I’ve been overweight my entire life. I actually weigh less today after this journey than I did in fourth grade. I chalk it up to bad genetics—I grew up seeing doctors, but there was never a concrete reason as to why I kept gaining weight—or a solution. I played sports growing up, but the weight just kept piling on.
As an adult, my size was always a huge confidence issue for me. I felt like people stared at me everywhere I went. When I travelled for work, which was all the time, people treated me terribly on planes because no one wanted to sit next to the ‘big girl.’ I’m naturally a bubbly and outgoing person, but by the point I reached my highest weight, I became a homebody. I tried every diet in the book—cleanses, the cabbage soup diet, you name it—and nothing worked.
Things began shifting for me when I saw one of my coworkers from another office the day he started a weight loss program called Take Shape For Life. He was hungry, and we were all teasing him. When I went back to his office five months later, I didn’t even recognise him. He'd lost 22.7 kilograms. When he told me about the program, I was on board. Like I said, I was down to try anything.
I signed up in June 2015 for the Take Shape For Life (TSFL) 5&1 plan, which had me eating five of TSFL’s prepackaged meals and one meal that I cook for myself daily. The prepackaged meals range from soups and small “hearty choices” like Bolognese pasta to smoothies and protein bars. The daily meal I made for myself was lean protein, like chicken or fish, with three servings of vegetables.
The two biggest things I learned from doing the 5&1 plan were nutritional balance and portion control. If I was eating “healthy” before, I’d have a salad but go back for second and third servings. I was on this plan for 15 months and the weight flew off. The idea is that once you reach your goal, you switch to a 3 and 3 plan. I have a crazy busy schedule that involves tons of travel for work, so I do four daily meals from TSFL and two on my own as maintenance.
That being said, I have to eat out a lot because of work. This was challenging at first, but with time I was able to figure out a system that worked for me. At dinner, I’ll order the lunch portion or something from the kids’ menu, if it’s healthy. I ask for steamed veggies instead of sauteed and I ask about meat serving sizes. I’ve found that if I choose a fattier meat, like steak, the portion is too large. But if it’s lean, like fish or chicken, it’s too small. The good news is that the restaurant will usually make you the portion you want and prepare it however you ask. Another great tip I’ve learned is dipping my fork in dressing before bites rather than tossing it in my salad.
I started meeting with a personal trainer twice a week for six months before I started this eating plan. Then, after losing some weight, I started going to the gym three times a week, then four, and now I'm up to six. With my trainer, I started lifting weights and doing cardio, mostly spending my time on the treadmill or stair mill. Once my weight dropped below 90.7 kilograms, I started running. Then, last summer, I completed a Spartan race and ran a bunch of 5-Ks.
After hitting my goal weight of 81.65 kilograms last fall, I started going to boot camp classes at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, in addition to working with a personal trainer twice a week. On the weekend, I like to do some kind of physical activity outside, like golf or hiking. I also make it a point to go running for a few kilometres around the hotel whenever I’m traveling somewhere new. It’s a great way to get a workout in and see the city!
STICKING WITH IT
We all have days where we want to eat an entire pizza, but I always had the support of my health coach through TSFL and my personal trainer. They remind me of all the non-scale victories I’d accomplished along the way, like completing races and regaining my confidence.
I have a completely different life now than I did before I lost weight. I’m much more active, and I don’t even watch TV anymore (I do different things for fun now). I’m even bubblier than I used to be. People don’t recognize me on a daily basis, which is strange, but fun.
The little things have really added up. My old towels were too big so I bought new ones. I’ve purchased two new wardrobes and even had to adjust my car seat because I have so much more room now.
From a mental standpoint, I’m able to manage stress better. I had a huge family emergency halfway through my journey, and I was able to get through it with the support of my coach. Before, I would have turned to food. Now during stressful moments, I actually lean into my workouts much more.
Find somebody to be your supporter and walk alongside you. You need someone who will talk sense into you when you want to quit. It’s not easy and you’ll feel alone at some points, so you need that person cheering you on to keep your eyes on the prize.
I also believe in setting small goals along with the big ones. Trying to lose 200 pounds may seem like a goal with no end in sight, but 10 pounds is more manageable.
This article originally appeared on Womenshealthmag.com.