Losing Weight is Hard

There is no easy way to shed pounds. But if you accept that slow, steady and sensible practices will get you there, you will succeed.

Jan 21, 2022
Weight loss and healthy eating rank among the top three New Year’s Resolutions goals. 
Given obesity rates and our sedentary lifestyles, it’s not that shocking. 
I’m not saying everyone should have weight loss goals, but if you do, I want to talk about what I’ve learned over the last decade because maybe it will save you time and angst. 
I have wanted to lose weight at various moments for various reasons. 
At one point, I was flat out eating and drinking too much. 
At other points, I have simply wanted to be leaner and have more visible muscle.
Whatever your reasons, weight loss is hard. 
In order to lose weight, you must exist in a period of caloric deficit for an extended period of time. 
You will experience hunger. You will have to say no to your favorite foods. You will have to forgo that glass of wine, cocktail or beer. It will take longer than you want.
If a diet sounds too good to be true or is super restrictive, it’s probably not going to work. 
There is nothing fast about this process. If you “go on a diet for a week” and the scale drops a few pounds, I’m sorry to report that is not fat. It was water weight. 
Yes, exercise will help, but in the way so many people think. 
Cardio will contribute to burning extra calories, but unless you are running three hours a day, it’s not as much as you think. It certainly doesn’t buy you a free pizza. It is, however, great for your health (not the topic du jour). 
Resistance training doesn’t even burn as many calories as cardio, but it will provide your body with the shape (tone) you want and it will contribute to increasing your metabolism because lean tissue (muscle) requires more effort (energy) from your body to maintain. But again, it’s not like you can eat pizza and cake everyday just because you work out. 
So if you want to lose weight, how do you succeed? Here’s what works for me.

Prepare mentally

Get into the mindset. Write yourself a letter about why you are doing this. I’m not kidding. 
Ask yourself why several times. 
Why do you want to lose weight? To look better. 
Why do you want to look better? Because I work hard to build muscle and I want to see it. 
Why is that important to you? Because I think a sculpted body is a high ideal and is a visualization of determination, consistency and hard work. 
Why do you think that? Because it’s hard and I value doing hard things.
Your whys might be totally different. That’s fine. The goal is to understand what motivates you and create something to look back on when the going gets tough.  
Next, write out all the ways losing weight will be hard. Be specific. 
  • I’m going to feel hungry at night. 
  • I’m going to want an easy takeout dinner on Thursdays because that’s when I mentally run out of steam for the week and I have no energy to cook. 
  • I’m going to be around people who are drinking wine on the weekends. 
  • I like cooking on the weekends and my favorite food is lasagne and I won’t be able to eat half the pan.
Come up with a plan for how you will deal with each one.
I’m going to feel hungry at night: I’m going to stock the house with fun flavors of herbal tea to drink after dinner. I’m also going to go brush my teeth right after dinner so I don’t feel like eating as much. I will also go to bed earlier during this phase. 
I’m going to want an easy takeout dinner on Thursdays because that’s when I mentally run out of steam for the week and I have no energy to cook: I’ll make a list of takeout dishes that are healthier (chicken salads, beef and broccoli without rice, fajitas without the rice and beans, and pick one fat - cheese, sour cream or guac - not all three) and I will stock the freezer with microwaveable dinners for when my motivation runs low. 
I’m going to be around people who are drinking wine on the weekends: I’ll be the designated driver. I’ll bring my own La Croix and I’ll put it in a fancy wine glass. I’ll swing by the party for an hour but I won’t stay late. 
I like cooking on the weekends and my favorite food is lasagne and I won’t be able to eat half the pan: I’ll buy a half size pan so I can still make lasagne and eat half. I’ll look for lower calorie recipes for dishes I love and get the groceries to make them. I accept that they won’t taste quite the same, but I’ll survive for a few months. 
You will likely miss out on some situations. When they inevitably come up, no matter if you fall off the wagon or not, write them down and dream up a plan to succeed next time. 

Prepare your environment

I pride myself on my willpower. But if there is a bag of chips in the house, I will eventually eat it. 
If you want to succeed faster, get rid of the foods you tend to overeat and fill your environment with easy alternatives. 
If you live with someone who does not necessarily share your same goals for weight loss, ask them to agree to a pact. 
Keep the chips out of the house or at the very least only by the snack pack sizes. 
Ask them to be your support system when you desperately want to order pizza.
It’s not impossible to do this on your own, but it sure helps if your partner isn’t cheering you on when you give in to a craving. 

Determine your calories… or don’t. 

Whether or not you are going to weigh your food and count your calories or macronutrients, it’s helpful to know roughly how much food you are aiming to eat in a day. 
The Precision Nutrition calculator is a good place to start and provides visualizations of what the quantities look like, however I think it tends to overestimate how much you can eat. 
By contrast, the calculator on bodybuilding.com under estimates how much I should eat. 
In the first case, it recommended 2000 calories. In the second, 1600 calories. I’m currently aiming for about 1800 a day because I want to fuel my body for all the work I do but I also want to slowly shed some fat to be very lean. 
The reality is that everyone is different. Unless you are going for a body builder’s physique, you don’t need to get this 100% right to start.  
In fact, you can make tremendous progress simply by prioritizing vegetables and fruit and lean proteins, while minimizing starches and fats. 
One of my favorite nutrition voices on Instagram, EC Synkowski, recommends aiming for 800 grams (by weight) of vegetables and fruits a day. If you do that, you will be filling your plate most meals with nutritionally dense, but low calorie foods. This alone can make a difference in your weight. 
I like weighing my food, and aiming for precise macronutrients, but it really isn’t necessary for most folks. 
However, I do recommend learning to properly estimate serving sizes for the highly caloric foods: nut butters, oils, butter, pasta, corn, potatoes, rice, bread… Buy a food scale and use it for a few weeks on these types of foods. 

Meal planning

This is essential for me. If I don’t meal plan, I can easily order out 5 days a week. 
You don’t need to spend all of your Sunday preparing though. 
I don’t like meal prepping that much. Not a fan of leftovers. But I do make sure that every week I have 2 options for breakfast, 2-3 options for lunch, 2-3 options for dinners. 
Having quick options is essential for me. 
My go-tos will probably not work for you… I’ve been accused of eating for function versus flavor…
  • Fage yogurt + berries + cereal or an english muffin + one tablespoon (16 grams) of peanut butter = breakfast most days
  • One egg + 4 egg whites + English muffin + peanut butter = breakfast on some days
  • Frozen chicken burger + a bag of frozen vegetables + a piece of toast = lunch most days
  • Canned green beans and tuna + ranch dressings and crackers = backup lunch if I have nothing else. 
  • Chili – a staple. Make a batch and eat it all week. 
  • Protein powder + whipped cream + Reese’s Pieces cereal for crunch = go to snack
  • Cottage cheese + cheerios = go to snack
  • Snap peas + Fage yogurt mixed with ranch dressing packet = go to snack
I wrote up a longer list one time. I’ll dig it out at some point. 

Get back on the wagon

You’re going to make mistakes. That’s fine. 
Don’t punish yourself for it. 
Get back as soon as possible. 
Use the next meal as a chance to get back on track. 
Your ability to get back on the wagon quickly is infinitely more important than setting an unattainable 100% compliance target. 
Be nice to yourself. This is less about deprivation and more about building new habits. It’ll be hard but I swear it gets easier. 
I feel like I say this every week… but I truly could write a book on this stuff. 
I’ll stop here because even my mom admits that she scans my emails. 
However, if you have questions, I would truly love to attempt to answer them.
🥦 For further reading on nutrition: