How to Lose 20 Pounds (Really)

By Kristin Booker, Refinery29

.A few years ago, I woke up and it finally hit me. I was almost 100 pounds overweight. I no longer felt like I was my healthiest, best self. Now, after dropping 82 pounds, I've encountered what feels like the weight-loss gauntlet - the last 20 pounds. This has been the hardest to lose, not only because it seems to have made lifelong friends with my body, but also because of everything - emotional and physical - that goes along with nearing your goal.

Embarking on a weight-loss journey isn't easy - it's a very personal decision and it needs to be approached in a healthy way. Plus, it can be scary when you don't know what you'll feel physically and emotionally. So, let's say you have 20 pounds you want to drop. What exactly can you expect?

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From frenemy compliments to moods and soreness, we're going to go ahead and talk about it all. Ahead, what you should expect to see, hear, and do while working your way to your goal.

Clean It Out
Your house is the safest place for you to be when it comes to protecting yourself from the high-calorie temptations of the outside world....or is it? Actually, the first line of defense to reaching your weight-loss goal is to sort through your home for all the hidden diet traps and stashes of food (you know you have that frozen cookie dough in there somewhere). This means taking a good, hard look at your kitchen for hidden snack traps. "When cleaning out your fridge and cabinets, identify what type of temptations are your biggest weaknesses," says Cassie Kipper, Registered Dietitian and Fitness manager at Equinox. "Rid your kitchen of foods high in sodium, added sugars, preservatives, and saturated or trans fat. This includes baked goods, salty chips and crackers, juices and/or sugar-sweetened drinks, energy bars, packaged meals (such as Hamburger Helper, etc.), and frozen pizzas."

Shop Healthy
Admit it: Your relationship with the grocery store has been complicated You walk in with well-meaning (but aimless) intentions and walk out in a haze having purchased multiple containers of ice cream and chips. This is why you have to go in with a plan. "Shop along the perimeter of the grocery store - vegetables, dairy, lean meats, whole grains, etc., " says Kipper. "Avoid the center aisles of packaged, processed 'foods,' and fill your kitchen with delicious and convenient foods that are healthy and provide a variety of nutrients. Instead of baked goods, try homemade granola made with rolled oats, dried fruit, organic honey, and nuts. Rather than salty chips and crackers, eat unsalted almonds or try veggies with hummus to satisfy your savory craving. Packaged and/or frozen meals can be replaced by healthy, fresh meals with a little planning and prep work."

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Accept Those Compliments
All the compliments you accept as you're sliding down the scale can be incredibly intoxicating, but try not to take the praise too seriously. "It's always confusing when you hear compliments and critiques coming from your peers," says John Ciana, Group Fitness Manager and Personal Trainer at Equinox. "Take everything with a grain of salt. Use the nice compliments as a way to stay motivated, but some people may not be used to the new you, and may not like the drastic change." In other words, compliments like, "I thought you looked great before" may or may not be said in your best interest. Stay motivated by how you look and feel, not by what others say. Accept the genuine compliments and keep motivated!

Stay Motivated
While you're losing weight, the body adjusts itself regularly, so you might be cruising along at a pound or two a week, then hit a wall for a week or two. Don't throw in the towel or start crash dieting in a panic: It's completely normal. "Getting over a plateau may be difficult, but it's not impossible," reminds Ciana. "Stay motivated by learning new ways to enhance your lifestyle: new ways to eat, different workouts, managing stress, sleeping more. Sometimes making a small change in your life can make a world of a difference."

.Take A Cheat Day
The time may simply come when you can't live another day without French fries. Don't stress: A little cheating is completely normal and to be expected. "Everyone has a different definition of what a cheat day is," says Ciana. "Whatever the case may be, do (the cheat) because it satisfies your soul and it motivates you to get back on track." In other words, an occasional cookie can be okay as long as you stay with your program. Also, limit your exposure to activities that are practically begging for a morning-after shame spiral: Happy hour with 10-cent wings might be a recipe for disaster.

Be Kind To Yourself
Despite the endorphins of your multiple sweat sessions, you may catch yourself feeling moody or depressed while you're losing weight, and that's when temptations strike. "Temptations are everywhere," Ciana reminds us. "The key is to stay focused on your lifestyle goal. Ask yourself, 'Do I really need this? Is this going to stop me from getting to my goal?'" Just be kind to yourself and your body. Realize that what you're doing is really hard. Give yourself a break and stay the course.

Don't Run Out Of Steam
It's natural to run out of steam every now and then. And that's okay, as long as you find a way to come back. "Some people are motivated by finding new ways to recreate an unhealthy dish as a healthy one, others are motivated by establishing support groups with others who have similar workout interests," suggests Ciana. "Find out what it is that makes you feel good about all the work you've done, and chances are you'll maintain your efforts." Boredom is a great indication that it's time to switch up your routine, create a new playlist, buy new workout gear, or try a new route for your ride or run. Mix it up, keep it fresh.

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Soak Those Muscles
Into every weight loss a little soreness must fall, so aches and pains are part of the bargain to drop the pounds and regain your health and confidence. Stocking up on Epsom salts, muscle creams, and booking a massage now and then will help mitigate any aches and pains. Also, learn the difference between regular fitness soreness and real pain. If it hurts to move so much that you think you need to see a doctor, stop what you're doing and seek attention. No pain, no gain is okay for a bit of workout burn, but don't overdo it to the point of injury. Remember, if you take yourself out with an injury, you'll get out of your newly-found workout groove.

.Love Your New Look
"New clothing during and after weight loss may be exciting, but it can be very expensive, considering your whole wardrobe may have to change," says Ciana. "Unless your clothing can be tailored, you should be mindful when spending money on clothing." Yep, eventually you will have to go shopping for new wardrobe items, but a few choice items here and there while you're losing the weight (wrap dresses for women flatter as you fluctuate) will tide you over until the big wardrobe overhaul once you reach your goal. Toss the cash you would normally spend on your favorite snacks into a new wardrobe fund and watch your bad habits pay for your new look.

Stay Honest
Let's face it: There are a host of genetic reasons that cause us to gain and carry excess weight, but sometimes weight gain can have an emotional aspect, as well. Bad breakups, work stress, financial woes, depression: all can cause a dive into emotional eating and marathons of Breaking Bad. Taking a good, hard look at what caused any emotional weight gain - and dealing with those issues - can help you change your whole perspective on weight loss. An honest look at why you gained the weight is the key to staying motivated to getting it off - and keeping it off.

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