February 22, 2020

Weight Loss Journey: 7 Lessons I've Learned (So Far)

Since moving to Hong Kong last April, I've been on something of a personal wellness journey and I've managed to lose about 60 lbs so far. I'm still working towards future goals—and a more optimal fat-muscle ratio for maintenance, so I'm not done yet!—but this weekend I've been thinking about how I've learned so much about weight loss in the past few months. Here are seven things I've learned that hopefully might help someone else out there who's also on a journey. Please note: I am not a health professional or a nutritionist; these ideas are purely from my own personal experience and should not be taken as advice.

1. Find the diet that works for you: I've tried so many diets—including going to The Biggest Loser Resort (three times!), green juicing for weeks at a time, intermittent fasting, and even Prolon, the USC professor-developed fast-mimicking diet. Turns out that "finding the diet that works for you" means finding a customized plan that works with your lifestyle, is sustainable, and doesn't just help you achieve your goals, but also leaves you feeling satisfied at the end of the day. In my case, the diet that works for me is one that I can meal prep easily, is portable so I can take it to the office, and incorporates lots of flavors and textures.

2. Crunchy foods help me feel more satiated: I don't know what it is about crunchy foods, but for the first few weeks of this diet, I found myself lingering in the packaged snacks aisle of my local supermarkets fondling potato chip bags and searching nutrition labels for low-carb high-protein options. No go. To get a more satisfying crunch into my daily diet, I started incorporating sugar snap peas and foods like kimchi.

3. The tiniest things can make the biggest differences: After five months of great progress, my weight plateaued in November and didn't budge for three months. My trainer urged me to keep patient, but at three-and-a-half months, he could see I was getting frustrated: I was still consistently working out and hitting my macros, but the weight wouldn't come off. To keep me motivated and on track, he suggested I try cutting 100 calories from my daily diet. I sulked a little bit, but did it, and immediately my weight loss jump started again!

4. Stick to a daily routine:  Even when things are hectic at work, having a routine is a lifesaver. It helps me reduce anxiety, manage my stress, and maintain boundaries, carving out a fixed structure to my day that helps keep me on track with training sessions, extra gym visits, getting my 15,000 steps in daily, and meal shopping and prep. Without a very strict bedtime and wake-up I would be a mess!

5. The hardest thing will be finding the time: Speaking of setting up a daily routine, finding time to fit in everything you need to achieve your fitness goal will be one of the hardest things about the whole process. Do you know how much time it takes to get in 15,000 steps a day? A lot! Finding time to go to the store to buy fresh food, to prep food, to eat on schedule, and having the willpower to close my laptop and go to bed early... it's tough. And time is the one thing that is a non-negotiable—you can't barter or buy more of it, there are only 24 hours in a day. For me to make this work, I've had to prioritize this weight loss journey over everything else in my personal life for the past few months. It's been a really interesting shift in self-care prioritization for me, but it's been so worth it.

6. The journey can be extremely isolating: Part of the reason I even embarked on this wellness journey is because the protests kicked off last June and there wasn't really anything else to do (plus I was looking for some work-life balance I would be forced to comply with), but when you add up the hours spent at the gym, the very strict diet, the hiatus on drinking, and the very early bedtime, losing weight can be a very socially isolating experience. In a way, I think as an expat in a new city, this was the perfect (and only) time I could viably do this. And with the coronavirus situation, everyone is spending more time at home, anyway these day.

7. Body dysmorphia is real: I've written about this in previous posts, but I'm really struggling with a body dysmorphic phase in my self-awareness and self-perception at the moment. I'm not really sure about how to break out of this, and I imagine it will happen in time, but losing weight really shakes up your self-identity in ways I could not have predicted. I hear it's pretty normal, though.