HOW I lost the weight
Disclaimer: I am not a fitness or nutrition expert. I've had no formal training or education on either subject. I'm not sharing this post as a "How To" or suggesting this plan for anyone reading. I'm sharing this post because one of the questions I get asked most often after someone learns I lost a lot of weight, is "what did you do?" This post is simply me sharing how I did it.
Wow! Thank you for the support and positive feedback from my Weight loss Story Post. After I published that post, I was reminded of why I started this blog. So many messages and comments from friends and strangers sharing their support and how my story made an impact in some small way. Its comforting to know this is a safe place to share the things I'm not always proud of but that make me who I am. The things I know other women can relate to, and can gain something positive from knowing they are not the only ones.
I also received a lot of messages asking how I lost the weight. What I ate and what I did for exercise. I thought this would be a great follow up post to share. How I ate, how I exercised, and how I lost the weight. But before we get into that, it would be irresponsible of me not the mention the following:
1.) I was 19 years old when I lost all that weight. I'm pretty certain it wouldn't come off as quickly if I had to do it at 34 years old.
2.) But if I did have to do it at 34, and in the place I am in my life today. I wouldn't do it the same. I've learned so much about nutrition, and healthy eating that I'm actually quite horrified of some of the food I ate (it was highly processed, loaded with aspartame, and a long list of ingredients I could not tell you how to pronounce)
I tell you these things because I want it to be clear that this post is not me giving you advice on what to eat. This is me telling you how I did it. And in the spirit of transparency and honesty, I'm giving you the real deal.
Ok so here's how I did it...
When I first started my journey I should remind you that I didn't change my diet initially. I just started hitting the gym. I started doing cardio on an elliptical or treadmill for 30-45 minutes a day 4-6 times a week. I still ate like crap. After 3 months I lost 5 Pounds. FIVE POUNDS!!!
I began seeing a woman at the gym who literally was shrinking every week. Losing so much weight. I approached her in the locker room one day and this sweet woman was nice enough to invite me to her house and tell me all her dieting secrets. In a nutshell, it was just calorie counting.Simple enough.
But for a girl who had NO CLUE about portion control, calorie counting, or healthy eating, this was a concept I really knew nothing about. This woman told me to stick to 1200-1300 calories a day. That was it. Didn't matter what I ate, as long as I didn't go over my calorie budget. I divided that calorie budget up into 5-6 mini meals/snacks a day. Basically I tried to keep my meals around 300 calories, and my snacks around 100. I treated this calorie budget like money in my wallet. I viewed it as real tangible thing. Once I spent all my calories for the day, I was done. I had none left to spend. It was a total mind shift and mental thing for me. Bottom line- There was no cheating. Not those first few months.
Well I was 19 and broke, so this meant a lot of frozen lean cuisines, peanut butter sandwiches,grilled cheese sandwiches using Kraft sliced "cheese product" (I think it seriously says Cheese product on the label because its technically not cheese), sugar free pudding, cottage cheese, lunch meat sandwiches, anything marketed as "diet"- I was all over it. No Whole Foods for me, no Snap Kitchen, no Organic meats and veggies. I did however, eat a lot of chicken breast, and eggs, and lean ground turkey, fat free yogurt and berries. It wasn't all terrible and toxic.
I found the meals that I liked, and ate them ALL THE TIME. I planned my meals and always had them on hand. I counted EVERY.SINGLE calorie. My salad dressing, my strawberries, every single grape- yes I counted out grapes. I measured everything into a real serving size. No guessing, no over serving- it was all measured. I had a food scale to weigh my chicken (I would weigh out 3oz servings). I did eliminate all red meat for a few months. It was a lot of work and prep when I got started, but I found the foods I liked to eat, and they became my go to meals to make.
I wrote down every single thing I ate. From the tablespoon of fat free salad dressing to the main course. EVERYTHING. Whether it had 10 calories or 100 calories- it was written down. I know this sounds obsessive, but it worked.
After about 3 months I was down about 30 pounds. I continued to exercise 4-6 times a week but I also started adding in weight training. I would do 30 minutes of cardio, then 30 minutes on various weight machines. I had no idea what I was doing. I just wandered around the gym and would alternate upper and lower body every day. I first joined an all women's gym so there was no intimidation. 80% of the members were over 80 years old. It was a great place for me to start.
Today, my philosophy on weight loss and maintenance is a little different. While I still believe in eating 3 meals, and 2 snacks a day (this is what works best for me), I don't grab the processed junk I use to. I avoid the words "Sugar Free" like its poison, and pay more attention to nutrition labels beyond the first line for Calories. Now I look for protein, watch out for sodium, and sugar, and try and buy organic and clean foods as much as possible. My grocery bill has gone up quite a bit but I'm more concerned with what I put into my body (and my little girls) than I am obsessed with a number on a scale. I don't count calories so much, but when I need to hold myself accountable (after too many consecutive days of indulging), I will start writing down my meals. I'm not as detailed as I use to be, but its a good way for me to keep myself in check and also to feel good about myself for sticking towards my goal. It's motivating for me to look at and see that I've maintained a clean diet for X amount of days consecutively. It becomes easier and easier the more time that passes.
I am so much more in tune with the way food makes me FEEL. When I eat like crap, I feel like crap. When you have 2 little munchkins to do everything for, you don't want to feel like crap. You want to have energy, patience and be able to keep up. Crappy food steals this from my body. It makes me tired, bloated and irritable. Not the woman I want to be.
I do want to say this... you can find anything on the internet. You google weight loss and you will find 100 different "diets" that all contradict each other. I know tons of healthy, fit people who all follow some totally different guideline of eating. The only thing they all have in common is that they all look great.
One tells me not to eat frequently, and only eat when hungry and that hours of fasting each day is good for the body. I tried that and well.... uhhhh... one word...HANGRY! For the sake of my husband and my children, and anyone I encounter- don't suggest I fast for any period over 4 hours. The next friend tells me to cut out grains, beans, alcohol and dairy. The grains and beans maybe... the alcohol and dairy?!? Are you crazy? Not for me. Then a friend tells me to eat tons of fat, and no carbs. Can't do it. I need wine too much.
The point I'm making is that different diets (I'm using that word to describe a WAY of eating not a RESTRICTION on eating) work for different bodies. Find something that works for you and that you can maintain comfortably. This is the only way to keep it off once you've lost it. Don't eliminate everything you love. Find healthier alternatives. And if you can't find a healthy alternative- just drink the wine and eat the M&Ms... but limit yourself these indulgences if you are serious about wanting to lose weight.
And to end I'd like to say... don't be hard on yourself if you've been trying and its not "falling off" like I described it did for me. I can guarantee you, it would not "fall off" today. Oh no, no. There would be quite a bit more effort, and quite a bit more time I can assure you, that it would take me to lose 40 pounds. Unless I'm birthing a baby, and nursing for 6 months, I would never expect to lose that much weight in that short period of time. Also, the less you have to lose, the HARDER it usually is. And on the other side of that, the more you have to lose, the first few pounds can be the HARDEST to lose. So my point in telling you all of this is just be patient and be consistent. Don't expect overnight results. Keep doing the right things and it will happen.
Some of my favorite snacks are simple and quick to make:
Rice Cake with Almond or Peanut Butter
Protein Shake (I mix a cup of Almond Milk, a Vanilla Bone Broth Protein Powder, half banana, ice cubes, and add a spoon of nut butter. This actually makes a full meal and is usually my breakfast)
1/4 Cup of Greek Yogurt 2% and berries
Power Crunch Protein Bars (If its a between meal snack I will eat half and save the other half)
Bulletproof Protein Bars (If its a between meal snack I will eat half and save the other half)
Apple and about 10 almonds
Ezkiel Bread Toasted with Avocado
Apparently I only take pregnant bump selfies in the Gym Locker Room.