Julie Ana thought she needed a reality TV show to lose weight but soon realized she had the courage within herself to start the health and fitness journey that would save her life. While her original weight-loss goal was tied to a number — 150 pounds specifically — she told POPSUGAR that she now simply wants to be healthy, and she's working with her doctor to get to a good place with her weight and overall health. She's kicking so much butt, too — just wait until you see her powerful progress (she credits the Kayla Itsines's BBG program for much of her success), incredible workout schedule, and honest optimism she maintains along the way. There are so many tips you can pick up from this insanely inspirational woman.
Julie Ana: Before
POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?
Julie Ana Kim: I had reached almost 300 pounds and my weight was starting to affect my everyday life. I had a hard time sleeping, breathing, walking, tying my shoes, and getting in the car; I knew I needed to change. I had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I had high blood pressure and cholesterol, and I still wasn't doing anything to change my health. I was eating fast food for every meal, every single day, along with a liter of soda and a large bag of chips. After auditioning for The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss shows, I decided I wasn't going to wait around for a reality TV show to change me. I signed up for a personal trainer, something I had done in the past, but I knew this time was different. In the past, my family had signed me up for a personal trainer even though I didn't want one. This time, I was signing up myself and committing to a year contract. I wanted the change this time and I felt ready. I wanted to be healthy and happy again.
PS: What drew you to the Kayla Itsines BBG (Bikini Body Guide) program specifically?
JAK: I had been doing weight training with my personal trainer for about three months and my weight loss had slowed down drastically. My trainer recommended that I add more cardio into my workout since all I was doing was lifting weights for 30 minutes three times a week. In the past, I had seen transformation pictures on Kayla Itsines's page but never felt like the program was for me since I mostly saw smaller girls getting fit. But one day, I was scrolling through her page and saw a girl whose before picture looked somewhat like me. I felt connected to her and felt that if she could do it, then so could I. I immediately bought the guide and started pretraining. I chose to stick with BBG because I saw the results fairly quickly, and I knew it worked because I saw all the transformations.
PS: What's your favorite way to work out?
JAK: My favorite way to work out is having so much fun that I forget that I'm actually working out. This is the reason I love SoulCycle so much. I usually focus on the music and the positive energy in the room that I will forget how hard the workout is. It isn't until I come out of the room that I realize I'm drenched in sweat and breathing hard. It makes cardio fun. It's the same with boxing for me; I'm taking all my stress out on the bag or on my coach that I forget it's exercise.
Julie Ana: After
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
JAK: I've been doing the 12-week challenge for BBG, so I get in three days of BBG. I try to go to kickboxing or boxing two times a week. I started lifting with one of my best friends, so I will do that two times a week with her. And SoulCycle once a week! I try to squeeze all those workouts in, but it's hard to do them all, so each week I have to double up or skip out on a certain workout.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
JAK: I switch up my workouts all the time! The only workout I've been loyal to is BBG, which I have been doing from August 2016 to now. To be honest, I wouldn't necessarily say I have fun doing it, but I love it because it's only 28 minutes and I know it's effective. For my other workouts, I have gone from Zumba to multiple 24 Hour Fitness classes to cardio kickboxing at multiple studios to boxing. When I start getting bored or start dreading the workouts, I will switch to something new to make it fun and exciting. Working out with friends also helps a lot because it's always so much more fun and they push you to work a little harder.
PS: How much weight have you lost?
JAK: The highest weight I've seen on the scale is 292 pounds. I have lost about 75 pounds now.
Julie Ana: Before
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
JAK: I remember when I lost about 20 pounds, I didn't feel like I looked very different, but my co-workers started noticing my weight loss and asking if I had been losing weight. I remember feeling really proud that other people were noticing and so many people were being supportive of my weight-loss journey.
"When I start getting bored or start dreading the workouts, I will switch to something new to make it fun and exciting."
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
JAK: I try not to focus on the scale because it makes me feel disappointed at times. My first year, I lost about 60 pounds, but I'm coming up on my second year and I've only lost another 15. However, I know I have physically changed a lot and I know I am getting healthier day by day. I've gone from a size 26 in jeans to a size 14. I still use the scale to measure my weight loss, but I don't obsess over the numbers. I will use pictures, clothing, and measurements to track my weight loss rather than always focusing on the scale.
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
JAK: I still struggle with my eating, but on a good day I will eat three meals a day with three snacks. My lunch and dinner are always meal prepped either on the weekend or the night before. I try to follow the same meal plan my old trainer gave me and try to avoid carbs after 4 p.m. I don't always meet that goal, but after my workout, I definitely try to get mostly protein in. I used to use a meal-prep agency in the beginning of my weight-loss journey and I've been thinking about doing so again. It helps me stay on track and I know the meals are clean and healthy.
For breakfast I have turkey bacon and eggs. If it's a busy morning, I'll have a bagel instead and be a little more careful of what I eat throughout the day. Before lunch, I'll have a snack, usually something sweet like strawberries, watermelon, or grapes, because I always crave sweets right before lunch. If I'm still hungry, I'll have some lightly salted rice cakes. For lunch, I've been eating quinoa, chicken breast, broccoli, and kimchi. And sometimes I switch that out with a small amount of white rice instead of quinoa. After lunch around 3 or 4 p.m., I'll usually eat a banana and string cheese. I'll go to my workout around 5:30 p.m. If I have two workouts that night, I eat a protein bar between the workouts. And for dinner I'll have protein and veggies, usually steak and salad or brussels sprouts that I buy from the store because I still haven't managed to find a way to cook them the way I like. There are some days I'll buy my dinner on my way home when I haven't had time to prepare, and I'll usually go to Waba Grill to get a veggie and chicken bowl.
PS: Do you count calories? What's the range of calories you eat per day?
JAK: A few months ago, I started counting my calories again just because I realized I was overeating on some days and undereating on others. I don't obsess over how many calories I eat, but instead I try to focus on staying within the recommended amount of fat, cholesterol, and sugar each day. It's eye-opening when you realize how much sugar you're eating every day. I go from 1,850 to 1,950 calories a day, depending on if I have a rest day or if I'm working out. I make sure to stay within that range, but if I go over a few calories, I know I'm OK.
Julie Ana: After
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
JAK: I have more pantry staples than fridge staples, mostly because I'm out and about all the time. I don't usually have time to go home before my workout, so I have a snack in my gym bag at all times. Definitely protein bars, bananas, string cheese, plantain chips.
PS: How do you strategize for meals out?
JAK: My trainer always made me study the menu [at restaurants]. Avoid the sauces and dressings in restaurants; they are filled with sugar. She would tell me to focus on the sugar and fat and of course calories of each meal. She always recommended for me to ask if there's a healthy option on the menu. Also to ask for half the meal in a to-go box since restaurants always have large portions. I can't say I've been good at following these tips, but it's always in the back of my mind. It's always helpful to look at the menu beforehand and see if a meal is really worth over 1,000 calories; when I see that a burger is over 700 calories without the french fries, it'll make me not want to get fries or just go for a healthier option altogether. Everything in moderation!
"Step out of your comfort zone! I tried so many workout programs before finding the right fit for me."
PS: What role did BBG play in your journey? Would you recommend it?
JAK: BBG played the biggest role in my journey; I have not stopped doing BBG since I started. There were weeks that I would miss here and there, but I still picked up where I left off. It has made me more confident and a lot stronger in my workouts. I would go to workout classes and people would be shocked that I could do burpees and push-ups, and that was definitely thanks to BBG. I definitely think the BBG community had to do a lot with my success in my weight-loss journey. The community has always been so supportive and encouraging when I feel scared to try something new. I only tried SoulCycle because another member of the BBG community encouraged me to try it. Every time I wanted to give up or felt bad about eating unhealthy, the community would have my back and encourage me to keep going. I definitely recommend at least trying out BBG. I can't say it will work for everyone, but you never know until you try! I've seen it work for a lot of my friends and it is a great way to kick-start your fitness journey.
Julie Ana: Before and After
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
JAK: 1. Don't have any expectations and don't compare yourself to others — I think a part of why I failed so many times before is that I had extremely high expectations and I thought I would easily lose 20 pounds in a month. I would watch TV shows and see people losing weight rapidly and would put the same expectation on myself. I realized how unrealistic that is. Everyone's body is different. Just know that if you put in the work, results will come.
2. Take it one step at a time — I feel like when people start to change their lifestyle, they try to quit all their bad habits cold turkey. I see a lot of people failing because they find it so difficult to do so. I think it's OK to slowly cut out bad foods and introduce healthy foods one step at a time. I went from eating fast food every day to cutting it down to twice a week to once a week to not eating fast food at all, but it took me one and a half years. I would slowly replace healthy foods and started to enjoy healthy foods more, but it took time.
3. Step out of your comfort zone — I tried so many workout programs before finding the right fit for me. I used to dread going to the gym because I hated the treadmill and elliptical so much. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try BBG workouts and fell in love. That led me to try kickboxing classes, SoulCycle, and lifting, which I also love.