Over the past 8 months I have been on a mission to get healthier and shed the extra pounds I have been carrying all these years. The breaking point was seeing the photos of myself at my sister’s wedding this past December and being totally horrified at the person looking back at me. This was my wake up call, I did not want to look or feel like that on my wedding day which was only 5 months away. I have always battled my weight, being heavier than all the kids in school, constantly being asked why I was fat compared to my thin siblings and a victim of extreme bullying for over a decade. This spiraled me into severe depression for many years and chose to hide my body in baggy tee shirts and jeans. I slowly dug myself out of this downward spiral in my 20’s but I still resented my overall appearance. My mission was not to get skinny but rather feel good in my clothes and most importantly, be healthier.
Although I have always battled being overweight, I refused to ever “diet” as I knew these are never a long term solution. If you deprive yourself of anything over a long period of time, you are just setting yourself up to fail. My motto, everything is ok in moderation. But why couldn’t I lose weight? I am 5’-4” tall with a very petite frame therefore all the excess weight is in my stomach, hips, thighs and face. I honestly thought I ate quite well: making our meals from scratch (no processed or boxed foods), didn’t snack at late night or before bed, only ate fast food on rare occasions as a treat, an occasional soda on weekends (something I used to drink daily), etc. At one point, I was even going to the gym 4-5 days a week doing some serious strength training/cardio and the scale wouldn’t budge. Although I saw some muscle developing, my body fat was not diminishing. I gave up!
Fast forward to January 1st, 2013, when I decided it was time to figure out what lifestyle changes we(both my husband and I) needed to make to get healthy. The very first thing I did was research online on nutritional recommendations for women to lose weight and keep it off. Let me be clear, I was not looking for a diet but rather a daily regimen that helps with the body’s digestion and promote natural weight loss. I read several studies stating women need 25 grams of dietary fiber to lower their risk of a whole slew of serious diseases and actually helps with weight loss. The second thing I had to figure out was my daily calorie intake and what was recommended for me to shed the pounds the right way. I chose to download the “My fitness Pal” app on my phone and just log all my meals for approximately 2 weeks to get a summary, weighing the good calories vs the bad. This was a real eye opener; I was not eating as well as I thought: too much sugar (granola bars, occasional soda drinks, excess condiments, etc). All of them adding up to bad calories since I lead a very sedentary lifestyle: work at a desk job 45+ hrs a week, no sports, no physical activities, etc.
My goal was to reach 135lbs by May 2013 but to do so, I had to establish a balanced 1200 calorie daily regimen based on my height and current weight of 142lbs. I am no professional, I’m simply sharing what worked for me. Below are my before photos…I am still scared to post them publicly but if my story helps one person, it’s worth it!
Step 1: Introduce 25 grams fiber into my daily diet. After doing my homework, I decided to try the Fiber One cereal as it had the highest amount of fiber (13 grams) and I only need to eat one cup for breakfast. This may seem simple, but for me it was the hardest challenge of it all…I HATE CEREAL & MILK! The first bowl was torture but switching to Almond Milk made it bearable, now I eat my cereal every morning no problem.
Step 2: Get to know you food. The one thing I never did was read the nutritional labels on the products I consumed, it was just better to plead ignorance. This was one of the biggest mistakes as you really need to know what you are eating to properly balance your diet. But beware, just because a product claims to be low in fat or “healthy”…the truth can be found on the nutritional break down. If something has no sugar added, be sure it has lots of aspartame which is REALLY not good for you either. You are best to skip the low fat version and eat a smaller quantity of the regular stuff truth be told. That being said, a lot of the low fat products are great and surprisingly don’t taste any different. I am guilty of loving condiments for added taste on my food: mayonnaise, dressings, sour cream, etc. Switching them out for the low fat version was very simple and I honestly prefer them now.
Step 3: Add more fruits and vegetables. This was quite simple, I added apples or bananas to my lunch as snacks to replace the full of sugar granola bars and supplemented the dinner carbs (rice, pastas, breads) for cooked veggies and/or salads instead. I also started making my own fruit smoothies from frozen or fresh fruit with yogurt, ice and a small amount of juice.
Step 4: Replace high fat proteins with lean alternatives. This is a personal vice, I LOVE my meat! A big juicy steak, beef tacos, pork roast…I love it all! As this was not something I was ready to cut back or give up, I decided to find healthy alternatives to my favorite meaty meals. A simple way is to replace your ground beef with ground chicken or turkey. The ground chicken/turkey will take on the flavor of whatever you are cooking (for example, beef tacos) and is a much leaner protein alternative. Over the summer months we eat turkey burgers and they are quite delicious! (Add guacamole or a light mayo/pesto spread for extra flavor). I was definitely not prepared to give up my steak, so instead I just eat smaller portions.
Step 5: Cut the liquid calories. All my life, I have drunk soda along with fruit juices on a daily basis. This was my one terrible habit that I did not realize was just full of sugars and bad calories. To me, I wasn’t drinking coffee or any kind of alcohol and just figured it was ok. Boy was I dumb! I was drinking my daily calorie intake, on top of all the food I ate. It was rather easy to replace the juice with water, and slowly weaned my soda consumption to 2-3 on weekends pre-January 2013. I forced myself to order water with lemon at restaurants to replace my weekend soda habit. Now, I would much rather have a glass of water with any meal and avoid soda all together. On My Fitness Pal, you can keep tabs on your water intake and work on increasing it over time. If you need flavor, add lemon or lime juice for a natural alternative.
Step 6: Natural Supplements. I couldn’t help be intrigued by the various claims of the miracle Green Tea and Raspberry Ketone supplements for fat burning in your midsection. This has always been my personal demon and was desperate to have a slimmer tummy. I tried a couple different herbal supplements recommended by a coworker to see if they actually lived up to the hype. I found the “Waist Away” which is a mix of green tea and raspberry ketones actually worked quite well in conjunction with my new balanced diet. This is not a diet pill; it is simply a natural supplement that helps reduce bloating in your trouble areas.
Step 7: Healthy in moderation. After establishing a healthy daily eating routine throughout the work week, I knew weekends had to be my time to splurge within reason. If I wanted Taco Bell, I ate it! But that was my giant splurge for the week and made sure to not do it often. If we went to a restaurant, I ate what I wanted but made sure to drink water and skip the soda or alcoholic sugary drinks.
With my new daily regimen established, the weight was gradually coming off. After 8 weeks, I was down to 136lbs and just kept eating well. By April, I actually surpassed my initial goal of 135lbs and was at 134lbs. Many of you may think 8lbs is not all that much but on a person who is only 5’-4” with a petite frame, losing 10lbs is like night and day. My clothes now fit perfectly, there were no more love handles spilling over my jeans and just felt good in my skin for the first time ever! For me, it was not what the scale was telling me but how the clothes displayed what I had achieved. My belly/back was down over 4”, waist 1.5”, hips 2”, I felt good!
Sticking to a healthy regime is challenging and it is about a lifestyle change, not diet. In early April, I found myself living in a hotel 4 days a week for six consecutive weeks (due to traveling for work) which meant restaurant food three meals a day. I knew this would be detrimental to all that I had accomplished in the past 3 months and made it my mission to not gain it any of it back. I made sure the hotel gave me a room with a mini fridge so I could have my cereal in the morning and brought apples and tangerines to snack on during the day. My lunches varied from salads, to sandwiches and made sure to skip the fries (except for an occasional poutine since I was in Montreal after all). Dinner was a mix of high protein lean meats with again veggies or salads. Thankfully my supplements and savvy choices allowed me to keep the pounds off and made sure to eat very well the days I was back home.
When I ordered my wedding dress back in August 2012, it was questionable if my hips would fit in the size 10 as I should have ordered a 12. Come April 2013 at my first dress fitting, my seamstress had alter the dress to a slim size 8 and strictly told me losing any more weight was off the table after all the work she had done taking it in.
I was so happy! For the first time in my life, I did it! I lost the weight that plagued me all these years and never thought it would happen. Don’t get me wrong, I am still not as healthy as I could be and need to now focus on getting into shape even if it means going for walks or actually learning to run (something I really want to do). Maybe one day I will have a flat stomach (I can dream) but for now I am happy with what I’ve accomplished when putting my mind to it. A healthy lifestyle is every day of your life and you need to find what works for you.