Just a little over three and a half years ago, I found myself sitting in my university's infirmary with more on my mind than an injured right arm, my studies, or the upcoming fall break. After being weighed as per any typical doctor's office visit, I found myself wondering how'd I'd let my weight get so out of control. At the young age of 19, I was 5'7", well over 230 pounds, and a size 16/18. When it feels like you've gotten yourself too far down the rabbit hole, there tends to come this foreboding feeling that you'll never be able to get out, but I'm here to tell you that it's never too late.
Fast forward to today, I'm no longer anywhere near where I started. Now, I'm in love with the gym, and you can find me there at least five days a week. My eating habits are under exceptionally better control due to not so much a specific diet but more or less being aware of what I eat and how much. So, I'm here to tell you, from my own weight-loss experience, you can always get out of the rabbit hole, and it doesn't have to be with crash course dieting and tons of cardio. The following are some of the helpful tools I used to drop well over 50 pounds, get down to a size 10, and keep the weight off.
The bigger picture of any major change can be a really intimidating idea, so a little extra encouragement can go an extremely long way. When I first started out, I was superintimidated by the whole concept and felt alone on my journey. This led me to ask one of my dear college friends to be my accountability partner when it came consistency both in the gym and with food. She happily agreed, saying we could use the opportunity to encourage and better one another. By going to the gym with me regularly and asking about what I'd eaten that day, either in person or through text, I started to learn the benefits and fun of consistent exercise and how to be more aware and accountable of what I was putting in my body. The buddy system truly helps make the process much less of a Goliath.
Exercise Is a Celebration
Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect is known for saying, "Yeah, no don't put me down for cardio," and that was my motto for the longest time. Before I learned to love exercise, I absolutely hated it. The thought of voluntarily putting uncomfortable stress on my body sounded like some sort of military torture. How on earth did people actually enjoy exercise? Starting out, the idea of running was a huge nope for me, I had no clue how to properly lift any kind of weight, and the gym was an intimidating place where I wasn't even sure how to properly work any of the equipment, but I knew that if I wanted to see any kind of positive weight-loss results, exercise was the first step in the right direction.
With the guidance of my accountability buddy, I began to learn how to maneuver my way around the gym and find exercises I enjoyed. We tested group fitness classes like Zumba and yoga, gradually began implementing some running on a treadmill, and even started lifting heavy weights. As we regularly worked out in the gym, I became more comfortable with exercising. Soon, I found that I wanted to keep pushing myself to become stronger than I was the day before because exercise wasn't torture anymore. Exercise had started to become proof of how my body was transforming. Now, three and half years down the road, I see exercise as celebration of how far I've come and what my body is physically capable of doing.
Liquid Calories Count
If there is one part of weight loss I never even thought to consider starting out, it was liquid calories. Yes, you read that right — liquid calories. Like me, many people don't realize that what we drink can have just as significant an impact on weight gain or loss as calories from food.
Before my journey started, I was addicted to sugary, caffeinated beverages. As a Southern girl, sweet tea was a staple with almost every meal, and of course, I loved an ice cold soda, so water was basically nonexistent in my previous lifestyle. But I'll tell you this: as hard as switching to all water, especially doing it 'cold turkey,' was in the beginning, it truly changed my life. I found and continue to find a lot of my weight-loss success from drinking only water every day.
By cutting these extra calories out of my diet, I found that not only did I begin to lose weight just a little quicker, but also I saw positive results in my daily alertness, my skin care, and my constant hunger, or more so lack thereof. While I don't recommend cutting out caffeinated and sugary beverages 'cold turkey' exactly like I did (trust me, I'm trying to save you from the days of severe headaches), I highly recommend beginning to wean yourself off of them and seeing just what the power of good ole H2O can do for you. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Eat the Damn French Fries
Actually, I recommend eating whatever you want when it comes to weight loss. No, I'm not joking with you. If there is one thing I have learned in my journey, it's that strict diets that restrict the foods you love oftentimes lead to failure. Trust me, I failed many diets — calorie counting, point systems, Paleo, etc. — before I actually found success. This was due to the fact that strict or, for me, any diets meant cutting out the "bad" foods, thus causing intense cravings and binge-eating.
Here's my truth: there is no such thing as "bad" food. The foods we have deemed as "good" and "bad" both carry essential nutrients we need to survive. The catch is that "bad" foods just aren't as nutrient dense as their better counterparts. This means overconsuming them will more than likely lead to major weight gain and health problems. The key is finding balance and healthy foods you do like.
I use the 80/20 rule, which is recommended by many health professionals. This means 80 percent of the time, I eat nutrient-dense foods; protein, fruits, and veggies with most meals, while the other 20 percent I can portion in ice cream and pizza every once in a while. By continuously following this, I am allowed to still enjoy all the foods I love, have the opportunity to try out healthier alternatives, and keep my weight off. So, eat the damn french fries . . . but only every once in awhile, and you'll be just fine.
DON'T Watch the Scale
You may have heard this a thousand times before, but it's honestly true. For me, the scale was a huge factor. Often, I'd find myself stepping up on the scale with a groan because it tended to show little to no change at all. This can be superdetrimental when it comes to progress as it causes discouragement from the process, in turn making you wonder what's the point of all this if it's not working? I'm here to tell you . . . ditch the freakin' scale. Well, maybe not completely, but it's definitely not necessary to weigh daily or even weekly when it comes to weight loss.
Instead, track your progress through pictures and measurements, and only weigh in every couple of weeks or once a month. You will be absolutely amazed by the difference you see in these recordings versus the scale. A picture truly is worth a thousand words, and through this tactic, I found that I was encouraged to continue my journey and, eventually, the scale came to match.
Trust the Process
While all of these other tools are great aids in finding weight-loss success, there is one final key that beats out all the others — trusting the process. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm the worst when it comes to practicing patience. For me, I wanted to see results immediately when I first started my journey because that meant it was actually working. The fact of the matter is, big results and visible changes don't come overnight or even after one week of implementing a better diet and exercise.
I had to learn to trust the process even when it felt as though nothing was changing because my appearance seemed the same. By staying consistent in my exercise and eating habits, I found that it gradually became my lifestyle more than just some crazy diet I decided to try. As I grew to trust my new lifestyle, the consistency of it all began to truly show results bigger than I thought I could ever achieve. So be patient, and stick with the gradual change in your lifestyle. I promise, you will see results, if you just continue to trust the process.