My weight loss story isn’t really that remarkable but it’s one I’m sure a lot of young women can relate to. I was never overweight but throughout my early twenties, I slowly started to gain weight thanks to a sedentary lifestyle, lack of knowledge about nutrition and calories and a fondness for fine dining and mindless snacking.
I thought my only options were to a) swear off all “bad” foods and start exercising or b) just accept the inevitable. Occasionally, I’d try option A for a few weeks but could never stick to it. I had no concept of calories in vs. calories out and didn’t realize I could indulge from time to time and still lose weight. To make matters worse, I had yet to discover any form of physical activity I actually enjoyed so I couldn’t stick to a fitness routine for very long.
Shortly after my 23rd birthday, I had gained just enough weight to finally feel compelled to do something about it. As an unemployed recent graduate, I had a lot of spare time on my hands and figured if I was ever going to commit to losing weight, now was the time. I dusted off the old gym membership and started working out six times a week. The trick to sticking to my new routine was finding something I enjoyed doing at the gym, in my case, group exercise classes. To clean up my diet, I learned to cook my own meals and started to eat healthier.
A month passed and I wasn’t seeing any results. I consulted my friend, a personal trainer and nutritionist, who suggested I start logging my food intake. This gave me some much needed perspective on portion sizes, caloric requirements and nutrition.
My friend also advised me to start strength training, since at the time I was only doing cardio. Like many women, I mistakenly believed that strength training was only useful if you wanted to “bulk up.” My friend quickly dispelled that notion and soon I was doing two to three strength training sessions a week.
The weight came off pretty slowly (it took me about a year to lose 15 pounds) but I wasn’t looking for an overnight solution; my goal was to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits that I could stick to for life. For this reason, I allowed myself one or two “free” meals per week where I could eat whatever I wanted. This enabled me to go for drinks with friends, enjoy dinners out with my boyfriend and occasionally indulge in sweets without abandoning my new found commitment to health and fitness. I’m sure the weight would have come off a lot faster had I abstained from unhealthy food and alcohol altogether, but I also would have been miserable.
Over time, I got a little bit too obsessive about my food intake but I eventually learned to scale back on all of the neurotic food rules – you can read about that here. On the bright side, I developed a genuine love of fitness that continues to enrich my life today.
Now, having reached my goal weight and developed a healthy relationship with food, my aim is to maintain my figure through continued physical activity and healthy eating (most of the time).
The most important lesson I’ve learned throughout this journey is that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be one of total sacrifice and discipline. You don’t have to adhere to rigid rules about eating or swear off “bad” foods for life. Just keep your calories in check, eat healthy most of the time and incorporate some form of physical activity into your day. As I document my efforts to do just that, I hope I can inspire others to lead a lifestyle that is both healthy and fun.