How I Lost 20 Pounds After I Quit Dieting

chocolate-fondant

Forewarning: this post is lengthy! But if you are anything like I was; constantly dieting without the long-term weight loss results desired and a strained relationship with food, I urge you to read on! Not you? Send to a friend who may need this, or wait till next week for a new recipe post. 

I apologize in advance in case the title mislead you, but I’m not going to tell you how to magically lose 20 pounds in the next two months. I’m also not going to tell you exactly what to eat to lose those twenty pounds, because that would be me putting you on a diet, now wouldn’t it? I just want to tell you a little bit about my journey of how I finally lost 20 pounds and kept it off after years – I’m talking 15 – of on-and-off dieting. 

The dieting all started at the age of 12, when I realized that I didn’t want to be the chubby girl anymore. I learned about the Weight Watchers point system, and off I went! A calorie counting, fad dieting fool I was for the next fifteen years. There was always a “last supper” before the diet, then a few weeks of strict dieting, followed by the disappointment in myself when the cookies called my name and weight started to creep back on. My highest and lowest weight ranged 30 pounds. It was definitely not a physically healthy route and it was even more detrimental to my mental state. I was never happy with my body and I had this crazy relationship with food, leaving me feeling completely out of control around it. But I honestly didn’t know there was another way. I just envied those skinny girls and had no idea why I was dealt a bad hand.  

before-picture

{before: weighing my most when traveling in South America}

Luckily, there was a turning point. I’d say the beginning to the end of dieting all started with a move to Switzerland that coincided with our wedding. When we first moved to Switzerland, I had all the time in the world to lose weight for the wedding and finally get down to that magic number I’d always wanted to see on the scale. I was working out twice a day and counting calories, but somehow I couldn’t kick my chocolate-bar-a-day habit (and in Switzerland they are more like king size bars- mostly because they are meant to be eaten one or two squares at a time). Even though my calories were technically under where they should have been to lose weight, the scale wasn’t budging and my pants were not any looser.

I went home to the US a month before the wedding to enjoy the pre-wedding festivities and finish up planning. Since I hadn’t lost the weight, drastic measures needed to be made. My good friend and fellow dieter introduced me to the Whole30 diet. I scanned the book and started right away, knowing I’d allow myself a few “cheat days” when there would be no way around it. The basis of the diet is to cut out all grains, all dairy products, all alcohol, all processed sugar, all caffeine, and all legumes, plus you aren’t allowed to snack. Basically, there was a lot of meat, vegetables, fruit, and eggs involved. It was so so hard, and took so much discipline, but I successfully did it for about 3 weeks. Even though Whole30 is another diet, it’s unlike that rest in that you learn which foods your body doesn’t like when you start reintroducing the food groups back into your diet. I learned that my body does not like dairy very much, and gluten is not its fave either. But most importantly (in my mind at the time) I lost a few pounds and was happy to go into the wedding feeling good about my success. 

The wedding came and went and I had learned some lessons about calorie counting…maybe it’s not just about the calories in and calories out that matter…maybe there is something to be said about what you eat. The problem was, after the Whole30, I lost a bit of portion control because I was used to eating large meals without snacks. I also craved more meat on a daily basis, but that amount of meat was not necessary after adding back in all the other food groups to my diet. Needless to say, I gained all the weight back plus some. 

grab-your-free-7-step-guide-to-kick-dieting-to-the-curb

Come May after the fall wedding, I was gearing up for my annual swimsuit-ready diet. But, two things had changed. First, I was living in Europe and had spring and summer travel plans to Italy, France, and Croatia. And there was NO way I was going there on some restrictive diet that didn’t let me eat out…because eating out while traveling is hands down my favorite activity (chocolate fondant – see above, pizza, pasta, and gelato were not going to be denied). Second, I knew that calorie counting wasn’t right for me, but I didn’t know where to go from there because the Whole30 was not sustainable either. 

Enter a Facebook ad that came at perfect timing. It was for an intuitive eating challenge that was going to teach you how to let go of restriction and start eating what you wanted (I don’t think she runs the same program anymore, but Jamie Mendell is a great health coach!). I was skeptical at first because there was no mention of weight loss, but I figured it was worth a shot. I’d tried every other diet at this point, so why not this one? The whole idea was to start eating all those forbidden foods you hadn’t let yourself eat, and get rid of the stigma around them. I had tried so many diets that told me different foods were bad for me, so when I was TOLD to eat anything I wanted without guilt, I went all out. I ate bread! And pastries! And yogurt! And pizza pizza! And pasta! And a double scoop ice cream cone! It was a glorious two weeks. 

And then I felt disgusting. And had pimples all over my face. And my stomach hurt. I wanted vegetables. And I wanted to feel good again. So I started eating vegetables because I wanted to eat vegetables, not because I was on a diet. But I didn’t restrict those other things, I just didn’t even want them because I wanted to feel good more than I wanted crap food. That was just the beginning of the journey, but it was a fascinating eye opener. Over the next few months, I dove into some self-reflection on how I was using food to cope with emotions, I faced my negative body image and learned ways to treat her better, and I learned how to accept the bad days and not get hung up on them. I was on the road to diet recovery. I started to discover what foods tasted good and made me feel good. I started to determine which “restricted” foods I actually like, and which ones I don’t even care for. For example; donuts. I never let myself eat a donut before unless I was being “bad,” but it turns out; I don’t even really like them! I’d much rather enjoy a brownie later in the day. But pizza on the other hand…I love it and probably always will. But now I know to order a salad first when I order pizza, or make my own and go light on the cheese, heavy on the veggies, because that makes me feel light and wonderful, not heavy and weighed down.

after-picture

{after: (L) This summer when I said “screw it” and wore a crop top. (R) A wedding with my family – though I must admit it’s a good angle!}

I now eat what makes me feel good. I now know I feel best when I’m eating mostly veggies, meat, beans, fruit, and whole grains. Now I eat those healthy foods because I want to feel good in my body, not because I’m reaching for a certain goal weight. And sometimes, I want to feel good in a different way – like making my taste buds scream with excitement after eating a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. But now I can decipher the difference between which “feel good” I want and need. I know how to read my cravings, I allow myself to give into those cravings, and I enjoy each and every bite of whatever it is I’m eating.

Throughout this yearlong process, I stopped thinking about the scale and started focusing on me…and magically enough, the pounds dropped on their own. A year may seem like a long time to lose twenty pounds to some people, but I made a lifestyle change, not a crash diet. And this time I believe that the weight will stay where it is, with some natural fluctuations of course, but when it fluctuates up, I have the right tools to manage it. 

One thing I know for certain; I won’t be doing a juice cleanse, counting my calories, or trying any other crazy restrictive diet anytime soon. 

In case you missed the button in the post, I have a free 7-step guide to kick dieting to the curb, once and for all. I think it’s a great place to start if you want to get off the dieting roller coaster. And if you want more help than the guide offers, you know where to find me 😉 Plus, stay tuned for something special coming soon! 

4 Comments
  1. Caitlin, I knew you before the healthy lifestyle change and had the privilege of sharing fabulous pizza with you just last week. I love the change! You look fabulous and simply beam healthy and happy. Hope all your followers have the same success!

  2. How did you deal with the fear of gaining when you stopped restricting? I want to but I’m terrified… I’m on day three but I already feel huge and horrible

    1. Hi Cate, Yay to you for starting! This is a fear that came up for me too, but you have to trust that when given the opportunity, your body will find it’s best weight. You will also find that when you start living this lifestyle, weight is the last thing on your mind because you are enjoying your food and life so much more. I’d love to talk to you more about it – feel free to send me an email directly to caitlin@teaspoonliving.com.

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Through easy and and delicious healthy recipes, meal plans, health tips, and real life ramblings, I hope to inspire you to find the right measurements to create your own happy and healthy life. One teaspoon at a time.

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