How I Lost 20 Pounds By Starting My New Year's Resolution Early

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This article is my personal experience and I am sharing to offer others my perspective. What worked for me may not work for you.

It’s sad to say, but ever since middle school I have been low-key obsessed with my weight and the way it makes me look. I’ve always been rather curvy. With my petite height of 5’3,” any weight gain was obviously noticeable. Every Christmas break, my best friend and I would have this tradition where we’d go on our Tumblr accounts and share the latest quick-fix diet with each other. We always promised that it was going to be our year. We were going to own it and actually hit our goal weight for once. She tried the “Cabbage Soup Diet.” I tried the “Grapefruit Diet." We both failed hard at the “Military Diet." We both wanted the results quickly, but we were not truly willing to consider changing our bad habits for the long haul. Not the best mindset for middle schoolers but hey, we were young and insecure.

Eventually high school flew by and the stress that came along with prepping for college quickly overshadowed my goals for weight loss. I only managed to keep my weight in check by being on the tennis team, but I never learned or tried to apply long term healthy habits to myself. I still thrived on binges of Bakers Old Fashioned Hamburgers and polished off full pints of any Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream I could get my hands on. The closest I got to eating a healthy meal was a grilled chicken salad from Jack in the Box with fries on the side because, “Hey, I’m eating a salad so I deserve it!”

                                                                                                       Actual footage of me eating ice cream at Hometown Buffet.

Fast forward to college. I was a freshman at UCLA and despite receiving warnings about the freshman 15 from everyone and their mother, I was tearing up every dining hall and leaving nothing but crumbs in my trail. When your university has been ranked number one in cuisine you take advantage of that! By the time I went back home for Thanksgiving break, I received numerous comments on my weight. One “sweet” lady from church came right up to me, pinched my cheeks, and said “Oh my goodness baby girl you got so BIG! What are they feeding you over there?” All of my aunts started making big butt jokes in their native language Twi, and to top it off my sister would take every opportunity to lightly smack my belly.

What finally forced me to confront my weight and health habits was a visit to my doctor. After my normal check up he sat me down and gave it to me straight: “You’re really overweight, according to the BMI charts. You need to stop eating chips and start eating celery.” Now truth-be told he’s not the nicest pediatrician, but he made me face the facts. What I really appreciated from our consolation was that he wanted me to understand why my weight would eventually cause me issues. Type 2 Diabetes runs in my family and he helped me understand that if I wanted to avoid it, I needed to get my weight into the proper range before it was too late.

                                                                                                       The fact that my could shirt roll up without assistance was probably an obvious sign....

The problem was I did not know how to properly lose weight. I was used to using my New Year’s  resolution as the sole inspiration for my weight loss, but usually by March I’d have given up. I’d spend the rest of the year feeling sorry for myself until next January 1st. If I was going to actually go through with my weight loss, I needed to stop depending my New Years Resolution to carry me through it all. I needed to build a sense of self-discipline when it came to food.

After going back to college, I started paying attention to how awful my eating habits were. I realized I was more of a vacuum when it came to meals. At UCLA every dining hall is a buffet so the amount that I ate was all up to me. I got seconds, sometimes thirds of various dishes. I ate dessert with every meal not because I wanted it, but because it was there. In my head, if I did not attain that delicious dish today I’d never get a chance to ever again. Ironically, even though I overate I never had breakfast. Not eating something in the morning set me up to gorge myself for lunch, dinner, and of course, late night!

                                                                                                                            Get em' while they're still hot!

To start my weight loss on the right foot I downloaded Sparkpeople! It’s an efficient calorie and exercise tracker app available in the App Store and the Google Play Store. I know a lot of people try to avoid counting calories but for me it was easier to track my progress by monitoring everything that went into my body. I tried sticking to eating 1500-1600 calories a day. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot. Adult women are generally supposed to eat about 2000 calories a day. But the thing is, by eating the right things I was just as full as I was when I didn't have a filter on my diet. I tracked everything to the best of my ability.

                                                                                    Pork and Kale Stacker + Roasted Butternut Squash + Mixed Grains = Roughly 270 Calories

Since you don’t get to cook your own meals in dining halls, you have to really consider what’s in the food that’s being served to you. I avoided things that were fried, asked for meals without the extra sauce or gravy, and if the entree came with a ton of rice and carbs I just asked for it sans rice!

                                                                                     Hint: Making your food look aesthetically pleasing helps! I call this dish "Violet Awakening".

Luckily UCLA’s dining hall menus track down all the nutritional information so it wasn’t hard for me to track my calories down.

In terms of exercise, people were surprised when I tell them I didn’t actively do anything different from my normal routine. The only changes I made was taking the stairs instead of the elevator. In all honesty, just getting around campus at UCLA is exercise enough. My goal wasn’t to tone but to just lose the weight, and my friends please believe it when I and actual health professionals say that 80% of true healthy weight loss happens in the kitchen! What you put inside of you is your choice. It took a lot of self-control and humility for me to realize that I was treating my body like it was the enemy.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you also need to be in the right mental state otherwise you’re going to rebound back on your old bad habits. I definitely was not perfect the entire way through. But through each slip up I reminded myself that it wasn't the end of the world. I may have felt really crappy in the moment, but I moved on. Dwelling on mistakes makes it easier to quit, so I just did my best to never dwell and instead looked forward to all the things I could do. If I was bored of a certain dish that I ate I would switch things up. For example, I would alternate between soups and salads every night for dinner. Truth be told no one can beat my salads.

                                                                                                       Pro-tip: Balsamic + Olive Oil can make any salad shine!

My weight loss began on December 5th, 2016, because it was a Monday and I liked having a fresh, clean slate to start off. It took me 4 entire months to lose 20 pounds. Time flew by because eventually, all of my new habits were starting to replace my old ones. It didn’t feel grueling to have a salad with every meal because I learned what flavors and combinations worked for me. I also had to build up a really strong sense of discipline. No offense to the people that told me to "Treat Myself," but if I had chosen to have 3 cheat meals a week I don't think I would have really learned how to not depend on sugary/salty meals as a reward. I wanted to reform my diet so that I felt content eating normal healthy food. I wanted my decision to not have dessert to be just that--a simple decision. It didn't make me feel deprived and I didn't feel intense cravings. If I did have intense cravings, I had fruits and nuts on hand to fight them off. Also if you were to take only one piece of advice from me from my article it should be: DRINK WATER! Sometimes we mistake being hungry with being dehydrated. And to those who say water is boring or tastes like nothing, try using a cute re-usable water bottle and add some lemons to freshen up your drink. 

                                                                                                       You can't tell me this doesn't look refreshing.

With that being said, I did still eat dessert occasionally. I just chose the more sensible dessert options. Instead of 2 slices of chocolate cake, I would normally get I limited myself to one dessert from the bar plus a mandatory side of fruit!

                                                                                                       B-plate has the fluffiest Olive Oil cake in existence!

The beautiful thing about starting my weight loss before all the New Year's Resolutions started pouring through the internet was that for once it didn't feel like I was following a fad or a trend. Not basing my weight loss goals off of the social construction of a resolution made me own up to my goal because it was truly mine. It was my decision and I wanted to go through with it because of the positive pressure I put on myself, not the pressure society put on me to attempt and eventually fail a resolution. I will admit that it felt really good already being down a few pounds by the time resolutions started pouring in. I felt a sense of accomplishment being ahead of random strangers on twitter (because that's what matters in life). Overall I learned how to start treating my body as a temple and a friend. That's a timeless lesson we should all learn.





Photos courtesy of Pamela Abeka. Gifs courtesy of giphy.