4 Things You Need To Address Before Beginning Your Weight-Loss Journey

When's the last time you went to a restaurant and ordered "50 percent protein, 30 percent carbs and a side of fats"? Probably never. Figuring out how diet info applies to you can be a huge challenge, but measuring, and weighing, and counting doesn't have to be the way you live for the rest of your life.

I've lost 40 pounds total, but the first 20 of those I lost and regained many times over. I lied to myself about how much I was really eating and justified all of my poor habits with more exercise. I was scared to exercise less because I worried that I would put on more weight.

And now, I am a diet cartoonist who has kept the weight off for the last five years without effort thanks to a series of "ah-ha" moments, which I'll clue you in on below:

1. Your self-identity has to change.

If you've spent years telling yourself "I'm chubby," "I'm never going to lose weight," "I'm big boned" or "Other people are genetically slimmer, but not me," then you're setting yourself up for self-sabotage.

I remember being at a dinner party and hearing someone say to me for the first time, "Go on! Eat some more. You're so skinny and can afford it!" Me? Skinny? On the outside, I was, but on the inside, I still thought of myself as that chubby girl who would never be able to lose weight.

The kicker is that you start taking on the habits of the person you believe yourself to be. Once I realized I should define my physical appearance based on how it is in the present, rather than how it was in the past, the weight stayed off.

2. Our basic needs (eating, sleeping, drinking, breathing) will never go away.

If a little kid came up to you and said "I'm hungry!" would you say "Kid, you're so chubby and ate way too much last night, so you don't deserve to eat. If you feel too hungry, drink water first to see if the pangs go away, and if not, then maybe have some celery"? No, you wouldn't. (Well, at least I hope you wouldn't!) You'd probably help the kid out as soon as he tells you what he needs.

Kids are pretty transparent -- when they are cranky, you can tell they need a nap, and when they fidget, you can tell they need to go to the bathroom. But what about your adult co-worker? If your co-worker is cranky, you probably think he or she is overwhelmed with work -- not that he or she needs a nap. If your boss is fidgeting, you probably think he or she has something important on his or her mind -- not that he or she needs to go to the bathroom.

Some people think they are constipated because of the food they are eating, but I find that many people are constipated due to personal choices. How many times have you chosen not to go to the bathroom because the "timing was not right"? Maybe you were in the middle of an important meeting, so you chose to hold it until later. Maybe you only had access to a public restroom and were embarrassed that a stranger would realize you're spending too much time in the stall and discover you're going the dreaded "number two."

As we grow up, we learn coping mechanisms that suppress our needs -- like eating at a commonly decided time instead of when we're hungry or sacrificing sleep for higher test scores. We need to realize these basic human needs never go away.

Sometimes the best remedy for feeling tired is to sleep -- not coffee. Sometimes breathing is the best remedy for anxiety -- not food or pills. You have the ability to choose if you are going to honor them or not -- and honoring them will keep you on track to a balanced body.

3. Weight gain is a symptom of an imbalance that you need to address.

The imbalance can be chemical or emotional. A chemical imbalance typically means you are either not taking in enough of one nutrient or that something is preventing you from absorbing the nutrient (like a food intolerance or leaky gut, etc).

It can be so frustrating to try to lose weight when your body chemistry is programmed against you -- making sure your chemistry is balanced and you're actually absorbing nutrients instead of just passing them is key to a balanced body because your body can handle itself in any situation if the chemistry is in tune.

As far as emotions are concerned, take a look at your environment and your relationships. Leaving the job you hate or having the courage to end a toxic relationship can help you rebalance your body more than any calorie-counting will.

Be it chemical or emotional, finding the source of the imbalance is going to get you closer to your goals way faster than any meal plan.

4. Be prepared for surprises outside of your comfort zone.

No one consciously wants to regain weight and suffer all over again, but it's really our subconscious that controls if we are going to have success or not. Losing weight might be out of your comfort zone, but other factors out of your comfort zone might come into play, like dating and how your clothes fit.

I remember the first time a super attractive guy came up to me and said "Hey, how's it going." I asked him if he had been wanting to talk to my attractive friend and was shocked when he said he wanted to talk to me. I probably gained five pounds on the spot just trying to hide from a new experience that was definitely, definitely out of my comfort zone. Developing a confidence in dating beforehand instead of waiting until I lost the weight would have taken the pressure off how I felt about my size, regardless of the number.

If you've spent years feeling the discomfort of tight pants constricting your waist, you'd be surprised to find that it might be more awkward to wear pants that feel loose. Suddenly, there is no tight band telling you to stop eating, and there is no ring around your belly at the end of the day. It feels like something is missing, even though it's a positive change. Let's face it: Sometimes there is comfort in discomfort.

Take a step back from trying to figure out the science of dieting and look at your lifestyle at face value. Changing how you feel about yourself and honoring your body's voice are the first steps toward a lasting, balanced body.