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I Tried Getting Slim For My Wedding—and Failed After Three Days. Here's What I Learned.

When Jan. 1 came around, I made drastic weight loss goals for myself—and epically failed.

Dieting has never been a large priority in my life. I live a fairly active lifestyle because I have to walk a lot every day (living in major cities will do that). Even though my BMI is just slightly high enough to be considered overweight, I am still fit enough to help lift heavy loads without difficulty. With all of these factors in place, dieting always seemed like something that would help me live a healthier lifestyle, but I never really felt the urge to start.

That all changed when I got engaged to my fiancée. I started thinking about the wedding and everything that came along with it, including wedding photos. I thought about my parents' wedding photos and how they looked so young in their portraits, partially because they were a bit more fit than I was at their age. Thinking about how I wanted to remember my wedding day sparked the resolution I didn't ever think I would make: to lose some weight.

I wanted to slim down for my wedding

My wedding would be in the middle of July, so I needed to drop the weight before then. I didn't plan on completely overhauling my entire lifestyle, I just needed to get into shape. So I figured that 25 pounds would be a good target of pounds to lose before the day of the wedding. I had never dieted before, and none of my friends had any experience with it, so my role models for this plan were limited.

I had heard of some time-honored diets having success, but I didn't want to pursue a weight loss plan that would cause me to start craving the foods I was barred from eating. Besides, I love ice cream far too much for my own good and didn't want to give that up, no matter what. I vowed to find another way that would let me keep eating the things I love in tight moderation. This line of thinking led me to pursue portion control as my modus operandi.

I decided to try intermittent fasting, cardio exercise, and veganism.

I eventually settled on a combination of intermittent fasting, a heavy workout regimen of cardio exercises, and a planned one day a week where I wouldn't consume any animal products. I had heard stories where dieters combined intermittent fasting with exercise to drop weight fast, so this seemed like the best way to reach my goal while still getting to indulge in ice cream every once in a while. Some of my weight gain had been a result of shifting from a vegetarian diet to an omnivorous diet, so I figured if I offset my meat consumption with days devoted to veganism, I could drop weight even quicker.

When I told my friends about this plan, they were apprehensive. Prior to starting the resolution, I did not exercise regularly and had never intermittently fasted before, so I essentially started my weight loss regimen cold turkey. Everyone I told my plan to warned me against beginning so intensely. I was stubborn and thought that as long as you have the motivation, you can do anything. As it turns out, my body had other thoughts.

Despite my best efforts, things went down the tubes.

I started my new weight loss plan the moment the new year hit. I was in Florida visiting family and could easily exercise outside. My window for eating would be from 2 to 9 p.m. and I would exercise by running in the morning.

As I learned quickly, the first days of intermittent fasting are the hardest. The hunger pangs combined with more exercise than I was used to was so much to bear, and I couldn't fathom how people even got any weight loss plan off the ground!

On the morning of day two, I was extremely sore and incredibly hungry, but knew I had to drag myself out of bed to run again. I am also a newbie to regimented exercise and hadn't ever researched how to properly jog. As it turns out, I hadn't properly hydrated before I ran. I ended up fighting off massive cramps from heat and dehydration, and my run quickly degraded into a death march. Combined with the gnawing hunger, I had no idea how I was going to sustain this pattern.

By day three, I woke up with pains in my ankles that reminded me of when I developed tendonitis, so I decided in the interest of not destroying my muscles to call it quits. I failed my diet, but it spurred the research that would lead me toward making the positive changes that I needed.

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I quit, then I did my research.

Shortly after I failed my diet, I thought about what my friends had said and realized I was jumping into weight loss way too hard from the start. I was overly ambitious, and it resulted in me getting unnecessarily hurt and fatigued. I needed to regroup and find a new way to make healthy changes in my life. First I had to take a few days to recover from wreaking havoc on my body.

Even though I failed my diet and abandoned my resolution by Jan. 3, I never saw this failure as a loss. When my resolution went out the window, my drive to lose weight was still alive. I slowly weaned my way into intermittent fasting, increasing my fasting window back to the original 2 to 9 p.m. gap comfortably over the course of several weeks. I still wanted to jog as my main form of exercise, so I got advice on posture and how to run from other runners with much more experience than myself. By fixing my posture, learning how to properly stretch before and after, and being mindful of water intake and pains that can occur, I found new ways to slowly lose weight.

Proper research eventually lead to my weight loss

erich barganier with partner dressed up
Erich Barganier/Eat This, Not That!

I ended up falling short of 25 pounds by July, but I did manage to lose enough vanity weight to feel somewhat accomplished. Learning how to effectively start and maintain a diet was one of the biggest lessons I learned from my resolution setback. While I didn't make it through a single week, I decided to keep including vegan days in my schedule. Between dieting and a slow but steady lifestyle change, I was able to lose just enough weight to notice the difference. I wouldn't have learned this valuable lesson if I had not failed my diet so spectacularly the first time through.

Even though my resolution only lasted 3 days, I never felt disappointed or ashamed. The drive to improve my life led to a positive lifestyle change that might not have stuck if by some miracle my weight loss plan worked. If I hadn't failed my diet, I wouldn't have grown in a positive way, and I was reminded about how it is best to adapt to the lessons we gain from our failures. By the end of the year, I came out with a better lifestyle than I started with one year ago, and I think my wedding photos came out looking pretty great, too.

Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more