- How to Lose 100 Pounds
- Finding the Correct Number of Calories to Shed Pounds
- What it’s really like to lose 100 pounds
- 1. A pair of fat pants can inspire you.
- 2. Sometimes being too healthy is unhealthy.
- Woman loses 124 pounds after snapping a selfie a day
- 3. Take it one day at a time.
- 4. Your entire body changes.
- 5. Friendships change.
- 6. There are haters.
- 7. You’re no longer invisible.
- 8. Your mind, not your body, can stop you.
- How this woman lost 160 pounds in 2 years
- 9. You forget your actual size.
- 10. A number on the scale doesn’t make you happier.
- 11. Extra skin is physically and mentally painful.
- 12. Nutrition is an important part of your journey.
- Is it ever OK to eat fast food? Your nutrition questions answered
- 13. It’s OK to fail.
- I lost 100 pounds in a year. My “weight loss secret” is really dumb.
- 1) My weight loss “secret” is so, so dumb
- 2) Okay, fine, here’s one secret: The weight loss succeeded because I found a way to be extreme in moderation
- 3) Obesity is a societal and environmental problem, not an individual one
- 4) That didn’t make my fatness feel like any less of a personal failure
- 5) A quick but vital sidebar: It’s so much easier to be a fat man than a fat woman
- Get the latest from Vox straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter:
- 6) I needed to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to
- 7) I’m much more confident now that I’ve lost weight — but I wish I could have found a way to be comfortable in my skin even without the weight loss
- How I Lost 100 Pounds the Healthy Way
- How this woman lost 103 pounds in 1 year
- 1. Find something you love.
- 2. Set reasonable goals.
- 3. Have a buddy.
- Calorie Counter
- Calculate Your Daily Calories
- Activity Levels Defined
- What are Calories?
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
- This Woman Lost 120 Pounds in Less Than a Year Using a Meal Plan You Probably Haven’t Heard Of
How to Lose 100 Pounds
How to Lose 100 Pounds: Break It Down Into Stages
How long it will take to lose 100 pounds varies — a 250-pound woman might need 40 weeks or more to achieve her goal — but Curtis recommends that you develop weekly and monthly goals that will help you track your progress and avoid becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. Attainable, feel-good goals include:
- Being able to get down on the floor and play with your children or grandchildren
- Being able to walk around the mall without feeling short of breath
- Being able to do 20 minutes of physical activity three days a week — mornings are best, says Curtis (and work up to 30 minutes most days of the week)
- Eating four servings of fruit or veggies every day of the week
- Eating a healthy breakfast every day that includes a low-fat protein
How This Man Lost 100 Pounds
How to Lose 100 Pounds: Exercise Is Non-Negotiable
Being physically active is an essential part of losing 100 pounds. “This was the biggest challenge for our clients,” says Curtis. “They would say they couldn’t do it because of their ankle or their back pain. But everybody can do an exercise program.”
- If you have a lot of joint pain, start with chair or water-based exercises.
- Try walking short distances and gradually building up your endurance.
- Involve a physical trainer or an exercise buddy as you get moving again.
How to Lose 100 Pounds: The Aftermath
Many people worry about how their body will look once they lose 100 pounds. This “depends on your age and condition of the skin,” says Curtis. “Some people’s skin will retract. For some it will not.” Once you reach your goal, if you find that sagging skin bothers you, you might want to investigate cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin.
Of course, the health and fitness advantages of losing 100 pounds, plus how much better you will look and feel in clothes, will more than make up for any after-effects of your overweight. With determination and a few smart diet strategies, you can achieve your goal.
Do you want to lose weight? Stop the fad diets, toss out prepackaged meals, and put your grade-school counting abilities to the test by keeping track of your daily calorie intake.
Weight loss is basically accounting, but with the exact opposite goal. You want to end up in the red, burning more calories than you consume. We asked Men’s Health nutrition advisor Alan Aragon, M.S., and Mike Roussell, Ph.D., author of The 6 Pillars of Nutrition, to give us a budget-busting weight-loss plan. And Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., president of the American College of Sports Medicine, weighs in on the best exercise for when you’re trying to lose weight.
Here’s what to do:
First, Figure Out Daily Calorie Intake
“How many calories should I eat a day to lose weight?” you might be wondering. Let’s start with how many calories you’re currently eating.
Track everything you eat and drink for 3 days and tally your daily total at FitDay.com or with an app like Lose It!, MyFitnessPal, or MyPlate.
Next, estimate the number of calories you need to maintain your weight using Aragon’s formula below based on your activity level—specifically, how often you work out. These are sample calculations for a 185-pound man.
A. Zero workouts
Multiply your weight by 10. (At 185 pounds, that’s 1,850 calories a day.)
B. One or two workouts a week
Your weight x 12 (2,220 calories)
C. Two to four workouts a week
Your weight x 14 (2,590 calories)
D. Five or more workouts a week
Your weight x 16 (2,960 calories)
Now compare those two numbers—the number of calories you currently eat vs. the number of calories you need to eat to maintain your weight. How far off are you? If you’re eating more than your target number, you’ll gain weight; if you eat less, you’ll lose weight.
Then, Determine Daily Calories Burned
If you’re not already in a caloric deficit, Aragon recommends a maximum daily deficit of 500 calories when you’re trying to shed some pounds. Aim for a healthy and sustainable 1- to 2-pound weight loss per week. That means either eating fewer calories or burning more calories throughout your day.
So if our 185-pound man works out 2 to 4 days a week, eating 2,590 calories a day maintains his weight. Here’s how his body uses those calories and a few ways he can burn more calories.
1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): 60 to 75 percent of daily calories burned
This is how much energy your body uses just to stay alive. You can get a rough estimate of this number with an online BMR calculator that takes into account your height, weight, gender and age.
70 percent = 1,813 calories
BONUS BURN: High-intensity exercise can elevate your metabolism for 14 hours after exercise (or up to 36 hours afterward, according to one 2002 study), depending on the type and intensity of the workout. This phenomenon is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), a.k.a. the afterburn effect. “The amount you need to exercise to lose weight is more than most people want to do,” says Dr. Schmitz. “It’s high intensity, for a minimum of one hour a day.”
And adding muscle mass through strength training also increases your resting metabolic rate by an average of 5%, according to a 2015 study. “Strength training is important if you are doing enough exercise to lose weight for two reasons,” says Dr. Schmitz, “1) to avoid injury from so much cardio and 2) muscle burns more calories than fat.”
(+100 to 240 calories)
2. Thermic Effect of Food: 10 percent
These are the calories burned by digestion. In general, you burn 0 to 3 percent of the calories of fat you eat, 5 to 10 percent for carbohydrates, 20 to 30 percrntfor protein, and 10 to 30 percent for alcohol.
10 percent = 259 calories
BONUS BURN: Load up on protein! Since you use far more of the calories from protein for digestion than you do with fat or carbs, make sure you reach your target amount of daily protein. That way, you can burn more sans a ton of effort. For adult men, that means at least 56 grams of protein a day. Opt for a lean protein source like chicken or fish.
Halfpoint ImagesGetty Images
3. Physical Activity: 15 to 30 percent
These are the calories you expend through your daily activity level, including exercise and any other movement. If you wear a fitness tracker, you can get a pretty good estimate of how many calories you’re burning each day based on steps or heart rate. Or you can enter individual activities and workouts into an online exercise calculator.
20 percent = 518 calories
BONUS BURN: You don’t have to sweat through two-a-days to get the benefit of moving more Minimize your sitting time, take the stairs, fidget—it all adds up. In fact, our 185-pound man burns 178 calories in 30 minutes just by walking.
Add some “exercise snacks” to your routine, says Dr. Schmitz — a 20-second intense run up the stairs, followed by 40 seconds of slow walking back down and repeat. Or do burpees for 20 seconds, and then walk around and recover 40 seconds.
(+200 to 600 calories)
Ben Court and Maria Masters Ben Court is the Deputy Editor of Men’s Health.
Finding the Correct Number of Calories to Shed Pounds
How many calories do you need to eat each day? That’s a key question if you’re trying to instill healthier habits and hold the line on weight gain.
It all comes down to numbers–calories in, calories out–and finding the right balance to maintain your weight. Tip it too much toward intake and the pounds will pile on, but tilt it the other way, even slightly, and it’s just a matter of time before unneeded pounds drop off.
The trick, of course, is figuring out how many calories are enough, which requires estimating resting metabolic rate–the number of calories required just to stay alive.
About 20% of the resting metabolic rate is accounted for by the brain and nervous system. The liver gobbles up about 32%, while the heart and lungs each take about 10% of total calories. The rest goes to the kidneys (7%) and other tissues in the body (21%.)
Resting metabolic rate varies from person to person. It declines with age but generally runs a little higher in men because of greater muscle mass, which burns more calories than does fat. That means a 160-pound man gets to eat a few more calories daily than a 160-pound woman.
Resting metabolic rate can be measured down to the calorie with sophisticated and costly medical equipment. Cheaper, hand-held devices streamline measurement and are used as marketing tools by health clubs. But for the vast majority of folks, the rate is easily estimated with a few simple calculations or by using an online calculator designed to measure resting metabolic rate (www.dallasdieti tian.com/calcalc.htm).
To do the math yourself: Take body weight in pounds and multiply by 10. Then add about 20% to 40% more calories for a sedentary lifestyle; 40% to 60% for a more-active daily life, and 60% to 80% for a highly active lifestyle. (Thus, a 120-pound moderately active person needs to eat about 1,680 calories–1,200 plus about 480 calories for activity–to maintain his or her weight, while a sedentary 150-pound person would need to consume about 1,800 calories daily–1,500 calories plus 300–to keep the bathroom scale steady.)
Even easier: Use the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which recommend 1,600 calories a day for children, women and older adults; 2,200 a day for older children, teen girls, active women and most men and 2,800 a day for adolescent boys and active men.
Not surprisingly, weight loss is a different story and requires trimming calories below those required to maintain weight. One pound is equal to about 3,500 calories. Spread that over a week, and it works out to a deficit of about 500 calories a day–an amount that many weight-loss experts recommend achieving by cutting back on food (about 250 calories) and exercising a little more (to burn about 250 calories daily). If you do this, you’ll lose about a pound a week. Cut just 250 calories a day (125 in food, 125 in exercise) and lose approximately half a pound a week.
Or take a lesson from Thomas Wadden, director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. For weight loss, he recommends eating 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day for men.
Of course, reducing calories almost certainly means counting them. Yet, studies show that people are notoriously bad at accurately tracking calories, a failing that gets worse with increasing body mass index. In other words, lean people “underestimate their daily calories by about 20%, while overweight people underestimate their calories by about 40%,” Wadden says.
To assign calorie totals to your food intake, there are several good sources. The University of Pennsylvania uses “The Doctor’s Pocket Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter 2002 Edition,” available in print or online at www.calorieking. com. The Interactive Healthy Eating Index, on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site at www.usda.gov/cnpp/, will calculate and save data on up to 20 days of meals. The “cyberkitchen” at www.shapeup.org will calculate food and activity; calorie counters for hand-held computers are available at www.palmblvd.com and www.healthetech.com.
You can also figure out how many calories you burn by logging on to www.caloriesperhour.com or calculating your activity level at www.shapeup.org/fitness/assess/ fset2.htm.
By keeping a close eye on your calorie intake, you’ll find you’re coming closer to a healthy diet–and lifestyle.
Losing weight — whether it’s 20 pounds or 200 — is incredibly difficult. People who successfully do it and keep it off transform their lives, not just for the short term, but forever. Healthy eating and exercise remain a big part of their lives.
While most people expect to eat new foods and start exercise routines, they experience many surprising changes.
What it’s really like to lose 100 pounds
April 7, 201701:01
These seven women share 13 things they wish they knew before losing at least 100 pounds.
1. A pair of fat pants can inspire you.
As soon as Jamie Lanigan — who dropped 145 pounds thanks in part to a lunch club at work — started losing weight, she happily donated her clothes to charity. But she regrets not keeping a pair of pants she wore when she weighed 400 pounds.
“I really wish I kept one pair of pants from my start weight so I could have a tangible reminder of how far I’ve come. Some days, sticking to the plan is a bit more of a challenge than other days, so having that symbol of your hard work could help you keep your goals in sight,” she told TODAY, via email.
After five years of watching her diet, participating in a lunch club and working out almost every day of the week, Jamie Laingan lost 145 pounds.Courtesy of Jamie Lanigan
2. Sometimes being too healthy is unhealthy.
Using food to comfort herself after the deaths of her mother and husband meant Justine McCabe’s weight ballooned to 313 pounds. She realized she needed to drop pounds to be healthier. To stay motivated, she snapped a selfie every day, and with diet and exercise, she lost 128 pounds to weigh 185.
But she became obsessed with being healthy.
Woman loses 124 pounds after snapping a selfie a day
July 22, 201601:18
“I wasn’t aware how easily you could swap one eating disorder for another,” McCabe said. “I became so engrossed in my efforts that it was all I could see and it clouded my ability to realize how far I’d already come. It created a very powerful cycle of over training, binge eating and body dysmorphia.”
She spent several months focusing on her self-worth and finding balance. Today, she feels happy with herself.
3. Take it one day at a time.
After getting stuck in a turnstile at Disneyland because she weighed 510 pounds, Jacqueline Adan started her weight-loss journey, dropping 350 pounds in four and a half years. But thinking about losing over 300 pounds felt daunting. She wishes someone told her to focus on the little wins.
“Take it one day at a time, one pound at a time,” she said. “Focus on making a lifestyle change, not just a quick way to lose weight.”
At her heaviest, Jacqueline Adan weighed more than 500 pounds..Courtesy Jacqueline Adan
4. Your entire body changes.
Misty Mitchell lost 143 pounds after quitting drinking, cutting carbs and exercising. She knew she’d be shopping for new clothes, but had no idea weight loss changed just about everything.
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“My skin cleared up, I am no longer a shade of pink, my heels aren’t cracked, my hair is coming in thicker,” she said. “You get your body back … You feel healthy and pain-free again.”
5. Friendships change.
After realizing she could eliminate the medications she took for high blood pressure, cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes if she shed some weight, NaTasha Glaspy started going to the local YMCA. In two years, she lost 160 pounds — and some friends with bad habits.
“My relationships with old friends have changed mainly because we don’t do the things we used to do, like go eat,” she said. “Most (of my new friends) are really into a healthy lifestyle and fitness.”
After NaTasha Glaspy lost 160 pounds she no longer relied on medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. NaTasha Glaspy
6. There are haters.
Betsy Ayala failed to shed the baby weight after having her daughter, but reading a nasty text exchange about her weight motivated her to change her eating habits and start exercising. In three years, she went from 262 to 157, shedding 105 pounds. While she feels confident today, not everyone supported Ayala.
“Not everyone is going to be happy that you are a better version of you. Sometimes, people are comfortable with who you were before and when you find a new happiness or you change, sometimes people react in different ways,” she said. “I think some people feel left behind.”
RELATED: 7 steps that helped this woman lose 225 pounds at age 63
7. You’re no longer invisible.
When she weighed 300 pounds, no one noticed Misty Mitchell. Since losing weight, strangers approach her.
“I can feel people look at me all the time and it’s because I look good and it feels nice to feel that energy again, to have people smile back when you smile at them, for people to start up conversations with you,” she said. “I’m not invisible anymore.”
Misty Mitchell cut alcohol out of her diet and lost 137 pounds.Courtesy of Misty Mitchell
8. Your mind, not your body, can stop you.
When NaTasha Glaspy began losing weight, she thought her body held her back. But she soon realized it was her brain creating the roadblocks.
“Your mind will put a limit on what you are capable of. Challenging yourself is also very important,” she said. “To continuously see results, you have to advance your workouts and leave your comfort zone.”
How this woman lost 160 pounds in 2 years
Jan. 24, 201700:52
9. You forget your actual size.
After making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, Lexi Reed lost 236 pounds in a year, with the help of her husband, Danny, who lost 62 pounds. While she knows she’s experienced a great transformation, she still forgets she fits on roller coaster and airplane seats, or booths at restaurants.
“I don’t feel I’ve had many bad experiences since losing weight other than the struggles of not realizing mentally how much smaller I am sometimes and still questioning if I can fit,” she said.
In 2016 for a New Year’s resolution, Lexi Reed and her husband, Danny, vowed to lose weight and get healthy. After a year, they lost a combined 298 pounds, with Danny shedding 62 pounds and Lexi dropping 236. Courtesy Lexi Reed
10. A number on the scale doesn’t make you happier.
Justine McCabe noticed many people think they need to be a certain weight and arbitrarily pick a number to reach. She did that, too. But she soon realized being healthy felt more fulfilling.
“A number doesn’t translate into happiness,” she said. “I would advise anyone to really listen to their own body and needs, and not compare themselves with anyone else.”
By taking a selfie a day, Justine McCabe watched herself transform from obese to fit.Courtesy Justine McCabe/@Hairstargetsfit
Betsy Ayala agrees:
“I also wish people told me not to obsess too much on the numbers,” she said. “When I was at my lowest, I was a senior in high school and I was around 150 pounds and I was a size 10, so I kept on thinking I want to be 150 … Now I’m 157 pounds and I’m a size 8; it’s not so much about the number on the scale, it’s about how you feel.”
11. Extra skin is physically and mentally painful.
After losing 350 pounds, Jacqueline Adan has skin hanging off her body. She never expected this would still impact how she feels.
“It hurts,” she said. “There are still some days I feel ‘fat’ and like that girl I was before. I still get pointed at and laughed at and called ‘fat’ because of the way my skin looks. That is definitely something I never would have imagined would still happen after losing 350 pounds.”
RELATED: Man loses 176 pounds and transforms his life
12. Nutrition is an important part of your journey.
What you eat makes a huge difference with weight loss. But it seems easier to add more workouts than give up fatty food.
“I wish that someone would have told me from the beginning how important nutrition is with exercise. It took me about four months to really learn what nutritional lifestyle changes would work with my body,” NaTasha Glaspy said.
We apologize, this video has expired.
Is it ever OK to eat fast food? Your nutrition questions answered
Jan. 19, 201702:45
13. It’s OK to fail.
Some weeks, the number on the scale doesn’t move. Or the crunches aren’t flattening that belly. That’s OK. Everyone’s been there; failure is part of losing weight.
“I’ve had ups and downs, a few injuries and setbacks happened, but I put trust in the process and I try to remain consistent with developing healthy habits. It’s the consistency through the setbacks that have helped me get closer to my goals,” said Jamie Lanigan.
Justine McCabe agreed.
“No one gets into this kind of journey without struggling,” she said. “It’s never a straight trajectory to success.”
For more stories like this, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page for inspiration.
I lost 100 pounds in a year. My “weight loss secret” is really dumb.
A year ago, I weighed 285 pounds. Today I weigh 185, which is more or less optimal for my 6-foot frame. Losing 100 pounds has been maybe the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I feel better physically. I have newfound confidence in my ability to accomplish my goals. I’m more fun to be around, as the veiled bitterness that used to inflect interactions with my friends has evaporated. Indeed, all these fundamental feelings of self-loathing I’d been struggling with for as long as I could remember have disappeared. Basically, after convincing myself that I was a failure — a belief in which I saw my weight as both cause and effect — I’ve removed the limitations that I once placed on myself, and it’s because I lost 100 pounds.
I desperately wish that weren’t the case.
I say that because everything I’ve just written perpetuates our noxious, damaging cultural narrative on weight and obesity. Ours is a culture that simultaneously incentivizes people to gain weight and stigmatizes them when they do, and then offers the bullshit promise of instant weight loss through some miracle diet or incredible exercise secret.
Ours is a culture that incentivizes people to gain weight — and then stigmatizes them when they do
I’m no expert on weight loss. I wouldn’t even consider myself an expert on my own weight loss. But if nothing else, the experience of losing 100 pounds has given me plenty of time to reflect on what that kind of transformation means, and how I was miserable not so much because of my weight in and of itself but because how I thought about, how I understood my weight. That’s part of why weight loss can’t really be understood without context, both in terms of a person’s overall health and in terms of the larger society in which we live.
Here’s what I learned from losing so much weight — and from the life changes I’ve experienced as a result.
1) My weight loss “secret” is so, so dumb
Just so we’re completely clear about how unqualified I am to tell people how to lose weight, I’ll run down how I lost that 100 pounds. Basically, I just went to the gym, and I … walked. On a treadmill, uphill, at a brisk pace, for about an hour every day — and I do mean every day — from July to April. That’s more or less it! I started grad school in August, which meant I moved out of my parents’ house and away from their immaculately stocked refrigerator, and also meant the place where I worked all day was located more than a 10-foot walk from where I slept, which also helped, but that’s more or less it! That is not something I can monetize.
WATCH: A frivolous attempt to capitalize on your health
You’ll notice I talked mostly about weight loss through exercise rather than diet, despite the fact that the current scientific thinking says that eating less is way, way more important than working out. The thing is, though, it was a lot easier for me to hop on a treadmill than to cut portions, at least at first. So I just ignored the (frequently contradictory) mountains of literature on the best way to lose weight and just focused on finding a way that worked for me. I’m usually not so blithely ignorant, but it worked pretty well here.
2) Okay, fine, here’s one secret: The weight loss succeeded because I found a way to be extreme in moderation
When people learn how much weight I’ve lost in the past year, they sometimes remark how hard it must have been. That’s a logical reaction, and it’s probably true of most extreme weight loss experiences, but honestly? It really wasn’t that hard. After all, if it had been hard, I probably would have just quit. The trick was finding a routine that I actually enjoyed doing and wanted to stick with.
More than that, I never would have lost 100 pounds if that’s what I had set out to do. Indeed, the weight loss only happened as soon as I had given up hope of losing weight at all. When I went back to the gym last July, my only real goal was to start feeling a little better about myself. If I had any weight-related goal at all, it was probably on the order of 5 to 10 pounds, and losing 20 would have made me ecstatic. Because I wasn’t putting pressure on myself to lose 100 pounds all at once — or in this case, at all — I sidestepped the biggest danger when it comes to weight loss: discouragement.
It definitely helped that I could do things like bring my tablet and watch Netflix in the gym, which I’m very aware implies access to a whole bunch of resources not everyone is going to have. As with everything, context matters, and I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange my circumstances in a way that was conducive to losing weight, despite — or, again, maybe because of — the fact that I didn’t set out to do that. Losing 100 pounds can’t have been some titanic act of individual will, as I’ve proven fairly conclusively over the first 26 years of my life that my willpower is mediocre at best. Instead, I managed to reshape my environment so that the result was weight loss, rather than continued obesity. Which leads quite neatly to a really fundamental point, the one thing I really want you to take away from all this.
3) Obesity is a societal and environmental problem, not an individual one
The numbers are staggering: The latest data says that a third of all adults in the United States are obese, and another third are overweight. The obesity rate in particular has skyrocketed in the past half-century, so this is still very much a new problem. And the obesity epidemic doesn’t exist because more than 200 million individual people lack willpower, or love food too much, or are too lazy to exercise, or whatever other crap is routinely trotted out to explain why any one person is fat.
The country’s current struggle with weight is the culmination of a whole bunch of long-term trends: the easy access to lots of cheap but generally unhealthy food, the shift toward more sedentary lifestyles, a collective decline in leisure time and disposable income that leaves far fewer opportunities for people to find ways to eat properly or remain active, and a whole bunch more.
4) That didn’t make my fatness feel like any less of a personal failure
Of course, it’s one thing to be intellectually aware of the large-scale causes of obesity; it was quite another for me to actually believe my weight wasn’t fundamentally my fault. My work as a science writer meant I was more aware than most of the environmental drivers of obesity. Yet I somehow managed the intellectual gymnastics of believing that people in general were not individually responsible for their issues with weight while still fervently believing my obesity was my own total failure. After all, to do otherwise would have meant giving up control for my own choices.
The author before and after his weight loss. (Alasdair Wilkins)
Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to endure it if I spent every waking moment obsessing over how I had screwed up my life, so I went to great pains to distract myself from my own fatness. I constructed a life for myself in which my physical appearance just never, ever came up, as any reminder of how I looked took me right back to the core of my self-hatred. Pulling that off meant placing strict limits on what I considered myself capable of. I convinced myself that nobody could ever consider me attractive. At 26, I had never been in a relationship—I’d never even been kissed—and it was torture for me to even talk about the possibility of romance, because doing so necessarily meant thinking about how I must appear to others. More than that, it meant being honest with and accepting of myself, two things I was just not prepared to do.
I really doubt I would have had the luxury —the privilege, you might well say — of constructing a life in which my appearance was this studiously undiscussed topic if I weren’t a man. It was no healthy sort of way to live, but it sure beat the alternative of family, friends, and even strangers routinely pointing out I was fat. And that’s been a constant theme whenever I’ve discussed my experiences with women who have struggled with their weight. With the very best of motives, my mom would tirelessly deny I was fat even when I was 100 pounds overweight.
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One female friend — who has never even been overweight by any medical standard! — told me any trip home is an opportunity for her parents to cajole her to cut out junk food and start exercising. They argue that they are just telling a necessary truth that others would be too polite to say. And it’s not just loved ones: She told me how random men on the street comment on her “curvy” features, something that might theoretically be intended as a compliment, but all it does is reinforce the idea that she is judged at all times in terms of her appearance and, by extension, her weight.
More than that, there are some pretty clearly socially defined roles that fat men can slip into: the funny fat guy and the smart fat guy, for instance. I was fortunate enough to be both funny and smart, but as I was told by another female friend — who was fat throughout childhood before losing weight in high school — that wouldn’t necessarily have mattered if I were female, particularly during those formative teen years. As she put it to me, she found that to be fat and a girl is so often to be invisible, to be marginalized.
I convinced myself that nobody could ever consider me attractive
Now, these are just a couple personal stories, so it would be a mistake to generalize too much, and either way this isn’t really my story to tell. But it’s enough to make me fairly confident that another advantage I had, both while being fat and while losing weight was that as a man, I could live in a space largely free of judgments.
I can think of only two occasions in my entire life where I was made to feel self-conscious about my weight, and neither was particularly mean-spirited. Now, it isn’t that being bullied over one’s weight is an experience unique to women, as I suspect my experience is on the extreme end even for men. But I suspect such light treatment was only possible in the first place because I’m a man. I received less criticism at 100 pounds overweight in my entire life than a woman 10 pounds overweight does in, what, a month? A week? A day? Wherever we’re setting the line, I’m inclined to take the under.
6) I needed to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to
There’s a robust medical consensus that obesity is associated with a whole lot of serious medical issues. There are health risks to being fat. But there are also health risks to making oneself miserable by going on unsustainably extreme diet and exercise regimens. This all gets much more complicated when we look again at society at large, how it systematically drives people toward gaining weight and then makes them feel like failures the moment they do so.
Maybe if we can build a society that looks upon weight in a healthier way — not to mention how obesity disproportionately affects historically marginalized groups, a colossal issue beyond my ability to reckon with here — then we could start having more nuanced conversations about an individual’s responsibility to their own weight. In the meantime, I’d argue there’s room for everyone to determine for themselves how best to balance the physical and mental aspects of their own weight. Maybe the healthiest life means losing weight, but that won’t necessarily always be the case.
7) I’m much more confident now that I’ve lost weight — but I wish I could have found a way to be comfortable in my skin even without the weight loss
I mentioned I had never been in a relationship, and that’s still true, though I’ve changed the way I view myself from “alone” to “single,” with an eye toward changing that further in the future. I have now been kissed, though: It happened on Martin Luther King weekend — our most romantic of holidays! — when, after two hours of cutting a proverbial rug in a New York dance bar, the 40-something friend of a friend kissed me good night. I don’t actually know if this had any romantic undertones, but it was on the lips and possibly open-mouthed, though I was so blindsided that I kept mine resolutely shut.
I constructed a life for myself in which my physical appearance just never, ever came up
But still! Even if there were no further interest — and I’ll admit I’m still a novice at this sort of thing — people don’t generally kiss people they find unattractive. Once more, the temptation is to say this happened because of the weight I lost, that I was attractive because of my newly trimmed-down physique. But I don’t think that’s right: I was attractive because I had been fun to be around, because I had just spent two hours throwing caution to the wind and dancing — something I always refused to when I was fat — because I was just generally confident, not in some macho bullshit sense but just in the sense that I was comfortable in my own skin.
There’s no reason I couldn’t have been all those things at 285 pounds, other than the fact that my own self-loathing prevented me from doing so. The problem was never really my weight, but my own inability to deal with my weight. So sure, congratulate me on losing 100 pounds if you want — of course I enjoy all the compliments I get — but the really important thing here is a more general sense of wellness: physically, mentally, and everything else. And if that’s the case, let’s celebrate and encourage, not criticize and stigmatize, all those who don’t have to lose a ridiculous amount of weight just to reach that point.
Alasdair Wilkins is working on his master’s in science and medical journalism at the University of North Carolina. He has written for The AV Club and io9. Follow him on Twitter @AlasdairWilkins or email him here.
First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at [email protected]
How I Lost 100 Pounds the Healthy Way
Stephen Hill/Ashley Keller
A traumatic visit to the garment store five years ago made Ashley Keller face the truth about her weight. “I remember sitting in the parking lot after trying to buy pants for work,” says 5-foot-6-inch Ashley, 28, who then weighed 250 pounds. “I used to wear a size 19, but this time the pants didn’t fit. I couldn’t understand it. I honestly thought the manufacturer was saving five cents in material and skimping on the size. But then it dawned on me that the pants weren’t getting smaller-my waist was getting bigger. And I had to do something about it.” (Check out The Most Inspiring Weight Loss Success Stories of 2014.)
Hungry all the time
Ashley, a public relations representative in Farmland, Indiana, had struggled with her weight as a teen, but it “ballooned,” as she puts it, when she went to college. “I love sweets-cookies, cake, pie, you name it-and at school, I just kept eating and eating them,” she says. “And I never exercised.” When Ashley met her now husband, Brandon, in 2006, she weighed 200 pounds. While they were dating, they often went out to eat, and Ashley didn’t hold back. “I could put away a footlong sandwich and chips and still be hungry,” she says. She gained another 50 pounds by the time they got married, in 2009.
Brandon told her that he loved her at any size, but Ashley was becoming more and more frustrated by all the things she couldn’t do. Walking up a flight of stairs made her lose her breath. Bending over to tie her shoes was difficult. Even sitting was uncomfortable. “I was unhappy with myself,” she says. “I knew something had to change.”
She was also worried about her health. An uncle had died from a heart attack at age 46, and both of her grandfathers had suffered multiple heart attacks. “I saw myself dying at a young age from heart trouble,” Ashley says. “The idea was just terrifying.”
Little changes, big success
Soon after her parking lot epiphany, Ashley worked up the nerve to join Weight Watchers, where the group leader set small, doable weight-loss goals for her. Within three weeks, Ashley reached her first milestone: shedding 12 pounds, or 5 percent of her weight, mostly by cutting back on sweets, eating more fruits and vegetables, and limiting her portion sizes. Her next goal was to drop 10 percent of her start weight, or 25 more pounds. She started planning her meals for the week and packing healthy lunches to bring to work. She also began exercising for the first time in years. She took it slowly, walking for 15 to 20 minutes two or three nights a week. Then she found the courage to try Zumba. “I was intimidated at first because of my weight, but I liked to dance in high school, so I gave it a shot,” Ashley says. “I loved it!” (Start small to lose weight! Here’s an easy Monday-Sunday Diet Plan to Lose Weight in a Week.)
Ashley’s small but steady changes paid off. “It took me three years and three months, but I hit my goal weight on July 24, 2013, the day after my 26th birthday,” she says proudly. Her success has since inspired her to take up running. She completed the Couch to 5K nine-week training program and now runs three times a week; she has also done two mini marathons. “My mom and my husband have been my biggest cheerleaders,” Ashley says. “They see the smile that running puts on my face.”
To help build muscle, she has added high-intensity strength training to her workout routine twice a week. And she still takes Zumba.
Ashley is encouraged not only by her slimmer body but also by her improved health. “I honestly feel better than I ever have before,” she says. “I used to catch every cold, every flu. Now I rarely get sick. I’m so much healthier, stronger, and happier!”
What Worked for Ashley:
Ashley keeps the belt she wore when she was 250 pounds on her bedside table as a reminder of how far she’s come. (Her current belt size is an entire foot shorter.) She also put side-by-side before and after photos on her phone. “If I have a bad day, I can pull them up and see what I’ve accomplished,” she says.
She once avoided the produce aisle, but now Ashley heads there as soon as she gets to the supermarket. “The first time I shopped there, it was daunting, exactly like walking into the gym when I was just starting to exercise,” she says. “Now I’m very focused on nutrition, and I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I have a piece of fruit with my breakfast, and I eat two or three servings of vegetables with lunch and dinner.” (Just avoid these 6 Weight Gain Traps to Avoid at the Farmers Market.)
Exercise With a View
Ashley loves to be outdoors. She goes for evening walks with her husband, signs up for races to keep her running sessions fun and interesting, and is even incorporating workouts into her vacations. “This past May, I ran a Ragnar, a two-day race with a team of 12 people, through Cape Cod,” she says.
- By Amy Zavatto
About six years ago, Anja Taylor was at a low point. She had gained 100 pounds in just one year and weighed 333 pounds at 5 feet 6 inches tall. She was suffering: She constantly had acne under her chin and on her neck; her menstrual cycle was irregular; her knees were bothering her — and her doctor diagnosed her with arthritis at just 20 years old.
“I just knew I was unhealthy,” she said. At the time, Taylor was living on her own for the first time and enjoying a lot of fast food and junk food.
How this woman lost 103 pounds in 1 year
Jan. 8, 201801:02
“Not having restrictions led me to eat whatever I wanted. And because I had in my head I was (already) fat, I just gained weight,” the 26-year-old from Denton, Texas, told TODAY.
Taylor was always a little heavier than her friends and thought of herself as “bigger.” She figured she’d never lose weight so she didn’t really try. While she hated shopping at plus-sized stores that catered to older women, she convinced herself her weight wasn’t a problem.
“You wake up in your body every day. For me, I didn’t really notice that big of a weight gain,” she said.
But then, she began experiencing health problems. By 22, she learned she had polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS, which is the reason she experienced irregular periods.
Since 2016, Anja Taylor has been exercising and eating healthy foods. She’s lost 103 pounds and feels happy with how she looks.Courtesy Anja Taylor
By December 2015, Taylor realized she had to do something, but she didn’t know how or where to start. Working out felt overwhelming.
“When your health is not good, it is really hard to get to the gym. To push your body in the gym is even more difficult than people think,” she said.
In February 2016, she went to her first spin classes. Even though she struggled through the 50-minute class, she really enjoyed it and kept returning. She also purchased pre-made meals from local meal service companies, which made it easier for her to eat more vegetables and lean protein and fewer carbs.
Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.
“I have full-time school and work so I am unable to meal prep,” she said. “The meal plans offer me variety.”
Taylor experienced a lot of health problems when she weighed 333 pounds. Since losing 103 pounds, she has been much healthier.Courtesy Anja Taylor
Shedding weight helped improve her health. She no longer experiences knee pain and her menstrual cycle is regular again. She loves all the new energy she has.
“I am grateful my body is able to perform physically. Prior to losing weight, I was trapped in my own body. I don’t view working out as a chore, but rather a gift and blessing,” she said.
Taylor consistently lost weight from February to December 2016, shedding 103 pounds. But in October, she broke up with her fiancé of seven years, started a new job, began taking college classes full time and got off track.
“I gained about 20 pounds back,” she said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself because of the weight gain.”
While she maintained her healthy habits and didn’t gain any additional weight, it took her months to lose the extra 20 pounds. Now at 230 pounds, she hopes to lose another 50 pounds. She recently has added new exercise classes and more home cooking and meal prep to her routine.
“There are many challenges life throws at you, so it is really hard. You have to overcome that,” she said.
She shared this advice for others hoping to lose weight:
1. Find something you love.
As she struggled through her first spin class, Taylor realized she loved it. In the past, she always forced herself to do workouts that she loathed.
“I was not a fitness fan. I didn’t understand it,” she said. “If you are not having fun, you are going to get burned out.”
Losing weight has had lots of ups and downs for Taylor, but maintaining consistent habits helped her when things become difficult.Courtesy Anja Taylor
2. Set reasonable goals.
In the past when she thought of weight loss, Taylor often thought of shedding huge amounts of weight. But thinking about losing 150 pounds crippled her efforts.
“In previous attempts, I always thought of the big number,” she said. “I focused just on that month.”
Taking it month-by-month helped her be successful.
3. Have a buddy.
Taylor met many friends at her gym who kept her motivated even when she did not want to exercise. They supported her when she gained and encouraged her to stick to her healthy habits.
“Have somebody hold you accountable,” she said, adding she was more successful when she realized she was “not alone in this.”
For more weight-loss inspiration, check out My Weight-Loss Journey page. And if you’re looking for support, sign up for our Start TODAY newsletter.
Given that you are starting at 250 pounds, I could see you losing 60-80 pounds in five months if you’re 100% dedicated.
I lost 70 pounds in five months. I started at 230, and after five months I was down to 161. I’ve gained weight (muscle) through strength training and I now weigh 175, but more than a year later I’ve kept roughly the same bodyfat percentage that I had at 161 pounds. I understand the value of losing weight slowly (to give you time to learn good habits), but honestly I don’t see the NEED to lose slow if your goal is to simply lose weight.
Maintenance AFTER losing weight is actually a heck of a lot harder than just losing weight. After you’ve lost a lot of weight, you then have to overcome old habits, old demons, and figure out a new way to live the rest of your life at a healthy weight.
Losing weight is simpler than maintenance because you are focused on a task with a goal, an endpoint, and milestones, and those milestones keeps you going. Maintenance lacks those same visible milestones, and thus it is much harder to define and rally around.
So I say how FAST you lose weight isn’t important for psychological reasons, though it may be for physiological reasons (keeping muscle mass is easier if you set up a smaller calorie deficit). Instead, just lose the weight as fast or as slow as YOU want (it’s going to take months anyways, and that’s long enough to develop good habits). The idea that people get sick or risk their health from losing weight too fast is basically an old wive’s tale. If you’re eating at least 1,000 calories a day and getting essential nutrients, and are suffering no ill effects, you will be just FINE… you’re not gonna die losing 2-3 pounds a week. I’ve heard of plenty of people dying from obesity… never heard of someone dying from losing weight if they’re still getting 1,000 calories a day and essential nutrients.
As for how MUCH to eat, I recommend ignoring the MFP calculator. Instead, find an online TDEE calculator. At 250 pounds, if you exercised 3 times a week, you should need about 2,500 calories a day to remain at the same weight. So I would reduce your intake to 1,500 calories per day, and you should lose about 2 pounds a week to start, and probably a lot more in water weight as you eat healthier foods and less salt and junk food. Want to get more extreme? Walk 2 miles every day, work out (lift weights or aerobic exercise) 3x a week, and eat 1,000 calories a day (the minimum I would recommend), and you could lose 60-80 pounds in five months. It IS possible. Don’t let people tell you it is not possible. It IS possible. I’ve seen it done just like this many, many times on this very website. And I lost 70 pounds myself in five months, so I am also speaking from experience. I’ve also kept it off, so I was able to debunk the myth that you’re destined to put it all back on if you lose weight too fast.
Reach for the stars. Getting married is a huge deal. It’s the single greatest day of your life up until now, so you have a very good focal point in the coming months. When you get hungry and want to binge, or get tired and want to skip exercise, just think of your wedding dress being a bunch of sizes smaller. It will be worth it.
Calculate Your Daily Calories
Use this calorie calculator to determine how many daily calories your body needs to lose, gain, or maintain your weight.
YOUR BASAL METABOLIC RATE (BMR):
YOUR DAILY CALORIE NEEDS TO
MAINTAIN CURRENT WEIGHT:
Activity Levels Defined
Sedentary Lifestyle Little or no exercise.
Lightly Active Lifestyle Light exercise or sports 1 – 3 days/week.
Moderately Active Lifestyle Moderate exercise or sports 3 – 5 days/week.
Very Active Lifestyle Hard exercise or sports 6 – 7 days/week.
Extra Active Lifestyle Very hard exercise or sports 6 – 7 days/week.
Note: This calculator is very accurate in all but the very muscular (will under-estimate calorie needs) and the very fat (will over-estimate calorie needs).
What are Calories?
A calorie is a unit of energy. Generally, a calorie refers to energy consumption through food and beverage consumption, and energy usage through physical activity. Everyone requires different amounts of energy per day depending on age, size and activity levels. Using the calculator above will help you determine your bodies daily caloric needs.
In order to maintain your current weight, you must consume the same number of calories as you burn. Calories in is equal to calories out. Conversely, if you are wanting to lose weight, this can be accomplished by consuming less calories or burning more calories, i.e. calories in is less than calories out. If you wish to consume less, you will want to eat 500-1000 fewer calories per day than calculated, or as an alternative, eat 15-20% fewer calories than calculated. If you wish to burn more calories over consuming fewer, you should increase your physical activity – you can consume more calories and still sustain weight loss as long as you eat fewer calories than calculated. Keep in mind that leaner bodies need more calories than less lean bodies. Lastly, if you wish to gain weight, calories in should be greater than calories out. This should be accomplished by having a caloric-dense diet.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body while at rest. Some body processes requiring energy include: breathing, blood circulation, controlling body temperature, cell growth, brain and nerve function, and contraction of muscles.
Your BMR accounts for roughly 60 to 75% of your daily calorie expenditure.
- Liver: 25%
- Brain: 19%
- Skeletal Muscle: 18%
- Kidneys: 10%
- Heart: 7%
- Other Organs: 19%
BMR will vary from person-to-person. Some intrinsic factors affecting basal metabolic rate include: weight, height, surface area, gender, body composition, body temperature, age, hormone levels, and overall health.
- Metabolic rates increase with an increase in body weight, height, and surface area.
- Metabolic rates are lower in fat tissues that muscle tissue.
- Metabolic rates are lower in women than men.
- Metabolic rates decrease with age.
- Metabolic rates increase with an increase in body temperature.
- Metabolic rates vary in response to T4 hormone levels. T4 is the key hormone released by your thyroid glands and has a significant affect on body weight.
- Metabolic rates increase with a decrease in overall health.
To lose weight, you will need to reduce your daily caloric intake below your total daily calorie requirement indicated by your BMR plus your activity level.
This Woman Lost 120 Pounds in Less Than a Year Using a Meal Plan You Probably Haven’t Heard Of
Jasmine Parent had always struggled with her weight. But during her senior year of college in 2012, she thought she was finally getting it under control. She was lighter than she had been in years, and she loved how she felt. But the next year her dad passed away, and eating quickly became an outlet to ease her grief.
“I began emotionally eating without even really realizing it,” Parent, who is from Canada, tells Health. “For the three years after my dad passed away, I was just gaining, gaining, gaining.” In 2016, she gave birth to her first daughter, causing her weight to go up to 250 pounds. A second pregnancy resulted in more weight gain, and the number on the scale passed 300.
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It wasn’t until December 2017 that she had her ah-ha moment. She was at an annual Christmas get-together with her closest friends, and as they do every year, they took a group photo. “I had this moment where I saw myself in the photo, and I just hadn’t realized how different I looked and how much weight I had gained,” she says. “That photo was the end of me not coming to terms with it.”
Not long after, she was on Instagram searching for inspiration when she came across something called the 21-Day Meal Plan. It was only $20. “That’s probably how much I spent on McDonald’s last week,” Parent recalled thinking at the time, and signed up. She asked her partner, Jeremy Crawley, to do it with her, and they “dove in head first.”
Parent says she knew she wanted a plan that gave her some structure but wasn’t crazy restrictive, which is what made her effort ultimately successful. The diet she tried simply provides a list of foods users are allowed to eat. There’s no strict timing or portion sizes; it’s all about eating whole foods.
It’s called the 21-Day Meal Plan because experts believe if you can do something for 21 days, you can likely stick to it. That’s what’s happened for Parent. “I’m on month 13 of the plan,” she says. “We’ve been able to make it just our regular way of eating.”
RELATED: This Is the One Thing This Woman Wishes Someone Would Have Told Her Before Losing 336 Pounds
At age 29, she’s now down to 174 pounds, lighter than she was in 2012, when she weighed about 198.
Parent says the biggest difference she notices now that she’s lost so much weight is her “overall patience as a partner, as a mother, as a friend, as everything.” She also says she’s dealt with anxiety her whole life, but losing weight has helped her take control of those emotions. “I always say I no longer sweat the small stuff… Now, things just kind of roll right off of my back. I’m so much more relaxed. Life itself feels less stressful because my overall mood has improved.”
Basically, everything just feels better, she says. Plus, she loves what she sees when she looks in the mirror.
What advice would she give to others looking to lose weight and get healthy? Parent says it’s all about finding a weight-loss plan that fits your lifestyle. Everyone is different; some people will succeed with a plan that allows flexibility, while others do better having every meal mapped out for them. If you’re looking to drop pounds, take some time and really think about what will work for you.
“You want to start something you’re going to be able to finish,” she says. “You want it to be something you can do for life, not something that sounds like a quick fix. It has to be something sustainable, for you, for your life, for your everyday.”
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