Last March, I had a wake-up call that lead me on a fitness journey that changed my life. After browsing for clothes for hours, I finally found a button front dress that I couldn’t pass up. I grabbed my usual size and headed home, not concerned with trying on the dress. I slipped It on and struggled to button even the lowest buttons. This was the wake up call I needed to finally start losing weight.
The weight had crept on very slowly. Through college I always tried to eat as well as I could and work out, but I gained weight both in and out of college. Once I hit the “real world,” of working and little time to prepare healthy meals, I ballooned to my heaviest weight, wearing a size 16/18 at just 5’1. I had accepted it and had no problem buying bigger clothes, but that dress snapped me back into reality. I had to do something about my weight.
My first step was to create goals for myself. I decided to set a goal for each week and each month, more geared toward how I was feeling and how my clothes were fitting. I stepped on the scale just once or twice a month. It was a much better feeling for me to try on a smaller size of clothing and watch how it became easier to wear than stressing over one or two pounds of loss or gain. It became my goal to lose a clothing size or two a month, and to build my fitness skills to work out at least an hour a day.
When I had my goals set, I researched several diets but found that most of them did not suit my tastes nor my budget. In the past, I had tried eating prepackaged, low fat or lean meals, but found them to be bland and lacking nutrients. Some diets I researched required eating expensive prepackaged food, joining a club or extremely restrictive eating. I knew that I needed a plan that was focused on making my health better while losing weight, rather than a fad that would not be sustainable.
I decided to start by cutting out foods and replacing them with healthier choices. I used ChooseMyPlate.gov ‘s nutrition standards as a way to gauge what groups of food and how much to eat. I then identified what areas I needed to improve on, like eating vegetables, and incorporated new foods slowly. My weakness is snacking, so I swapped chips and candy for fruit and upped my water intake to at least a liter per day. I also started packing salads or sandwiches for my lunch rather than relying on fast food to keep my energy going.
I became very conscious of food labeling and began watching my intake closely. I used MyFitnessPal, a website and app, to track what I was eating and it gave me a good idea of where I needed to be nutritionally. Losing weight isn’t just about calories-I learned that the amount of proteins, grains and other foods I ate could help fuel my body in the best way possible. The program also has a community element that lets you follow your friends or join groups for extra motivation. It even lets you track your goals and helps you set mini goals to reach your goal weight.
Fitness became a very important part of my daily routine in ways that it never had before. Because gym memberships are pricey, I looked up free fitness videos online. I began with short, easy cardio videos and worked my way up to longer routines. I started practicing yoga and pilates to help build my muscles and for stress relief. I would sometimes do an easy cardio routine or walk during my lunch breaks at work. I started with thirty minutes per day, and eventually was able to easily work out for an hour or two without stopping. I did give myself weekends off, but maintained my healthy diet even when not exercising.
I did, however, indulge occasionally in my favorite foods, but with substitutions. I would get a kids meal at a fast food restaurant and sometimes skip the bun on my sandwich. I would cut a candy bar into pieces and freeze them in portions, so I could only eat one at a time after it thawed. If I went to a party, I would bring healthy dishes so I could still spend time with my friends. On birthdays or holidays, I put the diet on hold. Its important to remember just like one work out wont make you shed pounds, one “bad,” meal won’t ruin your progress. Having the occasional treat made it easier to stick to a healthy eating routine.
By June, I had shrunk to a size 8 and lost right around 40 pounds. I have maintained my current weight and size by exercising just a few times a week and continuing to follow eating habits that are balanced. It is possible to sustain weight loss long term by taking it day by day and not letting any set backs discourage you. Listen to your body, take it slow, and you’ll be well on your way to your goal weight soon.