In the past, I've always struggled with 10-20 pounds throughout most of my teen and adult years. My mom is very short, very skinny, and very petite, and has never struggled with her weight. She had a lot of trouble understanding my struggle. She can eat 2x the amount I can eat and never gain weight, which is very frustrating! She saved me her wedding dress....a size 2...What leg was I supposed to put that on?
When you have more than just 20 or so pounds to reach, there are a few principles that I have found helpful in not being discouraged in this endeavor.
1. Think marathon not sprint
You have to take all of those ladies magazine dieting tips, and wash them your mind. Those "get fit by summer" type of articles simply do not work for the obese. Your metabolism is likely messed up for whatever reason, possibly even functioning poorly because of your obesity, and so these "lose the pounds by such and such a date" diets just are going to make you discouraged.
2. Think lifestyle not diet
To be sure, I hate the word diet because it brings to mind eating grapefruit and drinking apple cider vinegar while popping dexatrim for a week before prom to fit into your too-small dress.
Scratch the idea of "dieting" off of your mind.
If your whole thought is, "I can't wait to lose this weight so that i can start eating ____ again" then guess what is going to be back (with a vengeance) as soon as you go off your "diet"? This is even worse for you than not losing the weight in the first place.
Think lifestyle changes. Smaller portions. Healthier choices, reading the labels, enjoying an OCCASIONAL indulgence, moving your bod more often than you do now, not skipping breakfast or living for days on coffee alone. Small changes work better for long term weight loss.
3. Think eating balanced not overly restrictive
Don't obsess over specific kinds of diets (lo-carb, lo fat, low this, low that)
I suppose this goes with point two, but also dives into some of the long term diets that people advertise. I find it just as absurd for people to freak out over eating a slice of whole wheat bread or brown rice (eeek! carbs!) while putting bacon or hot dogs into their body on a regular basis, as I do those who are afraid of meat but eating fat free, sugar-and-sodium laden salad dressing on their salads.
We need to eat a balanced diet, as healthy as we can, eating a diet that can be sustained over the long term. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, eat whole grains, eat lean meats. Restrict (or better yet, eliminate) fast food, junk food, desserts, and sugary drinks.
4. Think regular meals instead of starvation
My personal opinion, based on my own experiences and on the experiences of friends I know well, is that most people who are just this side of obese (40-70 lbs overweight) usually have a habit of skipping meals and not eating regularly. Everything I have read (and experienced in my journey of weight loss) indicates that this is the worst thing we can do for our metabolism.
The assumption that in order to be obese, you have to be constantly stuffing your face with food, is not necessarily so.
I think a lot of people assume this, if they have never been overweight. As I said, I've always had a struggle within 20 pounds. I could take if off if I worked at it, cut out the ice cream, and that sort of thing. However, when I saw obese people, I thought, "what is wrong with them? Just diet!" or "How do you let yourself go that way?" Even in the church, many times people assume you are a glutton if you are overweight or obese. And yet, have you ever observed the skinny person feeding frenzy at most church functions? The skinny girls have WAY more on their plate than us fat girls. (One of the many unfairnesses in this fallen world.)
If you have to, set a timer to remind you to eat at regular intervals. Start your day with a strong breakfast, and eat a moderate amount at regular intervals. This tells your body that you are not in a famine, and there is no reason to store extra fat in case the crops fail again.
5. Think Moving More through the day instead of Exercise
If you are seriously overweight, then going to the gym is not going to fix you the way it helps a slightly overweight person who wants to get in shape.
Let me put it another way: if you are sucking wind when you climb the stairs (such that you avoid it as much as possible), you need to climb the stairs a few times a day, not join a gym. Save your money. You won't last a minute on the stairmaster if you can't climb your own stairs.
I think some of this is logical, but we don't always think rationally. The paradigm of "lose weight this year" usually includes the "join a gym" step.
When we are obese (again, based on experiences of mine and obese friends), we slowly stop doing things that are hard to do. The more overweight, the harder it is to climb the stairs, the more we avoid the stairs, the more we gain weight, and so it goes.
We need to think about more practical means of getting exercise into our day. Simple things like parking as far out at the grocery store as possible. At my grocery store, I can get in a quarter mile just walking to and from my car. In nice weather, hang out your laundry. Do it once a week. Run up and down your stairs a few times a day. Go outside and shoot some hoops with your son. Turn on some music and dance with your kids, even if it's the hokey pokey. The point is, just move.
Share your Struggle with Someone
The best part of things like Weight Watchers and Tops is the accountability factor. Weighing yourself in front of others keeps you motivated if nothing else. That's why, once a month, I am going to do a weigh in on the blog. I decided to give myself a month before I start that. :-)
This principle works on a smaller scale too. Find a friend who also wants to lose weight, or who has done it before. Someone who understands. Keep each other accountable.
Happy weight loss!