It’s January 2nd: that means yesterday was the quintessential date to make weight loss resolutions and (re)commit to spending the next 365 days getting healthy and fit.
Show of hands: How many of you either don’t know where to start or have already thrown in the towel?
I struggled with weight my whole life and every year, my New Year’s resolution had something to do with losing weight. That is, until 2012 when everything came into focus for me.
I had a hysterectomy after suffering with stage IV endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome for years, and while laid up, I found the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” on Netflix. It lit a fire in me, I wanted to jump right in. I couldn’t wait to get a Breville, I was completely committed to juicing for at least 40 days!!
Well, it lasted about 9 days, 6 if we’re being honest, but it did serve to do something amazing: juicing broke my addiction to carbohydrates and somehow, helped me gain a craving for whole foods.
That was exactly what I needed. I was on my way.
So after I had spent the better part of my adult life fluctuating between 145-153lbs, I had gone from 219 to 127 and even become a 5K marathon runner. Naturally, a lot of friends started asking me, “How did you lose it?!”
Although I want to help everybody looking for direction on how to fight the battle of the bulge, this is NOT an easy question to answer because I didn’t just do one thing. It was a whole bunch of things working together to help my body transform itself.
So, in the interest of helping others with their New Year’s resolutions, not to mention for my friend Mickey who’s been begging me to write this blog for months now, I’m throwing together my weight loss wrap up!
These are the things I did, and continue to do, to help me stay fit.
Not everyone is the same, of course – but very one of these tips are just good, healthy habits that everyone and anyone could benefit from. While I’m not a doctor or a dietician, I wish someone would have compiled this list for me years ago.
- Juicing For me, this was the reboot my body needed to get started into a healthier lifestyle. I still juice for 2-3 days three times a year. Admittedly, it’s a big commitment, but there are options. If you don’t want to stick hundreds into a juicer, or if shopping for fruits and veggies every other day is not possible, you can order fresh juices online from On Juice! Their advanced cleanse is a great affordable option.
- Water It may just be H2O, but trust me: this is your best friend! I drink 20 ounces of ice-cold water every morning right when I wake up and aim to drink another 6-8 cups throughout the day. Drinking water can boost metabolism by 24- 30% over a period of 1 to 1 1/2 hours. In fact, one study showed that drinking a half liter (17 ounces) of water a half an hour before meals helped dieters eat fewer calories and lose 44% more weight! Plus it does wonders for your skin, digestion, and helps you think more clearly. Drink. More. Water.
- Eat Fresh An added benefit of kicking off your weight loss by juicing is that it actually makes you crave fresh foods. Instead of sitting down to scarf a whole box of CheezIts, I found myself wanting to snack on oranges, apples, celery, carrots, and bananas. PRO TIP: shop around the outside of your grocery store; only enter aisles for spices, coffee, tea, and frozen fruits and veggies that may be out of season.
- Go Low-Carb I love how easy the Atkins diet is and followed it for almost a year at the beginning of my weight loss journey. There’s something to be said for their flexible options as well as their mobile app, carb counter, meal plans, shopping lists, trackers, and groups! Cutting carbohydrates has other health benefits as well; many predictors of heart disease have been improved by switching to a low-carb diet, too!
- Smaller Plates This one might sound funny, but it seriously works. Use smaller plates to trick yourself to believe you’re eating more food than you really are. Mostly protein, then vegetables and a small salad is the equation that works for me.
- Spice it up Love spicy foods? You’re in luck! Researchers found that capsaicin, a compound found in chile peppers, sends messages to the nerve network in your stomach, which then tells your brain you’re no longer hungry. So go ahead and get creative with spices!
- Keep Your Options Open I clean, prep, and cut all my fruits and veggies right when I get home from the grocery store to make sure I always have healthy options ready if (when) I get hungry. I also keep (apple pie) LÄRABARS, almonds, (chocolate peanut butter pretzel) Atkins bars, and dried fruits in my purses and in my car. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been able to avoid unhealthy food choices thanks to a quick, healthy ‘safety snack’ at my fingertips.
- Log It I use MyFitnessPal. This handy-dandy app is the most comprehensive weight loss journal I’ve found. It links to FitBit, MapMyRun, Garmin, and Polar trackers. You can also connect with friends to help cheer you on your way. The food diary and nutrient tracker really helpful in identifying nutritional pitfalls and upgrading to a premium account will allow you to do even more with your data, even helping you count macronutrients. (and that’s another blog!) There’s no shortage of apps available to help you keep track of your journey, so just pick one, and start today!
- Move At the beginning of my journey, I decided I was going to start walking 3.5 miles a day. I have no idea how or why I came up with that number, but I set it as the minimum activity I would complete each day. Sometimes it was broken up between three separate trips to the treadmill, sometimes it was all at once on the nature trail and far beyond my minimum goal – but every day, I logged 3.5 miles faithfully. The important thing is that you commit to exercise daily.
- Accept That You Will Fail It’s going to happen. You’re going to have a bad day and completely fall off the wagon. The sooner you can accept that fact, the sooner you can make peace with it, and move past it. I say, “Well, I guess today is my eating day!” and just make sure I get up the next day to hit it even harder. There’s nothing wrong with having a day off from your diet, as long as you don’t let it suck you back into your old habits for good.
- Hide Your Scale When I was in the throes of my weight loss journey, I refused to weigh in! I went solely on how I felt and how my clothes fit. It made weighing in every month on the 15th a little surprise and it was that much more rewarding to log my weight and watch the line on my weight loss chart continue to plummet downward. You’d be amazed at how much more in tune with your body you can be when you go by how you feel rather than a number on a scale.
- Lift Weights Nobody wants to lose weight in order to look like a skeleton. To prevent this from happening, do some sort of resistance exercise, like lifting weights. Studies show that weight-lifting can help keep your metabolism high and prevent you from losing precious muscle mass. Plus: Strong is the new sexy.
- Whey Protein Powders After a good workout, I love to make all kinds of protein-packed shakes and smoothies! Whey protein powders come in so many flavors and the recipes for what you can do with them are out of this world yummy. My favorite is a chocolate peanut butter banana shake with flax seeds, but the best go-to shake is one that is simple and delicious. One scoop of Pure Protein Vanilla Protein Powder plus 8 oz Vanilla Almond Milk – shake it up, add two ice cubes, and head off to the showers, tough gal! Follow my Pinterest board for lots of delicious whey protein recipes.
- Don’t Drink Your Calories Make sure your calories are coming from whole, fresh foods and NOT nutrient-empty drinks. No soda, lemonade, beer, or fruit juices. If you really need some flavor, try fruit-infused or cucumber water.
- Go Mediterranean The second leg of my journey incorporated The Sonoma Diet. I’d be lying if I said I started it for any other reason than the recipes, but the health and weight loss benefits were a bonus. Not only are they unbelievably delicious, but they incorporate leftovers into the next day’s lunch! Roasted Eggplant Salad with Tandoori Chicken and the Horseradish Pork Wrap will change your life and your waistline. An investment in these books is one you won’t regret; this isn’t fad dieting, this is fine (healthy) dining.
- Eat More Fiber Trust me, you’re going to thank me for this tip! Studies show that fiber (especially viscous fiber) can increase satiety and help you control your weight over the long-term. Plus, you feel so much better when you’re cleaned out, if you know what I mean.
- Make Smart Swaps I learned early on how easy and beneficial making smart swaps can be. Use coconut oil instead of butter. Air pop your popcorn and use butter spray instead of eating microwave popcorn. Use plain Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. Treat yourself to FroYo instead of ice cream. Once you get the hang of what healthy swaps work for you, it’s a snap.
- Put Your Leftovers Away This one is so simple, but really smart. Before I serve dinner, I set aside a portion of the meal for the next day’s lunch. If I don’t do this, I (and hubby) tend to overeat. It’s a part of adhering to portion control and a great tip to avoid overeating.
- Pack Your Recipe Arsenal Always be sure you have a steady plethora of quick recipes (and ingredients) on hand for a healthy meal! We’ve all been there, a missed trip to the grocery store or bad weather or just being lazy, and you find yourself staring at not-so-healthy packaged foods or the kid’s mac&cheese calling your name from the pot. Finding dishes like Paleo Goulash or Ground Venison Pepper Bowls is an easy way to keep yourself on track.
- Protein Packed The biggest tip you’ll find on this list is this: eat more protein. A high-protein diet has been shown to boost metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day while helping you feel so satiated, that on average, people eat 441 fewer calories per day! That’s 3,087 calories a week, people. Every Sunday, I bake six large boneless, skinless, bone-in chicken breasts and defrost two other cuts of meat (lean pork loin, Angus beef roast, or ground venison) for Crock•Pot meals during the week. Make protein a priority.
- Brush Your Teeth Don’t laugh, but I brush and floss my teeth, then rinse with Lysterine after my 8pm snack. Think of this as the orange-juice-after-tooth-brushing diet tip. It’s effective and you’ll get a healthier smile to boot!
- Coffee or Tea? Coffee is loaded with antioxidants, boasting several health benefits when consumed without sugar or empty calorie creamers, that is. Green tea is also loaded with powerful antioxidants called catechins, which are also believed to work hand-in-hand with the caffeine to enhance fat burning. I love a hot cup of Mint Medley tea after a big meal and Sweet Dreams tea is perfect at the end of a stressful day. Drinking hot tea also helps to keep you feeling fuller longer, so you don’t overeat or night eat. Grab your favorite teacup and put the kettle on, tea is ready to warm you on your journey.
- Set Smarter Goals While it’s important to have goals, weight is just a number on a scale. You can be in the ‘normal’ range and not be at your best. Aside from committing to a healthy BMI, make goals that will reflect what you’re trying to achieve. I wanted to fit back into my size 8 flat front tuxedo shorts, have toned arms for tank tops, be able to run a mile without dying, and look good in a bikini. I not only met, but exceeded my goals partly because they were a general place I wanted to be in, not a rigid “one-size-fits-all” wardrobe which may not be as flattering on one person as it is another.
- Do NOT Ignore Cravings! This is a big one. If I feel like eating nachos and I ignore the craving all day long, I find myself eventually (over) eating a big plate of fatty nachos at some point that night. However, if I satiate that craving at lunch by making nachos using blue corn chips, shredded chicken, beef, or pork, diced tomatoes, jalapeños, and low-fat cheese, then I’m not denying myself and I’m making healthier choices! Give into cravings, but do it when it hits, not hours after you try to resist it.
- Accountabilibuddies Your friends don’t let you get away with very much and if they’re anything like mine, they just love to call you out on your crap. That’s why enlisting the help of an accountabilibuddy (or two, or three, or more) can make a huge difference in how successful you are at losing weight and getting healthy! With today’s technology, there’s no shortage of options for how to do it, either. You can connect on MyFitnessPal, cheer (and taunt) each other on FitBit, create a group chat on Facebook, find a community on Google+, or even just a group text with friends can help hold you accountable. Plus, it keeps you connected with friends and it’s just good fun!
So that’s my weight loss wrap up! All these things combined to get me from 219 in May of 2012 to 140 by May of 2014.
I continued to follow these 25 tips and incorporated running 5K marathons to ultimately get down to 127 by May of 2015, but brought myself back up to 135 when I saw that weight wasn’t flattering on my frame. I like curves and want to be strong, show lean muscle, not frailty and bones.
Before Pinterest was a ‘thing’, I made a weight loss/exercise binder that I kept tear outs from various magazines in. Exercises, workouts, tips, and tricks – this thing was my workout bible. On the cover, I have a Nike ad about “thunder thighs”. My nickname in school was ‘horsepower’ because of my thick Belgian thighs and the damage they inflicted on the kickball field. I always hated my big trunk legs until they were strong, toned vessels which carried me across the finish line of the Sole Burner 5K in honor of so many loved ones who are battling and that I have lost to cancer. My initial goal of ‘being able to run a mile without dying’ was shattered in mile 3.09 of that race as I crossed the finish line with tears streaming down my face.
In that moment I knew; I had arrived at my destination and life was good.
My two cents: Weight loss is a personal journey and one that can be a difficult uphill battle for women. You are your own worst enemy, but that means you’re also your own biggest champion. Set a realistic goal. Follow these steps. Enlist your friends to hold you accountable. Realize that this is a journey toward healthy not skinny, and remember: slow and steady wins the race.
…and you ROCK those thunder thighs, ladies!!