150: Going Paleo and Trusting The Process | Lilia Lam

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Lilia used to ask herself, “Why can’t I have that happiness that everyone else has?”

“Stay patient and trust the journey.”

For Lilia this quote is inspiring because she feels that as long as you are headed in the right direction you will eventually reach your goals. She says that she had to learn this fact and use the quote to manage her own expectations throughout her journey.

Weight Gain Background and Contributing Factors

“I’ve been heavy all of my life.”

Lilia recalls that, when she was younger, her family ate lots of processed and fast foods. While some other people in her family are overweight, Lilia says she was the heaviest. Lilia has a Chinese background, and says that growing up as a first-generation American carried some stress, with expectations from both family and society.

How Being Overweight Impacted Lilia’s Life

Growing up, Lilia says being heavy impacted her in physical activities, particularly when kids were choosing sports teams at school. Lilia suffered from PCOS and metabolic syndrome when she was young.

Lilia strongly dislikes when others judge the obese even though they don’t know the person’s medical background. Lilia says she would have described herself of the past as ‘sad,’ and says her friends might have even described her as ‘bitter.’ Lilia says that a tactic for many heavy people strangers would see her “facade” of being happy and bubbly, which was her best strategy of getting through the day and not showing her vulnerability.

Lilia says she was often told that if she lost weight she would be so much prettier, which she adds is such a hard message for a kid to hear.

“I just wasn’t happy with myself.”

Lilia shares that she tried many things to lose weight over the years including acupuncture, magnets, low-carb diets, many fad diets, juicing, herbal Chinese medicine, shakes, etc. and she says that and as soon as she began to incorporate “regular food” back into her eating, the weight came back with extra. As a young adult, Lilia was taking medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, and a few other things.

The Turning Point

Lilia says that before she committed fully to her weight loss journey, she was working out a bit and heating somewhat healthily. Then one day she woke up and asked herself why not try for a complete lifestyle change:

“Why can’t I have that happiness that everyone else has?”

Lilia shares that she was thinking about how she was young and had so much of her life ahead of her, and wanted to do so many things that her weight didn’t allow. “The worst thing that can happen is that I can fail.”

Starting The Weight Loss Journey

Lilia hit the ground running.

“I changed my entire eating habits.”

Lilia first eliminated all processed food and restaurant food from her diet. She currently eats a paleo framework diet. Lilia says she tries to eat organic produce and responsibly raised meats, but in an affordable way. Lilia discusses how the transition to healthy eating was not that bad for her. She says that it almost felt like she flipped a switch and needed to learn to say ‘no,’ and not give in to food. She says that today, just thinking of how much (fast) food she would eat in the past makes her stomach upset!

In addition to dietary changes, Lilia began working out consistently. Lilia says that these days she works out seven days each week, and goes out of her way to encourage heavy people who she sees working out in the gym. At the beginning of her journey, Lilia says she had the luxury of working out 3-4 hours each day, so she made rapid progress on her initial weight loss.

Lilia emphasizes not everyone needs to do this, that working out for 30 minutes each day is very beneficial, especially when contrasted with the alternative of sitting on the couch and eating.


Staying Motivated

lilia-lam-after-1-webLilia shares that she faces ‘tests’ almost every day: tests in the form of pizza, cokes, and other temptations at work and elsewhere around her. As a strategy, she says that she reminds herself about how much time she will have to spend on the treadmill to work off the calories from choosing to over-eat those things. Lilia says she has learned to enjoy the natural tastes of the foods she eats rather than added chemicals and sugar. She has switched to looking at food primarily as fuel.

Now that she’s adjusted to her lifestyle, Lilia shares that eating “off-plan” food doesn’t bother her like it used to. In fact, she can now feel the difference in her body when she eats things she used to frequently consume. She and Sam discuss how much you can remember the way things taste by smelling, and that sometimes gets her by.

What Lilia Learned About Food, Exercise, and Herself

“My whole journey has been trial and error.”

Lilia says she likes to share her whole journey on social media—even the parts that didn’t work—because her experiences could be helpful to someone else. She says that sharing the times when you struggle can be challenging, but also inspiring because it’s real.

Lilia says that her primary message on social media is that weight loss can be done, naturally, without products or gimmicks. She likes to tell people to take it day by day, and celebrate every milestone and small goal along the way.

Today, Lilia describes herself as “a little addicted” to working out. She works out every day, and wakes early on Monday-Friday to exercise before work, with a combination of weights and cardio. Lilia also loves to cook, and spends 2-4 hours every Sunday doing her meal prep for the week.

“It’s helped me a lot.”

lilia-lam-after-3-webWhy meal-prep? If she has meals ready, she knows she is not tempted for fast food or convenience food, and this leaves her with “no excuses” for eating off-plan. On weekends, Lilia has time to cook more spontaneous meals which she also enjoys.

Lilia says she’s become a believer in the “80/20” philosophy (what you eat contributes 80% to weight loss success, exercise contributes 20%). She says at one point in her journey she lost 10 pounds in 3 weeks – without exercise. (She had a pinched nerve injury at the time.) All she did was ensure that she was 100% compliant with her food plan.

Paleo ‘treats’ prepared with alternative flours and natural sugars are something Lilia allows herself, but she eats them in moderation.

Lilia’s peak weight was 325 pounds (147.7 kg) on her 5’7” frame, and she now weighs 150 pounds (68.2 kg). This transformation took about one and a half years, and Lilia says it will take a while longer for her mental image of herself to catch up to her outside. Lilia shares that, if she had known that this kind of success was possible for her, she would have started sooner.

Lilia’s Advice For Your Journey

Lilia finds that “smaller goals are better than big goals” since they don’t feel as overwhelming to her. She likes to tell people that how long your journey takes is less important than not giving up!

 “You really have to want it.”

“Take that chance to change your lifestyle.”

Resources Discussed In This Podcast

On Lilia’s Workout Playlist

Contacting Lilia


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