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10 Lessons in How to Succeed in Weight Loss

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan

There’s a saying that I’m rather fond of: “If you want to get good at something, surround yourself with people who have succeeded where you want to succeed.” When it comes to weight loss, motivation is often in short supply. Good quality weight loss advice is also hard to come by as there are about 5 million different theories out there about how to best achieve the best result.

It can be a confusing landscape to navigate. But back to our saying: “surround yourself with people who have succeeded.” What did they do? How did they do it? What was their motivation? There is no more valuable form of advice, in my opinion. That’s not to say that what they did will work for you perfectly. Everyone is different. People have different bodies, different life circumstances, and different goals. But someone who has succeeded in losing weight does have a recipe that has been tested and shown to work. That is valuable.

I have a friend whom I’ve literally watched melt fat like it was candle wax. Her name is Brooke, and she’s lost 50 pounds over the last year. You could say she was not only bitten by the fitness bug, but that it burrowed under her skin and nested comfortably in her brain, as she’s now one of those people who gets up at 4:30am to jump on the Peloton bike. I wanted to find out from her what enabled her to stick to this process and succeed. So, we sat down, had a talk, and this is what I learned.

From the Beginning of Brooke’s Weight Loss Journey

Brooke is 27-year-old gal who always had trouble with her weight in the past. Between 2020 and 2021, she’s lost 50 pounds in total. Her journey began in June of 2019, but we’ll get into that in a moment. On average, she now works out about 5 hours per week, with most of that being spinning classes with a little strength and core exercise mixed in. She even teaches spin classes at her local gym.

When I asked about what got her started on weight loss, the first words out of her mouth were, “I was always the ‘fat kid’ in high school.” In raw detail, Brooke described how she had been made to feel inadequate, looked over, and even rejected by potential dates due to her weight. Though it didn’t spur her to action at the time, these experiences served as a foundation for her eventual decision.

Brooke then described how one day she woke up at age 25 and felt her knees hurting as she stood up out of bed. She explained how she was horrified by the idea of having knee problems in her mid-twenties and that this was her first motivation to begin exercising and going to the gym. As she put it, “I turned to my husband and said, ‘I’m going to start going to the gym, you can join me or not, but I need to do this.’”

The Kick in the Ass Moment

As I speak with more and more people who have made fitness a lifestyle, I find one recurring commonality. This is the “kick in the ass” moment. Usually, the motivation to start begins with something simple and the inspiration to really commit comes with something dramatic.

Brooke spent the first year of her fitness journey just putting in her time at the gym, hopping from machine to machine, and not really seeing any results. Still, she persisted and kept the habit going. It wasn’t until her husband suffered a diet-related medical issue that this kick in the ass moment finally, well, kicked her in the ass. What started as a simple, “I should get in shape” turned into, “I need to change my freaking life.”

This wakeup call turned Brooke into a fitness fanatic, as she began researching better ways to exercise. She wanted to learn how to get the most out of fitness and utilize it to turn both her and her husband’s lives around for the better. Not only that, but she began experimenting with different ways of eating and improving her diet. She got a Fitbit, actually wore it, and used this to track her progress. Her life was completely changed, and this is when the results began coming in.

Success in Weight Loss

With these dramatic changes in her lifestyle, Brooke soon began to see a dramatic change in how she looked and felt. She had more energy, more strength, more stamina, and people began to notice her change.

I watched Brooke literally change before my eyes throughout the year of 2020. The pandemic didn’t slow her down either. When the gyms were closed, she continued to work out at home. She even worked with us for a little bit during her experimenting process.

But that’s not all. Remember I mentioned Brooke’s husband who had a health issue that jump started this whole journey? Well, he dieted and exercised right along with her and he lost 85lbs overall. Yes. Seriously. This is a double success story. And the fact that they could go through this together no doubt contributed greatly to their success. So, the question becomes, what does this all tell us? What can we learn from this story?

Lessons from Brooke’s Weight Loss Journey

Brooke shared with me an incredible story about her being dissatisfied for a large portion of her life with how she was treating her body. Obviously, I wanted to highlight this because she is my friend and I’m extremely proud of what she’s accomplished. But most importantly, I wanted to find out what it was that worked for her so that you might find something that can help you succeed as well. Here’s are the ten most important factors that I think contributed to Brooke’s success in losing weight.

Diet, Diet, DIET

When I asked Brooke if she felt that diet or exercise contributed more to her success in weight loss, she paused for a moment and stared up at the ceiling as if she’d never really considered the question before. After a few seconds, she finally looked back at me and said, “Diet.” The exercise feels like the hard part, often. But as the saying goes, “You can’t out-work your mouth.” When it came down to it, Brooke had to admit that it wouldn’t have been possible for her to lose all of this weight if she hadn’t made some serious dietary changes.

Lowered Carb Intake

But what were those dietary changes? The biggest change, she said, was cutting down on sugars and carbs. Not “no carb”, mind you, but low carb. They usually pre-allocated their carbs in their meals to make sure that they didn’t overindulge. Mostly, this change helps keep calorie intake down since most of our calories are consumed in the form of carbs.

Balance in Food Intake

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “This lady probably became one of those salad-eating types who basically started starving herself to lose weight.” And now that I’ve put words in your mouth, I can smugly tell you that you’re wrong. Brooke was very adamant about making sure that even while cutting down on calories, she still got enough food. Her body needed fuel, she realized, it just needed higher quality fuel. She even used low calories snacks to help control cravings. In other words, she still ate what she wanted, but moderated it.

And dessert?… Yes! Dessert was still a part of Brooke’s life… once a week. She allowed herself a reward once per week and no more often. To hell with Aunt Mildred’s triple chocolate butter cream birthday cake. If she’s had her allowance that week then no cake for her.

Do Your Cardio!

Brooke’s primary form of exercise was cardiovascular exercise that varied in intensity, ie. spin class. This is often the type of exercise that I recommend for weight loss in general. Cardiovascular exercise generally has the greatest calorie burn potential and varying the intensity constantly challenges your system and keeps your metabolism working. This produces the greatest benefit for caloric burn and fat utilization.

Don’t JUST Do Cardio

Cardio may have been her go to, but Brooke wisely continued to do strength training as a supplemental. Why is this important? Well, your muscles still have to work throughout the day even after you’ve lost a bunch of weight, right? They still have to lift things and move your butt from place to place. Strong muscles also are less fuel efficient, which means more caloric burn overall. Plus less fat means you can see the muscle, right? Don’t you want to have something to show off?

Don’t Rely on the Scale

This portion of the conversation came up when I asked about her relationship with the scale. “Bad,” is the word that I remember first coming out of her mouth. At first, her relationship with the scale was unhealthy because she relied on it heavily. The thing is, and Brooke eventually realized this, the scale is a poor measure of fat loss because is measures your entire body weight as a lump sum. The mass composition of your body fluctuates constantly. Drink a pound of water, and you’ll gain a pound. Eat a pound of frosting and you’ll probably gain a trip to the hospital. It’s fat mass that we care about losing, not overall weight.

Eventually, Brooke started using how clothing fit as a better measure of her progress. This eventually became her go-to metric, and a healthier one at that.

Find a Vicki (A Coach)

For Brooke, continuing to be inspired came in the form of a class instructor from her gym whom she identified as “Vicki”. Vicki was the person that Brooke needed in the middle of her journey to keep her going. Anyone who has been down the road of fitness will tell you that in the middle of that road is a large hill populated by wolves, hyenas, and those people who call you incessantly about your car’s extended warranty. During this stage, Vicki helped motivate Brooke and served as a major driving force to keep her going.

Moreover, Brooke was open to receiving inspiration. If she had been closed minded or had the will to quit what she was doing, Vicki’s encouragement might have come off as annoying. Instead, she received it gracefully and used it to keep her motor running.

Hurry Up and Fail

Another piece of advice that Brooke shared was the importance of failure. This whole process was trial and error. As I said, she machine hopped at the gym for a year without seeing any results before things started happening. Usually, nothing kills motivation faster than looking back on a year of work with no pay off. But she stuck with it and kept trying new things. That doesn’t mean you should do the same thing, but expect that you will experience failure along the way. Then, you will learn. Then, you will grow. Eventually, you will find what works best for you.

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes”

That quote is what Brooke said when I asked her if she had any advice for those of you who would be reading this article. It was the saying that got her through this journey and it has blossomed into a philosophy that she now applies to much of her life.

You need to change major parts of your life if you want major parts of your life to change. This was Brooke’s “why”. It was something she got very clear about from the get-go. Dissatisfaction with how she’d been treating her body finally reached a boiling point when she considered the possibility of losing her husband to poor health decisions. From that moment on, “Why?” was no longer even a question in her mind.

Once You Find What Works, Stick To It

But more than anything, Brooke emphasized that this approach worked for her because she experimented and found this approach on her own and then STUCK TO IT. She didn’t take off-hand advice and just follow it blindly. It was a process of trial and error. Once the error was worked out, she stuck to what was left like gorilla glue sticks to hair. She wasn’t pulled away by the latest fat or the newest meth-based diet pill to get “better results”. She trusted her own process and invested in it and it paid huge dividends on her weight loss journey.

In Conclusion

I’ve been blessed my whole life to not have to worry about my weight. The downside of that for me as a fitness professional is that I cannot personally relate to the struggle of weight loss. I know it’s hard, but I’ve never experienced it firsthand.

That’s why I wanted to get the perspective of someone who has been through it and succeeded. In having the opportunity to recount Brooke’s experience, her tactics and advice were unsurprising, but nonetheless profound. Brooke went down the road of weight loss for herself and for her family. As a result of that, she’s been able to inspire countless others to take a good hard look at themselves and decide if they want to do the same thing. Whether your journey involves losing weight or improving your health in other ways, I hope that these experiences of someone who succeeded have helped you to keep taking steps in the right direction.

Take Aways

  1. Weight loss is a journey that takes time, effort, trial, and error.
  2. Find your “why” early. If you can’t, chances are that life will give it to you. When it does, be ready to act appropriately.
  3. Diet is the most important factor in weight loss. Exercise is helpful, but exercise alone will not help you lose weight.
  4. Choose your motivation wisely. If you’re married to the scale then get divorced and find a person or a philosophy that will help keep you motivated when times get tough.
  5. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

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