How I’m Losing Weight the Old Fashioned Way
For awhile now, I’ve wanted to share with you what I’ve been doing to lose weight in 2014 and make good on my New Years’ Resolution Word of Intention. I’ve been mulling it over for a couple weeks because I know that this can be a sensitive topic, one that many of us have faced very real, personal battles with. I also wanted to carefully think about how I wanted to present my story with you because I’m not a personal trainer or nutritionist.
So here’s what I got. What I want to share with you today is simply my personal story and how I’ve come to have a new relationship with food and a new appreciation of my body and what its capable of achieving. I want to be very clear up front that I have nothing to sell. There are no products, no shakes, no fancy videos, no 20-day cleanses, no affiliate links that earn me a kick back. In fact, it has been extremely important to go on this journey without any of those things – in part to prove it to myself that I don’t need them, but also to encourage those around me that they don’t need them, either. I recognize that some of my readers may be heavily involved in such programs and may even sell them. Please know that my goal is to not put you down today, but rather, suggest an alternative.
With that, here’s my journey.
April: How I found my Motivation
I have been thin for most of my life. Sure, I’d put on a few pounds at times, but I’d always managed to lose them. I think deep down, I also hung my hat on the fact that I’d run full-distance marathons before. But the truth was, I was on the fast track to becoming overweight.
Earlier this year, I began to notice that I was experiencing an irregular heartbeat and in general, just did not feel well. Thinking it was my old heart issues making an unwanted comeback, I made an appointment with my cardiologist. After reviewing my rhythms and assuring me everything was well, he told me “you need to get more active.” Deep down, I knew he was right. I’d not been consistent about working out in over 6 months and truth be told, my size 12 jeans were starting to fit snuggly around my middle. I was a bit surprised about how I was starting to look in pictures. (The one pictured above was taken on Easter of this year, at my heaviest.)
It was about this time I decided to get real with what I weighed. I was very surprised to see the scale at 166 – that was my highest weight ever (not including my pregnancies). Not only that, I’d put on roughly 15 pounds in one year! While 166 might not seem like a super high weight, technically I was now overweight for my 5’6″ frame. I also considered that if I kept on gaining at the rate I had been, I could top 200 pounds within just a couple years.
Feeling myself at a crossroads, I decided to start running again. That week, I made myself run 2 miles a day. It was very difficult, both physically and mentally. “How had I let myself get here?” I wondered most of that first week. I would think about how I used to run 8 miles practically in my sleep during my peak condition. Everything in me wanted to stop. But I kept going anyways.
May: How I stuck with it
The first week in May, I decided to schedule out my workouts for the entire month and then plaster them on my refrigerator. (While it sounds a bit strange, for some reason, it worked for my brain.) More than three months later, I’ve continued doing this as well as ensuring my workouts were one of my Most Important Things each day.
The second week into my workout routine, I started incorporating some strength training and was able to bump my runs up to 3 miles. It was still extremely hard and frustrating, but I figured my motivation would catch up with me sooner or later. About this time, I decided to enter a race: the Sound to Narrows 12K in Tacoma. I knew this was pretty ambitious, because I’d done this run three times previously – but almost 10 years ago! Not only is this course over 7 miles, it’s very hilly. Deciding to seize the moment, I signed up for the race with only 6 weeks left to train.
June: How I reached a goal and set a new one
After several weeks of really upping my workouts, my race day had arrived! I was nervous, excited, and proud all at once. It had been almost 3 years since I’d completed a race, and I realized just how much I’d missed it all. Not only did I felt amazing the entire race, I finished in 1:21 (or an average pace of 10:56). This is great considering that I had just gotten back into training and the level of difficulty of the course! It was also very comparable to the times I’d gotten previously on this race years ago.
While focusing on my training and trying to eat better, I’d managed to go from 166 to 156 on race day! In order to hold myself accountable to this journey, I ended up signing up for a half marathon in January 2015. Setting it that far out will mean I’ll need to continue my new-found habits the remainder of 2014! (How’s that for intention?)
July: How I changed everything I knew about food
I’m not going to lie, the first part of July was challenging. I was continuing to stay the course, but for the last two weeks of June and then the first two weeks of July, I’d not lost any more weight. I’d plateaued and was finding myself growing discouraged.
I decided to re-activate my MyFitnessPal account and start logging my food, calories, and exercise. While it really didn’t add much time to my routine, I found it made a huge difference in holding me accountable. In the last two weeks of July following a 1,500 calorie/day plan, I dropped five pounds going from 156 to 151! I also realized that my waist had gone from about 36″ to 30″ and I could fit comfortably into size 10 (and even some size 8) jeans! I learned first-hand how weight loss is not necessarily linear. It’s entirely possible to not lose for awhile and then drop several pounds at once.
Here’s the amazing thing about what I’m eating. There are no “bad” foods. I’m not following any specific meal plan – vegan, Paleo, gluten-free, anything free. I’m just doing my best to make good choices and stay within my 1,500 calorie goal. Instead of feeling guilty about going out to eat or splurging on pizza or cake, I now plan for it. For instance, on the day I knew I’d have my book club, I ate lighter during the day so I could have those calories “saved up” for that evening! I also did extra cardio that day. (On MyFitnessPal, you can earn more calories when you exercise.) It’s been eye opening seeing how many calories are in certain foods – it makes me naturally want to eat the better stuff as it gives me more bang for my buck, so to speak. But even so, I’ve lost weight while making room for things like fried chicken, chocolate, wine, pizza and burgers.
In the past, I think this is why dieting didn’t work for me – my will power could only last for so long. This time around, I feel I’ve made peace with food and I don’t diet. Much like budgeting with money, I now budget with calories.
I really can’t say enough good things about MyFitnessPal (and no, I’m not getting a kickback or anything for mentioning them). They have a free food tracker, exercise tracker, forums and more. (If you have an account or end up starting one, please friend me: arussell134.)
I still have another 15 pounds or so to go, but I’m so pleased with the progress I’m making and how I feel about myself right now. I’ve started getting my first, “have you lost weight?” comments and it feels soooo good. After three months, I finally feel like my motivation caught up with my actions!
My best tips for Getting Started
If you are reading this feeling discouraged about where you’re at, I wish I could reach through the computer and give you a big hug! I want to encourage you today: it’s August and we still have five months in 2014. Five months where you can decide to make good on those 2014 New Years Resolutions.
Here are my best tips for losing weight without going crazy, spending a lot of money, or dieting:
- Decide to start today. Don’t wait until Monday or until you can “drum up” some motivation. Do it anyways.
- Tell yourself to stick with it for 3 weeks. The first 3 weeks will likely be rough, so focus on just getting through them. Make a commitment to yourself to not give up and workout and make good choices even if you don’t feel like it.
- Work towards a fitness goal. Instead of focusing on a weight goal, consider training for your first 5K, or working up to riding your bike 10 miles without stopping. Or whatever floats your boat.
- Choose exercises that are interesting to you. Sure, running/hot yoga/crossfit/Zumba is good, but if it’s not personally interesting to you, you won’t stick with it. I love running for so many reasons, so that’s my main form of cardio. However, to keep from getting bored, I do other forms of cardio and strength training. I also vary my running routes and distances and sometimes just run sprints when I’m short on time.
- Track your food. While I recommend and adore MyFitnessPal, there are other ways you can track what you’re eating. I found 1,500 calories was good enough to give me a deficit to lose weight; 1,200 left me positively famished! On days that I work out, I sometimes eat as much as 2,000 calories. Don’t starve yourself.
- Be wary of diets or “lifestyle changes” that are really diets in disguise. Remember that the weight loss industry is very good at what it does! When you have some weight to lose, you can potentially find yourself in a vulnerable situation easily allured by “quick fix” promises. Again, my goal is not to bash these companies, but to empower you to make good choices about your health and finances. Research the ingredients of any shakes or products you’re considering shelling out good money for – are these ingredients you could get elsewhere (and perhaps even in a whole food form)? Instead of buying pre-portioned, packaged weight loss meals – could you make your own and freeze them? Consider your options carefully and as logically (read: not emotionally!) as possible.
Finally, the most important thing I’d say is be patient and be kind to yourself. Don’t put added pressure on yourself to reach a certain weight by an arbitrary date. Go slow – a pound or even a half pound of weight loss a week is OK! Remind yourself that it’s more important to develop healthy, life-long habits and lose weight slowly than drop weight quickly through a crash diet only to regain it all later (trust me, I’ve done this).
I know that this is a longer post, and if you’re still reading, thank you kindly. Honestly, there is more I could say on this topic, but I don’t want to drone on. I hope to share more of my journey as I get closer to reaching my goal. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or feel free to email me at angela @ thecouponproject dot com if you feel more comfortable that way. (I just ask that folks understand that this is not the forum to market your home-based weight loss business, so please honor that.)
EDITED TO ADD: Want to see a more recent update? Check out my post from September 10th!
Disclosure: I’m not a personal trainer, doctor, or nutritionist. Just a gal that’s had some success losing weight on her own through a sensible approach of calorie reduction and exercise. I do not advocate or endorse any weight loss product or particular method. If you have specific health concerns, I encourage you to seek the professional advice of a doctor and/or nutritionist. Thanks, friends!