It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of me being one of those “gym people” was laughable. Like, yeah right I’m willingly going to the gym. Are they giving out free cocktails? ‘Cause even then, LOL.
One day, not quite a year ago, my husband and I passed through the grocery store pharmacy and I saw one of those blood pressure machines and I ran to it with the glee of a 4-year-old on Christmas morning.
This wasn’t just any old blood pressure machine (what even is the proper name for those? Is that right?), this one also weighed you while you sat there. Now I knew I had put on a little weight since the last time I had weighed myself several months prior, but I thought I was a good 8-10 lbs lighter than the number I saw pop up on the screen.
At my height of just barely 5’4”, that is a completely unhealthy weight. To be honest, the weight I thought I was (165-166 lbs) was unhealthy. The real kick in the pants, though? Was that at that weight I was heavier than my husband, who is just over six feet tall, by about 25-30 lbs. While I do believe there is some truth to weight being just a number, and my husband is very thin for his height, I’m also pragmatic and realistic enough to know that I was completely unhealthy.
The number on the scale was a big red flag for me. There’s a history of heart problems on both sides of my family and I know that there is a direct correlation between being overweight and exacerbated heart problems. I also didn’t ever want to be that close to 200 lbs again; been there, done that.
Continuing my lifestyle the way it was meant I’d either kill myself, or I’d end up on a restricted diet for my later years. No thanks. 174 lbs is the heaviest I’d been since my freshman year of college. I have spent most of my adult years a good 10-15 lbs lighter than that.
So I made a change. I broke out my sneakers and started hitting the fitness center in my apartment complex. I started so slow on that treadmill. I couldn’t break a 16-minute mile for the first few weeks.
I pushed myself a little harder each time I went to the gym. I bought a used Fitbit on the Facebook marketplace. I started measuring my food and tracking it in the Fitbit app. I made sure to hit 5 workouts a week and 40 minutes of activity every day. I downloaded app after app to help me train better and get stronger at home.
Suddenly, going to the gym didn’t feel like such a chore. I looked forward to it. I’d get antsy if I didn’t go. I’d pace around my apartment, my husband passing me bowl at the end of each lap to keep me motivated, just to get a few extra steps in before the day was through.
Most importantly, I learned a lot about my body, what it means to actually be healthy, and how to live life moderately. I’d like to share a couple of those lessons I learned in this journey, and my goals going forward.
Diets don’t work (at least not for me)
In my opinion, almost every “diet” out there is complete garbage. I think we all know a person, or maybe we are that person, who jumped on a fad diet and lost a ton of weight only to put it all back on and then some.
I can’t get on board with excluding entire food groups from my diet. One, it would never work for me. I like the occasional cookie, or bowl of fake ice cream (I can’t have real milk). Two, I was such a picky eater as a child that the thought of excluding any food group seems like a step backward for me. Three, it’s proven(1) not(2) to last(3).
I want this hard work I’m putting in to last and that means having a “diet” that actually works for me. Which is no diet at all.
Also, I think I should end this section with a caveat that I am not a sugary, sweet tooth type of person, and I think that certainly gives me a stronger base. If I had to quit sugar, I might have had a larger obstacle before me.
Make Smart Substitutions
My no diet-diet worked perfectly for me. The only way this works is if you have a way to track your caloric intake and actually measure out your portions.
Additionally, I made minor substitutions in my meals. Instead of an egg and cheese on an everything bagel, I use mini bagels (less than half the calories/carbs), and a half serving of shredded mozzarella, with one runny egg.
I’m also a sucker for a deli meat sandwich, but I substituted my sandwich bread with these whole grain wraps made by Ole (less than 5g net carbs!) last year and there’s no going back. I also use them for tacos and quesadillas. And my husband doesn’t even mind. They’re the softest non-white flour tortillas I’ve ever tried.
The other big thing that has made a difference is actually measuring out portions. I used to just sprinkle as many cranberries and walnuts into my lunch salad as my heart desired that day. Now I use two spoonfuls of each. Those little guys can add up to a lot of extra calories. Instead, I replace that void with extra spinach and shredded carrots because guess what guys — there are like no calories in fresh, raw veggies. Same deal with the sheep’s milk feta cheese I use. It lasts a lot longer now, which is nice for my wallet.
By tracking my calories (and the split between carbs, fat, and protein, also known as your “macros”), I get a good idea of just how much splurging I can do at the end of the day or the end of the week.
Consistency truly does pay off, but don’t feel guilty about missing a day or two
I’ve tried the working out and eating right thing before and I either didn’t push myself hard enough because I was scared to fail, or I didn’t stick it out long enough to see the results.
What made the big difference for me this time around was that I stuck to it. Even if I had a bad day, I’d just start again the next. I realized that it didn’t take me one day to get fat, and so one day of neglecting my newly adopted healthy lifestyle wasn’t going to completely derail me unless I let it derail me.
I’ll tell you, that realization was one of the most freeing thoughts in terms of how I was approaching my body and my health. It gave me the allowance to indulge as long as I got back on track the next day.
This mindset made it easier to be consistent. To keep showing up. Especially because by showing up at the gym, actually putting in the work, and pushing myself meant I’d get even more opportunities to indulge.
Like when I went to visit my family and hometown in October and inhaled a 2 lb chicken parm on a pita pocket. Didn’t feel one bit of guilt about that. Not at all.
Oh and how about I can run a minute in 13 minutes now, instead of crawling at 16. And I don’t lose my breath walking to the car. #winning
My body has completely changed
One thing I didn’t realize is how much your body changes based on the amount of fat and/or muscle you have. You know I didn’t think I was that fat, but looking at the before and during photos and I can see that yes, I was in fact fat.
Loved ones never want to tell you that you got fat but they’ll notice when you drop 10 or 20 lbs.
I have muscles now. Ab definition. Definition in my arms. My legs have always looked pretty muscular so that hasn’t changed. But the areas where I carried the most fat (my midsection) are totally transformed. My arms don’t round out wider than my shoulders. My face is so much slimmer. Jaw sharpened, as well as my collarbone.
I look at pictures of myself from a year ago, 6 months ago even, and I don’t recognize myself. And that has got to be the most jarring aspect of it all. It’s hard to not recognize yourself. I’ve only lost 35 lbs, I can’t even imagine the mind game that is losing 50 or 100 or 150 lbs.
It’s still hard to shop for clothing
I honestly thought that I’d have an easier time to shop for clothing wearing a smaller size. That’s not the case. When I was bigger, I had a hard time finding jeans, because of how I carried my weight, but I’d be fine for most other clothing items.
I recently realized my bras were a little loose and it was time for a smaller band size. I trudged over to Kohl’s since they usually have good prices. They don’t have my new bra size in the store. The women’s department had the right cup size but not band size and the Junior’s department had the opposite problem. Weird. I went to Target, same deal.
It was then that I realized that in-store clothing shopping is a stupid joke unless you’re a very specific sized person (which is not a busty but small-ish person). Specialty shop it is. I still haven’t made that trek yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes.
What does 2018 hold for my health journey?
While last year I focused heavily on specifically losing weight and building my endurance, this year I’d like to focus more on strength. I’ve struggled with scoliosis and bad posture for a long time, and in my case, it could be corrected, if only slightly, with stronger core muscles, shoulder muscles and chest muscles. I’m going to be very focused on building strength in those areas, and hopefully, help to correct my posture and the twisting happening.
Additionally, I’m going to work on getting my day to day diet a little bit more healthful by making sure I’m eating more veggies at both breakfast and dinner (lunch I’ve got squared away). I want to increase my water intake, too. And hopefully, reap the benefits of nicer skin in the process (as stepping up my skin care regimen is also a goal this year).
One final thought…
I am not a dietician, personal trainer, doctor, nor any kind of health professional. So like most random blog posts you’ll find on the internet about health and fitness, you should take my advice with a grain of salt.
If you really want to get healthy, I recommend talking to your doctor first and find out what will work for you. Or at the very least, do a lot of research online using scientific sources. Don’t fall for clickbait or hype. Pay attention to how you feel and adjust your goals and diet accordingly.
Finally, if you’re truly curious, I will happily put together another post that details what foods became my staples, and what kind of workouts I’m doing as I continue down this path of health and fitness.
This post was originally published at laurenashley.me and republished here with permission.