photo by Tracy Lee Karner

How I lost 44 pounds and kept it off–7 habits

photo by Tracy Lee Karner
Exercise is an essential component of life-long health.

People want to know how I shed nearly 25% of my body weight and kept it off. It took some thoughtful effort and almost 10 months. 
But, I didn’t go on a “diet.” Instead, I changed my habits, for good and forever. I decided to change my lifestyle, to spend the rest of my days making consciously healthy choices about food, priorities and activities, because plenty of research shows that diets don’t work; lifestyle changes are the only effective way to manage weight, long-term.
Note: I didn’t develop these habits overnight, or all at the same time. And please, let me reiterate that I’m not telling you, or anyone, what to do, what to eat, or how to manage fibromyalgia. I’m only reporting what works for me. This is about exactly what the title says–how I lost weight and kept it off.
These habits, however, have been consistently found in large numbers of people who seem to be “naturally” thin. So, maybe they’ll work for you, too.  (To see the report, click here.)
I’m listing the habits in the order that I worked on them. Once the first habit began to feel natural and became ingrained, I worked on the second habit, then the third….

  1. All my beverages are unsweetened–mostly water (I drink 6-8 glasses per day), the occasional green or iced tea, sometimes decaffeinated coffee, and rarely a small glass of wine with a special meal. I drink skim milk for calcium. I never use artificial sweeteners; I just don’t like what artificial implies when we’re talking about food. Would I like a glass of water? Yes.
  2. I made room in my schedule, every day, for exercise that I enjoy. I love to walk, dance, do modified Pilates and water aerobics (when I can find a warm pool).  On the days when I feel really lousy because my fibromyalgia is flaring, I exercise in five-minute segments, four or five times during the day. Or, if I can’t tolerate 5 minutes, 2 minutes every few hours. I know that doing a little bit is better than doing nothing at all. Do I have time to exercise? Yes.
  3. I rarely eat out–no more than once a week; usually only twice a month. By preparing our own food, from scratch, we know exactly what we’re eating. Cooking at home? Yes.
  4. I make sure I get 1/3 of my calories from protein. I counted calories and nutrients ( has a free program for that). Most days, I ate 1200 calories. Every sixth or seventh day, I made sure I got 1400-1500 calories, which revved my metabolism. Entering the data (every single thing I ate) into the computer took about 20 minutes every day. Planning meals to make sure I was getting the nutrients I needed, required approximately an hour every week. I don’t have to do that anymore, because now I eat nutritiously without thinking about it. It’s habit. Protein? Yes.
  5. I eat 2 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables every day, which isn’t hard to do because I like them. Fruits and veggies? Yes.
  6. I weigh myself at least twice a week and immediately address any weight fluctuation of more than two pounds. Stepping on the scale? Yes.
  7. Eating small meals, frequently is a very good habit for people with fibromyalgia to commit to, because it helps keep cortisol and blood-glucose levels steady, and this stability helps control energy and mood swings, as well as hunger which leads to overeatingIt’s also a good strategy for anyone who wants to lose weight. Yes, I eat 3 meals and two snacks daily.

By the way, there’s quite a bit of evidence that when people forbid themselves certain foods, it backfires. For most people, completely denying oneself a favorite food leads to binge eating. So don’t no-n0 yourself too often; it will make you feel bad.
I eat what I crave, in moderation, but rarely the minute I crave it. I think about it–do I really want it? Am I sure there’s not a more nutritious substitute that would satisfy me? Can I afford the extra calories today? And then, sometimes the answer is yes, yes, yes, and I eat French fries or onion rings. I treat myself to a small serving of ice cream (natural, without additives), or chocolate, or a home-baked cookie or small slice of cake, most often made with at least 50% whole-grain flour, sweetened with honey or molasses. But I’m not opposed to using a little refined sugar now and then. Even when I was trying to lose weight, I allowed myself a once-a-week indulgence.
Because, after all, Yes, is a positive thing to say to life.
Yes, I can do it. Yes, I’m going to be good to myself. Yes, I can develop healthy habits. Yes, life is a treat. Yes.