I always thought runners were the most fit and lean athletes, so running is what I immediately gravitated to when I set out to lose more weight post-surgery. I hated running with a vengeance at first. But I stuck it out.
I started by waking up at 6 a.m. every morning and bouncing along at a 19-minute mile pace for 45 minutes.
But soon, my 19-minute mile became a 16-minute mile. At that point, a close friend asked me to come to an Orangetheory class with her. Orangetheory is a high-intensity interval training workout that combines running on a treadmill, biking, or using a stride machine with weight training and rowing. I did not want to attend that class, but I told myself that I could go one time. If I hated it or felt embarrassed, I never had to go again.
I hated the class, but the instructor, coach Michelle, came over and told me that I could run faster than I was and that she could help me. No one had ever taken an interest in my fitness level before, so that was enough for me to try one more class. After my second class, I was hooked on the workout. I loved how it's different each time but it's always a good workout. My mile time went from 16 minutes to 9:45 over the next few months, and I'm still working on it.
I exercise a minimum of five days a week. I’ll usually take classes during the week and go for a long run on Saturday or Sunday. I ran my first 10K in November and kept a 12:30-minute per mile pace for the entire race. I'm running a half-marathon at the end of February.
The best part about working out is what I call my “fit family.” This group of friends keeps each other accountable. Not showing up for a workout isn't an option because it's about more than just you—there’s something very motivating about that.
I'd say that my fit family and workout regimen is mostly responsible for the drastic changes I've seen in my body and soul over the past seven months. I couldn't be more grateful for them.
The surgery did make me feel less hungry and eat less food, but I stuck to a ketogenic diet, eating primarily protein and fresh vegetables. Over the past year, I've slowly introduced some carbs back into my diet. I also eat sugar occasionally, ususally in the form of an ice cream cone.
A typical day of eating usually involves a scrambled egg and turkey bacon for breakfast or a protein shake with almond milk, banana, and almond butter. Lunch is usually a choice of protein and any variety of vegetables. I always enjoyed salads, but I've started experimenting with zoodles and spaghetti sqaush. And instead of cooking like I was before, I explore healthy recipes and meal prep. Dinner is usually a straight protein and a green because I'm starving after working out and the protein makes me feel great. I also search for snacks and sweets that take the edge off but are still good for you. There are so many great options out now, but my favorite treat is a Kind bar. I try to keep anything I eat to less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
Sticking With It
I use social media a lot, especially when I'm struggling. I'll post a before and after photo, biting the bullet and using a "before" I’ve never revealed because I was so embarrassed. It's those images that really show me how far I've come. It's hard to appreciate your progress when you still feel like you have such a long way to go, so I focus on how I like this version of myself so much more.
This probably sounds terrible, but people have told me that I'm so much nicer now. The drastic changes I made have made me so much happier. I ended up taking a job on the other side of country in a completely different environment from New York City. That move forced me to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and spend nearly 100 percent of my time focusing on my happiness. So far, I've lost 120 pounds. Yes, I have some loose skin, but I also have some serious muscle tone. I love that I can share clothing with my girlfriends, go for runs with my brother, and leave a workout with people a million times more fit than I am and feel like I belong. I'm so excited for even more positive changes in the coming years.
My Number One Tip
Surgery does not make you stop eating sugar, carbs, or all of the other foods that got me to 313 pounds. Surgery won't get you off the couch and to the gym for 60 to 90 minutes. I had to make positive changes even after getting weight-loss surgery.
Depending on your size, losing 10 pounds can be just as difficult as losing 100 pounds. You will plateau and get frustrated, but you just need to keep trying. Walking for 15 minutes is better than sitting on the couch any day. One good decision is always a start. Find a friend who you can workout with, get a Fitbit, download the Couch to 5K app, set a small goal, and beat it out of the park. Just give it a shot and keep on trying. Those little changes build up over time.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US