I didn’t wake up overweight one day. I was overweight for as far back as I could remember. In high school, I always tried to find ways to get out of participating in gym class. I can’t tell you how many times I stayed home sick whenever I knew we’d be running.
I turned to food for everything as a matter of routine. I planned all activities around where we would eat and when we would eat. Date nights with my husband were just romantic ways of saying, "Let’s go out to eat." Activities with my kids turned into, "What sweet treat can we bake and devour together?" or "Where can we go for a hot-fudge sundae or the next drive-through?" I loved food—and I focused on it almost around the clock. If I was happy, I’d celebrate with cake. If I was sad, I’d eat my feelings, too.
I'd never committed to dieting or changing my lifestyle before. I’d tried a low-carb diet once before, but it barely lasted for 24 hours. I gave Weight Watchers and South Beach a try once or twice, but I never really followed through or committed.
When I was overweight, I was alive, but I wasn’t living, and I never felt good. My weight had destroyed my knees, and I still have back, knee, and hip pain due to bone deterioration. I suffered from high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, a fatty liver, depression, and anxiety. I was routinely in the doctor’s office and was required to go for weekly or monthly lab work, as well as blood-pressure checks up to three times per week. I was taking a lot of prescription medications, too.
One day, I received an email from a company asking me to review their digital scale on my blog. I can clearly remember the day that scale arrived. I carefully unpacked it, installed the batteries, and stepped on. At 148 kilograms, I was the heaviest I'd ever been.
That day, I decided to pop in a DDP Yoga video that I'd recently ordered online. I'd seen a promotional video for it on social media, which showed a man on crutches who'd found a way to start working out thanks to the DDP program, and quickly began dropping weight. I thought that maybe if he could do it, I could, too.
The diet plan that came with the DDP Yoga Fitness program was high in protein, low in fat, and focused mostly on clean eating with a heavy emphasis on organic foods. While I quickly adopted the workout plan, I found the diet to be too restrictive and frankly much more expensive to maintain than my family could afford. So I signed up for a free Atkins starter kit and downloaded the app. I followed the Atkins plan with a focus on eating less than 20 net carbs per day sourced primarily from vegetables. I found new ways to make over some of my favourite recipes, like replacing lasagna noodles with fresh spinach leaves and opting for a homemade or no-sugar-added pasta sauce to make lasagna. After I was on the plan for a while, I also started baking low-carb treats and breads using almond and coconut flours and sucralose or erythritol in place of regular white flour and sugar.
I started doing DDP Yoga on the very first day of my lifestyle change. I continued with that regularly, and very early on I added in walking. After walking for a while, I decided to give running a try, so I trained for a 5-K. Although I did complete my first and only 5-K, that process uncovered bone-on-bone osteoarthritis in my knee and I was advised to stop running.
Living in the mountains, I'd never understood the fascination with hiking—until I hiked my first summit. I had to watch my knee on the descent, but for me there is nothing more rewarding, or spiritually and emotionally incredible, than a hike through the woods ending in the most beautiful views at the summit. Last summer, I hiked the tallest peak in the northeast and cried tears of joy at the top. The entire hike was symbolic of my two-year weight-loss journey and it all came together for me in that moment.
I don’t hike much in the winter, so I use that time to experiment with other fitness activities. These last few months I’ve been adding resistance-band workouts to my routine. DDP Yoga stays pretty consistently in my routine now that I’ve moved from the DVDs to an app that I can take anywhere—I’ve even done the workouts lakeside while my husband fishes.
Now, I'm smaller, but more importantly, I'm significantly healthier. I'm a better mom, wife, and person now that I can not only participate in life in a much fuller, more valuable way, but I'm also able to set a better example for my kids. In the last year I've run a 5-K, hiked the tallest peak in the northeast, and truly lived a wonderful, energetic life. Feeling better and being free from prescriptions and scheduling all of those doctor’s visits is definitely one of the best parts, but my favourite thing is that I know I’m showing my kids how I am trying to be my best self.
ERICA'S NUMBER-ONE TIP
My best bit of advice is find ways to enjoy the foods you have always loved but reinvent them in a new, healthier style. Find your why—your health, your kids or a cute dress—and post a picture of it with your goal on your fridge as a reminder. And don’t be afraid of the scale and body measurements. Record and celebrate your progress with those numbers, and use them so you'll know right away if you start slipping back.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health.