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Adam and I just came back from a beautiful Christmas vacation spent with my future in-laws in Texas.
If you imagine the happiest, most family-oriented, magical Christmas movie you can, that’s just about what it was like.
His mom crocheted me my very own stocking. We sang Christmas carols, played games, put together puzzles, went on family walks, watched Christmas movies, and… Ate mountains of rich, delicious comfort food.
There were 15 of us for most meals, and there was always more than enough for all!
We ate a big ol’ smoked turkey, pans full biscuits and gravy, thick juicy steaks, dishes overflowing with mashed potatoes and dressing, salted caramel butter bars, and a seemingly never-ending supply of rolls and cornbread.
It was this formerly obese girl’s dreamland, flowing with sweet tea and gravy.
Just before we flew back home (as we waddled our way to the airport full of tamales, pulled pork sliders, and homemade pizza), Adam asked me if it was going to be difficult for me to transition back to my normal healthy habits.
And I can honestly say that, no, it’s really not.
Losing a bunch of weight is a long and difficult road, but maintaining that weight loss is a whole different story.
Some people really work hard to keep the weight off. Others don’t have to struggle as much. Fortunately, I’ve mostly been a part of the latter camp and I feel like I am able to live a full, happy life and still love food without having to count calories, worry about gaining weight over holidays, or put in hours at the gym.
I can really narrow it down to 3 reasons why I can still indulge in rich foods, and even overeat, but I’m still not afraid to gain back the 100 pounds that I’ve lost.
1. My New Lifestyle Is Hard-Wired
The way I lost those 100 pounds was by making one small change at a time. It took years to develop the healthy habits I have now. I didn’t lose the weight overnight and I’m not going to gain it back overnight either.
It’s your normal that shapes your weight – the foods you eat regularly, your regular workout schedule, and the habits that make up the majority of your life.
One week of overeating is not going to change my normal. I’m going to go back home and seamlessly slide back into eating tons of vegetables, drinking lots of water, and getting back to my regular running schedule.
I don’t have to work hard to do those things anymore. I really couldn’t tell you how long it took me to form each of these habits, but it sure took longer than 21 days! It probably took me about 2 years to get into the habit of running regularly with lots of skipped runs in between, but I can say that every single run I went on, even the super short ones with lots of walking, were absolutely worth it and they contributed to my current healthy normal.
After years of building these habits, they have become kind of like second-nature to me. Tuesday mornings, I wake up and I run. I use a lunch-sized plate as my dinner plate. I fill about half my plate most meals with vegetables.
It’s just what I do now. I love my routines and those habits have become my normal and I like it that way (and I really like that I don’t have to intentionally think about them anymore).
2. I Live A Healthy Life Because I Want To
When I was losing the weight (or trying to lose the weight), I did a lot of things I was “supposed” to do. I had a very narrow view of what healthy living looked like and tried hard to make myself follow the dieting rules. I thought that there was only
one road to healthy and, in my mind, that path pretty much consisted of green smoothies and spending all of my free
timeat the gym (which, honestly, sounded completely miserable to me).
Every time I tried to do it all “right”, I would eventually fail. Big time.
And then I’d go back to watching a lot of Netflix and eating a lot of fried food (two things I love so very much) because that’s the way I liked living.
Now, I watch less Netflix and eat less fried foods than I used to, but both of those things are still very much a part of my life. They are just balanced with more movement and healthier foods.
I also did a lot of things for appearance’s sake.
I really believed that I would look thinner to people if I ate less in front of them.
I would take tiny plates of healthy food, then later (when I was starving and intensely craving all of those rich foods that I love so much), I would sneak to the kitchen and raid the fridge, eating far more than I ever would have eaten had I just had a normal-sized dinner the first go-around.
Eating in secret is one of the worst habits I had.
I’d sneak bites in the kitchen when nobody was looking. I’d eat in my bedroom at night, hiding the wrappers and trying to keep them as quiet as possible when I opened them. I’d grab chocolate from a friend’s candy bowl and eat it in my car on the drive home, just because I didn’t want them to see me eat it.
It’s a terrible habit that teaches you that eating foods you actually like is something to be ashamed of. That liking chocolate somehow makes you look more overweight.
That you need to hide who you really are.
These days, I’m proud of the decisions I make and don’t feel the need to hide the fact that I love salted caramel, Nutty Bars, and binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
I don’t eat vegetables to impress people anymore, or to follow the “rules.” I eat them because I love the way they taste and I love the way my body feels when I have a lot of them. I don’t run to look more athletic than I am. I run because that post-run feeling when my thoughts are clear, my body is full of energy, and my mood is bursting with joy is something I crave and I want it to be a regular part of my life.
3. Good Food Is A Part Of My Healthy Lifestyle
It is no secret that I love food. There are people that are happy to eat the same few foods every single day of their lives, but I am not one of them.
I crave variety, flavor, and textures. I get so much joy out of ordering unique menu items (we just had an amazing green chile hominy side dish in Texas), cooking new recipes, and preparing common foods in new ways (like tossing roasted broccoli in a sweet chili sauce).
And, even though I believe without a doubt that my taste buds have changed along my weight loss journey, I still love sweets and fried food.
I can be a pretty stubborn person, even with myself. If I forbid myself from eating some junk food, like Little Debbie Nutty Bars, it instantly becomes the one food that I crave like crazy and it inevitably ends with me eventually giving in and eating a full box of Nutty Bars in one sitting.
So, I stopped forbidding foods.
I eat some sort of sweet treat almost daily. I eat fried foods a few times a month. My portion sizes have changed over the years, but now that I know Cheetos, Nutty Bars, and tater tots will always be available to me if I want them, I’m not as tempted to eat them as much.
And, somehow, I’ve become one of those people that can stop after eating one bite of a candy bar.
Weird, I know.
But because of these reasons and more, even when I have a week full of Texan hospitality and mountains of rich comfort foods, I’m just not afraid of gaining the weight back.
Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up and go back to my normal portion sizes, my regular running schedule, and lots of vegetable-heavy dishes.
Losing 100 pounds and maintaining that weight loss doesn’t have to be super restrictive or painful. You can eat the foods you love, overeat from time to time, and still lead a healthy lifestyle.
I’m living proof.
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