My weight was something I was always aware of growing up. I typically ate healthy foods, but I still struggled with feeling like the “chubby” friend for most of my middle and high school years. That led me to try every fad diet out there and caused my weight to constantly fluctuate. Once I was on my own during college, it got even worse.
Between the stress of college, work, breakups, and the bad influences from friends who never seemed to gain weight, I started making extremely unhealthy food choices. One week I would be on the Master Cleanse, basically drinking lemon water for 10 days, and then I would spend the next few weeks eating burgers, burritos and entire boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I had a debilitating relationship with food during those college years—I used food to cope and comfort myself and to fit in with my peers. It got to the point where I felt like I'd already gone downhill, so what I ate didn’t really matter. I thought, Why stop at half of a burrito at 2 a.m. when there's a perfectly good second half just sitting there?
In 2010, I finished school and was living back at home. That was when I really began to notice the emotional toll my body was taking on me. I wasn’t happy, and it wasn’t just about my waistline anymore. It was deeper than that. I didn’t feel good about the choices I was making, and that impacted many different areas of my life. This led me to struggle with depression. It all came to a head one day when I snapped at my dad and then completely broke down. I knew then that I needed to make some serious changes, starting on the inside.
Unlike all the yo-yo dieting I had done throughout the previous years, this time was different: I took the focus off of the scale and shape of my physical body and put it on how I felt. I wanted to feel good inside and out, and I knew that started with my nutrition.
Instead of restricting myself from eating "bad foods," I concentrated on adding healthy ones to my diet. However, I did say goodbye to boozy late-night drive-through burritos and made small “rules” for myself. The first was to limit having wine or a cocktail to weekends instead of every night. I also started making little swaps, like sticking to just nuts and cheese from the cheese plate and ignoring the bread or having a bowl of plain greek yoghurt with fruit or peanut butter instead of froyo when I wanted dessert.
Before, my diet was loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats, and huge portions. But after slowly making healthy swaps, my diet is rich in healthy fats, lean proteins and the right carbs. Now, I eat five meals per day. For breakfast, I have an egg with three egg whites, spinach, and sprouted-grain bread. My second meal is a protein shake with berries, almond butter, kale, and flax seeds. Meal three is something like grilled chicken with salad and avocado and hummus. For my next snack, I have a Greek yogurt with peanut butter and my homemade granola. Dinner is usually baked salmon with a small roasted sweet potato, grilled asparagus, and sprouted brown rice. If I want any kind of indulgence, I go for avocado chocolate pudding or homemade peanut butter cups—greasy pizza and fried food just don't have the same appeal they used to. After six months of making these changes, I was down more than 10kgs.
Exercise was something I had done on and off, but I'd never stuck to a routine consistently. I didn’t really know much about fitness and therefore, didn't want to pay for a gym membership. I knew I could run, so I started out running one to two miles about two times per week in September of 2010. I knew if I went too hard, too fast, I would get burnt out—so this was a great way for me to build a routine.
After a few weeks of that, I committed to three days a week, and I told myself that even if it was only 20 minutes, I would do something! In addition to running, I also did at-home workouts, like Tae Bo and Pilates two to three times a week and started taking hot yoga classes one or two times a week. After about two months, I was working out five to six days each week. The great part was that I actually started to really love how I felt mentally and physically—clear-headed, happier, more in-control, and strong! That feeling eventually became the motivation to keep pushing. Over the last few years, I’ve continued to work to build more muscle and find my strong, healthy body. I currently weigh 58kgs, and my measurements are smaller than they were at my lowest weight of 55kgs.
STICKING WITH IT
Since losing weight, my workouts have changed, but my goals have stayed the same. I became a certified personal trainer in 2014 and created the Hot Body Sweat Guide for my own workout routine. They take less than 30 minutes and can be done at home using your own body weight. It’s a mix of three days of strength and conditioning circuits with two to three alternating days of high-intensity and steady-state cardio sessions. In addition, I'm still running a couple of days a week — Sunday evenings are my favourite time to take a sunset beach run and re-set before setting new goals for the week.
No matter how short on time I am, I commit to myself to do something every day. I know that even if I only spend 10 minutes doing some abs one day, it does make a difference. Those 10 minutes are a little reminder to myself, and my body, that I am still putting my health first.
I've gained so much confidence throughout this process. I’m not just talking about feeling confident in my body and good in my own skin. Yes, that is irreplaceable and something every woman deserves to experience. But this is even greater. I gained a confidence in my inner strength and knowing I can do anything. For so many years, I tried and failed and thought I was either weak, stupid or both. Finally, being able to take control of my health and fitness has instilled a confidence unlike any other that runs through my whole life.
MY NUMBER ONE TIP
Every woman deserves to feel strong and confident. It doesn’t happen overnight, so trust the process. Ditch the scale, and take the focus off of your weight because you are so much more than a number. Focus on how you feel! And know that those small choices you make each day add up to serious change. You deserve this, and you can do it!
As told to Danielle Page.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.