I didn't become overweight until I was about 16 years old. I had just started dating my boyfriend (who is now my husband!), and within the year first year of our relationship, I had gained so much weight.
We spent a lot of time going out to eat and/or whipping up pizza rolls and bagel bites for dinner. I found myself eating double portions or going for seconds at every meal, not to mention drinking a lot of alcohol at the time. I noticed that I was gaining weight and had not-great eating habits, but I never cared enough at the time to do anything about it. I continued down that road throughout the rest of high school, and in the first few years after.
Then, I got pregnant at the age of 20.
Before I got pregnant in May 2011, I was probably about 65 to 68 kilograms. One month during my pregnancy I gained 6 kilograms (which my doctor pointed out was a significant amount to gain in just a month's time during pregnancy), but I couldn't control how much I was eating.
After I had my baby boy in February 2012, I was about 83 kilograms. At this point, I still knew in the back of my head that I should do something about my weight and my eating habits—but as a new mum, it was hard to focus on and make time for myself. I spent my days working from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and I also had to care of my son. I was also nursing at the time and hoped that it would help me lose the weight that I gained. It didn't.
For the next couple of years, I continued to live the same lifestyle and maintained a weight of about 77 kilograms. Then, I got pregnant with my second child, my baby girl. I was a little bit more mindful about what and how I was eating during my second pregnancy, knowing that I didn't want to gain as much weight as I did when I carried my son.
A few months after I welcomed my daughter in March 2015, and I weighed 83 kilograms again. I also became a stay-at-home mom around this time. My husband decided that he wanted to start eating healthier and going to the gym, and I was supportive, but I wasn't ready to join him.
That is, until I saw how great his results were after his first month. I literally thought to myself: omg...I can't be the bigger wife with a super hot husband. This way of thinking didn't make me feel good.
Instead, it sparked my motivation and decision to join my husband on a healthy journey.
When I started my journey, I knew I had to eat less. So, I read an article online that broke down the basics of weight loss. Simply put, I needed to create a calorie deficit for my body to be able to lose weight. Using the MyFitnessPal app, I started tracking my calories and set my calorie intake goal to about 1,450 to 1,500 calories per day; that's what I needed to consume based on my height and weight and physical activity in order to lose a little bit of weight weekly. (And everyone's needs are different!)
I love rice and pasta—and I knew that I wouldn't be able to stick with a diet long term if I cut out the foods I loved entirely. So I made small tweaks, like switching from simple carbs like white rice to complex carbs that would sustain me longer, like brown rice. I also swapped regular pasta for whole-wheat and protein pastas, and I portioned my meals to one serving of each food item per meal.
My meals were as basic as can be. I probably ate brown rice and honey BBQ-baked chicken breasts every weekday for the first six months of my journey. On the weekends, I ate what I wanted but tried to be very mindful about my decisions and the amount I was eating. I also weaved in "mini meals," or hearty snacks, to hold me over when I needed.
Here's what my diet looks like now during a typical week:
- Breakfast: A whole-wheat English muffin topped with an egg on both halves, and a cafe latte protein shake
- Lunch: Stir-fried brown rice with ground turkey breast
- Snacks: Turkey breast and avocado wraps using whole-wheat tortillas or 100 percent whole-wheat bread, or vanilla Greek yogurt with peanut butter clusters on top
- Dinner: Chickpea pasta with chicken Alfredo
- Dessert: One low-cal chocolate-coated ice cream bar or two to three chocolate-covered espresso beans
I also started to exercise. I had no exercise experience leading up to my health journey; I wasn't in sports and I never worked out. To be honest, I was scared of the gym. For the first few months, I would do 30 minutes of cardio on the Arc trainer and use random weight lifting machines for about 30 minutes.
Now, I'm all about strength training and HIIT exercises. I typically do combinations of these types of exercise four days a week for 40 minutes. But my *favourite* type of workout right now is lifting free weights. I love feeling strong.
I now know it's not selfish to take an hour a day away from my kids to work on myself, my health, and my fitness.
During and after both pregnancies, I didn't care about how much weight I gained because I was so busy with my children and only worried about their well-being. I was obsessed with being with my kids 24/7 and couldn't imagine doing something for myself. I had to tell myself that it's okay to take care of myself in addition to my family.
When I started my weight loss journey after having my second daughter, I was the heaviest I'd been at 83 kilograms. Within six months, I lost 27 kilograms. But I want to remind other women that it takes time. Be consistent and be patient with your journey. And remember, you get out what you put in. (I didn't always wake up at 4:30 a.m. feeling motivated to go to the gym and workout, but it was the only time that I had during the day to do it!)
Losing weight also does not have to be difficult and stressful. Simplify your meals, tweak the foods you like to make it a healthier version, and be mindful of portion sizes.
My journey has changed my life in so many ways. I am a much more positive person to be around. I don't lose my breath carrying the laundry up the stairs. I have become so much more comfortable with myself and the way that I think about myself. This has become my new lifestyle—and I am 100 percent in love with it.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US