How I Lost the Weight and Kept It Off
I first met Jeff in 2011 when I first started my own weight loss journey. He became an inspiration, a support, and a close friend. When the opportunity came up to contribute to this January issue dedicated to diet and stress management for weight loss, I was compelled to introduce readers to his story; a real life, inspirational story of significant weight loss and profound personal growth. Moreover, his ability to maintain a healthy weight over a long period of time is highly unique and what may set his journey apart from others.
NB: From the time you started your health journey, how much weight have you lost?
Jeff: I have lost 53 lbs. My highest weight was 198 lbs. I am now 145 lbs. It took me 3 months to lose that weight.
NB: And how long have you kept the weight off?
Jeff: It was back in 2003 that I started this journey and have stayed the same weight for the past 16 years.
NB: From a diet perspective, how did you first lose the weight?
Jeff: My plan was pretty simple. I only ate whole foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein. I cut out all added sugar, flour products, alcohol, and processed food. Very importantly, I weighed and measured all my meals consisting of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No snacks in between. The plan really helped me to be clear about my choices when my eating had gotten out of control.
NB: Did you face challenges during the initial weight loss stage?
Jeff: Oh yes, indeed. At the very beginning, I found it to be so exciting and fun to start losing weight. It almost felt easy. I discovered, though, that it was more challenging a few weeks and months in; boredom set in. But even so, I have a good story to tell you.
I started my journey back in 2003 only six days before my birthday. From the onset, I was intent on taking a break from my eating routine and celebrate my birthday with cake and ice cream. To do so meant that I would have to veer off my plan which could have had long-term, negative consequences for my goals. (I am reminded of the many prior attempts at losing weight that ended quickly.) On the morning of my birthday, I was contemplating this decision with a trusted friend on the phone. She asked me some poignant questions. First, she said, “Do I want what I have?” referring to the significant success I had experienced even in the first days of my journey. And then she asked me, “Is eating cake and ice cream really the only way to celebrate a birthday?” Wow, that second question really got me thinking. Was it possible to not “entertain” myself with food? I took pause and asked myself whether I could truly enjoy (and tolerate) my birthday without the ‘obligatory’ cake and ice cream? By lunchtime, I was completely at peace with the idea of no dessert. I was ready to celebrate something more magical. Namely, my newfound weight loss success and the freedom from being overly dependent on sugar. That was the beginning of how my journey with food and weight got me to challenge old beliefs about who I was, what I needed, what I could do, and what I was capable of.
NB: Did your diet change after you lost the weight? In other words, how did you maintain a steady weight?
Jeff: There were no real changes to my routine except that, through some trial and experimentation, I did add food in finite quantities. Maybe an extra portion of whole grains at lunch or dinner. I added only whole food items (fruits, vegetables, protein, or whole grains). I continued to weigh and measure my meals every day. And I continue to leave sugar, flour, and processed foods out of my diet.
NB: What did your diet look like before you started this journey?
Jeff: Honestly, all along, I thought I was being healthy, but in all actuality I was still into the flour and sugar products. I didn’t appreciate the effects those foods had on my body and on my brain; how having it in my system perpetuated uncontrollable cravings. I was pretty much addicted to sugar and flour. After I completely removed them from my diet, the cravings dissipated right away. I was amazed and grateful.
NB: What other non-diet tools do you feel are essential to your success? Do you think stress management plays a role in your success?
Jeff: I have a mindfulness meditation practice that helps me a lot. Mindfulness really helps to disrupt old thinking patterns and cultivates awareness around what had been absent-minded choices. Once I could get perspective on the nature of my poor habits and choices, I was able to see how destructive they were to my mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. I sought out a community of people who supported my efforts. I wasn’t all that social before so engaging in that community helped me work on my insecurity, lack of confidence, and social anxiety. In a previous time in my life, I would use food to help deal with these negative feelings. I never really dealt with them in a positive manner. And one other important tool was that I sought out ways in which I could be of service to others; getting out of my own head and being available to others.
NB: Your personal growth and your success with maintaining a healthy weight is both inspiring and unusual. What keeps you motivated after 16 years?
Jeff: I started my journey to lose the weight. But more importantly, this newfound relationship with food helps me significantly reduce stress and anxiety allowing for a more joy-filled, purposeful life. The noise of fear, doubt, and insecurity is quieted down. I get excellent sleep. My life has a sense of structure and a sense of deliberateness. Before, it was so whimsical in a way that led to bad choices and unrealized goals. Now, I make food choices based on what my body needs for practical nourishment and less on what I think I need.
NB: Jeff, thank you so much for sharing your story; an inspiration to us all.
For Jeff, he roots his long-term success in two distinct ways. First, he stays devoted to a simple, whole foods diet with a clear understanding of what his body requires for quantity. Secondly, he stays connected, aided by a mindfulness meditation practice, to the deeper emotional and spiritual reasons that motivate his choices.
The very same principles that work for Jeff are the foundation of my health coaching model. If you feel baffled and stuck in your effort to lose weight, perhaps these principles can work in your life, too.
As a certified health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Nick Bloom offers individualized coaching with an emphasis on real food in balance with exercise as the core to life-long health and wellness. As an advocate for better health, Nick provides workshops and coaching to individuals, small groups, couples and families in the Greater Portland area. To learn more, contact me at: www.nicolausbloom.com.