About three years ago, I had one of the most humiliating moments of my life. Thankfully, no one was around to see it. In fact, if I wasn’t admitting this to you today, nobody would even know about it.
I saw myself in a picture one day, and I decided that “things needed to change” – that I needed to lose weight. Being one of those people that takes action right away, I opened up an account on a popular food logging site (MyFitnessPal) that day. I estimated my weight, but the website recommended that weighing yourself was one of the best ways to keep track of your progress. I agree, but the last scale I’d had topped out at 250 pounds, so I’d stopped weighing myself after I couldn’t anymore. I knew I weighed more than I used to, so I threw in a good estimate of 295 pounds.
The next day, I trudged off to the local big-box store. There were tons of scales that had a limit of 300 pounds, but my thought was “what if I’m actually 305″? I decided to spend the extra $10 and get the one with a 400 pound limit. After my partner went out the next day, I weighed myself, and this is exactly the humiliating moment I’m talking about. My estimation was so far off. I was 361 pounds.
My 60+ hour desk job, my lack of exercise, and my complete lack of cooking skills had skyrocketed my weight way past where I had thought. I wasn’t just “fat”. I was getting in the “super death fat” range. With that knowledge, I took my determination and set my officially-super-fat butt down my chair and looked up exercise DVDs. I doubted I could keep up with some of the intense ones, so I picked a low-impact workout designed specifically for those who are overweight (the Shapely Girl series by Debra).
You see, I knew I was fat. When you can’t shop in the “regular sizes”, and instead, have to shop in the plus-sizes, you automatically know you’re “fat”. I just wasn’t aware of how fat I was. The scale threw that directly into perspective, and my first thought was “lose weight”.
Anyone who has tried a crash diet will tell you that it’s one of the fastest ways to lose weight. I’d been on so many of them in my lifetime, and each time, they usually worked. The problem was: it never worked for long. In high school, I lost 80 pounds by what many would consider near-anorexic living. Later, I tried the big brand-name diets like Nutrisystem, Atkins, or the Zone diet. I normally lost a bit of weight, got tired of the program, and then went back to my old habits.
This time, it had to be different, and I was ready for that change.
The biggest advice I seemed to keep receiving, over-and-over, was that this had to be a complete lifestyle change. If I wanted to lose and keep it off, I had to make changes that were going to have to last. I was going to have to stick to healthier choices – instead of the choice that might mean instant change but wouldn’t work long-term.
First off, there was the food choices. At first, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, I just reduced my portion sizes of the food I was already eating. McDonald’s meals went down to a size small instead of the large I was eating. I still had my daily Starbucks fix. I switched my regular Burger King meal fix to a burger plus a salad. Despite only cutting back, I was actually losing weight. (At 361 pounds, my BMR, which is how many calories I’d burn if I did absolutely nothing but lay there all day, was over 2,400 calories.)
If my goal was to be healthier, the next step was to start the exercise. I’d ordered that DVD, and I even put it in a noticeable spot on my work desk, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t glare at it every morning. In high school class, P.E. class had been my worst nightmare, and I’d never found any pleasure in exercise. Things had only gone downhill from there. It’d actually gotten to the point where walking was painful for me – even just a half a block.
I wasn’t doing the grocery shopping anymore because I’d only make it down a couple aisles before my back and legs were in enough pain that I wanted to sit down. As far as I can tell without an official doctor opinion, my complete lack of exercise partnered with the constant sitting of my desk job led my muscles to begin to atrophy.
Something had to change, so I made it happen. Honestly, it was pathetic at first. (I say this with the largest amount of love for myself as possible.) I made sure to do my new workout DVD in private so no one would see, but it was so horrendous how far I’d gone. This was a DVD that consisted of mostly marching in place and low kicks, and I’d be 3 minutes into the DVD and already in pain. After 5 minutes, my legs were shaking and about to give out. I won’t lie; my body collapsed a couple times. It was just not pretty.
Four times a week, though, I subjected myself to this new form of “torture”, and slowly, it got better. I could do 10 minutes at once then I could do 20. One day, I could do the entire DVD (though I was exhausted afterwards). It got to a point where I could walk comfortably throughout my day, but long walks were still tiring.
Still, it was progress! This bit of progress was so tiny, compared to what most people do on a daily basis, but it was something I had lost the ability to do. (Fun fact: I did this DVD the other day, and I can easily do the entire DVD without really raising my heart rate. It’s astounding how far I’ve come.)
Focusing on healthy living means making smaller changes at a time. Sure, there might be those superhuman people who can make a huge lifestyle change all at once, but for many of us, those tiny changes are going to be what makes the huge difference in the end. Even if it seems minor, try making the change. In fact, shoot for the minor things! They’ll seem so much easier to achieve.
For example, I wanted to cut back on the fast food, so I did. I found a couple healthy-like frozen foods to eat, and I substituted one meal a day for those. After awhile, two meals became at-home meals. Soon, only dinner was fast food, and even after awhile, the fast food became a couple-times-a-week treat instead of a regular food source.
Later, I noticed my digestive system didn’t seem as happy as I expected it to be. After some digging online, regular water and fiber intake was recommended, so I watched the fiber intake of my food. I also cut down on the regular soda and switched to diet soda partnered with flavored waters. My digestive system seemed so much happier, and I had a new-found interest in nutrition tracking that I’d never known about as a kid.
Have you ever looked at a nutritional label? If you ask some health experts, it’s a pretty poor percentage of us that check out the nutrition before buying something. You really want to make sure you’re getting a good amount of protein and fiber in your diet while minimizing fat, salt, and sugar while making it all fit into your calorie requirements. Once you start focusing on those, you’ll find it much easier to avoid the bad foods while getting some of the good ones. Always read the labels, though: many times, when a company claims “low-fat” or “low-sodium”, it means they added sugar or something else to make up for the difference in taste.
Sticking with my goals to make small changes, I decided to take my first step into a gym. Up until then, I had been working out to DVDs in my home. Using the membership to the local university I already had through my tuition, I went in and made it a twice-weekly habit to use the elliptical. From there, I even advanced to something I never thought I’d do: take a fitness class with other people. I loved Zumba, though, and I found that the group dynamic made time fly so quickly; it was like I wasn’t even exercising!
Instead of taking the bus home, I started walking the 2 miles home – something that would have been impossible 2 years ago. From there, I conquered yet another goal: I started running out in public. It took awhile, but it turns out that I actually like running. While I’m still nowhere near the speed most runners are, it’s calming, and it’s something I enjoy.
After 4 years of this completely-manageable lifestyle change, what do I have to show for it? Well, I certainly DON’T have an extra 132 pounds to show you! Along with losing 132 pounds, I now enjoy exercise; in fact, I get crabby if I can’t get my daily workout in. I enjoy running, and I’m signed up to do my first 5k this summer. I only eat fast food about twice a month, and I’m particularly concerned with GMOs and nutritional content in food which has broadened my cooking and food choices much larger than I ever thought they’d be.
I attribute all of my success to having a healthy mindset instead of going for the fastest results. There have been days where I get frustrated and just want to overwork myself, but those days are getting fewer and farther apart. There’s no way I would have stuck it out for 4 years without doing it baby-step-by-baby-step while taking pleasure in my small milestones. For those of you who started a fad diet or don’t think you’ll make progress with small changes instead of huge ones, I want you to know that it can be done, and it might just change more than that annoying number on the scale.
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After spending too much time being a pure workaholic, Kayla found herself ahead in her career – and above the weight she wanted to be. Wanting to do things in life that required her to lose more weight, she focused on achieving a balance between work and extracurriculars. While achieving that balance, she also loves partaking in photography and blogging on her website, I Heart Giveaways. Kayla is also a Sverve influencer – connect with her here.