Before we get into everything I want to say two things: 1) I believe that this is going to be quite lengthy, and I apologize ahead of time. 2) I am NOT a physician, nutritionist or licensed in medicine. These are the tips and tricks that I discovered worked for myself.
I believe that it is important for me to tell you a little background about myself to put the following story and information in perspective. As a child, and teenager, I was heavy. Not significantly so, but enough for it to be considered a health issue. My top weight in my teens was 210 pounds and my low was 170 pounds. When I went to college I weighed about 180 pounds, and in three months I gained 80 pounds. This left me at 260 pounds.
About 4 years ago I hit a breaking point in my life. I ached everywhere, I couldn't walk to class without being winded, and I was unhappy. I started a new job (at which I am no longer employed) and without realizing it in about a year I had lost 60 pounds, which I attribute to stress, and is obviously not an ideal weight loss plan. Now, you may wonder how I did not realize it. To be frank, when you're that heavy it takes more than 60 pounds (depending on where you carry your weight) to see a difference in your body. In fact, after I lost 100 pounds I had only dropped a couple of pants sizes, which for a woman, is infuriating. SO, after the first 60 pounds of weight loss, I joined a gym. Planet Fitness. When I began I weighed 201 pounds. And this is how I started changing my life.
Step One: Love Yourself
I'm not even kidding here. This is absolutely essential. A lot of people like to have support during a time like this. However, I believe that true raw inspiration is going to come from yourself. Love you. All day, every day regardless of weight. It's a number, and you should really be doing this to better your health. Laugh with yourself, dance, sing, talk to yourself. Who cares, be amazing to you! Life is too short to spend hating yourself for any reason. Gaining a ton of weight is actually what spurred my massive amount of self confidence. I was fat, and I OWNED it. I owned everything I did. I still do. I think I am beautiful now, and I think I was beautiful then. Let us be honest, I get hit on the same amount now as I did then. When you love yourself, you radiate beauty and confidence to everyone around you!
Step Two: Slowly Change Your Diet
I personally think that this is perhaps what people think is the hardest part, but in fact, it's the easiest. "Diet" is a word that has many negative connotations. We are all on a diet. It's what you choose to make it that matters. I went grocery shopping every other week. I got paid bi-weekly, so this is just what worked for me. Every time I went grocery shopping I cut out something I knew was bad for me, and replaced it with a healthier option. If you do this slowly it becomes a habit and a lifestyle change as opposed to a crash diet. To see results and keep those results you need to stick with it, and for me this process is what helped.
Pop Tarts removed for cereal bars
Chips removed for snap peas, or celery
Yogurt removed for light yogurt
Cereal that I put extra sugar on removed for cereal that is reasonable
And so on. Now, I slowly lowered the number of calories I consumed daily. Here's where it gets a little hairy, I eat on average 1,200-1,600 calories daily. Men and women differ, men need more than women, and for some people it's not a calorie issue, it's sugar, or carbs. But, I tried different routes in my wanderings and found that for myself it is truly calorie intake and portion control that was my issue.
Eat a few small meals a day. I work 40 hours a week, so for me it's easy to not think about food all day, but if you're home frequently it can be a lot harder. Here are several snack options that I cannot live without!!
Fiber One Chocolate Fudge Brownie - 90 Calories. These things are amazing, they are small (compared to if I were to slice into a tray of brownies) but satisfying.
Old Wisconsin Turkey Sausage Snack Slices - 60 Calories. Who doesn't love sausage? Don't even lie! These are delicious, salty and cheap at .88 cents a pack, they are a great little snack.
Nabisco Lorna Doone 100 Calorie Pack - 100 Calories. I love these anyway, but the fact that there's a 100 calorie pack for these makes life good. There is nothing like satisfying a cookie craving!
Keebler Mini Fudge Stripes Dark Chocolate 100 Calorie Right Bites - 100 Calories. Again, a cookie or sweets craving can be quickly remedied with these, they're rich and tasty, and most importantly, chocolately.
Sunshine Snack Mix 100 Calorie Right Bites - 100 Calories. These feel super naughty, but totally aren't who doesn't love pretzels, Cheez-Its and Chex?
Special K Pastry Crisps Brown Sugar Cinnamon - 100 Calories. These taste like crispy Pop Tarts! They come in a few flavors, blueberry strawberry and chocolate as well. And there are two in each package, so you can have one and save the other for later if you wanted!
Emerald Dry Roasted Almonds - 100 calories. Nuts are an amazing snack. Protein helps to stave off hunger, and almonds are great for that.
Special K Popcorn Chips - 120 Calories for 28 Chips. These. Are. AMAZING. And their cracker chips are fantastic too!
I recommend all of these snacks, they are fantastic to keep you on track with eating healthy. I will admit that I eat a lot of prepackaged foods, but I have portion control issues so this helps me a lot. You can always buy a big bag of any food, and buy baggies and make your own 100 calorie packs!
Drink a ton of water, like, absurd amounts of it. A lot of hunger pangs come from being dehydrated. So before you eat, have a glass of water! Buy bottled water (or bottle your own) and use those flavor packs for water so you don't get bored of water. I drink the sparkling waters with no calories, sugars carbs or anything. Very filling because of the carbonation. I personally have not had a drop of soda since 2005. If you can cut it, I'd strongly recommend it. Beer or any alcohol should be cut as well.
Fruits and veggies are great, but stay away from the super sugary fruits like bananas. Strawberries, raspberries, apples, etc are great. A nice treat is strawberries dipped in honey. All veggies are great, dressing is tricky, but there are a ton of light options out there, just be sure to only use the serving size, which is almost always 2 tablespoons.
I eat a lot of salad, and snacks. Meals usually are fresh meat over salads, sushi, or frozen Smart Ones, and Healthy Choice meals. Chicken and Fish are preferable meats to eat, but pork and ham are not too bad as well. Beef is a treat, I'd stick to steaks, rather than hamburger. When I cook meats I always serve with several sides of veggies, or a small amount of rice.
Lastly, always allow yourself a splurge day. Splurge within reason and serving sizes. Let yourself have that craving for ice cream or pizza. Splurge days allow you to have a mental break, keep up morale and boost your metabolism!
Step Three: Exercise In A Way That Works For You
When I started going to the gym, I went with someone who had already been going for a while. I looked to her for some guidance as I stood in the gym fighting off my teenage flashbacks of being purposely bludgeoned with all matter of sports balls, being made fun of, and overall horror. It was a mistake. I mean, obviously she was more fit than I was at this point. I jumped on the elliptical with her, and after ten minutes I was in the locker room trying not to vomit from over exertion.
Start SLOWLY! If you jump right into an intensive workout you can seriously hurt yourself. And if you aren't sure where to start, that is why the gym has staff members! They can be an extremely useful tool for you.
When I started I ended up using a stationery bike, with various settings and used some weight machines. Cardio is very important. 20 minutes minimum is what is necessary to raise your heart rate long enough to burn calories. I always did my cardio first, and then moved to the weights. However, you will find a routine that is comfortable for you. My only advise is this: You should push yourself. You need some down time, but not so much that your heart rate lowers to a normal level. Keep moving!!
3-5 days a week you should do something outside of your normal activity to raise your heart rate. 20-30 is sufficient. It honestly doesn't take much. These days, I tend to work out 4-5 times a week. Usually for an hour. I do this for maintenance and to keep myself active.
DO NOT WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY. You WILL discourage yourself. Your weight can and WILL fluctuate -5 - +5 pounds daily. Weigh yourself once a week or once every two weeks. I have heard of people only weighing themselves once monthly.
My Personal Journey
I don't feel like this would be complete without telling you how all of this went for me.
I'd be an absolute liar to tell you my journey was easy, fun, exciting, gratifying, or quick. This took me three years. Three years is a reasonable amount of time to lose this much weight naturally. I think the thing that discourages most people is how long this takes. The faster you lose, the easier it is to gain back.
At the beginning I was terrified. I hated gym in high school. I was bullied in gym, and overall for the way I looked to begin with. So I grew to associate physical activity with negativity. But once I realized that everyone at the gym was there to mind their own business, the more comfortable and enjoyable it became for me. I began to sing out loud, and even dance while working out. No one cares. Truly. Please never let this stop you. If you choose to work out, you are choosing to do more than a person who stays home and does nothing. And that is something to be extremely proud of!
Changing my diet became the target of much ridicule from friends. I stopped drinking. It's a ton of extra calories that are unneeded. I got the barrage of insults and comments. "You're so boring." "Oh I forgot, now that you're skinny you can't have any fun." "It's so annoying to eat with you." People are always going to knock you down for your personal choices. And I know for some people this is extremely hard to deal with. Your health is something that you should be selfish about. Ultimately what are you losing out on if you don't eat that slice of pizza? You can eat that pizza. The key is to have self control. When you get to this point, you'll start to realize food is not something you do for fun. It's something you do to live. This type of self control is so amazing and no one can take that away from you. Never let anyone talk you out of taking care of yourself. If they are true friends, they will respect your choices. And there are always healthy choices! I have brought my own food to parties, or eaten before we went someplace. There's no shame in it.
"Are you anorexic?" "Are you sick?" "You look really thin, I can't believe it!" "You need to stop losing so much weight!!" Losing weight (or being naturally thin) somehow makes it ok to make comments about someone's appearance. Odd, really. I am thick skinned. As I mentioned, I was vehemently bullied in school. But that is a whole other blog post that I am sure no one wants to read. I have not lost weight since I hit my lowest weight in my adult life. So when people tell me to stop losing, I think it's simply because they are expecting me to gain it back. It became ridiculously annoying to me. However, again. If you keep reminding yourself that you are doing this for you and you alone, it becomes so much easier.
My boyfriend has been my biggest supporter. He always believes in me no matter what I do, no matter how stupid it seems. He loves me as I am, as I was, and however I will be. He is the most beautiful human I have ever known.
I had many emotional ups and downs during all of this. I'll tell you what though. I still see the same person in the mirror. I still see a heavy person. I was heavy my whole life. I do see that I have lost weight. But it's ALWAYS going to be hard to see yourself as others see you. In the end, I feel better. No, being skinny does not mean that you will be the pinnacle of health. Skinny people get sick too. But, my back pain is gone. My knees don't hurt anymore. My headaches are less. But I have traded these issues for eczema and arthritis in my hands, one foot and hip. I also have a lot of extra skin. The bulk of it lies on my tummy and thighs. It does make moving around a little awkward, and fitting into clothes is a bit tricky. But, clothes shopping has always been my least favorite thing, anyway.
Maintaining IS just as hard to do as losing. It is a daily battle. You cannot let yourself become too comfortable. It's something that you need to be constantly conscious of. It is annoying. It is hard. It is tedious.
Was it worth it?
Hell yes it was.
Would I do it again?
Hell yes I would.
It was an amazing journey that has led me to experience so many awesome things in my life. Meeting new people. Inspiring people, and being inspired. I LOVE hearing about people changing their lives. I remember when I dropped below 200 pounds. When I hit 199 pounds, I cried. It was the most moving moment of my life. And hear that from others, and seeing it on the Biggest Loser sparks the same exact emotions. It's an amazing feeling. An awesome connection to another human being that I otherwise would not have if I hadn't decided to change my life.
I wear my stretch marks as a badge of honor received for a war well fought.
Love you. You are the only you you're ever going to have.