Katy Hamilton has been overweight ever since she can remember, so technically her weight-loss journey started in elementary school; she remembers going to Weight Watchers meetings at a very early age. She tried Nutrisystem, working with nutritionists and personal trainers, but here's how she ultimately dropped 75 pounds, and more importantly, how she's kept it off.
POPSUGAR: When did you start your weight-loss journey? What made you decide to?
Katy Hamilton: The time when everything clicked began when I was halfway through my master's program in the early Winter of 2012. I had gained a lot of weight during the first half of the program; we worked our internship all day and went to class all night only to go home and do our homework and prep work for our internship until late at night. It was a lifestyle that lent itself to eating fast food on campus, never exercising, not getting enough sleep, drinking tons of coffee and soda for energy boosts, and being super stressed.
I was driving home for Winter break, feeling the worst I had felt in my whole life. I had always disliked being overweight, of course, dreamed of single-digit sizes and bikinis, but this was the first time I was focused on how bad my body felt. I felt tired, bloated, groggy, stressed, and grumpy and was dealing with the worst IBS issues since I had been diagnosed two years earlier. I thought about one thing that was making me feel really gross and my brain zeroed in on soda. I was drinking more soda per day than I ever had and it was definitely bothering my stomach. Even with the very little knowledge I had about health (clearly, I hadn't figured it out in 23 years), I still knew how bad soda was and committed to stop drinking it, cold turkey. In two weeks, I felt better and started looking up some healthy recipes to try. It was easy!
By the time I returned from Winter break, I was down 10 pounds with no other effort than asking my parents to cook the healthy recipes I found and kicking soda out of my lifestyle. I continued the healthy meal prep instead of eating on campus and continued not drinking soda. When I was down 15 pounds, I joined a gym and saw a personal trainer two to three days a week in addition to doing some cardio. The weight loss was very slow and very steady . . . and somehow it was the easiest it had ever been.
It continued, verrry slowly. I never lost more than 2.5 pounds a week, but I stayed consistent, so the weight kept coming off. I'd make new small goals to reach, try new healthy recipes, add an extra workout in, but overall I kept my focus on making good choices daily. When I started this journey, I never knew or dreamed of losing 75 pounds; I just wanted to feel better. I kept that as my focus and the weight loss sort of took care of itself.
PS: How much weight have you lost so far?
KH: The highest weight I remember being recorded was at a doctor's appointment sometime that Fall, 243 pounds. I'm not sure of the exact number. I am not a slave to the scale (I don't even own one!), so I don't know my highest weight and I don't know exactly what I weigh right now. My best estimate is about 75 to 80 pounds.
Also, I had skin removal surgery on my stomach two years ago due to drastic weight loss. I really want to highlight this because sagging skin is a very frustrating part of weight loss and I do not want anyone to compare their bodies to the pictures I have ever, but especially not without knowing that!
PS: How did you do it? Do you follow a specific diet? Specific workout type or schedule?
KH: When I lost a majority of the weight — about 55 to 60 pounds in the remaining six months of graduate school — I did not follow a specific diet. There were no foods I avoided or meal plans I followed. I tracked my food for my trainer and dietitian to see but never required myself to stay under any specific calories/macros. It was more about being mindful of the small bites I'd take here and there adding up, or if I wasn't eating enough protein, carbs, or fats. In fact, as a 22-year old, I still went out multiple nights a week with friends for drinks and dinner and still lost weight because I found a balance that worked for me and my lifestyle.
With my trainer, I did 30 minutes of strength training two to three times a week and would follow that with 20 to 30 minutes of cardio, experimenting with intervals and running on the treadmill or long elliptical sessions. As I grew to really enjoy working out, I added another day or two of exercising on my own in, always at a regular gym with cardio and strength equipment.
Now, four years into keeping that off and losing an additional 15 to 20 pounds, my lifestyle is quite different. In the last two years, I've done a few rounds of Whole30, completed one round of the Clean program, have tried the 21-Day Sugar Detox, and adopted a food lifestyle that looks very similar to Paleo. Through the Whole30 and 21-Day Sugar Detox, I really found how amazing our bodies are designed to feel. They both involve eating real, unprocessed foods. Eating good food can clear up issues way beyond weight — skin, sleep, digestion, mood, etc. From these programs, so many aspects of my life were healthier and I wanted that to continue into my normal lifestyle without being on a set "30-day" program. I definitely wouldn't label it Paleo, because I do stray from that on a rather consistent basis!
My current workout type and schedule is varied, which I love! Since starting my journey, I've run two half marathons, two 10-mile races, and a few 10ks. I'm proud of my accomplishments with running, but I've learned something big about myself . . . I HATE RUNNING! So I don't do it nearly as much anymore. I enjoy HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and taking long walks outside for cardio.
About a year ago, I tried something I had always been interested in and was always too scared to go to: CrossFit. I thought I wasn't strong enough or in shape enough to try it, but I started CrossFit and have never looked back. It challenges me every day and has taught me so much about myself and my strength, both physical and mental. It is the best community to be in if you like being pushed, inspired, and motivated day in and day out.
So now, my typical day looks like a long walk or HIIT workout before work on some days and CrossFit at night in addition, about five days a week. This is what works for me and makes me feel my best!
PS: What are some non-scale victories you've experienced?
KH: There have been so many throughout the four and a half years of my journey, but the greatest is definitely the explosion of self-confidence and self-love that I've grown. I know if I set a goal, I'm going to achieve it because I will put in the work it takes to get there. I am proud of myself for the things I've achieved and the hard work I've put in to make me the best version of myself.
Next, my IBS is gone, my hormones are more stabilized, and my mood and mental health are clear and positive (I mean, we all have bad days and grumpy moods, but nothing chronic!).
Lastly, I've learned what true health means for me. It means finding a way you love to move your body each day (even if it's different than what your best friend, mom, sister, cousin, or random health blogger would do), fueling that body with food that makes you feel good, and surrounding yourself with a positive environment and people who support you and make you healthier and happier. The most important thing here is . . . all of these things are pretty possible at any weight, any size, and I wish I knew that sooner. I'm not happier because I'm smaller. I'm happier because I feel better, move my body, removed negative relationships from my life, and prioritize my happiness!
PS: How do you stay motivated?
KH: By choosing things I genuinely love doing and eating. It was so much harder to stay motivated when I told myself I had to run to lose weight even though I hated it or had to eat egg whites (seriously, people, eat the yolks). It's not hard to be motivated when you love going to your workout of choice! I stay motivated to eat healthy mostly because I know how good it makes me feel.
I definitely stay motivated by making small, attainable goals along the way — add five pounds to a heavy lift at CrossFit, get an extra set of sprints into my workout, or go to bed a little earlier. Small goals add up to big successes!
Lastly, my healthy lifestyle Instagram, @wodthefork, has kept me motivated for the past two years. I follow people who inspire me (and unfollow those who don't!), and try to spread positivity as much as possible. Messages from my followers are the most amazing motivation in the world!
PS: What does a typical day of meals look like for you?
KH: This is quite literally impossible to answer. I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in quantities that satisfy me and keep me full through my next meal. Each week, I try new recipes and buy different food at the grocery store. Some days I'm hungrier, so I eat more. Some days I'm not, and I eat less. My plates are filled with foods that are nutritious, taste good, and agree with my stomach (I'm lactose intolerant and have IBS so some foods aren't in my lifestyle that are completely healthy and fine for you to eat!). You should never try to follow someone else's typical day of food because, well, you are not that person and health is not a one-size-fits-all thing.
PS: Any advice or tips for people on their own journey?
- Focus on what works for you and what makes you feel your best.
- Go slow and be patient. It took me a long time to lose weight.
- Have goals that are not related to your weight or size. You can't lose weight forever, so you might as well find some things you love to do on the way and have goals related to that to keep you healthy and motivated!
- Be selfish with your time and energy.
- You are who you surround yourself with. Don't be friends with people who don't support your goals. Don't follow people who make you feel bad about yourself. Don't do things that drain you of your happiness.
This is my personal journey and is drastically different from others who have had equal and greater success in health and weight loss. I am always happy to answer questions about my journey or give my opinions and share my experiences, but I am not a health professional! With that being said, feel free to message me at my Instagram @wodthefork if you ever want to connect, have further questions, or want to share your own health journey with me!