How does a person lose weight?

Disclaimer: this article is not about appropriating a certain body image, nor idolizing a certain body type.

by Melly Sutjitro (@e_mellyberry)

Three years ago, my doctor advised me to include more exercises and a new diet in my life. My weight-gain was out of control. I was constantly tired, sluggish, and depressed. I wasn’t at my best self, and it had negatively affected the people around me.

All my life, I thought cardio was the only way to lose weight. I was not a big fan of cardio. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the prospect of incorporating a stricter diet into my life either. Why? Because to me, the word diet had a negative connotation. I associated it with starving, hunger, and being miserable. I was terrified of it. But I had no choice. Either I followed my doctor’s advice, or I looked for a new doctor. I happen to like my old doctor—he’s been with me for 15 years—so I dived into this new lifestyle business (cardio and diet included) half-informed and half-blind. I was in for a ride, my friends. A wrong ride.

Here are the things I was prepared to do before I learned the truth:

1. I was prepared to do a lot of cardio. I promised myself I would run twice a day. Preferably outdoor. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Fine, fine. That was a lie. Once a day. Maybe once per two days. Or was it once a week? Fine, that was a lie, too. Once per month. That was the truth. OKAY, OKAY. FINE. I LIED. ONCE IN EVERY FOUR MONTHS. BUT ONLY WHEN THE SUN WAS SHINING, AND THE AIR AROUND ME WAS COOL WITH THE PERFECT AMOUNT OF BREEZE. NOT TOO DRY AND NOT TOO STRONG. I DIDN’T WANT THE WIND TO MESS UP WITH MY HAIR. THERE MUST BE BIRDS CHIRPING ABOVE MY HEAD WHEN I RAN. FLOWERS BLOOMING ALONG THE STREETS WOULD BE A BONUS. Then, and only then, I’d consider doing a 10-minute cardio. I was legit prepared for this.

2. I was prepared to starve. Yep. To lose weight is to starve oneself, right? Isn’t that what everyone else is doing, what the supermodels are doing?

3. I was prepared to lock myself in and be a hermit. No more social interactions with other human beings, because what is the purpose of social interactions if I couldn’t enjoy the food, the drinks, and the desserts? I should be in the starving mode, remember?

As you might guess, I failed spectacularly. Thank goodness, I found my way back not long after. I started educating myself about fat-loss, about diet, about eating habits, and about exercises. I talked to the right people who shared their own fat-loss journey. I started following health and fitness experts who shared their truths with no click-baits and without sugary promises. I’ve been on my fat-loss journey for 10 months now.

Here are the truths I was not prepared to learn back then:

1. I was not prepared to learn that the journey to fat-loss was very simple. Two words: calorie deficit. It’s a simple math. There are many tools to measure calories on the internet. This equation is majorly determined by what we eat. I’ve been putting cardio on the pedestal for far too long. I should’ve put “what I eat, how I eat, how much I eat” on the pedestal instead.

2. Being in a calorie deficit on a daily basis was hard. I was not prepared for it. I thought doing cardio was the hardest. I was very wrong. I knew I didn’t need to starve, but for the first few weeks, the temptation to give up was so strong, I wanted to cry. Every. Single. Day.

3. I was not prepared to accept that the business of fat-loss was long term. Patience is the key. I only see results after 90 days.

4. I didn’t know that there was no good or bad calories. Calorie is a unit of measurement. Just like kilogram, miles, or inch. One kg is one kg. One kg of stone and one kg of cheese is the same one kg. When people thought that eating healthy food would guarantee easy fat-loss, it might not be true. If the calories in a bowl of salad are higher than the calories in one tiny burger, it’s safe to say that eating that tiny burger will contribute more to your fat-loss journey. I was not prepared to unlearn what I knew. Mindset is a powerful thing.

5. I was not prepared to learn that we could not isolate fat-loss to a specific part of our body. Doing a hundred crunches a day won’t automatically eliminate the fat on our abs. Our body will decide which fat it will dump first. We don’t have a say in this. It’s mind-blowing, isn’t it?

6. I wasn’t prepared to see that the definition of weight-loss was not the same as the definition of fat-loss. My aim is to lose fat. Losing fat does not necessarily losing weight, and vice versa. I start separating the terms in my head and making it a habit to use the correct term. I never weigh myself because for me, the number on the scale does not accurately represent my fat-loss journey and my accomplishment.

So, you ask, is cardio not important then? Depends on what your goal is. For fat-loss, being in calorie deficit is the most important, with routine exercise and healthy sleeping pattern supporting it.

Start with writing down your goal. What do you want to achieve? In what timeline? Educate yourself. This is super important. Wrong information could ruin your goal and derail your progress. Surround yourself with people who understand your goal and support you. Execute the plan. Be patient. Be consistent. You’re on your way to a better and healthier version of yourself. It’s a winning journey, no matter what.