I've always been on the heavier side – but it wasn't until university that I realised I was an emotional eater.
I'd eat when I was stressed out, if I had a bad day, or if I was upset. My core meals weren't necessarily unhealthy — but the amount of emotional snacking I did each day really did me in. Sweets were my weakness: Throughout the day, I'd have cookies, cereal, or chips — as often as I wanted, and as much as I wanted.
During that time, I tried all the diets — Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, various cleanses — but I'd always end up gaining any weight I lost back.
After having surgery in 2013, I knew it was time to make a big change
I was born with hip dysplasia — a condition that allows the hip joint to become fully or partially dislocated often — so working out has always been painful for me. My hips can only last for about 30 to 40 minutes in the gym or walking before I start to experience severe pain.
I had surgery for my hip dysplasia in December 2013, and while I was recovering, I was able to prepare myself mentally for my weight loss journey — something I had never truly done before in trying other diet plans. Basically, I realized I had to make this change for me, and me alone.
I started with an easy-to-follow program — but it wasn't sustainable.
I saw a commercial for Nutrisystem, a program I hadn't tried yet, so I decided to sign up. It was super expensive, so it wasn't sustainable for me in the long run, but it gave me an easy place to start from because it was real food that was portioned out for me.
I stuck with it from January of 2014 to August of 2015 and lost 16 kilograms through dieting alone (I was still recovering from surgery, so I wasn't able to work out yet).
After I quit Nutrisystem, my cousin started a program called Wellness Warrior, which focuses on eating whole foods, eliminating unprocessed foods, and keeping track of portion control. It also urges you to limit snacking, and to choose healthier snack options.
Here's what I would eat on the diet during a typical day:
Breakfast: Egg whites and a smoothie made with berries, kale, and almond milk.
Lunch: A salad with berries, vegetables, and chickpeas.
Dinner: A veggie burger with a side of vegetables like broccoli or spinach.
Snacks: Various fruits and vegetables, greek yogurt, or almonds.
When I was finally able to start working out, I quickly realised the gym was not my scene
After I lost the first 16 kilograms, I started (lightly) working out by joining a local gym. I would go for about three times a week and use low-impact cardio equipment at a slow pace — but I was so bored, so I quit after a few months.
After that, I started going outside to walk and jog around the neighbourhood four or five times each week. But I knew I needed to do more (and find someone to keep me motivated), so I hired a trainer.
She understood my physical limitations and tailored our workout sessions to help me stay on track without pushing me past my limits. She taught me to pick up my cardio pace by doing shorter (but faster) cardio intervals. I also started strength training, so I could get stronger without overexerting myself.
Now, nearly five years and multiple surgeries later, I'm still going strong
Though I had another hip surgery in April of 2018, I still meet with my trainer one hour a day, four days a week—focusing more on mobility and recovery for right now. I've also started attending workout classes to add variety to my routine.
But sometimes life gets in the way. If I can't make a full class or meet with my trainer one day, I'll text friends to go for a quick walk or run. Through my limitations and overall experience, I have learned it is super important to just get your body moving in any way you can.
As for my diet, I've found it's easiest to stay on track when I stay busy. Meal-prepping has been key for me, and I always try to have healthy snacks ready to go in my house so if I'm on the run, I can just grab and go.
There have been so many rewards to losing weight — but the biggest reward has been my newfound sense of self
Sure, the compliments about my weight loss from family and friends are great, and it has definitely made exercise easier and more enjoyable—but that's not why I started this journey. I just wanted to make a healthy change in my life, for me.
Over the past few years, I have been proud of myself as well as disappointed in myself. I have tested myself, both mentally and physically, and I am so thankful to have learned so much about myself through the process.
And, to anyone going through their own weight loss journey, remember you will have days where you fall down. But, despite your limitations and struggles, you can accomplish your goal as long as you push through and remember your why.
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This article originally appeared on Women's Health US