10 Things She Has Learned

Roughly one year ago, I decided I wanted to lose weight. I had zero idea how I was going to do this, I only knew that I needed to start. After years of writing cookbooks, hosting a cooking show, owning a restaurant and bakery, and having a cooking website, the weight had crept up through the years and my exercise/activity level had all but slowed to a stop. With the exception of walking with the dogs, I had pretty much given myself permanent permission “not to have time” to exercise because of work, scheduling issues, and any other excuse I could come up with. So last January, at my highest weight ever and with the wedding of my daughter looming in May, I just knew I had to start.

One year later, I’ve lost 55 pounds.

I wrote a post last June, after I had lost 43 pounds, explaining the different ways I’d approached losing weight. Here is that post, in case you’d like to read the details. When I posted that article, I thought it would be the final recap, but in the seven months since, I wound up dropping some more weight and learning a few more lessons along the way. While I considered writing an update post last fall, I decided to let myself get to a year and make sure I felt solid about where I am. So here I am!

10 Things I’ve Learned About Losing Weight

First, to summarize the June post:

I didn’t use a trainer, I didn’t do Keto or Paleo or follow an official diet, I didn’t eat specialty foods, and I didn’t do intermittent fasting. Those things work for lots of people, which is wonderful! I just hadn’t had success with them.

Here’s what I did do:
I ate fewer calories.
I consumed smaller portions.
I weighed my food.
I walked and did the rowing machine.
I built muscle by lifting weights and doing lunges and squats.
I ate more protein, ate less sugar and drank no alcohol.
I used an app called Happy Scale to track my daily weight
I switched to a standing desk and generally tried to stand and move more.

So here’s what I’ve learned, one year later! (In no particular order.)

1. The initial, more intense, stage doesn’t have to last forever.

                  I started my weight loss journey in January 2021 and went all-in for the first five months. After that initial stage of counting calories, lifting weights, etc., I relaxed my efforts a little bit beginning in the summer months. During those first five disciplined months, I’d developed a good sense of portion sizes, calorie amounts, and protein percentage, and I was able to go about daily life with a general sense of the choices I needed to make. If I ever had a question, I’d break out the food scale or Google the calories of a common food, but I generally put away the food scale last July and never looked back.

                  I was glad I’d been so strict for that first stage, because it wound up being a nice crash course that equipped me going forward. Starting out with that discipline actually allowed me more freedom later in the process.

                  2. Building muscle is the gift that keeps on giving.

                  I can’t emphasize this enough: Building muscle—not just the smaller muscles in your arms, but the larger muscles in your legs and butt—will turbo charge your weight loss like nothing else and set you up for more success.

                  ree drummond ladd drummond hike vail mountain
                  Hiking with Ladd in Colorado, August 2021

                  Ree Drummond

                  The months I spent doing squats, lunges, and dead lifts early in my weight loss process really laid the foundation for a summer and fall of more efficient calorie burning. I’m not a physician or trainer, but I can tell you that as I watched the number on the scale continue to decrease through the summer and fall, I knew without question that it was largely due to the muscle I’d built. It’s like an engine that’s always working behind the scenes! The great part about it is that you can have a day or two or three when you fall off track with eating or exercise, but if you have that strong foundation of muscle, you can climb right back on the bike and not feel (or see) the consequences as much.

                  3. My body is now accustomed to eating smaller portions.

                  One of the primary things I learned in the initial months of my weight loss was just how off the rails I’d been for years when it came to portion size! During the five-month period I weighed my food and counted calories, I really broke the spell of eating too much volume and during this process, I trained my body to get used to smaller—well, I should say more normal—portions. The answer “smaller portions” is so lackluster and boring when someone is asking me about losing weight, but it has absolutely held true for me. Today, as I point out below, I’m eating all the foods I love, but my body is satisfied with much less of it.

                  4. Alcohol, in moderation, is fine.

                  I knew I had to eliminate alcohol entirely during the initial/intense stage of my weight loss, but beginning in the summertime, I started having a social drink or two here and there. I avoided (and still avoid) anything that’s sugary or otherwise really caloric. Off limits are…

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