Hola it’s me, the non-nutritionist, un-doctor, fake-fitness instructor, here to tell you about how I lost weight because a few people asked after I posted this side-by-side comparison snap on Instagram last weekend:
But first, here’s some history:
I started to get “fat” in 4th grade. I don’t remember off-hand if my diet was trash but I know that I wasn’t super active back then. I didn’t play sports and spent most of my time reading books, building frog hotels, trying to make eye shadow by slamming rocks into the driveway and collecting the gritty dust. (#safe.)
I’m fairly certain that genetics played a big role too. And my grandma taught me at a young age how to be incredibly vain and self-conscious, such gifts.
When I was in 6th grade, I went on Slim Fast (this is a whole other rainy day story!). Wow, such healthy choices. I remember getting bags of Slim Fast popcorn in my Easter basket that year and being excited about it, not knowing that this was basically the beginning of a lifelong weight obsession.
But that same year, I also discovered a TV channel that played exercise workouts and I became addicted to Bodies in Motion and Denise Austin. I managed to lose a bunch of weight and maintained that pretty well through middle school and high school. I also started playing tennis in 7th grade and I was OBSESSED with that and began weight training. So I was never what you would consider “skinny” because of that but what the kids these days call THICC I guess. (Chooch would cancel himself if he knew I wrote that!)
I was at my thinnest right after high school, probably because I had just moved out and rarely had food in my apartment. I was 120 then and thought I was fat, so if I could go back in time and punch any version of myself, it would be 1998 Erin!
Me thinking I was huge but not yet knowing about body dysmorphia.
But my 20s were rife with depression, drinking, and you know, having a BABY. I think I was around 230 at my heaviest during pregnancy and then pretty much hovered at 200 but I didn’t have a scale so this is a guess and probably more accurate than when I would whine to Henry about being 87000 pounds, until something woke me up two years after giving birth and I started doing Jillian Michaels workouts and dieting. I lost weight pretty fast – I’ll never forget one of my coworkers at the job I had at the time telling me that it was really noticeable and I was like FUCK YEAH I CAN DO ANYTHING. But here’s what happened, and what ALWAYS happened after I started losing weight – I started to feel invincible. And not as in “wow I am so strong now I can do anything!” But more so “ok I lost some weight and now I can stop exercising as much and eating oatmeal for lunch every day and excuse me while I face-plant into this chocolate cake because I’ll never gain the weight back.”
LOL. Oh 20-something Erin. So foolish.
I yo-yo’d into my 30s. Lost some weight rollerskating, gained it back from office-snacking. Rinse, repeat.
Another thing you should know is that I have never been a slovenly person. You’d never catch me just lounging around all weekend on the couch, watching TV. Even at my heaviest, I was pretty active but not regularly enough. And my activity wasn’t combined with that shitty d-word we all hate – diet.
So in 2013 I started Weight Watchers and I lost 20 pounds fast! But then I plateaued. And here’s why – WW is not the greatest for vegetarians, especially vegetarians who literally cannot fend for themselves. I was so hungry all the time and had NO ENERGY to exercise. Plus, I was eating a ton of Lean Cuisines and other frozen meals because the thought of tracking points freaked me out and those were the easiest to track, but hello unhealthy.
Also, fruits and vegetables are “unlimited” so I was gorging on fruit and I remember my friend Amber pointing out that I needed to be careful because fruit also has a lot of sugar and I was like BUT WEIGHT WATCHERS SAID and then I wondered why I was a bloated fruit-basket-bellied whale.
But I do credit WW with helping me lose the first chunk of, well, chunk.
And I will say that WW changed the way I was eating for the most part so I was pretty good about not gaining back the weight I had lost, but I wasn’t making any progress otherwise. I didn’t have a routine to follow so I was basically just going through life weighing myself occasionally and hoping for the best. I was only exercising when I would think to, so maybe like 2 or 3 times a week, and let’s be real here, that’s not enough.
Everything finally clicked for me at the end of 2016 and it was by sheer accident. It was a super bad year for me. Obviously, The Election. But also a pretty substantial family tragedy occurred and that was dragged out for nearly the whole year, so even though I initially lost some weight through that, it turns out you eventually gain back the weight you lost by violently stress-puking.
I had finally got to the point in my life where I was 100% ready to commit. Really, you can’t go into something as major as weight loss without being all in. I realized what the problem was all those other times: I was bored. I was hungry. I was frustrated. I got distracted. I wasn’t ready to make changes and dedicate myself to a program.
Here is how I did it: THE KOREAN SYSTEM a/k/a K-Diet.
If you’re laughing, that’s fine. All of my friends and co-workers laughed at me in the beginning too and now they’re like TELL ME HOW YOU LOST THE WEIGHT and I’m like I DID AND YOU LAUGHED, REMEMBER.
(Just a side note to remind you that I was also laughed at when I said I was going to be a vegetarian and THAT WAS IN 1996, so…clearly your laughter is what fuels my dedication.)
So, at the end of 2016, I decided I need more happiness in my life and I remembered that a year ago, I had discovered kpop aerobics on YouTube, so I thought, well, I’m hovering at 170 pounds here. I need to start exercising again and that music makes me happy, so why not.
Not only was I working out nearly every day, but my mindset had shifted from Doom & Gloom to I Can’t Wait to Go Home and Workout! And I was having so much that it didn’t even feel like exercise!
So, find the right workout for you. Look, it doesn’t have to be some fucking insane meathead program like CrossFit or whatever the fuck. Start by taking daily walks, like I said earlier, and go from there. If you like dancing but don’t want to take classes (that’s my phobia!), check out YouTube because Zumba workouts are a dime a dozen on there.
There’s Bollywood workouts, even! Caribbean dance workouts! They probably have Alpine ones too, who knows!
So the trick is basically, well, tricking yourself into forgetting that you’re exercising.
However, I do also like legit workouts, especially strength-training, so I also do Jillian Michaels (Chooch and I are currently doing her Body Revolution program). The trick is to have a variety so it’s not a draaaaag.
If anyone is interested, the links to the Kpop dance fitness YouTube channels I frequent the most are below. THEY ARE SO MUCH FUN!
But wait, there’s more: you know how “experts” always say that there’s no secret to weight loss, it’s literally just diet and exercise? Well, I wish I could say that they’re wrong and that mystery wrist-salve I bought off an infomercial in 1999 was the real key to weight loss, but they’re right. At least from my personal experience. Fuck the pills. Fuck the gimmicks. Maybe even fuck the gym membership – because if you’re interested in starting the process without getting burnt out, just start WALKING like I said before. I can’t stress enough how amazing the simple act of walking-for-exercise can be. And while you’re walking, start thinking about how you can change your diet.
Wow, what a segue!
When I was a kid, I thought diets were mainly Melba toast and cottage cheese and then when I was 20, I thought diets were starving yourself and then eating an entire pizza in a closet at 2am on a Tuesday. Then when I was 30, I thought diets were eating bland cabbage soup every day for a month. But like, apparently…you can still EAT while on a diet as long as you pay attention to the choices you make and then maybe also do that portion control thing that Oprah probably cried about in the 90s on her show that I didn’t watch.
Since I had become so entrenched in Kpop, it was a natural progression into other parts of Korean culture and one of those parts was the cuisine. I had started watching all kinds of YouTube videos and decided that South Korea was the place for me, and in order to feel closer to it, I asked Henry to start making me Korean food for dinner.
Of course, he was like, “Whatever” because this certainly wasn’t the weirdest thing I ever asked of him, and to be fair, Henry really enjoys cooking. My modified Korean meals are either rice or noodle-based and loaded with vegetables. Sometimes they’re broth-y, sometimes that have a wonderful dollop of gochujang. They’re almost always topped with either a poached or fried egg. I also eat kimchi nearly every day. My meals are nearly 100% unprocessed and around the 300-calorie range, and I am fucking FULL afterward.
Perhaps Henry could guest-blog sometime with some recipes, haha.
Choosing an ethnic cuisine to base a diet on is also really fun because it keeps it new and exciting! We do the bulk of our grocery shopping at various international markets, mostly Asian ones, and it’s exciting whenever I see a new-to-me fruit or vegetable! Choose a diet that allows you to be adventurous! Rice and veggies only sounds boring but the rice and veggies I eat for dinner is super exotic and filling.
Currently, my breakfast is either a little bit of rice with kimchi, a poached egg, and laver (dried sheets of seaweed) or a bowl of Cinnamon Life with almond milk. I’m not a big breakfast person but you know what “they” say – don’t skip your breakfast!
My work-lunches are really sad and that has nothing to do with dieting. For years I have been having either oatmeal or Cream of Wheat, usually with an added banana. The reason for this bland meal is because I honestly cannot stand eating a heavier lunch and then having to sit at my desk for the rest of the day. If I’m not at work, my lunches are similar to my dinners. But at work, I eat lightly and bookend it with a morning and afternoon snack – either a hardboiled egg (good thing I’m not a vegan because I eat a ton of eggs) or fruit. Depending on what our snack options are at work, I might grab something like a Special K pastry thin or a Fig Bar.
And sweet potatoes. I eat sweet potatoes like candy. OMG roasted sweet potatoes are like Nature’s Motherfucking Candy Bar, for real. There’s a reason why this is a popular Korean street food, you guys.
I also eat chocolate if I want to, and I’ll have a cookie if I want to. But I think about it first. Because the third part of my made up weight loss regimen is….
Since I started this two years ago, I’ve lost 20 pounds. Remember when I said I lose weight slowly? Yeah. Genetics. But then I plateaued this summer because we were traveling a lot and my eating was getting out of whack. Like, I was having bagels for breakfast every morning and snacking on Cheez-its at work. I knew that I still wanted to lose about 10 more pounds, so around October, I signed up for a free trial of Noom. I thought it was just a food-tracking system, and it mostly is, but it also teaches you a lot about the psychology behind weight loss and weight gain. I know, that sounds terrible. But Noom does it in a way where it’s interesting and conversational, and it only takes about 5 minutes a day to plow through.
What I like about it is that they break up food into three color-coded categories and tell you how much you can have, based on your weight loss goal. So things like chocolate and whatever are obviously considered “red” but I know that I can have so many calories of them a day, so I don’t feel like it’s off-limits or that I’m being deprived. And even foods like almonds are considered “red” — they’re good for you but only in limited quantities which is something I always liked to purposely ignore because I love almonds and want to eat them all.
For me personally, it’s the perfect tracking system.
Since starting Noom, I’ve lost 10 more pounds and I’m happy where I am! It has helped me regain that willpower which I had lost. So now when I’m at my desk at work, thinking about snagging some chocolate, I will have a conversation in my head to see if I REALLY want it or if it’s a fleeting craving. Usually, it’s fleeting and I’ll just chug some water and refocus on whatever annoying work thing is in front of me, or I’ll get up and do a lap around the department. But if I’m still writing sonnets to See’s chocolates in my head, then I’ll go and have a piece and move on with my life.
Man, typing this out makes it seem so simple and implied, but these are all things that I honestly had to be taught.
I’m pretty sure there are free tracking apps out there too and you could always go analog and use a paper journal to log your food! But the reason why I opted for Noom was because I knew that if I was paying for it, I would use it. That’s just how I am.
Drink it. Drink lots of it. Even when you feel like you can’t possibly gag back anymore, chug away motherfuckers! I didn’t realize how dehydrated I was until I started actually keeping tab on my water intake. I started feeling better almost immediately and my skin is great!
To wrap this up, the last thing I want to say is DON’T LET YOUR WEIGHT CONSUME YOU.
I’m not going to lie, this is something that I’m still working on. I still get obsessed with the number on the scale and I am working so hard to stop being afraid of food when it’s out of my control, for example: a work lunch that interrupts my routine and forces me to eat something that I can’t easily track. I know better than to get mired down by these things but sometimes I succumb. But, when my work group had our Christmas lunch, I ordered a big fat gourmet grilled cheese and enjoyed it without panic. I just didn’t eat for three days afterward.
I’M KIDDING! DON’T DO THAT!
So, more than “losing weight,” my goal for 2019 is to calm the eff down and stop being so hyperactive about progress, plateaus, and (p)routines. I feel like I’m really close to finding a balance now that I know better what works for me and what my no-no foods are.
You know that annoying thing fitness gurus say about how this is a lifestyle change or whatever the fuck? I’M SORRY but they’re right ugh. I learned that I am always going to have to be mindful of what I eat and keep fitness a part of my daily life otherwise all my hard work is gonna be flushed down the commode. No more invincibility.
My whole point, from what I personally have learned, is that weight loss is going to be different for everyone. What works for you might not work for me, and while cardio-dancing to BIGBANG and Sistar and eating rice and noodles works for me, it…you know, might not work for you, lol. I finally learned that I had to tailor a program to suit my own personality, interests, and lifestyle, and I had to reason with myself that my goal weight might not actually be the weight my body wants to be – I do have a lot of muscle, after all!
And this reasoning is what worked for me.
So, I’m sorry that I didn’t have an easy answer! Trust me, I wish it was as easy as taking a pill everyday (my friend Brian and I were devastated with fen-phen was banned, lol), drinking apple cider vinegar and maple syrup, or rubbing mysterious salve on my wrists. But I had to actually work for it even though most days, it feels less like work and just like, I don’t know, living.
(Just want to reiterate that everyone is different, I am not a doctor or any sort of licensed expert although I do have a bartending license thing so don’t do something dumb and then try to sue me. This is just the system I’ve found that works well for myself, but hopefully it gave you some insight!)