it as well. Now I’m at a wealthy weight, I’m stuck in a rut of not eating healthy foods and I’m paying for it. I need to pull up my boot straps and get with it!

  6. I’ve always enjoyed your fitness posts, Chris. I’ve been pretty happy with my weight since I lost the baby weight after my youngest 8 years ago, but earlier this year I’d noticed a few pounds creeping back on. I wanted to lose any bad habits before they had more of an impact.

    As you suggest, I used the fact that I had a wedding, a silver wedding, and a big family vacation coming up as my incentive. It really worked. Even on a 10 day cruise I managed to enjoy the delicious food on offer and eat four course dinners every evening, simply by eating mindfully (stopping each course when I’d had enough, etc). I also used the ship’s gym most days. As well as gym equipment, there was a scales there so I was able to hold myself accountable. When I didn’t put on a single pound on that ship I knew I could sustain it at home!

    1. Wow, Lucinda, that’s fabulous to go on a cruise and not gain! Way to go! You hit on some very important points – it’s okay to enjoy yourself, but you don’t have to go overboard. Stop when you’re full. And, remain active. Awesome!

  7. Success is not giving up. This is my mantra this time round. It doesn’t actually matter what happens on a weekly or daily basis with my weight, I will be continuing on doggedly until the end. And I’m getting there slowly but surely. I’m enjoying your weight loss posts!

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