I've worked in the media industry for almost 20 years, and for most of my career, my job involved entertaining clients—which meant taking them out for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and drinks. A typical breakfast would be French toast or egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches, for lunch a bean burrito or quesadillas. Dinner would be pizza or Mexican food. It mostly depended what my clients were in the mood for, but we always got appetisers on top of our main courses and of course, a never-ending bread basket.
For years, I would go on diets, lose 10 or 15kgs, and then gain it all back... plus an extra 10. I went on Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Zone, the grapefruit juice diet, the cabbage soup diet, South Beach, Atkins, SlimFast—you name it, I've tried it. Even at my heaviest, I was never one to lack confidence or self-esteem, but I never really believed in my ability to lose weight.
In August of 2013, I was finally inspired to make a real change. At the time, I was working at LivingSocial. My team was incredible and were always working out which made me wonder, What am I missing here? I decided I should try to start to follow their lead. I was living a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle, but the job I was at was filled with great, healthy-minded people who were getting up early to work out, and that got the ball rolling for me.
I adopted a new way of eating that was high-protein, low-fat, low-carb, and no-sugar. I didn't follow a specific diet plan (doing so had never worked out for me in the past, anyway), but I did know that most diets limited sugar, so I started from there and kind of did my own thing.
For breakfast, I would eat two eggs and three or four strips of turkey bacon most mornings. I cut out bread in the beginning and just ate it every once in a while for breakfast. I roasted veggies for lunch and would eat them with fish or chicken. I didn't limit myself on green vegetables and tried to eat lots of them with each meal. If I felt hungry between meals, I would snack on apples, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meats, and Quest bars.
I learned to eat healthier in restaurants when I was dining out with clients. I’d order salads and always have the dressing on the side, and would opt for the low-sugar dressing options. Or I'd order lettuce wraps with sauces on the side, and lots of fish and veggie entrees as well.
I started seeing results after the first month, and lost six to eight pounds per month pretty consistently after that.
I started my workout routing by hiring a personal trainer in August 2013. Having a trainer helped me to stay accountable. I would work out with my trainer two to three times per week for an hour, doing a mix of bodyweight exercises such as wall-sits, planks, and lunges. One day per week, I would also go to the gym and work out on my own doing what I had learned from my trainer. On the days where I didn't see my trainer or go to the gym, I would just walk on my own with my dog.
I started walking in the beginning for about 15 minutes, and increased to 30 to 45 minutes after the first month. I stayed in that range for a few months, and then increased my walking to over an hour. I like being outside when the weather is nice to clear my thoughts, and loved doing something that made me feel good all around.
I worked out with my personal trainer consistently for a year, and have since transitioned to walking and CrossFit classes as my main forms of exercise. I work out at CrossFit around three to four times per week for an hour, incorporating varied functional movements such as running, gymnastics, weightlifting, and rowing performed at a high intensity.
I lost 48kg in my first year of dieting and working out consistently. It was slow and steady. I lost my last 34 pounds over six months. All in all, I lost 64kg in a year and a half.
STICKING WITH IT
This time around, I had a support system. Once my coworkers saw my commitment, they cheered me on and supported me. One of my biggest supporters even gave me tips on how to eat and order healthy food when on the road traveling.
I started posting about my workouts and diet on social media, too. Soon, friends and family began reaching out via Facebook or text asking me, “Did you work out today?” That helped me be accountable and really focus on all the support I was getting and be strict about my diet. I felt like I was beating this—finally!—and when friends would ask me to go out to happy hour or dinner, I’d say, “Ask me to do something else,” and we’d go on a hike or walk instead.
One of my biggest cheerleaders kept saying to me, “You’re getting closer every day.” When I had a bad day, progress was slow, or I was getting frustrated, I’d remember that phrase. In fact, I built my own community around it about a year into my journey: GettingCloserEveryday.com, and its corresponding Facebook community, which includes everyone from nutritionists and yoga instructors, to people who want to lose 15 pounds, and people who want to lose several hundred pounds. I started this because I wanted people to know they could do it. I wanted to share what I learned, to help inspire people.
In March of 2016 I needed to have an emergency hysterectomy, and had a scary incident in post-op that required CPR. I often wonder if my heavier self would have survived. When you’re looking for inspiration to be a healthier version of yourself, just remember it could be preparation to beat the unexpected things in life. Besides looking and feeling better, I would have to say surviving that surgery was my biggest reward.
JENNA'S NUMBER-ONE TIP
Tell everyone you are getting healthy and really need their support. When you want to change your life, you need to make a plan and tell your spouse, friends, family, co-workers, and anyone you see or interact with in order to be successful. Sharing your goals with the people in your life helps you stay accountable. It's great knowing they'll follow up and check in on your progress. You'll want to have something positive to share with them!
Realise though, that not everyone knows how to be supportive; maybe you shared bad habits together, and they don't know how to support your new ones. Try connecting with people who have similar goals. Make new friends and interact in new wellness social settings, whether it's at a group fitness class or within your company.
As told to Danielle Page. This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.