I never thought I would be overweight and unhealthy in my lifetime. But as the cliché goes, sh*t happens. And some pretty devastating sh*t happened to me. Due to the pain I experienced, I went from being athletic, fit, and vibrant to being 30 pounds overweight and addicted to binge-eating. I knew I couldn't blame my poor health on external forces, though, so I decided to turn my life around and get myself back on track.
After trying just about every diet and trick in the book (strict Paleo, juice cleanses, online fitness programs, etc.), I finally found a weight-loss formula that worked for me. It was pretty simple: eat whole foods and move more. These are the five changes I made to lose over 30 pounds and get in the best shape of my life.
I Transitioned to a Plant-Based Diet
The first time I went vegan was in 2011, but it didn't stick. I decided to go back to the vegan diet for ethical and environmental reasons, but it turned out to be the best thing for my health as well. Rather than just eating vegan, I chose to eat plant-based as well, which meant I wasn't consuming any processed or packaged foods at all. This helped me to eat less calories every day and just focus on whole foods in general.
Within a couple of months, I could feel the weight peeling off, and I had more energy than ever before. I felt strong and clear-headed, and my period even improved. This made it easier to eat healthier on a daily basis, as well as to work out more regularly.
I Started Strength Training Way More Often
I used to lift weights sparsely, maybe once a week, if that. But the more I learned about fitness, the more I realized that doing endless cardio isn't what makes you feel and look your very best. I gave up all those elliptical machine sessions and instead chose to invest my time in weightlifting. I started with three strength-training sessions a week, then gradually built up to six strength-training sessions every week.
This made a huge difference in my body composition. I was leaner, smaller, and much more toned than ever before — and this was from lifting heavy, not using light weights for higher reps. Plus, I loved the feeling of finishing a hard, challenging weightlifting session. It's now my favorite workout!
I Did Intermittent Fasting Five Days a Week
Having tried fasting before and experiencing success with it, I decided to give 16:8 intermittent fasting (IF) a try. That means you fast for 16 hours a day and eat all your meals in an eight-hour window. I chose to eat between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. because it worked best for my training schedule. I also decided to only do IF Monday through Friday because I didn't want there to be any restrictions on my weekend social life.
This helped me shed weight even faster, especially in conjunction with a plant-based diet. IF made my bloating completely go away, and I also felt myself getting even stronger in the gym. I still follow IF to this day, and I love it!
I Began to Run Regularly
As important as strength training is, cardio is imperative for weight loss. I've never been a runner, but I gave it a shot because my husband is a marathon runner and I wanted to do a physical activity with him on a regular basis. I started running three times a week — two of them were intense interval-training programs, and the third was LISS (low-intensity sustained state) cardio.
When I started running regularly was when I saw the biggest difference in my legs. They started to lean out and look more toned, and I loved the feeling of accomplishment that came when I was done with a long-distance run.
I Gave Up Caffeine
I used to consume caffeine every single day. It was only one cup a day (at the most two, when I was feeling really overwhelmed), so I didn't think it would make much of a difference when I gave it up. Yet it turned out to be one of the best decisions for my health.
After I got over the withdrawal phase, which was far from pretty, I had more energy to get up in the morning and work out. I didn't have to deal with the afternoon crash anymore either, which meant I was snacking less in the latter part of the day out of exhaustion or boredom. Additionally, I was able to sleep better at night, which just put me in a better mood and helped me make smarter choices with my diet. All these small changes made a huge difference in the long run, and now I don't think I could ever go back to my coffee-laden days.