My life changed forever in one painful moment, and I still remember how it happened in vivid detail: My friend Ling and I were walking into a mall. She was looking gorgeous in her skinny jeans, crop top and gold flats.
What was I wearing? The same thing I’d been wearing for the past six months: the baggiest sweat pants in my wardrobe, a shapeless shirt, and flip-flops. All in a flattering grey.
She turned to me and gently asked: “Meesh, have you let yourself go?”
I knew in my heart of hearts that something was very wrong. I was eating more than ever, most of my clothes no longer fit, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low.
The very next day I started changing my life and finding my way back to feeling happy in my own skin.
And you know what? I started out not knowing whether I would, but eventually, I did.
If you’ve just begun to take your first steps on a similar path, here’s what I’d love for you to know:
1. You WILL Get There.
It won’t happen overnight. Or the next week. Or the next month. But you WILL get there if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and taking methodical, carefully planned out steps.
Start out by asking yourself what you really want from changing your body. How will it change your life?
Your answers to these questions will help you uncover the deepest whys, whats and hows that will keep pulling you forward even on days you don’t feel like getting out of bed.
2. The More Decisions You Make, The Better You Get At Making Them.
Staying in denial—as I did for five long years—can keep you somewhat buffered from facing your pain head-on, but it will also keep you from fulfilling your fullest potential.
Your journey from big to lean, discomfort to ease, and self-loathing to self-love will involve making many, many decisions: what to eat, how to move, how to deal with that non-moving scale, and how to keep moving forward when the people around you don’t want to help keep you afloat.
The great news is that the more decisions you make, the better you’ll get at making them, which means better outcomes more often. Translation: a progressively healthier, happier, and more confident you.
3. Listen To Your Body.
The quickest, surest path to failure is to look for a magic fat-loss bullet. But the truth is, our bodies are way too smart for those. Eat too little, and your body hangs onto every calorie it can, slowing down your fat loss.
Eating only cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner? That’ll make your mind and body protest and feel awful pretty quickly. But once you regain your senses and start eating right again, your body quickly works to restore balance.
The fat-loss strategy that worked really well for me was to just give my body what it wanted, in the right amounts, at the right time.
Do certain foods make your body feel bad? Stop eating them. Do others make you feel less bloated, more energetic and happier? Eat more of those, in sensible portions.
Listen, feed, and tweak when necessary.
4. Setting Yourself Up For Success Is Easier Than You Think.
Putting one foot in front of the other doesn’t have to be a painful, demotivating experience.
In fact, you can set yourself up for success by making simple tweaks to your environment: Get new workout clothes to make you feel more confident about stepping into a gym; spend more time with friends who support your new habits and less time with the ones who send negativity your way; leave work a little earlier so you can make it to your boot-camp workouts. Not sure if you can hold back from ordering the fries during your lunch break? Pack your own food to keep temptation at arm’s length.
Remember, little tweaks can equal big results.
5. Food Is Meant To Support, Not Destroy You.
At my lowest, food was how I medicated myself when things got rough. Bad day at work? I’d stop at the drive-through for a Double Whopper and extra large fries. Lonely? I’d whip myself a generous bowl of pasta carbonara to fill the void.
These foods felt good in my mouth but bad throughout the rest of me.
To turn things around, I started eating more mindfully. I rediscovered my body’s real hunger cues. I experimented with portions and diverted my attention away from food to other things (like a chat with a friend or a workout) to break my vicious cycle of binging.
Gradually, I healed my relationship with food, using it to nourish my body, not numb it.
I did it, so I know you can, too.