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3 years of MFP, 130 pounds lost! What I've learned...

June 16, 2011.  

That's the day I started logging my food on MFP.  In hindsight, this was a momentous day though I didn't realize it at the time.  I didn't expect this little game to go anywhere.  I expected to lose interest but not actually lose much, if any, weight.  None of my half-hearted efforts had worked before, why should this one?  

 But this time was different, because MFP was different.  Instead of vague ideas about "eating better,"  I had a way to quantify it.  Instead of following a weird program that told me what to eat and when, I just had a calorie goal to stick to and I could fill it with anything.  I had a ticker that would display my weight loss to date so I could see the results of my effort. 

But first, I had to weigh myself to see where I started.  308.5.  That was enough to make me want to quit before I even got started.  I didn't even know what my goal weight should have been, but I knew I had more than a hundred pounds to lose.  I couldn't face that; I was embarassed to even have that amount of weight listed on my profile.  So I told MFP I wanted to weigh 275.  I thought I could probably do that.  

So I got to business.  It wasn't long before I hit 275, and I kept on going.  

On June 16, 2012 - one year later - I weighed 188.5.  I lost exactly 120 pounds in one year.  

On September 23, 2012, 18 months after starting, I hit my goal weight of 175. [My success story post from the forums is here]

Today, exactly three years from day one, I weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 173-178,  the range I refer to as my maintenance weight.  Sometimes I'm a little above, sometimes (rarely! ha) a little below, but this is where I hang out most of the time; a happy, healthy weight.  

On this three-year anniversary, I want to share a couple things I've learned that helped me. [my 1000 day post is here.]

1. If you have a lot of weight to lose, don't set out to lose a lot of weight.  
Instead, aim to lose 20 pounds.  Even if that's all you lose, you will still be 20 pounds lighter and that will make a big difference.  I didn't set out to lose 130 pounds, I set out to weigh 275.  Then I changed my goal to 250.  Then it was 225.  Then it was 208.5. Then 199, then 185 - well, you get the picture.  Set a series of small, obtainable goals; it's not so hardto eat an elephant if you go one bite at a time.

2. Exercise.  
I know people say you don't need exercise to lose weight, and they're right.  So don't exercise to lose weight.  Instead, exercise to change your relationship with your body and with food.  If the only reason you are exercising is to eat more, I think you're doing it wrong.  I exercise because I enjoy it, first and foremost.  I've learned to love it and I simply feel better when I do it.  Running is a mediation; weight lifting is a challenge.  Exercise has shown me that I'm an athlete, that I can be graceful, that I am strong and capable.  It gives me a place to vent stress.  It gives me time in my head in peace. It means that no matter what else is going on in my life, this hour is for me - purely for me.  Find what you love and do it, whether it's walking or lifting or swimming.  Move your body, and I guarantee that your relationship with it - and the food you eat to fuel it - will change.  [See also - Why I Run.]

3. Love Yourself Now.
When I hit goal weight, I'll be happier.  I'll love my body.  Life will be perfect.

Sorry, that's not gonna happen.  Nothing magic happen when you reach an arbitrary goal on the scale. 

You have to get right with yourself now.  If you don't love yourself - including your body, even if it's fat, even if you aren't happy in it now - it isn't going to *snap!* be better you reach your goal.  

I've tried to lose weight out of disgust and it didn't work. It didn't last. It didn't click.  This time,  my decision to lose weight was not motivated out of self-hatred, it was because I was uncomfortable in my own skin and felt that my body was holding me back from the adventures I wanted to have.  I felt like I deserved more.    

So work - now - to make peace with who you are.  If you're not happy with things, change them, but motivate it from love for yourself and a desire to live a happier life, not to obliterate who you are. You're beautiful now.  It's okay to strive for more; that is downright required to make change in my opinion.  But know that you're good enough already.  [Related post - Donating Clothes, Sorting Emotions.] 

4. Don't Get Lost in the Details.
Those MFP forums can sure get....intense, huh? Low carb, high protein, weigh everything you eat, eschew artificial sweeteners, only lift weights, do this, don't do that.

I'll let you in on a secret:  most of that doesn't matter all that much.

The most important thing you can do is start.  Then don't stop.  Starting for you might mean simply logging your food regardless of a calorie goal, or sticking to a calorie goal, or trying to get in 10,000 steps a day.  Making a series of small changes, and then sticking with them, makes all the difference.

Here's a little story.  Way back in the summer of 2011, I had a couple MFP friends who were having amazing success, but they'd do things like eat 1200 and burn 1500 from a ton of exercise.  Or they'd insist that a fruit salad was what they wanted for dessert instead of a slice of cake on their birthday.  They'd stick to super rigid calorie restrictions, and eat the same thing every day.  

That didn't sound fun, but despite that, I was aching with jealousy.  They were losing more than I was.  I thought about changing how I was doing things, exercising more, eating less.  But then I remembered Dr. Yoni Freedhoff's advice - "live the healthiest life you can ENJOY." I stuck with my plan - tracking calories, exercising, and not much else in the way of details.

Well, three years later, guess how many of those MFPers I'm referring to hit their goal weight at all, let alone are still maintaining it like I am?  Spoiler alert:  None. 

My point is - perseverance is what will make you successful.  You can play with macroratios and  meal timing and fasted cardio.  That might affect how quickly you lose, or how easy it is to stick to your plan.

But the most important thing is simply to start.

5.  Don't Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good.
There is a lot of chatter on the forums about how you need a food scale and MUST weigh everything that goes in your mouth, and to never use generic database entries, and that you absolutely have to have a heart rate monitor to record exercise and if you're not doing things perfectly, you might as well not be doing them.

Wrong.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  

I do use a food scale most of the time.  I log really accurately whenever I can.  But sometimes I eyeball portions.  I do not bring a food scale to restaurants or friend's house.  I simply log the best I can.

And that's okay.  If you're at a place where you're not losing as much as you'd like, that's the time to buckle down and work on more accurate logging.  But you don't have to log 100% precisely to lose weight.  

Similarly, you don't have to stick to your calorie goal EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  Fit, thin, healthy people indulge on a holiday...then they go back to normal eating.  Fit, thin, healthy people do not feel guilty for having a slice of homemade cake on their birthday, or going to a special restaurant to celebrate a special occasion.  

I bring this up because it was such a sticking point for me and kept me from starting.  I don't want to be perfect! I want to go on vacation and eat what I want! I want to eat at amazing restaurants sometimes! I don't want to log every morsel I eat forever and ever!

I let the idea that I must be perfect stop me from simply being....better.

Another trap we fall into is striving so hard for perfection that we let little slip-ups derail us.  If you make a choice you wish you hadn't for breakfast, go off the plan for lunch, do you have a tendency to just throw in the towel and think "I'll do better tomorrow/Monday/next week?"  I know I do.  But if I remind myself that a few less than stellar choices cannot undo an entire week of great ones, it's much easier to stick with my plan going forward.  I don't let a bad day turn into a bad week.   [Related post - Eat badly yesteday? Miss a Workout? Get over it.]

You don't have to be perfect, okay?  If you stick to your amazing plan 50 weeks a year, two weeks of eating a little too much is not going to make a difference.  I'm living proof of this as I maintain.  I feel like I've uncovered a big secret:  Be awesome most of the time, and it's okay to have fun the rest of the time :) 

6.  Make MFP friends.

The social aspects of MFP have been a lifesaver.  Some of my friends have been with me since month 1.  I am consistently uplifted by their support and love.  We share recipes, tips, cheer each other on.  I feel like I have another family.  Without this support net, things would have been harder...and less fun.  Use the resources here, including the amazing community - people who will watch your back and make you laugh.  Thanks, friends - I love you all.

That's it for now.  My life has improved by leaps and bounds since I signed up for MFP three years ago.  I'm more driven, confident, and adventurous.  Sure, I wear a smaller size, but the scale does not reflect the most important changes in me.  

Thanks for reading :) 

I suppose I should add a picture since that is usually what people want to see!

 photo ddbe5b6c-69dc-4d80-b3ba-632cfcf5ebf1_zps4ffb186f.jpg

 (old after picture from last year, but the beauty of maintaining is that I still look the same.  Just with longer hair). 

179 votes + -


sche1amy wrote 45 months ago:
Congrat's on your weightloss and keeping it off. Such an amazing story and success!
HappyBlues wrote 45 months ago:
Loooooove it! :)
dempseymom4 wrote 45 months ago:
You are an inspiration especially because you accomplished it all with hard work and dedication the old fashion way :)
kluvit wrote 45 months ago:
Great accomplishment! Thanks for sharing your insight and continuing to inspire others!

So true about the exercise. It is not a requirement to lose the weight, but most likely, it's necessary to get the results you're really looking for.
FitFLNana wrote 45 months ago:
I so agree - I could never be so rigid as to not be able to enjoy special occasions and splurges. From the start, I've said I wouldn't do anything I wouldn't be able to live with for the rest of my life! Thanks for being so open through this journey - you are such an inspiration!
blueimp wrote 45 months ago:
You are an inspiration to so many. Congratulations, Shannon!
tjames30 wrote 45 months ago:
Well said!
CarolBachelder wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you Shannon for sharing your story. I never read any of these blogs but today I clicked on yours. I believe everything happens for a reason and I definitely needed to hear your story today. You are a great inspiration. I have been struggling but feel more motivated than ever to focus on a healthy lifestyle (its a little easier knowing I don't have to be perfect). Thanks again.
AggieCass09 wrote 45 months ago:
excellent work and a great summary of what you've been working so hard on these past few years! You should be very proud
MsSerious wrote 45 months ago:
this is the best blog post ive read. after months i am learning the same stuff, congrats
tagfit wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you for sharing your story. You and I share a similar view on losing weight / being fit / eating healthy: you need to enjoy what you are doing or it won't stick. My problem is I keep expecting to see the results I would have expected at 25 - not happening now that I'm in my forties. So I give up and get down on myself. I've been a sporadic user of MFP, and have never connected with any Friends - I will try that this time. Your post is very inspiring - thank you and congratulations!
ShannonMpls wrote 45 months ago:
tagfit: Very good point. I'm bad to speak to this because I was very lucky with my weight loss; it was steady and relatively easy.

But I wonder if it might help you to change your goal. Instead of to lose weight, perhaps your goal might be simply to live a healthier life. To track food 6 days a week, to walk 10,000 steps a day, to join a gym, etc. Weight loss should be a natural result of those efforts, but you can feel accomplished even without it.

I know, easy for me to say - but just an idea :)
DeenerN wrote 45 months ago:
Reading this is just what I needed, been floundering lately....Thanks for sharing.
jemimasmum wrote 45 months ago:
I don't have to be perfect! It's the message I keep forgetting and then hit a trasheating/ no exercise phase because I went off track for 6 hours.
Thank you for an honest an straightforward posting.
Huge congratulations on your weightloss and also finding the new healthier you.
Illini_Jim wrote 45 months ago:
Nicely written. Congrats to you!!
sissitje wrote 45 months ago:
That was the best post I have ever read on MFP so far!
That is exactly how people should think during their weight loss journey.
You are so inspiring! And you look stunning!
A big thanks for sharing this amazing experience!
beige2012 wrote 45 months ago:
Very useful and good advice. I will definitely keep this in mind. Congrats.
Fallingsakura wrote 45 months ago:
Very inspiring. Beautifully worded.
Skiergal2 wrote 45 months ago:
I sure like your inspirational message. I am getting back on MFP after being away for 9 months. Thanks
wcwyatt68 wrote 45 months ago:
VERY WELL SAID! I am a dietitian and work with 10-20 people trying to loose weight every week. I try to put everything you just said into words for them during each class. I am saving your story to share with my group tomorrow. Thanks so much and best to you!!
pam6870 wrote 45 months ago:
You have done an exceptional job!! Your story sounds so much like where I have started time and time again, but I want to finish!! You are an inspiration!
kitza101 wrote 45 months ago:
Shannon, awesome blog. My initial reaction to eating too much or eating something that has exceeded what I expected is to say "fuck it, I'm just going to eat everything and start again tomorrow!" - and then after that initial emotional response, I try to reason with myself and remember that most people who are fit and healthy don't have this "all or nothing" approach. It's a waste of my energy, when my focus should just be on doing the best I can most of the time, and being a little more flexible with myself the rest of the time.
bluefox9er wrote 45 months ago:
wow. what an incredible are a true inspiration and a perfect of example of wanting something and wanting it BAD…
kraft_kris wrote 45 months ago:
Fabulous post! I think I will refer to it often. :)
treveneann wrote 45 months ago:
Standing applause!!! You have GREATLY inspired me. Thank you
AngiKell wrote 45 months ago:
Appreciate your honesty! Very motivating.
Froody2 wrote 45 months ago:
Bookmarked. Thank you, and long may you prosper :)
Listeninguponyou wrote 45 months ago:
Thanks for posting! I loved the read and I'm going to use this to guide me while I lose those 70lb finally! :)
Charlie040 wrote 45 months ago:
This is just what I needed to stay encouraged. I'm still in the process of trying to get past doing everything perfectly, and even though it NEVER WORKS, I give myself such a hard time trying to make perfect happen. I thank you for this post. Very inspirational and you look fabulous!!
SheFitWalks wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you so much for sharing what you've learned along the way! It really helps! I'm so encouraged. Wonder how I can tag this post so I can read it again and again? Thank you! (I just realized I can copy the link and post it on my blog for later! Yay!)
Mariachicat wrote 45 months ago:
Awesome post! Thank you for taking the time to share your success and motivation.
saltysailors wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you for sharing. I needed to hear I don't have to be perfect. I start, then mess up and it takes me weeks to get back on track. I am learning to let myself enjoy occasional indulgences without feeling guilty and without getting derailed. I am also learning how to pre-plan for those indulgences, like my grandson's first birthday coming up this weekend ;)
Krizzle4Rizzle wrote 45 months ago:
3. Love Yourself Now. This is probably the best advice ever.
mrron2u wrote 45 months ago:
WOW!!! you summed up so much of what I've been thinking lately, but couldn't put in to words. I've been losing and gaining weight for a long time, but this time everything just feels right! And I think it is because without knowing it I was applying most of what you outlined above. Thank you so much for sharing and congrats on the achievement of your goals. I am actually enjoying my journey this time and know that I will make it. Posts like yours and MFP friends and forums are really giving me more fuel for this race.
karla_eberhardt wrote 45 months ago:
You rock! Your post really just brought a tear to my eye. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Your words are so inspirational. Just what I needed to hear....Thank you.
Cruz2Fit wrote 45 months ago:
Great reminders! Your sense if peace comes through loud and clear. Thank you for sharing it with me.
BarbWeitz wrote 45 months ago:
After eating half a bag of caramel popcorn, I logged into this site for the first time. Then I read your article. It's common-sense approach really spoke to me as I hold many of the same thoughts on eating better. Since I had already "blown the day", I decided to not let that stop me from logging and seeing the damage. Well, the caramel popcorn was nowhere near as bad as the hot dog for lunch, so I'll be eating a very sensible dinner. And...I will be calling this the first day of a new and better eating regime (one of many over the past years, I might as well admit). Hopefully, this time, I will lose and maintain! Maintaining is always my Achilles heel. However, I'm sensing something different about this site, so I'm feeling hopeful. Thank you for your encouraging words.
lhoust2 wrote 45 months ago:
It was meant for me to stumble upon your article. So inspiring and so true. I'm learning to evolve in my thoughts more and more and it's humbling to know that my evolution in thoughts is a common cycle. Thank you for all of your honesty.
AggieFan2011 wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you for writing this. It's so nice to hear things like this from someone who has reached their goal and is keeping the weight off. It helps to validates the way I view this journey as well. I may not be losing the weight as quickly as some other people might be, but I am enjoying my life still while doing it and that is an important aspect of being able to keep the weight off later on. Congrats on everything you have accomplished and keep up the great work! :)
Anonymous wrote 45 months ago:
itsup2jojo wrote 45 months ago:
Congratulations. I find myself at a loss for words beyond that. I look forward to sharing my own success with you and the MFP family.
yvonneangelgoh wrote 45 months ago:
I hope that i can be writing this as well in 3 year's time.

Great job done, please keep it up and keep blogging.
cc120354 wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you and such an inspirational journey. So down to earth in it all, "We can't be perfect". And it's okay, one day at a time, one goal at a time.

And it is all about loving ourselves...
Thank you!
kathibatson wrote 45 months ago:
6-19-14 I am just beginning this journey. I picked up a copy of ALLyou and in one of the weight loss stories I got the address for MFP. I really am hoping that I can do this thing and loose the weight I need to, with all of your help. I am not a youngster, so it is a little more of a challenge. But I know it can still be done and I am going to do my very best This was an awesome story and I am thrilled about your success! You are very down to earth, and easy to understand. Thank you for posting!
robmog29 wrote 45 months ago:
Great Story and advice. Congrats to you!!!
rebeksramirez wrote 45 months ago:
I think you've convinced me to get more involved in the online community. :)
Kbush1956 wrote 45 months ago:
You look amazing and so very happy.
shapirokris wrote 45 months ago:
What an inspirational story... Thanks for sharing and for bringing such wisdom and common sense to the journey :)
FinallyFindingLisa wrote 45 months ago:
Spot on in so many ways! Thanks for the words of wisdom, helping me to remember the things that I shouldn't forget
everet54 wrote 45 months ago:
Great Advice! Thank you for sharing your story.
Inechan wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you ! That was what I needed to read today. I am doing so well but don`t loose weight . It is nice to read in the long run I can do it . <3
Ivey05131980 wrote 45 months ago:
In awe.
mvfoster wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you for sharing the story of your journey. I found it very inspirational and so in tune with my own thoughts and beliefs about the road I am on the get to a healthy weight.
avril2626 wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you for your reflections on your weight loss journey. I can relate to everything you touched on. Very insightful. ...and congratulations.
Rubyew wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you, thank you, thank you. And a HUGE well done to you.
Aprilprater wrote 45 months ago:
Thank you for sharing your path and journey. I can relate to everything you said and it motivates me at a plateau I hit and still struggle to get past. My weight loss is very slow but it is still progressing. Thanks again and congrats.
leighlyn2012 wrote 45 months ago:
You look fabulous! Thank you for sharing your story and tips. This will help me on my journey to losing weight.
leighlyn2012 wrote 45 months ago:
You look fabulous! Thank you for sharing your story and tips. This will help me on my journey to losing weight.
mncodergal wrote 44 months ago:
You look great!! Thank you so much for posting these tips.
qtgonewild wrote 44 months ago:
amazing and so true
Seabee74 wrote 44 months ago:
Amazing Results and Pics, you look great !! Also a Great post ! Thanks for all that Great Info that you posted above ! I hope all is still going well for you :-)..
beyoutifu1 wrote 44 months ago:
Shannon...You are so encouraging. I have enjoyed your stories each time that I started and quit(probably 3 times). As I get older, I am trying to learn to do it the right way. I need the patience. I am one of those who tend to throw in the towel after a slip-up. I have started again....trying every class at the gym to find the ones that work for me....I am trying to be more open to finding things that I enjoy this time....I am trying low carb (not logging much yet) because I want to avoid diabetes (doctor advised me to watch the carbs)....I have struggled with my weight my entire adult life...I want that increased self confidence, I want to stop watching from the sidelines, I want to be able to shop at any store instead of looking for a certain section....anyway...Thanks for these GREAT points!!!!
merisaOct3 wrote 42 months ago:
This is such an amazing post. Thank you for validating my imperfect but enjoyable journey to a healthier me. Your recent post on the forums was fantastic. I forwarded it to my almost-husband and my mom, who are supportive and working on being healthier themselves.
cumberledge1984 wrote 40 months ago:
When you completed losing your weight was it hard to maintain and does the app tell you how to maintain
alltheweigh170 wrote 37 months ago:
Beautifully written and so true!

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