Do you want to be lose weight? Because chances are, you probably do. Let's face it. You do. Even if you don't need to, you probably want to. And apart from those who simply want to, there is a huge population of people that actually need to.
Now, maybe I'm not someone from whom you'd want to take advice on the topic of weight loss -- on the theory that since I've been slim and active all my life, then what the hell do I know about struggling with weight? Like, maybe it just comes easy to me. Like, maybe I just don't enjoy eating at buffets. Like maybe I'm not turned on by muffins that are the size of my head. Like maybe I'm more partial to the Greek salad on the menu than the cheeseburger deluxe. Or worse: maybe I've been blessed with that great un-equalizer: a really fast metabolism.
But the truth is, three times in my life, I have found myself in the position of having gained a significant amount of weight. And all three times, I managed to shed the excess.
Two of those times were during my pregnancies. The way I saw it was that pregnancy is a time when your waistline is supposed to expand, so why not live it up? When else could I enjoy a huge meal and not worry about how my jeans would fit the next day? Both times, I used my pregnancy as a license to eat whatever I wanted and then some. I recall piles of chicken wings, six ounce steaks, giant roast beef submarine sandwiches, heaping servings of tuna salad on big fluffy kaiser rolls, and giant cheese omelettes washed down with quarts of orange juice, among other things. As a result of all the eating, in my first pregnancy, I went from roughly 100 pounds to roughly 145, less than eight of which were baby. In my second pregnancy I zoomed past 150, only 9 of which were baby. I'm only five feet tall (give or take an inch), so, if you can't imagine what that was like, then simply picture a Volkswagen Beetle standing on its tail and you'll have an idea.
By the end of that second pregnancy, I could barely move. I was constantly out of breath. I had shooting pains down my legs. My feet had grown more than a size. I had rashes where the skin of one body part rubbed against another. If this was a taste of what it's like to be overweight, then I sure as hell wasn't interested in the rest of the menu.
And so, as soon as I gave birth, I did the only thing that made any sense to me at all. I simply did the exact opposite of what I did to gain the weight: I ate less. That's all I did. I simply ate less than what I had been eating, and the weight rolled right off.
Seems simple enough: eat less than what you've been eating, and eventually, you will weigh less.
But then something happened that made it seem less simple.
What happened was that I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36, and in less than six months, I had packed on 20 pounds, seemingly inexplicably. Some doctors say that the chemo drugs for breast cancer can cause weight gain (if that's not insult to injury, I don't know what is). Some doctors blame it on the steroids, which increase appetite and the anti-nausea drugs, which make eating possible (uh, thanks for that?). And some doctors say that the cause of weight gain in breast cancer patients is the fact that the chemo for breast cancer tends to throw women into early menopause, which slows the metabolism (among other things, like raise the risk for heart disease, which is exacerbated by... being overweight. Nice!)
I don't know how much of any of that is scientific fact. All I know is that while I was going through it, and for a long time afterward, I felt powerless to lose the weight I had gained, and I wanted to blame the weight gain on the chemo, the steroids, the hormonal changes. Anything but my eating habits versus my activity level.
But the fact is that many months after being finished with chemo, I had still not gotten back down to my normal weight. I remember screaming at Dr. H, my oncologist, for not warning me that this might happen (not that I would have refused the treatment, but still...). Dr. H referred me to a psychiatrist, Dr. J., to whom I brought a photo of myself in my thinner days. In the photo, I was wearing low rise jeans and a belly shirt exposing my flat tummy and slim hips, a broad beautiful grin on my high-cheekboned face. I pointed at the photo accusingly, and I cried hysterically. The fact that Dr. J said that she understood why I might be upset only made me cry more.
I was too embarassed and disgusted with myself to ever go back to Dr. J (and I have since apologized to Dr. H). But luckily, this was around the time that I first found myself on the mat in a yoga class. I went because I didn't know what else to do with my body, which no longer felt comfortable running or biking or skating. Essentially, I went for the workout. But somehow, the yoga helped me to come to grips with my body as it was. At first, at least. Ultimately, the yoga helped me to become "mindful" enough to accept that I wasn't really happy with my weight gain and that I could lose the weight if I really wanted to do so.
And I didn't need to diet either. I simply had to do the one simple thing that worked before: eat less than I was eating to weigh less than what I weighed.
The challenge was that after my cancer treatment, my metabolism had slowed. That meant that I no longer needed to eat as much to maintain my weight. But the good news was that when I listened to my body, I realized that I no longer wanted to eat as much either. And so, I ate less. And I weighed less. And I kept at it. And I still do. Well, at least most of the time. Come to think of it, my jeans are feeling a bit tight today... which means, almost undoubtedly, that I have been eating more than my body needs in order to maintain my desired weight. Which means that it's time to eat less than I've been eating. Because ultimately, the only thing that ever works for me is the one simple thing that has always worked: when I eat less than I've been eating, I lose weight.
Sure, it takes willpower. It takes discipline. But so does eliminating all carbs from your diet (and who really wants to do that?). It may not be "easy", but it's certainly easier than eating nothing but cabbage soup, or drinking nothing but maple-cayenne lemonade. It won't take all the weight off immediately, but it will take the weight off. It may not satisfy all of your cravings all of the time. It may not give you the same sort of instant gratification that the latest "cleanse" might give you. And you may fail at times in your attempt to do so. Like I do.
But when you eat less than you've been eating, you lose weight. Plain and simple.
So, long story short, here is how to get thin in one simple step: eat less than you've been eating.