When I entered university, my tricky relationship with my body and food continued but in different ways. I moved into a college and started eating (and drinking) more. My weight skyrocketed.
I remember walking with my friends to class one evening in uni. They started walking really fast up a hill and I couldn’t keep up. I pretended to take a phone call as an excuse to slow my pace; I didn’t want to admit I was tired from just walking up a hill. I also knew that when we sat down in class, I would be sweating like crazy, and again, I didn’t want them to see how hard this seemingly simple activity was for me. When I graduated uni, I was 127 kilograms.
I tried several times to lose weight after school ended. I bought weight-loss shakes, restricted my food intake, and I tried working out, but eventually gave up every time. At my highest weight, I was a little over 135 kilograms.
My turning point was at the end of 2016, when I had New Year’s resolutions on my mind.
I think that my friends and loved ones knew that I was overweight and unhappy, but I didn’t speak about how uncomfortable I was, my insecurities, or the fact that I wanted to change my body. I kept it all to myself. But I was so sick of life being harder than necessary for me. I knew that I wanted to use the new year to help motivate me and create lasting change, but I still needed another push.
Around that same time, my boyfriend was having health issues. His doctor told him that he was pre-diabetic and that he needed to lose weight before she saw him next, otherwise he would have to be put on insulin. This allowed me to begin dieting and exercising under the facade that I was doing it to help him. We were doing it together for *his* health. I felt like framing it that way took some of the pressure off of me and contributed to my success.
Cutting most fast food from my diet was a huge help.
I used to eat fast food for nearly every meal. I would order a combo, a side, a dessert, and a soda. This time around, I began eating at home as often as possible. And if we did have to eat out, I’d order something off of the lighter fare menu. Looking back, the food choices that I was making still weren’t the best, but really anything was better than what I had been eating before.
I got better and better at prepping food at home over time. I started making sandwiches at home and finding lower-calorie options for the foods that I loved. For instance, instead of ordering my usual Starbucks frappuccinos all the time, I swapped them for iced coffee with sugar-free sweeteners, and without milk or cream. My favourite snack was (and still is) Hot Cheetos. But I began eating popcorn with cayenne pepper as a substitution. As time went on, I got into counting calories and macros.
I was still too nervous to go to the gym when I started my journey, so I bought a cheap elliptical online.
Any form of exercise was an improvement, so the elliptical was a great start. My boyfriend and I split the cost, used his truck to pick it up, and I cleaned out my garage to make space for a little at-home gym. I began doing an hour of cardio every night in the garage: 30 minutes on the elliptical and 30 minutes on our stationary bike.
In March of 2017, I finally joined a gym and I continued to do just cardio. It wasn’t for quite some time that I ventured away from the cardio equipment. But now, I *love* strength training and circuit workouts. I use the strength training app FitBod for workout ideas. It also helps track my workouts, as does my Apple Watch (I love it!).
In 2018, I reached my goal weight. To be honest, though, I didn’t totally love how I got there.
I felt like I was doing too much cardio and not eating enough. At one point, I remember standing in my kitchen, on the verge of tears because I was hungry, but if I ate dinner, I would go over my daily calorie count. I told my boyfriend that seeing how upset and anxious I was about calories and food scared me because I didn’t want to go back to my unhealthy ways of skipping meals. It was that night that I decided to *stop* counting calories. It was not making a positive impact on my mentality towards weight loss.
Weight-loss culture is seriously so demented. So many people, including myself, have gotten caught up in believing you have to eat tiny calorie amounts and work out nonstop to lose weight. I was doing cardio for over an hour every day.
Interestingly, my Instagram account (@_iwokeupinbeastmode) helped me realise that what I was doing wasn’t healthy. I was doing a Q&A on IG stories, and a follower asked me about my cardio regimen, so I replied honestly about how much cardio I was doing. One of my Instagram friends responded saying, “You do that much cardio every day!?” It really made me stop and rethink my long-term approach.
I changed up my routine and gained 9 kilograms back that same year—and that was one of the most positive changes of all.
I think my weight gain was a combined result of not obsessing about cardio, lifting more weights, eating more, and being less hard on myself in general. I am currently maintaining a 50-kilogram weight loss. Today, this is what healthy eating looks like for me (no calorie counting included!):
- Breakfast: Eggs, two strips of reduced sodium turkey bacon, toast with calorie-free jam, and coffee
- Lunch: Cauliflower rice with lean ground turkey, steamed broccoli, and Alfredo sauce
- Snacks: Pure Protein bars, carrots, tuna packs, or hard-boiled eggs
- Dinner: Spaghetti squash with marinara sauce and meatless meatballs
- Dessert: Rice cakes with protein frosting (made by mixing protein powder with a very small amount of almond milk until it is a frosting-like consistency) or a donut (because, balance!)
More recently, I have been ordering some of my meals from a local service called Prep Success Meals. It’s made it easy to continue eating healthy even when I’m swamped at work. Some of my favourites from the service include chicken, golden potatoes, and green beans, or salmon, brown rice, and asparagus.
It’s been a real process to find a balance, and I am still working on it.
Most days, I’m still not sure what a “healthy weight” necessarily looks like for me, but I know that having a healthy mindset is just as important. I still go through periods of having issues with body image and how I feel about myself. But I always remind myself that I have absolutely developed healthier mental and physical habits, and how to better fuel my body.
I never realised how much of my life I was giving up because of my weight. I was scared to try anything. I skipped going to theme parks, or doing really any activity that might cause other people to notice how out of shape I was. I never went shopping with girlfriends because I didn’t want them to know what size I was or to see that I couldn’t fit into the regular sizes. Losing weight has changed my life and helped me shed those fears.
It's wild to think about how simply believing in myself enough to take control of my health has transpired into so many other aspects of my life. I am not as scared to try new things. I am more willing to try and fail than to have never tried at all. Gaining confidence (at work, at home, in the gym, in life) has been nothing short of life-changing.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US