How to Lose Weight Without Dieting (or, How I lost 112 Pounds Without Starving or Going Crazy)

As many of you know, I have been on a weight loss journey since January 2012. In this timeframe, I have lost 112 pounds (and counting), met my fiance, became a (slow) runner, and managed to gain the slightest bit of confidence that I never had before. My goal is to lose a total of 140 pounds, so I’ve got 28 pounds to go. So far, I’ve gone from a size 22, to a size 8/10 (not plus size anymore – hooray!). My BMI has gone from morbidly obese, to obese, to merely overweight. I’ve run a 15k (9.3 miles). I’ve exchanged my wedding dress for a smaller one, and have gotten my engagement ring resized down. I’ve done all kinds of things I never thought I’d ever do. I’m the smallest I have ever been in my adult life. I’m shopping in regular stores now. I’m wearing regular sizes. Sometimes I still struggle when I look in the mirror, but I’m a work in progress.

Everyone always asks how I’m doing it, and it’s not a secret. Some people are disappointed to hear there is no easy way out or secret pill, but many people want to listen. For those people, I’ve given advice many times, and I’m always happy to do so. I figured I’d compile that list of advice here so I can always refer people back to it. Some of my methods may seem a little unconventional, but I’m here to tell you: this is what has worked for me. This is how I found success. I am not a health nut, I am not an athlete, and I am not super strict. I am an average, every day, formerly morbidly obese girl.  While some might argue that I AM on a diet, I’m not. To me, diets are temporary and extreme. What I’m doing is not temporary – it is a permanent lifestyle change that I have managed to maintain for 16 months already. It is not extreme, it’s just my new life. So, without further ado, here are my tips on how to lose weight without dieting!

1. Count your calories - know what you are eating and log everything that you’re putting into your mouth. I use MyFitnessPal (myfitnesspal.com – though I mostly use the phone app) to track my daily caloric count, which includes the calories I eat and the calories I burn with exercise. Be honest with yourself, and track your food! It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, but track it! Use portion control – this was key for me! Also, as a sidenote – I met my fiance on MyFitnessPal – see, becoming healthy has changed my life in more ways than one.

2. Exercise – this one seems like a given, but seriously, get off your butt and move! When I first started, I could only do the elliptical for 6 minutes – and that was okay! I did what I could to start, and now I could work out for hours if I wanted to. Start small and keep building up. I currently work out 4 days a week for about an hour each time. This includes going to the gym and doing a lot of cardio with some weights, or going for a run. I started with short work outs though, and that’s okay – as long as you’re moving! Don’t overdo it, but still push yourself! When I first started, I was working out 7 days a week. After awhile, I realized that was too much, and it was not something I could keep up with for the rest of my life, so now I work out 4 days a week because, realistically, I can maintain that for the duration of my life.

3. Food Scale - if you can afford it, I would highly recommend you get a food scale. They’re fairly inexpensive (about $20 on Amazon), and they will change your whole perspective on food. Weigh everything that you can, and log accordingly. Most food will have a serving size in grams or ounces, so follow that. I weigh my food so that I know exactly how much I’m eating and how many calories to log. If I’m not eating at home, I do my best to guess on the calories and amount, but when I’m home, I’m weighing all my food. I also weigh my lunches before work and then pack them up.

4. Heart Rate Monitor - this is another tool that, if you can afford it, I would highly recommend you get. My HRM is currently in need of repair, but it’s a real lifeline for me when I’m working out. As I said, on MyFitnessPal, you log the calories you eat as well as the calories you burn. When you burn calories, you obviously get to eat more, so the HRM helps me figure out exactly how many calories I burned with my exercise and therefore how many calories I can/should eat on a workout day. I generally eat back about 50-80% of my exercise calories.

5. Cheat Meals - this is a huge one for me and one of the most important tips I can give you. Once a week, I have a cheat meal. That means that my fiance and I go out to dinner once a week and eat whatever we want and don’t log the calories. This not only gives us something to look forward to, but prevents us from going crazy. Listen, I guarantee you that if I didn’t have cheat meals where I allowed myself to indulge once a week, that I would not have stuck with this for 16+ months. How did I get fat in the first place? Because I love food! If I denied myself this stuff all the time, I would have thrown in the towel, but since I always know I have a delicious meal to look forward to every week, I’m able to stay on track the rest of the week. Yes, I have lost over 100 pounds and still have cheat meals. It really helps.

6. Don’t Deny Yourself - kind of going along with the cheat meals… don’t deny yourself the stuff you love, even on non-cheat days. If you can fit it into your daily calories, I say go for it. Many people look at macros and whatnot, but for me, I only look at calories, and this works for me. I have a wicked sweet tooth, and I have something sweet almost every day. If  I want a cookie, I’m going to have one… I’m just not going to have three of them like I used to, you know what I’m saying? Again, if I denied myself yummy stuff, I would have quit long ago. I’m of the belief that if it fits into your calorie goals, then go for it! If not, then wait for another day when you have extra calories left. Seriously, when I’m at work and I’m doing the shifty eyes between my phone and the delicious treats one of my coworkers has brought in, then I’m likely to indulge in that brownie instead of driving myself crazy staring at it. THIS IS OKAY! I’m just going to account for it in my food diary and make sure it fits in my calories. Surprisingly, I’m not hugely into fruits and vegetables, though I’m working on it! Some people are appalled at my food diary, as there are many days where I don’t have any fruits or veggies. Again, I’m working on it. I try to eat vegetables and fruits a few times a week, but I don’t always, and again, this works for me. Like I said, just an average girl, eating average stuff, not a health nut by any means. I kind of wish I was, but I’m just not. There hasn’t been a whole lot of food I’ve given up, I just use portion control. I’ve tried to add in a few healthy foods too, but for me, it was all about cutting back, counting those calories, and eating proper portions.

7. Weekly Weigh-ins - I used to step on the scale every day, multiple times a day. Well, weight fluctuates like crazy on a weekly and even daily basis. Seeing my weight go up and down drove me absolutely nuts, so now I have just one weekly weigh-in. The scale is away and hidden the rest of the week. For your weigh-in, do it first thing in the morning, before you’ve eaten or drank anything, and before you’ve exercised. Also, do it in the buff! Don’t drive yourself crazy – weigh in just once a week if you can!

8. Set Goals and Rewards – set mini goals for yourself so you’re not always looking at the big, huge, scary picture. When I first realized I wanted/needed to lose 140 pounds, that was terrifying. I really didn’t think I would ever get there, and now I almost am! To get rid of those overwhelming feelings that may cause you to quit, cut that big goal down into smaller ones so that you realize what you’re accomplishing. Set rewards for your mini goals too. You’re busting your butt – why not reward yourself? My first goal was 50 pounds, and for that, I got a tattoo. For my ultimate goal of losing 140 pounds, I really want to travel to Europe. I don’t know if I can afford that, but I think I deserve it. Maybe someday. Anyways, set small goals with rewards such as new clothes, a spa day, new sneakers, a tattoo… whatever you think will push you to work at it.

9. Dream BIG – I easily could have told myself to just lose 10 pounds and be done with it, but I figured, why not go big or go home? If I’m going to commit to myself, I might as well become the best me that’s possible, not just a better me. My dream is to become a healthy, normal weight, and I won’t stop or give up until I reach my goal of losing 140 pounds. I also decided to dream big with my running. Heck yeah, I was thrilled the very first time I ran a mile straight through, and I could have stopped, but I kept going and now run fairly long distances. For me, dreaming big means running a marathon, so that’s another dream I’m working on. All of this stuff is hard, but embrace it!!!! Don’t be afraid to dream. Be the best you possible. You will never, ever regret it.

before after

Some more of my health posts:

One Hundred Pounds

On Doing Hard Things – My Story (So Far)

My 15K!

A Bad Run

Comments

  1. Love your cheat meal advice. That’s pretty smart and good for the spirit I would think.

  2. Wow Steph, good work! You should be really proud of yourself :)

  3. Beth Hoffman says:

    *applause* You are amazing and you look gorgeous!!!!

  4. Steph, you are TRULY an inspiration! I need to lose almost 200 lbs to get to my goal size of a 14…a size that when I was there, I thought was fat. HaHa. I totally agree with you about being conscious of what you eat (which I am pretty much doing) and that exercise is a must. That is the one I’m struggling with because of my current fitness level. But you are so right. We have to start small to win big. I am so proud of you and I am really going to take your advice to heart. Maybe you’ll be seeing me getting skinnier (and more fit) on Facebook. :)

    • Michelle, I wish you lots of success! I know you can reach your goals, because I started with a low fitness level too.

      So funny, when I got to be my biggest, I would see pics of me in high school in a size 12/14. At the time, I thought I was so fat, but when I was looking at the pictures, I was shocked at how small I looked!

  5. Steph, you are awesome. I don’t think nearly enough people know just how important it is to do the natural thing (if possible) and follow good old fashioned diet and exercise. I’m fit, but I could do with losing about 20-30 lbs to be a comfortable weight for my short height. I have a lot of muscle, but I use that as a crutch a lot, and I think I need to remind myself of all these fantastic tips more often.

    • Thanks a lot, Melissa! People undermine the value of good old fashioned exercise and hard work… it’s the only thing that works permanently! Wow, I don’t think you look like you need to lose any weight (but people say that to me now too, even though I know I still have 28ish pounds to lose!).

  6. Saw your great post on MFP and decided to check out your web site. You have lots of down-to-earth doable advice. I’ll post your website to my Facebook page. Keep up the excellent work!

  7. Liked the way you have put your experience across this article. Specially the Dream Big idea.

  8. First off, Congrats!!!! I totally feel what you have been thru. Only difference is I am 48 years old. I lost mine about the same way you did, except I did Food Lovers Fat Loss System. I started last year in April of 2012 and by April of 2013 I had lost 105#. I currently as to date have lost 110#. I am walking/running 5k’s monthly. I kickbox . You are correct there is no easy way, but adapting a different lifestyle and choices is easier than one thinks. Especially when the clothes size starts dropping!

    I too want to lose 30 more pounds to help me with my 5k races. I plan to run my first mini marathon in spring of 2014.

    Thank you for your inspiration. Someone shared your story on our Facebook group!
    Beth
    =)

    • Hi Beth,

      I am incredibly flattered that someone shared my story and I am so glad it brought you over to my blog. Thanks for your wonderful comment. You’ve also lost a great amount of weight, and good for you for doing the 5ks! Keep it up and keep me updated on your success!

      Steph

  9. amazing!! CONGRATS to you!! what a great accomplishment!!

  10. Great sound advice…you’re a smart girl. It’s funny how we mostly really know these things but are always looking for an easy way out. Great success story!

  11. Thanks for the idea but can you list the types if excersises you do it’s not that I don’t know any I just want to know so maybe it’s will help me loose weight faster!:D

  12. Hi Steph – love your blog so much! You’ve been such an inspiration to me, I’ve now lost 12lbs to date :)
    Congrats on all your success so far. Peace & love – Katie.

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