What NOT to Do: 10 Weight Loss Lessons From a “Failure”

My name is Kristen, and I’ve lost 45 pounds. And gained 45 pounds. And lost 47 pounds. And gained 47 pounds.

Most people would call me a weight loss failure, but I refuse to accept that title. Failures are people who have given up—and I am not going down without a fight.

The first 45 pounds were lost on Weight Watchers. The second round of weight loss was accomplished through an incredible 12-week challenge sponsored by my local newspaper and a personal training gym. I was one of five contestants selected, and I received free personal training three times a week, along with nutritional counseling. Basically, I won the weight-loss lottery. And then I squandered it.

The 12-week program involved a very intense eating program, with no processed foods and no starches—and no “cheats.” It worked really well, and I felt amazing when it ended. I decided to give myself one week off the program as a reward for how well I did—only the lack of tracking and the ability to have pizza were so appealing that I never did get back around to starting the program again. And the weight crept back, around two pounds a month, until I’d regained it all.

So, why am I here on Fitblogger, when other featured bloggers have run marathons and kept off more than 100 pounds? As someone who has lost and regained weight twice, I have some pretty good insights into what NOT to do if you want to succeed:

  1. Don’t wait. This is a biggie. Don’t wait to get started until Monday. Don’t wait until you’ve gone on your vacation next month. And don’t wait until your schedule clears up and you have more time—that day will never come. Start right this minute. My favorite quote is “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.” So don’t wish—do.
  2. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. The biggest key to my weight loss success was Sundays. That was the day I’d grocery shop, grill up a bunch of chicken breasts for the week, bake some egg cups, and plan out my snacks and workout schedule for the week. When I didn’t make time to do those things, my whole week would sometimes be a bust. But when I made time to accomplish all of that prep, the next seven days were smooth sailing.
  3. Don’t go it alone. I used to think I wanted to keep my weight loss plans a secret so the Judgy McJudgersons wouldn’t give me a hard time every time I so much as looked at a cookie. But having gone through a weight loss contest in which my weight and results were featured in a major newspaper every week, I quickly learned that a great support system is worth its weight in gold. A few friends and I created a Facebook group where we share good recipes, vent our frustrations, celebrate our successes and weigh in weekly. The Fitblogger community is another great way to get—and give—support.
  4. Don’t get your pleasure from food. When my husband and I were planning out a recent vacation, it hit me that most of our must-see destinations were restaurants. There is nothing wrong with eating some great food on vacation, but food should not be the only focus. When I focus on food as fuel, I make better choices.
  5. Don’t concentrate on what you’re losing—focus on the benefits you’re gaining. The first couple weeks of weight loss are fairly easy—and even fun. You’re seeing those initial big numbers and you’re feeling great. And then the losses are smaller and you’re fairly sure you’d give up your firstborn child for a slice of pizza. You’re tired of headed to the gym each night and you think you’re going to grow wings and start clucking if you eat one more piece of chicken. When you’re in one of those funks, make a list of the reasons you want to lose weight and stick it on your fridge. Glance at it when you’re frustrated as a reminder of you of all the things you’re gaining as a result of your sacrifices.
  6. Don’t let resentment get you down. My best friend has been thin and beautiful her whole life. Yet she works out less than I do and has never had to diet. I think we all know someone like this, and it’s easy to fall prey to the “Why mes?” and “It’s not fairs.”  It’s not productive to compare yourself to someone else. Focus on your own journey and your own strengths, and keep on trucking.
  7. Don’t set unattainable goals. I have a bad tendency to go all or nothing. In other words, I’ll go from not working out at all to declaring that my goal is to run a marathon. When you start with such a huge goal, it’s easy to get daunted and give up. Take baby steps. In my case, my first goal could be getting through Couch to 5K. My second goal could be actually running a 5K, and my third goal could be a 10K or a half-marathon. Once those things are accomplished, I could then set a goal for the marathon. (By the way, this reminds me of another tip: Don’t do something you hate. If you don’t like running, try swimming. Or zumba. You are much more likely to be successful with something you enjoy. And don’t forget what you have accomplished—I will never forget the joy I experienced when I crossed the finish line of my first 5K, when just three months before, I’d never even run a quarter of a mile without walking some of it.)
  8. Don’t get complacent. This is how I gained the weight back both times. Once I lost 45+ pounds, I felt FABULOUS. I was out of the plus-size clothes, I felt amazing, and I figured I could ease up a little. Big mistake. This is a lifelong journey, not a quick fix.
  9. Don’t stop tracking. For me, a key success factor is tracking. Both times I gained weight back, it was primarily because I stopped tracking. Even on days you’re giving yourself permission to eat more than your usual amount—and there’s nothing wrong with doing that occasionally!—track it. Not only will it keep you in check, but it will also help you identify trigger foods, foods that make you feel blah (my friend discovered a gluten intolerance by tracking), and foods that are really satisfying.
  10. Don’t give up. There will be hard days. There will be days where you’ll lose faith. But as Dori says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.” You’ll be so glad you did.

Weight loss isn’t easy, but it is possible, it’s worth it, and it’s within our control. If you need a support system, I encourage you to contact me. And I invite you to follow my journey as I work to lose at least 75 pounds—and keep it off. Let’s make 2013 an amazing year!

Kristen Kessinger
Losing It In Chicago

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  1. One of the best posts I’ve read on FitBlogger so far! Keep up the fight girl!

  2. Love this! So important. Don’t set unattainable goals. Having the goal to lose 100 pounds in 2 months is not going to happen (at least not in a healthy, maintainable way). Start small! And then keep going!

  3. Great tips Kristen! You can do it!!

  4. This is a wonderful article Kristen… Thank you for setting an example. It is okay to fail as long as you try again and get it right!

  5. All great tips! Anyone that has a goal no matter what it is could benefit from reading these tips!

  6. Fabulous tips!!! I love that you say don’t wait for Mondays:)

  7. You appropriately put “Don’t wait” at the top of the list. The hardest part is getting started sometimes. I like the 7th goal too. If you set your self up for failure it may discourage you from trying again.

  8. Great inspiration! I love that you emphasized focusing on the benefits GAINED than just the pounds LOST. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your wisdom!

  9. Don’t do something you hate is a great tip, you will never stick at it if you would rather be doing something else

  10. You know the most important thing – not to give up. Keep going!

  11. I love this article! It really is SO hard to stay at a goal weight with temptations and people derailing you at every turn. Don’t give up and you will get to your happy place in no time!