Instead of eating freshly baked Christmas cookies in front of the fire with my family, I spent Christmas Day 2020 volunteering in a hospital ward comprised of solely of patients diagnosed with COVID-19. I changed linens soaked in sweat from blistering fevers that just kept coming back. I answered call lights from patients that could only speak through rushed, hoarse whispers between breaths. I helped nurses reposition dozens of patients who could no longer turn themselves over in bed or even lift their own heads. I helped move patients into their own rooms so they could have privacy during their final moments. I even held someone’s hand as they took their last breaths.
COVID-19 was not all they were suffering from—the majority of these patients were vulnerable due to obesity and its associated co-morbidities. According to the CDC, obesity triples your risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 and may also be linked to impaired immune function and lower vaccine response. COVID-19 is a terrible disease and I have been humbled at the opportunity to help treat those in such dire need. I am also thankful that I was able to witness firsthand how obesity undermines health and why it is so important to fight every day to save my own life.
I have struggled with my weight since I was eight years old. At my highest, I was 305 pounds. No matter how hard I tried, I could never seem to get it right. My weight has fluctuated tremendously over the past ten years as I worked to raise a family, build a career, and earn college degrees. Every time I’d lose 30 or 40 pounds, I would slide right back into my old habits and gain weight again. In summer 2019, I decided to take control of my health and start figuring out how to finally lose the weight and keep it off. As of today, I have lost 60 pounds and intend to lose another 40 before the end of 2021. Even though I’ve lost weight, my journey was nowhere near perfect. I have struggled and made mistakes, but I never gave up because my life is worth saving and so is yours.
Through this blog, I intend to share research-based strategies to help you find weight loss and maintenance methods that work for you on an individual level. We all know weight loss is essentially “energy in, energy out.” The trick is putting this understanding into action to ensure that we are not taking in more energy than we are expending. During my weight loss journey, I’ve come to the conclusion that weight loss is a function of the following strategies: sustainability, perseverance, patience, and ownership.
The objective of weight loss should not solely be to lose weight. Weight loss is a means to an end and that end is health improvement. The only way to permanently improve your health through weight loss is by permanently changing your habits. You don’t have to change everything you do overnight, but you will have to make small, incremental changes over time. Any change in behavior or habits must be a change you can maintain for your whole life. In other words, weight loss and maintenance must be achieved using methods you can live with forever.
Perseverance is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Deciding to lose weight is only the beginning. You will face weeks when the scale won’t budge. You will eat a bit too much of those brownies. You won’t make it to the gym sometimes. You will need to persevere because your life is worth saving and only you are capable of doing it. Even though today is hard, tomorrow will be better. No matter how many times you fall flat on your face, you need to get up, dust yourself off and try again.
As with perseverance, you will need patience to lose weight. It could take you months or even years to reach your goals—and that’s ok! Along the way, you will need to be patient with yourself and patient with the process. Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Instead of becoming frustrated or giving up, you will need to take a step back and analyze the situation in order to find solutions that move you forward.
At the end of the day, you are responsible for your health. You need to take control of the things you can change and give yourself the grace to deal with what you can’t change. We all have circumstances in life that make weight loss difficult. You might have to deal with a demanding work schedule or a chronic health condition. You are responsible for prioritizing your health and figuring out how to make weight loss work for you. If you are having trouble losing weight, you will need to shift gears and try different methods. If you need help from a medical professional, you are in charge of advocating for yourself. At the end of the day, you are the solution—so start acting like it!