My weight loss has taken over a half a decade. After a few failed attempts I am now celebrating my two year “fitaversary” and my big goal is to compete in a physique competition before my 40th birthday. I get asked quite often how I did it – what the secret is – but there is no secret.
I think that hard work and dedication, and being honest with yourself, will give you the results you want to see. I do have to start by saying that you should always talk to your doctor first and let them know what your plan is and see if they think it is right for you. Sometimes even the best laid workout plans and food choices are hindered by medical issues so make sure you’re seeing your doctor regularly! Not to mention, regular doctor visits assist in early detection of anything so it is always a good idea – not just if you’re trying to get fit. My doctor – an amazing lady – has been supportive and interested from the start and approves of my choices.
I have actually gone through three attempts at battling my weight. When I first realized that my numbers had BLOWN UP, I was at a birthday party at my sister’s house for one of her kids. I stepped on the scale and was honestly shocked at what I saw. I am a tall-ish girl – 5 foot 9 with a long torso, so it hides the weight well. And it was so gradual (or so it seemed) that I never really noticed it in my face. I knew clothes weren’t fitting quite right, but I wasn’t paying proper attention to myself at the time.
Obviously unhappy with the weight gain, I first off stopped snacking on junk food at night. I’ve never been a huge junk food junkie but I had enough to know it wasn’t the best for me. I switched up junk food for ‘healthy’ snacks – you know the kind… 100-calories-a-package or low-fat-high-flavour (read – salt) snacks. Chips and salsa – well they’re sort of good for you – and the sour cream I would dollop in there was low-fat or fat-free, so hey, that was ok right?
I also started walking and bike riding. This is when I really started to enjoy hiking too – I had always sort of done it randomly but this is when it became a regular in my summer itinerary. On top of the walking and the biking, I was watching my portions and would often choose chicken over beef (or veggie burgers if I thought to buy some) so instead of two burgers with all the fixin’s I would have one, with salsa as my only condiment.
I also cut out pop, went whole wheat with bread products, also opting for turkey subs without cheese over a combo at the food court in the mall where I worked. I drank water like a fiend. From these changes I had lost 30 lbs. But it was short lived.
Life happens, things change, new job, and a move came. I was on my own with my two kids, doing the groceries and cooking for the three of us. I stopped paying attention to what I was doing and went for the quick fixes – easy dinners, processed, fast food, and of course – beer. The weight came back, and again, with me being so preoccupied with everything else but myself, and my health I didn’t really notice and the pounds didn’t just come back – they brought friends.
Then came weight loss attempt number 2. When I realized that the weight had returned, I joined a Biggest Loser challenge at work. There were four of us. There was money on the line… we kept pushing the deadline back a few times, which was great for me because I had a slow start.
I ended up in a tie with one of the other girls, but it sparked something in me. I was enjoying the bootcamp I was attending, the ladies that were a part of it, and most importantly I was seeing results. My daughter would often attend with me and sometimes do some of the exercises, and I felt proud to show her that being fit could be fun, and that she was seeing results from my work. Instilling healthy habits in both my kids lives is so important, and I can only hope that they will take something from what we talk about and do at home.
The weight slowly started coming off as I was changing my eating habits and being conscious of what I was putting in my mouth. I used to think that exercise was the most important thing to weight loss, but it wasn’t until I changed my eating habits that things started to change. Now I know that nutrition is at least 80% of the weight loss formula…I started logging what I was eating. I joined SparkPeople, and for the first time I was accountable for what I was eating.
The site has thousands of foods already posted in their database, and if you can’t find something you can add it. They also create menus based on what you want to lose, and what your calorie range should be. While I was tracking my exercise – the program would notify me if I was eating enough to maintain the calories in vs out. It took a long time for the weight to start coming off, even though I was eating better and exercising on a regular basis.
What I wasn’t getting was what I consider to be the missing link – my metabolism. You need to eat more to lose more. It was great that I had finally started eating breakfast when I first woke up and not hours into the morning (or at all) but I needed to start eating the meals in between the meals. It was a hard adjustment to make – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. Food, food, food… I still feel like I’m eating all the time, but now I pay attention to what my body tells me and I know when I’ve missed a meal.
I was introduced to the concept of Clean Eating at this time as well. It is exactly as it sounds – eating clean. No processed foods. Fruits and veggies, spices and healthy fats, nuts, grains; all the good stuff, basically.
I learned of this through the Oxygen Magazine. Great workouts and food ideas, full of tips and tidbits. And best of all, women from every age group from 20s all the way to women over their 50s who have taken on the challenge of transforming their lives. Women who you could read about and relate to and think “I can do this too!”
I also was introduced to Bodybuilding.com where I found Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Program – a 12-week fitness program that would help me to tone up and lean out from what I had managed to lose up to that point. I will admit, I was not good with the clean eating, and I managed almost 6 weeks of the LiveFit Program before Christmas came and I fell off the wagon. But if I look back now, I can see that I was using this time to gain knowledge, arming myself with the basics to build the foundation for this – my third (and final attempt) at my transformation.
My third time was a charm! This time I was inspired by a friend to join a transformation challenge on Bodybuilding.com. I had been thinking for *months* that I needed something to light the fire under my butt and wondered where I had gotten the willpower from before. Well, this challenge was what I needed to get started again. I had liked the LiveFit Program and wanted to restart that. I can compare it to when I was ready to quit smoking – I just knew it was time, I gave myself a deadline and I stuck to it and never looked back.
My transformation was just like that; I gave myself a deadline, set my parameters about what I was comfortable doing, and I stuck to it. I cleaned up my eating, gave up processed sugars, and stopped drinking. Over the last two years I have learned to eat according to my goals, whether I am trying to gain muscle or lose body fat. My total weight loss was over 70 pounds, and even though I have gained some of the weight back, I am no longer a slave to the number on the scale. My success is determined by how I feel, the changes I see in my physique and by the humbling comments that I get from people who have in turn been inspired to make changes in their own life.
I am in the gym 4-6 days a week in the mornings before my kids get up for school – this allows me to be present at night without needing a sitter. My family and friends support my lifestyle and I wouldn’t have had the same kind of success if I didn’t have them cheering me on.
Not only did I undergo a physical change, but I went through a mental one as well. There was a while where I was cynical, negative and just more down than up. Little wonder, the worst of this period of my life coincided with my years of being unfit. I can’t say there was ever really one defining thing that turned me dark so to speak; a combination of relationships, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, financial struggles, and just not really knowing who I was. I found myself falling into ruts; in relationships, socially, and with my health. Everything was the same day in and day out and I allowed myself to get drawn into the downward spiral that these ruts created. I am a total ‘go with the flow’ type person, and when the flow went bad – well so did I. Which isn’t to say I was a horrible mean person during this period. But it was hard to think positively, love myself, enjoy the good things going on around me.
So how did I turn it around? Well I am still in the process; it gets easier but I don’t think it will ever be something that has a definitive finish line. Not until perhaps at the end of what I hope is a very long life I can sit back and say “Yes, I was happy. Yes, I had a great life”.
But how did I get to this point now? I needed to make decisions. I had to choose how I wanted to live my life. My journey has as much to do with my emotional well being as it does the physical. So I made the choice to be happy. I started to distance myself from the people and the things that brought out the negative me. It can be an incredibly lonely process, separating yourself from what you’ve known for years.
To combat the loneliness, I started focusing on things around my house that I wanted to improve on. It was late spring so the nice weather allowed me time to get out and build my gardens, maintain my yard. It also allowed me to get out on the trails. (I could wander the woods for hours)
I spent more time with my kids and my family. I was sleeping better and enjoying the fruits of my labours. As my body started to change I was learning how to appreciate it from the work I was doing on it, and slowly building confidence. Doing all of this, removing myself from the social ruts, I was able to drastically cut down on the drama in my life. I was focusing on me for the first time in a very long time. I wasn’t trying to make anyone else happy, I wasn’t trying to fit in to a place where I wasn’t ever really 100% comfortable. I was slowly stepping out of a persona that I had created very early on, and reverted back to every time I felt the need to retreat into myself.
During all of this my mom got sick and it was a big kick in the butt to remind me how life short can be, and to appreciate everything about it. Now that she is better, I feel like we all benefited from that reminder and we don’t take it for granted like we used to.
One of the most difficult parts of the change is positive thinking. I still struggle with this but it does get easier. There are days where I need to literally yell at myself (usually in my head – sometimes not) to smarten up and get with the program. If I have self-doubt about how I look I will remind myself of where I started. If I don’t like something I will remind myself how to take the steps to change it. And then take them.
I remind myself that others cannot control how I feel or act – only I can do that. I make sure to stay connected to other positive thinkers. Like-minded individuals with the same goals, who are taking the same steps as I am. My Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are littered with motivational posts, fitness groups, quotes and images that remind me I am not alone and that I GOT THIS.
I am inspired and motivated by the people who tell me I inspire and motivate them (something I will never take for granted and am so ridiculously grateful for) I am moved by the people at the gym, the older folks and the heavier set who are there every day going for it. Having this kind of inspiration reminds me every day that the journey I am on is worth every early morning, every unsatisfied craving, every sore muscle and every negative thought that gets beaten down into submission. My self-confidence still suffers and I know how it holds me back from getting involved and putting myself out there, but I also know as I continue the journey this too will improve. I am already miles away from who I was even just months ago.
So, if you’re still with me, a brief synopsis of how I got to this point…
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF! And surround yourself with like minded people who will support you in your goals and not bring you down. Read, go online, join support groups, get inspired.
2. MAKE TIME! If it means getting up earlier, staying up later, getting a babysitter for an hour or leaving the kids in the gym daycare, working out from home while the kids are doing their homework or whatever – there is always time to work out! Lunch hours, breaks, whenever you can! When I can’t get to the gym I will workout at home or alternate my rest day to accommodate the program I’m doing. But I’m always pre-planning. Which leads me to…
3. IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU’RE PLANNING TO FAIL! This was huge for me. Every week I try and plan my meals and use Sundays for cooking for the week and doing any of my protein baking. I check out the next days workout ahead of time so I know what I can expect and know what I`m walking into. I make grocery lists and stick to them. This sounds like a lot of work but it actually helps me be more organized when I know what to expect and I’m not spending time worrying about what I need to make or buy or pack for lunch etc.
4. KICK START YOUR METABOLISM! – getting this going will also kickstart the weight loss. Eat to lose. I believe you should be eating 5-6 times a day. I also recommend eating clean because its what makes the most sense to me. Processed foods and sugars wreak havoc on our systems. Having said that I know there are different food theories out there – research different options and do what is best for you BUT be careful because not every plan is designed for everyone.
5. BE ACCOUNTABLE! – part of why I am always posting food pics or gym statuses is to be accountable. It reminds me that I have people out there supporting me. But being accountable also means tracking my food and my workouts every day. Which of course means making time – but if it means one less game of candy crush saga or logging meals on Walking Dead commercial breaks – so be it. Being accountable also keeps you honest.
6. FIND A PROGRAM YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH and get the help you need to get you through it. On Bodybuilding.com there are all sorts of different programs posted for all sorts of fitness levels, and I know there are tons of other sites out there. Get a trainer if you can to make sure your form is correct and don’t expect to walk into the gym on day 1 and hit everything hard. With any program I do if I am not comfortable with a posted exercise I look for – and do – an alternate – but I don’t use that as an excuse to crap out on my workout I like weightlifting because I can work at my own pace and take the time to focus on my form and track my progress.
I learn to listen to my body and know when to scale back when my shoulder or back start bothering me. Having said that I also need to step it up and challenge myself a little more. But that too I can do at my own pace – and everything I’ve done so far seems to be working. I have done all of this so far without a trainer – which would be completely beneficial and I will be looking into finding a coach when I want to start competing, but it can be done on your own. I started out working out at home, with weights up to 10lbs and a few bands. There are lots of workouts you can do from home if cost or free time is an issue.
7. STICK TO IT! Changes don’t happen overnight. It has taken me a very long time to get where I am and I know I still have far to go. But if you are true to your choices you will see a change (and if not – tweak things, see your doc make sure there isn’t an underlying condition, try another program, just don’t give up!)
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