I started gaining weight during a particularly hard time in my life: I lost both my father and grandfather unexpectedly, and right around the same time, I was struggling with postpartum anxiety. Add to that the stress and demands of daily life, and the weight just started to creep up on me.
Food was my comfort during this time — it made me feel better when I was stressed or sad (which was often). And none of my go-to foods were healthy in the least: McDonald's breakfast sandwiches (and lunch sandwiches), sugary cereals, pizza — I loved anything greasy or sweet.
Then, one day my grandmother asked me if I was pregnant — I wasn't.
This happened on Easter Sunday in 2017. I had struggled hard to find something to wear that day (I was a size 3x or 4x at this point), and was shocked by my grandma's comment. But honestly, it was the wake-up call I needed to get my weight in check.
I started researching diets—specifically ones that wouldn't make me feel deprived. When I came across the low-carb Atkins diet, it felt like something that I could stick to.
The Atkins diet forced me to start planning my meals in advance—and to actually read nutrition labels.
My first trip to the grocery store, I really had to plan ahead and research nutrition information in order to make sure the sugar, protein, and fibre of the foods I wanted to buy fit within the plan.
It was (and still is) time-intensive, sure; but doing that helped educate me on what a balanced diet looks like, and what my calorie intake should be–two things I had never paid attention to before.
Here's what at typical day of eating on Atkins looked like:
- Breakfast: Eggs
- Lunch: An Atkins meal like meatloaf with portobello mushroom gravy or beef merlot.
- A small steak or pork loin paired with mushrooms or broccoli and a salad.
I started monitoring my physical activity too — I even bought a Fitbit.
I decided to start tracking my daily steps and activity in an effort to move more. On work days, I made sure that I got in at least 15,000 steps per day, and at least 10,000 steps on my days off.
I have never been big on the gym (I prefer the outdoors), so I started taking more walks as well–about three to five times a week, lasting for about an hour. When the weather wasn't cooperating, I used my at-home treadmill while watching my favorite re-runs of The Golden Girls.
I also started stretching for 15 minutes a day, every day—I found that it helped me feel less sore before, during, and after walks, so I would actually want to keep exercising (instead of being in pain).
As I saw results, I got more excited about my weight-loss journey.
Getting to watch my body transform (both in how I looked and how I felt) as I was making these lifestyle changes helped keep me going. The positive feedback from friends, family, and even strangers on social media has been powerful too—people actually tell me that I inspire them.
Since starting this journey, I've lost 109 pounds (I still want to lose 35 more, too). But just because I've successfully lost weight doesn't mean I haven't had bad days or days when I wanted to stop. In those cases, I've allowed myself to have that moment (or that slice of cheesecake), and then get back on track after.
My advice: Don't give up. Don’t throw in the towel because of one off-track choice. Small steps (even missteps) can lead to big victories when it comes to improving our health and eating habits.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US