I just want to start this entry by saying that I struggled for a really long time about whether or not to post it. The reason I eventually decided in favor of it is because I really did work hard to get where I am physically, and with so many “quick fixes” out there, I think it’s important to share the down and dirty ways to shed pounds too.
I have had several people ask (both in reference to this blog and otherwise) how I lost weight. It’s not really as easy as all that, however.
When I was younger, in high school, etc. – I was EXTREMELY active. And by that, I mean my parents most likely would have used tranquilizer darts to calm me down if they thought they could get away with it. I did soccer, ballet, jazz, tap, gymnastics, the works. When I got to high school, I had to make some choices, so I settled on soccer – four seasons a year. I played club, indoor, outdoor teams, and when I wasn’t technically “in-season,” we were training, conditioning, weight lifting. In addition to all this, I have always come from a fairly nutritionally aware family. I’m not saying we never eat candy or cookies, but on the whole, my parents have always prepared very healthy food for me to eat. Needless to say, weight was not a huge issue on my mind for a huge majority of this time in my life.
That fact alone is partially why I gained weight in the first place. I rolled into college, accustomed to the ability to eat whatever I wanted (whenever I wanted). Not only that, but for the first time, any kind of food I could possibly want was readily available to me at no cost, at pretty much all hours of the day. I went a little crazy. There are three main factors I attribute to my weight gain:
1. There was a place on campus that served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on BANANA BREAD. How could anyone resist that? It seemed innocent enough, but these were deadly and calorie-ridden.
2. Coffee – I had never been a big coffee drinker before, but everyone experiments in college, right? The worst part was that I didn’t actually like the taste of coffee, so I would order mocha drinks with names so long I’ve honestly forgotten them by now. They were delicious and chocolate-y, often served with whipped cream and a muffin. Not the best for anyone’s waistline.
3. Tater tots – It has already been established on this blog many times over that I am a potato fiend. Having the ability to order a huge plate of tater tots at any time of day or night was just bad news. Add a night of college drinking in there, and the situation is even worse.
All of these things, mixed in with the fact that I had never HAD to work out to stay in shape before, led to the totally expected freshman (and sophomore) 15 pound weight gain, and the beginning of a constant battle that pretty much everyone (meaning, most women I know) go through in their lifetime.
I went through periods of time where I would work out a lot and improve the quality of my eating, but I always ended up landsliding back to where I started. I never got myself on a consistent and dedicated work out program, and didn’t really want to make the commitment to change. The problem (for me) with Weight Watchers, Adkins, all those other tactics I tried … was that they weren’t sustainable. I would view them as restrictive, end up resenting their constraints, and then rebel against them, causing all the weight to come barreling back.
I couldn’t tell you what actually finally spurred me to change all this. It somewhat coincided with my engagement to Dan, but that wasn’t it (I knew that if I was training and trying to get slim for an “event” like a wedding, that it wouldn’t be a permanent change). I made a decision to make some lifestyle changes. I’m very fortunate, because Dan agreed to make them with me, and without his help, it would have been a lot more difficult.
I started by doing the following:
1. Writing down everything I ate, including calories. I used a great tool at SparkPeople.com. This site allows you to track your progress, as well as log your work outs. If you know you will have to write something down, you are less likely to eat it and more likely to get off your butt and go to the gym!
2. We changed the way we ate. Changes were gradual, and we didn’t start off by eating the way we eat now (I’m not sure I would have known or cared what flax seed was at that point). We started eating less meat, more vegetables. We got rid of junk food like chips and cookies, because when they were around – we ate them!
3. I gave up my triggers for a time. I didn’t drink any alcohol, consume any potatoes or even think about candy. This approach does not work for everyone because for many, feelings of deprivation lead to binges later. In my case, out of sight, out of mind. To this day, I do not ever want chocolate, unless I see it, and START eating it. That leads to a cycle of crave.
My work out routines were also not equivalent at that point to what they are now. I had to ease myself into the schedule. At the time, we lived in a building with a gym, so we would make a concerted effort most nights of the week to head downstairs and spend some time on the treadmill, or on the elliptical or the bike. It was all about getting moving, doing what we could fit into our schedules and maintaining a higher level of activity. We would take Penny on longer walks, avoid driving if we could hoof it instead and take every opportunity to participate in extracurricular activity.
Here we are, about two years later, and much wiser. At this point, I have almost eliminated processed foods from my diet (because I feel better when I am consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables with good protein and healthy fats mixed in!) and I am unbelievably content with my work outs. I try to get to the gym 4-5 times a week and switch up my workouts to incorporate tons of cardio, weights, yoga, pilates and anything else I can manage. I have stopped thinking so much about the weight as a number and instead started focusing on other things: how I feel, my energy level, achieving my fitness goals, etc. It’s been hard, because when I first dropped the weight, I was much “thinner” than I am now. I have gained a lot of muscle, and while I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted at first, I have definitely come to terms with my lifestyle.
I love challenging myself and looking forward to some solid gym-time. I love discovering new routines and trying them out – and the endorphins don’t suck either. All in all, I truly believe that my fitness and healthy lifestyle have led me to a happier and more fulfilling life that I am very excited about!