How I Started Losing Weight Again

by Helen M. Ryan

What changes are best for your body when trying to lose weight?

I re-gained some weight during my travels, and lost that weight while in Cambodia.

I hate to even say that Cambodia helped me lose some extra weight because of all the things that have happened in Cambodia and to Kmer people. Weight loss sounds so unimportant compared to that.

My trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia did help me get my butt back in gear and my weight heading back down. I was off the track…and so far off the exercise track that I didn’t know where the tracks were. What did they even look like?

My Weight Loss Journey

My story, if you don’t already know, is that I lost over 80 pounds in 2003-2004. I started eating healthier and exercising, and later began teaching Spinning classes and became a personal trainer.

I love Spinning so much. I’m like an unofficial Spinning ambassador. Spinning helped me not only lose weight but get stronger emotionally. Weird, but true.

It’s like a whole other person had been hiding inside me and was released out into the big world as I got better on the bike and started teaching classes. But that’s a story for another day.

I kept all the weight off for about five years. Since then, I have gained between 5 and 15 pounds of it back, depending on the year. Up-down. Up-down. But at least I’ve kept over 65 pounds off. Whew.

What Changed (for the Worse?)

Over the years I just got tired.

I got lazy.

I stopped doing many of the things that I wrote about in my weight loss books, like the easy things we can do to lose weight. But I just wasn’t feeling it. Do you feel me?

I had started overeating a little again in the evenings because I was tired, fed up with my workload, broke, trying to raise kids, and everything else in between. I had lots of excuses. 

Hashimoto's and Weight Loss

It also didn’t help that I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which is autoimmune hypothyroidism.

Having your thyroid slowly being ‘eaten away’ by your own immune system doesn’t spur on weight loss, either. But that’s no excuse. I just have to work harder than people without the disease. I didn’t make the extra effort.

Making a Life Change

In August of 2017, after my youngest graduated high school, the kids and I sold a lot of our stuff, put the rest in storage, and then decided to travel and see the world. I am lucky that my work is online and I can pretty much work from anywhere. Yes, I had to stop training clients in person (and start training them virtually) and I had to stop teaching my beloved Spinning classes (what?), but I needed to just…get away. Reboot. See something new. Do new things. I was slowly going crazy. Every day felt like Groundhog’s Day.

We had been traveling for nine months by the time we got to Cambodia, I was tired. I was a little sick of living out of a suitcase. Sometimes I was lonely. But then it was also mostly totally awesome.

The problem was that I have had absolutely no consistency in my schedule when traveling, little access to gyms, and really no desire to do anything to keep myself in shape. 

I have had taxis, public transport, ride shares, tuk-tuks, or motor bikes at my disposal. Why walk? I brought exercise tubing with me but used it maybe once or twice a month until Cambodia.

I’ll be honest. I had been eating way too much ice cream, gelato, chocolate, and other desserts. Pringles, too (available in every country, strangely. They’re not even real potato chips). Pizza, deep-fried spring rolls, you name it. 

I was no longer living the way I knew I should live if I wanted to stay healthy and fit.

I was being lazy and not taking my health seriously. Again. (Hell’s bells, Helen. What were you thinking?)

What Changed (for the Better?)

We arrived in Cambodia in February of 2018. It’s a beautiful country and Siem Reap has some of the best “western” food I’ve had while traveling. Yes, you really can find good Mexican food in Cambodia. Who knew, right?

Our first Airbnb was a little on the outskirts of the city, with no way to get anywhere except by tuk-tuk. At night, there were no tuk-tuks around, so I really couldn’t just run out to a mini-mart. I also pretty much temporarily ran low on money, and ended up eating only two meals a day.

There were nights I felt so hungry. (I’m a sissy. I hate to be hungry. Probably stems from all the times I went hungry when I was younger.) In Siem Reap, we usually ate dinner early, and I didn’t have access to junk snacks. Once we were in our room…we were in our room. 

“Junk snacks” are expensive overseas. I almost flipped my lid a few times because I felt like I was starving to death. Well, I wasn’t. No one starves to death by eating one or two meals a day for a couple of weeks, but being hungry upsets me emotionally.

The Airbnb we stayed had a beautiful pool, and I swam almost every day for the week we were there. We also walked around Siem Reap a lot during the day, because I can see more on foot and explore nooks and crannies. Never mind that it was a million degrees. I’m from Southern California. I’ve got this heat thing handled.

How I Started Losing Weight Again

By limiting how much food I was eating, and moving more, I started to lose weight again. I really didn’t think about it or notice it. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself for being hungry. But I also started to make healthier choices. I could have gelato, or for the same price, I could have a real meal. Hmmm.

As the weeks went by, I felt less and less hungry. I bought healthy snacks. I swam. And I slowly started to get back to taking care of me. (Hello, healthier self. Where have you been?)

We moved to a small boutique hotel with an even better pool. The managing partner had talked about wanting to join a gym, so I snagged her and made her my workout partner. Committing to another person forces you to exercise. I needed to be forced back into it, 50 shades of working out style. I wasn’t going to do it by myself.

Plus, I really missed training, and we were training/working out together. Swimming, better food choices, working out with Ilana…these things all helped.

I had gained probably 7-8 pounds during our trip, and I slowly started to lose those pounds. I also tried on the shorts that had fit when I left California—but had stopped fitting during my trip (argh)—and they fit again. Yay! 

The two weeks I was back in Thailand after Cambodia I worked out three days a week with my sister in the pool, exercised in the hotel’s tiny gym when I could, and did some workouts in my room (hello, exercise bands. You’ve been missed). I tried to pay more attention to what I was eating. 

OK, let me rephrase. I paid attention to not eat too much of anything. I ate pizza, but just maybe two slices, not four, and then no dessert. Or I ate protein and veggies, then shared a dessert with my son.

Making Small Changes and Better Choices

I am back to making better choices. I am back to me. Sometimes our hand just has to be forced in order for us to make a change. I knew what to do to lose weight…I just didn’t want to. I wasn’t feeling it. I was feeling unmotivated.

In Cambodia, I was not given a choice. I had the money for one or two meals a day for a while, which helped me break away from the bad habits that had slowly crept back. Because they do. Those bad habits you’ve had your whole life want to move back in. They are sneaky bastards. And I let them win!

You might not have the same “forced hand” that I did to get myself back to losing the weight I gained, but you can pretend you do. Everyone needs to save money, right?

So, share meals when you go out. Eat dessert once a week, instead of three. Pay attention to how many calories are in the coffee shop coffees you drink. Limit your alcohol to weekends. Let yourself go to bed hungry now and again.

And take your health seriously, for cryin’ out loud. You’ve only got one life. Live it to your fullest. Live it with balance. Do the work and then treat yourself to a little something now and again. Most of all… just be healthy.

Published May 9, 2018