I spent my entire life being the "bigger friend." I played sports and always felt that even though I was bigger than all of my peers, that my weight was under control. In 2012, I graduated from university and found myself wondering, what next? But a year later, after graduating and entering the workforce, my father passed away and I quickly turned to food as my comfort. That's where a spiral of weight gain began for me.
I reached my highest weight of 114kg before getting pregnant with my first child. Then I gained over 23kg during my pregnancy. After my daughter was born, I tried numerous crash diets and quick fixes that, of course, didn’t work. I had my second daughter 22 months later and left the hospital at over 137kg.
My turning point came in December 2017. My childhood friends came to visit at Christmas time and we took our annual group picture.
Seeing that photo on December 18, 2017, made my jaw drop. I had been avoiding getting my picture taken, and on that particular day I realised why: I did not recognize myself at all.
At that point, I also realised that I had been gaining weight since 2013. I had severe joint pain in my knees, issues with my sciatic nerve that led to my partner helping me out of bed in the mornings, increased anxiety, and depression. That New Years, I made the choice that I would start out on my *permanent* weight-loss journey (on January 1, 2018).
Up until that day, every diet I tried failed. I had tried the smoothie diet (which involved one solid meal a day and two smoothies) that left me starving and binging after a day or two. I also tried to go very low carb and felt awful.
Ultimately, I found the 21-Day Meal Plan, which is what I have stuck with since the day I committed to losing weight.
After that holiday stretch, I started looking online for weight-loss programs. I searched Instagram for popular hashtags #weightloss #weightlosstransformation and I stumbled across the profile of @myadventuretofit (her name is Tiffany). Tiffany is the creator of the @21daymealplan.
After searching through her profile and the @21daymealplan page, Tiffany's vibe and her program felt like a great fit for me. Everything I had considered prior to finding this meal plan was either too restrictive or not restrictive enough. And for less than $20, the plan felt like a safe investment. (Important: As Tiffany's website says, results are not guaranteed on the plan—it's just what she personally did to lose weight, and she put it into writing. She's not a nutritionist, so definitely consider speaking to your doctor or a dietitian ahead of starting your own weight-loss journey if you're not sure if it's a fit for you.)
The plan is very low in dairy and sodium, gluten-free, and full of whole foods.
I eat from a list of foods freely (what I want, when I want!), as long as the ingredients are on the list. It provides me with enough structure to stay on track but also plenty of freedom to not feel overly restricted.
Here’s what I typically eat in a day:
- Breakfast: Two fried eggs with capsicum, a Veggie Burger, 1/2-cup cottage cheese
- Lunch: Brown rice pasta, lean ground turkey, and broccoli all mixed together with mustard and nutritional yeast
- Snacks: A protein bar or a plain rice cake with almond butter
- Dinner: Falafels, riced cauliflower, grilled peppers, and mushrooms
- Dessert: Plain Greek yoghurt and blueberries
The first day I started the 21-Day Meal Plan, I also began exercising—starting with Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred DVD.
I needed something I could do with minimal time but that would get results. I had heard great reviews about her program, and with two children under 2 years old, 25 minutes a day of an at-home workout felt really doable.
Now, I exercise six days a week for 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the day. I lift, run, do HIIT workouts, you name it. I really enjoy mixing up my workouts and doing what feels right that week. This lifestyle has become so fun for me, and I think variety in my workouts has been a huge factor in that.
These three tips have helped make my weight-loss journey a success.
- Drink water. I have *never* been a water drinker, and it was hard starting out. But I started slow and I now drink four litres or so a day without even having to think about it. This little tweak has helped alleviate my headaches, up my overall energy levels, and also helps me know the difference between hunger and boredom.
- Tell a friend (or thousands, like I do). Starting out, I *had* to tell people I was on a weight loss journey. In the past, I wouldn’t tell people out of fear of them finding out if I quit or failed. This time I knew I needed the accountability to help me stick to it. You’d be surprised at the amount of support and inspiration you receive from those who love you, and even from complete strangers online. It’s a wonderful feeling when you know people are rooting for you!
- Find a variety of ways to measure your success. Don’t let the scale be the only thing you use to measure your success. How clothes fit, body measurements, and side-by-side photos can all be extremely helpful when the scale may not be moving.
Ahead of my weight-loss journey, I wish I had realized that food is *fuel.*
Before starting the plan I follow now, I always thought, eat way less, lose way more. But anytime I did that, I ended up quitting because my body was tired because it had no fuel and I would become so hungry I would just give up.
Food is the fuel that makes your body and mind operate as it should. It's not about cutting food out; it's about finding the ingredients that make you feel strong and powerful and keep you going.
Overall, I have lost 54kg since I committed to a healthy lifestyle back in January 2018.
I want other women to know that this journey has never been about self-hate, but rather, self-love. It’s required loving myself enough to change, loving myself enough to put myself first, and loving myself enough to stick to it!
I did *a lot* of soul searching before that day on January 1st, 2018—a lot of writing in a journal and asking myself the tough questions. The way I see it, though, is that your happiness is *always* worth the time and effort.
Jasmin Parent, as told to Emily Shiffer. This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.