A few weeks ago, I sent out an email sharing my 10-year anniversary of sustaining 130 pounds’ weight loss. Check out my transformation here. Many reached out with notes of congratulations and questions. It’s always nice to hear from you and I’m grateful for the kinds words and best wishes. I would like to share with you six things that helped me keep off 130 pounds for 10 years and counting.
1) I made it a lifestyle. The word lifestyle is echoed time and time again, for good reason: it’s the only way to sustain change. I made it an enjoyable lifestyle — I ditched most of the typical dieting mantras and focused on eating whole unprocessed foods at proper intervals. No starvations, no calorie counting, no points, no macronutrient-focused methods, no fasting, no excessive exercise, no pills, no shakes, just a common sense approach to weight loss.
The old adage that whatever a person does to lose the weight is what they must continue to do to sustain it held true for me. One of the proudest things I feel I accomplished while losing my weight is how well I ate. Hence my book Weight Loss Never Tasted so Good. Not only is that a wicked play on words, if I do say so myself, but it’s 100% accurate. You can learn more about the food here.
Many ask what MODA stands for; it’s not an acronym, it’s a way of living. In Maltese and Italian moda means “cool” or “fashionable.” That’s what I did; I made healthy living and eating cool. Check out some of my meals here. No one is depriving themselves here.
It’s my enduring passion to promote this way of eating, making the transition towards a healthier lifestyle. I invite others to embrace this lifestyle. To learn more about the origins of MODA Nutrition & Weight Loss Inc., read about it here.
2) Education. I found continuous learning empowering. The more I learned about the tactics, the engineering of ultra-processed foods and much of the marketing hype behind foods touted as “healthy” (the health halo), the more empowered I became. I learned about the importance of a plant-rich whole foods “diet” that is a diet with very little if any ultra-processed food, which I now just refer to as JERF (Just Eat Real Food).
It turns out the JERF philosophy is not just best for maintaining a healthier weight but many aspects of health, whether it be mental or physical health and cardiovascular health. This way of eating can reduce the risk of many types of cancer; the fibre in plants (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, intact grains, etc.) helps feed microbiota while building diversity in the microbiome. The consumption of a plant-rich diet strengthens our telomeres (the tips of our chromosomes) which contribute towards graceful aging and helps us live longer.
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."— Albert Einstein
Every credible source I came across had the same fundamental dietary principal: eat real food, mostly from unprocessed plants and avoid, or at very least drastically reduce, consumption of edible food-like substances which had made up much of my food intake before I transformed to my new way of eating.
In Daniel Levitin’s 2020 book Successful Aging (one of my favourites), a chapter dedicated to diet and aging shares at the very end: “After reviewing hundreds of papers, I find that best dietary advice is the much quoted phrase in Michael Pollan’s 2008 book In Defence of Food ‘Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.’”
3) Knowing and Acknowledging My Kryptonites. I have come to the conclusion that there are certain “foods” that, if I have little, I will just want more. As we frequently say at our MODA support group sessions: “One is too many and twenty-one is never enough.” For me ultra-processed food leads to a cycle of constant craving and over-consumption. Hence I adopted the mantra from St. Augustine, “abstinence is easier than perfection moderation for those who have given into excess.” The biggest challenge was my ego; once I got over that, it became easier.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
4) It’s Never Over! It’s important to understand after I lost my weight to avoid an “I have arrived” attitude. Quite frankly, that attitude towards anything can lead to trouble, especially weight loss. Hence, our 9th pillar at MODA is awareness: I have clear understanding that complacency can lead me back to a place I never want to be again. Obesity is a complex and chronic condition; as a result, we must treat it as such. While the physical signs of excess weight may have diminished, those of us with weight and food issues will need to be aware and vigilant always. Or as a great friend once told me, "Never read your own press clippings."
5) Staying Connected. Group support played a vital role in losing my weight and first few years of sustaining it. In mid-2015, I began a client-focused support group (MODA) that, while not exclusively for men, geared towards a mainly male environment, I also connected with other like-minded friends and colleagues to add a further layer of connection and support to my current lifestyle.
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
6) Burn the Boats. The concept of burning boats goes back to early 1500s when Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, led an excursion of hundreds of Spaniards with 11 ships to Mexico. The mission was to capture an Aztec empire in Mexico City. Upon arrival, Cortés ordered the destruction of all the ships. By destroying the ships, he sent a clear message: there is no turning back.
At some point, it became apparent that I needed to cut off as many ties off (burn the boats) with “fat” Tony as possible. The best examples were my oversized wardrobe; what is the point of holding on to them? Just in case? Also, there were some people in my life where the only common bond was food and excessive booze. Some folks were toxic and were what I refer to as batteries-not-included people; they just sucked energy from me. And of course, there were certain environments that no longer served a purpose in my life, so there was no point going anymore.