I'm talking about weight loss.
I've written about my struggles with weight here a lot. Often with a humorous, que sera, sera attitude. However, it was in my most popular post to date in which I finally divulged my battle with losing baby weight (plus the extra weight I've carried pretty much since my senior year of high school.) I'm really excited to reveal something I've been working pretty hard on for a little over a year.
That's the after. I don't have a whole lot of "Before" photos. That's mostly because I was (wisely) avoiding cameras for a good portion of time. However, here's a smattering of pictures I am not proud to say are pretty accurate representations of what I looked like before. I've even seen some pictures which were taken around the beginning of my attempt to lose weight and those photos are pretty shameful as well.
|Top row: April 2011 & June 2011|
Bottom row: October 2011 & Easter 2012 (40 days after I started trying to lose weight)
In February of 2012, I stood on my scale and saw a number I thought had to be a mistake. It was actually only 24 pounds less than what I weighed the day I gave birth to TIH (and I gained 50 pounds with that pregnancy and got pregnant when I was already 15-20 pounds overweight.)
Today, I stood on the scale and have lost 50 pounds since that day in February.
I am happier than I have ever been in my life with how I look and actually am wearing sizes in clothes I'm not even positive I fit in when I was in high school.
At the beginning of this year, I joined a group of women for a Biggest Loser competition organized by a good friend on Facebook. I knew I couldn't win the competition because I didn't have much to lose. However, this competition was largely part of the reason I finally reached my goal. Those women kept me motivated, had some great ideas, encouraged me when I had set backs and...well, I'll let the results speak for themselves:
|I lost 11 pounds during this competition which I was actually a little disappointed by. However, after seeing these pictures I realized what a difference that little bit of weight made.|
Whenever I tell people about my weight loss, they inevitably want to know every detail of how I was able to lose weight and keep it off. I wish that was an easy answer. Unfortunately, I can't say for certain why it worked this time. Plus, I'm not a doctor, dietician, or personal trainer so it's pretty much any advice I'd give you based on my experience has no real backing other than pure dumb luck. I would love to open up this blog to people (especially mothers) out there that are struggling with losing some extra pounds and let you know how or why I've been successful, but frankly I haven't the faintest idea where to begin. If you have questions for me, please feel free to leave comments or send me an email, but I'll try to start somewhere.
So, here's my top 5 pieces of advice for weight loss:
1. Download the Lose It! App for your smartphone. It's free. Free is the first thing I needed for weight loss this time around because I started this journey while we were trying to sell our house and had no idea what kind of financial situation it would leave for us to deal with. On the app, you can track calories, nutrients, and exercise. You can even connect with your friends or a trainer if you need someone to help keep you accountable. I know for some people having a financial investment in it helps to keep them accountable, but for me that wasn't really an option. You have to weigh yourself every day so sometimes you see numbers that are really discouraging, but at the end of your journey, you'll get to see this lovely downward-trending line on a graph that will make your heart explode with happiness. (Also, Lose It! isn't paying me for this blog, but it sure would be nice if they did. I need new clothes. Seriously.)
2. Instead of counting your calories, make your calories count. I've realized I like to spend my calories the same way I like to spend my money. Sure, I'm thrifty and I know a great way to make a dollar stretch. You'll always find me checking out the clearance racks at any store. However, I'd much rather spend the extra dough on a pair of pants that will last me through a few seasons over a pair that's not going to last through one wash cycle. The same goes for my diet. In years past, I was an avid user of the 100-calorie snack packs and a glutton for any sort of diet food. And yet, 30 minutes after I'd indulged in those things, I'd feel ravenous again. Remember that a calorie is a unit for measuring ENERGY which means you have to choose foods packed with the sort of calories that won't allow you to burn all of that energy too quickly. This time around I learned to snack on foods that would last me until the next meal. Even if it meant an extra 30-50 calories in my snacks. It's also a really great way to teach yourself portion control. There were days where I went over my recommended daily calorie intake by a little bit. And I noticed that if I did that by consuming foods that were actually nutritious, I usually noticed my weight going down, not up.
3. Avoid artificial sweeteners. I know. You want to punch me. And trust me when I say my Diet Coke-loving self couldn't agree with you more. Two years ago, I gave up artificial sweeteners for Lent. And on Ash Wednesday, I saw the cold hard reality of how much I had been consuming. It was in practically EVERYTHING I was eating and yet, I was still carrying AT LEAST an extra 20 pounds of weight. Since this time last year, I've gone from having drinking Diet Coke at least once a day to having it 2 times a week (or less.) I've also stopped buying the diet yogurts, diet ice cream, and anything else that has an artificial sweeteners. And you know what? This time, by avoiding the "diet foods," my "diet"actually worked. Interesting, no? (Also, I feel better than I've ever felt in my life. I know not carrying around the extra weight has something to do with that, but I also know that I was slowly poisoning myself with that stuff.) And before you totally want to smack me, please know that I used to think the only way I would give up Diet Coke was for someone to wrestle it out of my hands. I still indulge myself every once in awhile. I just drink it less often now.
4. Exercise. I will admit it. I am not there yet. I did most of this without a whole lot of physical activity. (Unless you count chasing around a toddler - I do.) Fluctuations in the weather do a lot to my respiratory system and as someone whose vocal health is pretty much her liveliness, I have to play it really safe. This means there's only about a 4-month period where I can run outside without getting sick. And, due to the aforementioned financial strain, I couldn't really afford a gym membership. However, if you have the means, please please please exercise. I sure hope I'm not introducing anyone to a new concept when I tell you that exercise has more benefits than just weight loss. So you should do it. And while you're at it, eat foods that nourish your body enough to energize you for a work out. The Lose It! app will help keep you on target with that.
5. Be realistic. This is BY FAR my most important piece of advice. Start by setting a realistic goal for weight loss. If you reach it and decide you still could stand to lose more, you can always do that, but setting smaller goals will make for less opportunities for discouragement if you realize you're still 30 pounds away from where you want to be even after losing a significant amount of weight. Also, realize that weight loss does and SHOULD take time. Run screaming away from any diet that promises that you will lose weight fast. It took me over a year to achieve my goal. It was a long uphill battle, but that also means I won't be putting it all back on overnight either. I know a lot of New Moms set their sights on losing extra baby weight within the first year of their baby's life. I know now that setting those standards for myself was extremely unrealistic. Additionally, I think you've always got to give yourself a break. If you don't allow yourself a little bit of "cheating" here and there what is the freaking point? You should still get to enjoy the things you love even if it's a smaller portion or enjoyed less often. I allowed myself a little bit of wiggle room every. single. day. and that helped not only to keep me motivated, but also for me to keep the weight off. I wouldn't recommend ANY sort of diet that cuts out any food group or genre in its entirety in order to lose weight. That just means that reintroducing those foods into your diet (ever) is a surefire way to gain everything back. I think the best diets are the ones that allow you to walk into any restaurant and still be able to find something that you can eat that won't totally set you back. Anything else is not sustainable. Because eventually you're going to get invited out for pizza and what is life without pizza?
My final piece of advice actually comes from this video. Weight loss can be done in a healthy way and can lead to a more healthy lifestyle for you. However, part of being successful at anything in life requires you to respect and love yourself just the way (or, "weigh") you are. We have got to stop evaluating ourselves and others based solely on appearance. We need to redefine the healthy ideal. It is time to love you for you and to realize that every person's weight loss journey is very individualized and personal. I think my biggest pet peeve is the word "healthy" and our understanding of what it means. In truth, the word "healthy" can mean a lot of different things, and so very few of them have anything to do with the numbers on a scale. In my wildest dreams I can't and won't fit into a size 2. I find there to be nothing wrong with that at all. This body gave me a beautiful child and I'm always going to have a little extra weight around to show it. And that? Is fine by me.