Hey, Jenna Dawn here. If you're a sucker for a good weight loss success story, you'll probably be interested in this one. Especially since it doesn't involve silly things like counting calories, fats, or weighing your food. In 1997, when I was at my wits end with "diets", I lost 60 pounds eating McDonald's, pizza and cookies. I admit it was ridiculously unhealthy, but my point is, it wasn't about what I ate. It was about how much. It's what I like to call "Natural Weight Loss".
DISCLAIMER: I do not advocate eating junk food! More about that below. ;)
Here's My Story
When I married at age 22 I weighed 165, which was higher than I wanted to be, but at a height of 5'9" it was well within a healthy weight range. I was generally thin by anyone but Pari Hilton's standards. Upon entering married life in the early 90's, I began to pack on some pounds. This is when counting fats was all the rage, so I started counting my fats and walking for exercise and I was able to shed my weight. Then I got pregnant and gained far more than I should have because, well . . . I was eating for two, of course. Only I ate like I was eating for two full-size humans, when the human inside me was teensy tiny.
After my beautiful baby girl was born, I struggled to drop the excess weight. I felt horrible about my body. I tried counting fats again. I walked and used the machines at the gym, but the weight just didn't want to come off this time. And then Phen Fen came on the market, the highly publicized doctor monitored weight loss medication. I went on the drug and happily began to lose weight. I was about 13 pounds from my wedding day weight when I found out I was pregnant again.
This was a surprise pregnancy. I went off Phen Fen right away, but spent the entire pregnancy fearing what I may have done to my unborn child. While I was pregnant Phen Fen was taken off the market after reports of valvular heart disease and pulmonary hypertension. Great. So now I had even more reason to worry. Well, I'm happy to report that both mother and daughter suffered no ill effects from the stupid drug.
Weight Loss Rules
Six weeks after giving birth, when most of the "pregnancy weight" is supposed to have come off, I weighed a whopping 208 pounds. Eegad! I had surpassed the 200 mark.
This time I tried following the weight loss book written by Oprah Winfrey''s trainer, who had helped her lose weight (before gaining it back yet again). The book was full of weight loss rules. Rules, rules, rules. Count your fats, drink a ton of water, exercise before you eat in the morning, and a whole slew of other rules. But I followed them. And I lost some weight, though it was slow and tedious. I got my weight down to 189 and plateaued. My weight wasn't budging and I was so sick of all the tasteless low fat foods and was really tired of the endless rules.
Light Bulb Moment . . . Eat Less Food
That's when I discovered the method of simply eating less food. It wasn't about what I ate. It was about how much. It was revolutionary. It was exciting. And I was very skeptical. Surely I can't literally eat anything I want, even in smaller amounts, and lose weight. Yet I had nothing to lose. (Well, actually I had a lot, but you know!) And I was so ready to eat something with flavor.
My first meal on this new "program" was McDonald's. My husband had called and asked if I wanted anything and I thought, "Wow. Supposedly I can HAVE McDonald's!" I still remember sitting on my living room sofa with cautious enthusiasm nibbling on my very small portion of Chicken McNuggets and french fries. I tried to remember things I had learned, like eat slowly and listen to my body's "fullness signals". I think I ate four McNuggets and a small order of fries. I might not have even finished them all, but I got to eat McDonald's.
I continued to eat like this . . . whatever I wanted in small portions. I broke all the rules I had been living by, including the rule about exercise (more on that in a moment). A few days later I stepped on the scale and was shocked to find I had actually lost 3 pounds.
Are You Even Kidding Me?
Well, I was hooked. I kept eating foods I loved, avoiding all tasteless foods labeled "low fat" and "non fat". The pounds kept shedding off of me and I felt so free. Within six months I was a few pounds below my wedding day weight. I stayed there for a couple of years and then lost fifteen more pounds. My second daughter, the one I had just given birth to when this all started, is 17 years old as of this writing and I continue to maintain my weight loss. While I eat a lot less junk now because I want to be healthy, I still enjoy all the foods I love in moderation.
As part of my weight loss back then and weight management now I sometimes apply intermittent fasting principles, which I wrote about in more depth in Intermittent Fasting for Health and Weight Loss. I didn't even know back then that there was a science behind this for both weight loss and overall health, which I learned about more recently from Dr. Mercola. I just knew if I didn't eat breakfast, I was clearly "eating less food".
So What's the Deal with Exercise?
Let me start by saying that just as none of us should live on junk food, we need exercise for health and vitality. These days I am an avid road cyclist and love to push myself to ride faster and farther. But exercise had nothing to do with my weight loss. Other than the daily activity of taking care of two little ones, I literally didn't exercise at all to lose or maintain weight. In fact, when I started riding a bike I often found it difficult to maintain or to lose weight while eating enough to sustain energy to ride.
Food Is Fuel
We need enough food to fuel us for our activity level. The more we exert ourselves, the more fuel we need, whereas less exertion requires less fuel. I didn't exercise and, therefore, required less fuel.
Yet I can't stress enough how important I believe exercise is to optimal wellness. I also believe my lack of exercise during those years contributed to the cellulite that appeared on my thighs and never went away regardless of the thousands of miles I've ridden since. So my philosophy on exercise is to find an activity you enjoy and do it for health, strength, a sense of of well-being, and to tone your body. And for fun! (I just don't do exercise that's not fun.)
Exercise does help you lose inches and look better in your jeans, too. I recall a while after I had gotten into cycling I saw a friend I hadn't seen in a while. She said, "Okay, so how much weight have you lost?"
I looked at her puzzled. "None."
"No. You've definitely lost weight. Your butt has shrunk."
She was right. I hadn't realized it but my body had definitely gotten smaller in certain areas because of my bike riding.
No Piece of Cake . . . Or Is It?
I'm not going to say losing weight by any method is a piece of cake. But when you can have cake and eat it too (see what I did there?!), it makes life so much more fun. For further insight and inspiration, books like Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat and Thin Within provide great information on "natural weight loss".
More Weight Loss Resources
For quick and practical tips on how to apply natural weight loss strategies read my follow up articles:
- 10 Tips to Eat Less Food
- Lose Weight with Portion Control
- Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss and Health
- Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat
You Can Lose Weight Naturally Too!
You too can manage your weight simply by controlling the quantity of food you eat. Start right now. Just don't eat until you're truly hungry.
Written by Jenna Dawn