It all started when Lashara van Heerden saw a picture of herself after a holiday. She wasn't happy with the person who was looking back at her, so she started doing her research to find the most effective — and most sustainable — way she could get healthy and lose weight. POPSUGAR caught up with Lashara about her 40-pound weight-loss journey, and her story is bound to inspire anyone.
She said low-carb, high-fat diets were "very popular" in South Africa, where she's from, so she got a cookbook called The Real Meal Revolution. "That helped me lose the majority of the weight," she told POPSUGAR. "But this year, I plateaued and couldn't get below 141 pounds." That's when she started researching the keto diet in more detail.
"I didn't feel like [keto] was a massive leap from what I was already doing, so I tried it and I've pretty much smashed my plateau in the last six months," she shared. The keto diet, which focuses on high-fat and low-carb foods, might be controversial among some experts, but it has proven to be very effective for many women.
Lashara said the keto diet "offers great potential to those who are disciplined and willing to give up carbohydrates." She finds the science behind the diet "really fascinating." This is how she described it: "It's all about compromise — no doughnuts, but lots of bacon!"
But keto wasn't the only diet Lashara followed. "I also use intermittent fasting alongside the ketogenic diet to maximize the benefits of ketones in my body, and it also has a load of other benefits too," she explained. "I know it's not an eating style for everyone, but I enjoy trying new things and discovering different ways of doing things."
Today, however, Lashara no longer follows the keto diet. "I still think keto offers some great benefits for those that are willing to eat quite restrictive for a long period of time, but I just felt that it wasn't sustainable for myself or something that I would advocate as a person trainer to my clients," she explained. She said it's not healthy in the long run to not be able to eat a majority of food you encounter on a daily basis.
"I typically think that health doesn't just translate to what you eat or how much you exercise, but it encompasses mental and social health too, and I think the stress of micro-planning meals isn't a good eating style," she said. "I lost a large amount of my weight by eating lower carbohydrates, especially refined carbs, and what ultimately made the difference was being consistent and allowing myself indulgences along the way. Weight loss often translates to healthy living and that is a long journey, so you may as well enjoy it!"
"When I first started this, I thought it would be a quick fix, but it has become a lifestyle, and I absolutely love how it has created a new me."
But did she work out too? You betcha. "I did the BBG program by Kayla Itsines and that's what got me inspired to be more active," she said. "I lost a lot of the weight, but mainly I was amazed by how my strength increased and how much better I felt physically and mentally." She also started rock climbing, which is "a physically demanding sport, but very fun." Additionally, she loves Barry's Bootcamp "to keep things interesting," as well as yoga. She even ran the London marathon earlier this year. The girl has done it all!
Lashara loves seeing how far she has come in her fitness level. She says she was "the girl who couldn't do a push-up four years ago," but "this has all led me to now become a personal trainer!"
"My main piece of advice would be to educate yourself about whatever it is you are trying to do to achieve your goals."
But all her amazing accomplishments didn't come easily. "The biggest challenge was telling myself I was worth the hard work and deserved to be happy," she said. "I had to give up my preconceived ideas about who I am and embrace change." She gave up drinking and smoking, and these days, she'd rather go to a climbing gym or yoga class rather than stay out late at night partying.
"When I first started this, I thought it would be a quick fix, but it has become a lifestyle, and I absolutely love how it has created a new me," she gushed. Anyone else feeling inspired yet?
Since she has gone through so many challenges and come out on the other side victorious, Lashara has a lot of useful advice to give to other women who are going through similar weight-loss efforts. "My main piece of advice would be to educate yourself about whatever it is you are trying to do to achieve your goals," she suggested. "Being consistent is really important."
"Create goals, stick to them, and always challenge yourself," she continued. "By understanding why you need to make certain decisions regarding your health and fitness, you better enable your success by allowing yourself to stay motivated and on track. And just remember that you are worth it!"
Excuse us while we plaster this message on a billboard. We can't wait to see what else Lashara accomplishes for herself!