Before we talk about creating a personalized weight loss plan, one that works for you, but not for your friend, tell me, does this scenario happen to you:
You do really, really well with your health goals, then something happens and you are back to your bad old habits at the first opportunity?
Of course, I am talking about food here.
As someone who has lost and gained weight during several of the major life phases, I can say with empirical certainty that the most success I have had was when I created a weight loss plan of my own.
An individualized (but honest!) plan that we tailor for ourselves usually can’t fail us.
Because who knows us better than we know ourselves?
Who can better recognize just how much we are likely to fail at something that scares us, like removing a food staple for a prolonged period or daily HIIT workouts? Who better than you can know how long are you really, truly willing to feel deprived?
All my sustainable self-improvement plans have had to come from within. I had to both feel the benefits for myself and enjoy the process. Yes, many times I was helped or motivated by a book, a friend, a self-help guru, but in the end, it always came down to me taking action. And sustaining it.
And in order to do that, we come back to one key ingredient – living an examined life.
Meaning, we have to both know ourselves and be completely honest with ourselves.
A Note on the Ideal Weight
For years now I said that I feel my best at 67kg. I am 178cm tall and of medium frame and at that weight I used to feel my best. Unfortunately, the last time I was at that weight was just before I got pregnant with my first child at 31. And while my aim will always remain to get to 67 or even 65 kg, I usually manage to steady at 70 kg.
Recently I saw an ideal weight for age table that unfortunately I can’ find now to link here, that actually had me at 70kg for my height and age, so maybe my body already knows what is best for me.
And this is in a way my sub-theme – yes, our bodies know what is best of us. And if we allow ourselves to listen, we will know, too.
My Own Weight Loss Background
Now, the thing about me is, I am good at losing weight (and keeping it off) when I put my mind to it.
I was borderline overweight throughout my teens and twenties and then in my late twenties, I finally learned to listen to my body and to allow myself to (mostly) eat foods that will make me feel good afterward.
My youthful diet of fast food, chocolate and hamburgers for breakfast (I am not kidding here) was over and my weight steadied happily at around 65 kilograms.
Babies and Weight Loss at 40
Until I got pregnant and allowed myself to go crazy on food. I went to have my first child weighing exactly 100 kgs.
Once the baby and whatnot was delivered I was left with 87 kgs, 17 kg over the weight I feel my best at. Being overweight did not feel good. I was no longer light on my feet (and that is saying something, since back then I was smoking heavily and moved only when I absolutely had to) The weight was hard on my knees, I could feel it when I tried to get up from sitting on the floor. I wanted to sit even more and eat even more, because also, back then I was dealing with my own postpartum emotions.
But once I got back to work, 4 months postpartum, armed with one thought “I don’t feel right being this heavy” and knowing exactly the type of person I am when it comes to eating, I created the following simple plan for myself.
- Cut out fast food of all kind;
- Cut out most processed foods;
- Cut out all sugars;
- Eat home cooked food or what I bring from home even if it is just a sandwich;
- Walk 20-30 mins a day
Personally, I know that I am not willing to feel deprived at all, my willpower is nonexistent. Over the years, I learned to live with that and to tap into other personality traits that I have to help me with weight loss. Or quitting smoking. (but that is for another post)
Now, I will be honest here, I did occasionally binge if I went out and had my Johnny Rockets burger and I don’t have burgers without the fries, etc. But if I did, I just kept on going with the simple plan above as much as possible.
It took me about 12 months of keeping to this plan slowly and steady, tracking my weight and measurements along the way to reach my goal weight of 67 kilograms, which means that I lost 19 Kg in 12 months.
It took a while. But I got there. I always get there.
I kept the weight steady until my second child 6.5 years later. I had my baby in June, a month after I turned 39 years old. And, again, I was left with about 15 kgs to lose. Once I went back to work, I stuck to a similar plan, except that this time around I added yoga and intermittent fasting to my routine.
Yoga in My Late 30s
I was lucky enough to have yoga classes provided by my employer then, I went at least 3x a week, for about an hour.
Adding yoga did wonders, I was very weak in my arms and the middle area. My stomach is my soft spot (pun intended) and I always look a little bit pregnant.
Yoga and intermittent fasting helped me get there much faster and I am no longer shaking in a downward facing dog.
Always Monitor Your Weight
I always manage to keep that weight steady, 2-3 kilograms up or down, but by keeping track of it (in numbers and measurements) I am able to catch it before it spirals into the unknown.
Willpower and Abstainer vs Moderator
As I mentioned above, I am not someone who does well with feeling deprived.
Also, I am an abstainer and not a moderator, meaning that I do much better removing something altogether than trying to moderate it. Trying to, let’s say, eat just a square of chocolate as opposed to as much as I want is more of torture for me than not eating at all.
Maybe you are the same. Or maybe you want to keep your daily dose of chocolate goodness.
As per Gretchen Rubin you’re a moderator if you:
- find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
- get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you:
- have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
- aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits
Also, I don’t like any exercise that feels like punishment to me.
(HIIT and gym workouts, I am looking at you.)
A friend recently got really fit with one of those workouts and a bossy personal trainer. It worked for her, but it would do the opposite to me. (although, I am wondering just how long that is going to be sustainable in the long run!)
Yoga asanas, on the other hand, always feel like love to me. So does walking. Even an occasional jog out in the open. Recently I discovered my love for hiking.
Explore, see what feels good to you and do only what feels good.
If you think you will achieve long term success by forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy for long periods, be it diet or exercise or even a hobby, know that it will only last for as long as your willpower can sustain you.
Some people are great at it.
My mum, for example, goes onto extremely restrictive diets and keeps pushing on until the end. That woman has iron willpower. It is torture for me just watching it.
But, predictably, she does not try to create a sustainable lifestyle out of it, goes off the diet and binges on everything she deprived herself off while on specific regiment.
You know the cycle. We’ve all been there
Creating a Personalized Weight Loss Plan
You want to create a personalized weight loss plan for yourself that will work for you long term, hopefully forever, so that even when you do fall off the wagon, you get right back on it.
Because I just recently fell off my wagon and gained 4 kilograms, which is more than I have gained since having my second child 4 years ago. I have an excuse though, in the past two months, I entered a really stressful stage of moving with my family all the way to New Zealand. While the prospect is exciting, it was still stressful and I allowed myself to soothe with food. Not the smartest idea, but here we go.
But I already know how to do this to go right back to my ideal weight.
An Honest Self Audit is Required
- Are you an abstainer or a moderator?
- Do you gladly cook and do you have time for cooking?
- Can you have healthy meals delivered?
- Is having a wide variety of food important to you or are you ok with having the same kind of food over and over?
- How do you feel about intermittent fasting?
- What kind of exercise/movement do you like doing?
Create a list of foods you will be eating and stick to it. (don’t go outside of that list)
Of course, ideally, you will cut out as much processed or fast food as possible.
If you eat out a lot your list may contain alternative items in your favorite restaurants.
A quick internet search will provide you with all the alternatives you need, however, most of us already know what is good for us.
We know what foods make us feel elated and which cause us to crush. Listen to your body!
But if you don’t, don’t be like a friend of mine who, when she wants to lose weight, stocks up on hummus chips and thinks she has made a healthy choice. She doesn’t even like it all that much. No, just because it says hummus or goji berry or whatever, it is still processed food and not good for you.
Hopefully, we can learn to feel a little bit hungry and enjoy the feeling. Starting intermittent fasting really helped me with that. I intermittently fast most days, at least 12 hours from evening to morning.
If I finish eating at 7 or 8 pm, then I try to hold it out until lunch time the next day. If I am really hungry I will have a piece of fruit. And, of course, black coffee. I never have breakfast (unless I am staying in a hotel with a buffet breakfast, then, of course, I indulge)
It may not be for everyone but to feel good about the process I recommend my favorite book on eating called Lose Weight Now The Easy Way by Allen Carr.
My Long-Standing Personalized Weight Loss Plan
To Illustrate, this is the plan I try and stick to most days and that I will go back to now.
- Slow weight loss is ok because it is more permanent.
- Positive lifestyle changes are self-love.
- No sugar/sweets 90% of the time.
- Fruit is my friend.
- If dining with friends, relax and eat. Share a dessert or skip it. Remember to order a side of steamed vegetables, they go with anything and they fill you up.
- Intermittent fasting is a great way to balance my eating and cleanse my system.
- I am ok with eating simple foods (see my food list below).
- No eating after 7-8 pm most days.
- Sustain my home yoga practice by practicing 20 minutes a day at least 5 days a week.
- Wear my forever favorite Fitbit Flex and try to do 10000 steps a day. Even if not, always keep moving.
These are my points and if they resonate, please do use them. If they don’t, take the next few days to think about, develop and write down your own personalized weight loss plan.
I try to make anything I do feel loving and easy (my blog’s domain name is ‘Choosing Easy’ after all) and I have learned to embrace that and work around my unwillingness to do much of what is hard.
Simple Menu Items for My Own Personalized Weight Loss Plan
I don’t cook much, but my husband will cook a meal for our family almost every day. His cooking is mainly a rotation of a few of his personal favorites which are the old fashioned meat, potato and two vegetables.
Mostly, I will eat a combination of his cooking and some of my own staple foods. The easier, the better, and that to a large extent is one of my meal plan criteria. There isn’t a huge variety, but it is simple and well-balanced, I think. And easy to combine with one another. Recently I discovered a Low-Calorie Density way of eating and I think that is what I instinctively gravitated towards anyway.
- Hummus with veggie sticks. I sometimes add chili powder to hummus, I don’t eat garlic, so I try to make my own garlic-free hummus in batches, but if you are ok with garlic, I’d go for store-bought.
- Simple, homemade vegetable soup (always quick, easy and filling and you can add beans to it for protein)
- Sweet potatoes baked
- Potatoes baked (eat them with hummus, lentils, beans, or any other protein)
- Steamed vegetables and potatoes (with mustard, nutritional yeast, vinegar)
- Balsamic vinegar and tahini for salad dressing (or apple cider vinegar)
- Beans (different kinds, canned or dried, for salads and on their own with condiments)
- Chickpeas for salads
- Beetroot salad (just cooked beetroot)
- Cabbage shredded
- Variety of greens for salads
- Vegemite on toasted wholegrain/rye bread
- Popcorn (to pop at home, not the microwavable kind) although I just learned that air-popped popcorn has a calorie density of around 1750 calories per pound!
- Rice prepared with vegetable broth
- Canned corn
I try not to go out of this range when I am watching what I eat. And it works.
Tell me, have you ever created a personalized weight loss plan for yourself? Did it work for you?