I never practiced healthy eating habits growing up. I'd skip breakfast every single day out of convenience. When it came to the rest of my meals, I ate whatever I wanted. I was an emotional eater and had the mentality that if something made me happy, I should just eat it. Unfortunately, what made me happy was snacking on Oreos and Goldfish. Around fifth grade, these habits finally caught up with me and I started gaining weight. I was starting to get a little bit of a belly. However, I'd been an active dancer since age 3, so I was far from morbidly obese.
When I hit college, I remained active and went to the gym about two to three times a week. I took Zumba every Wednesday. On other days I ran on the treadmill for as long as I could and ended with some sit-ups and planks on a mat. Despite my workouts, I gained 18 kilograms throughout my five years in college. The drinking didn't help, and neither did the late-night study snacks. I grew more self-conscious each year, and began buying clothes that would hide the weight. By the time I graduated, I was very unhappy with the damage I had done to my body.
I didn't immediately improve my lifestyle after I graduated. In fact, it only got worse. After I accepted a new job across the country, I was in vacation mode for the first few months of post-grad life. I was making new friends and every weekend we did something new and exciting (that usually involved eating). I got a new boyfriend, too, so everything was going great.
About six months after the big move, I was dumped, and a lot of my friends in our group turned against me. I felt alone and more self-conscious than ever. I used my heartbreak as motivation to get my "revenge body" in October of 2015.
I always knew I had poor eating habits, but I never had the will power to actually eat healthy. I began making small changes by tracking my calorie intake with the MyFitnessPal app. After a couple weeks, I had a handle on how much I should be eating and stuck to that amount. However, I didn't stop eating junk food overnight. From October to January, I only lost 4.5 kilograms because I was still eating too much processed food. But when the New Year came, I fully committed to eating healthy.
My ideal healthy breakfast is egg whites with avocado, spinach, and hot sauce and some sweet potato on the side. I started forcing myself to drink black coffee in order to cut back on the sugar and calories. That was hard at first, but now I no longer crave those sugary coffee drinks. For lunch, I usually eat pretty light because it's hard for me to be productive in the afternoon if I eat too heavily. Typically, I eat chicken and broccoli or salmon and asparagus for lunch or dinner. I also snack a lot throughout the day to keep my metabolism going. Protein bars, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and fruit are my go-to's. I also stick to eating fibrous carbs like quinoa versus a lot of bread and pasta.
For me, healthy eating isn't about deprivation. I still eat one to two cheat meals a week for my sanity. You better believe pizza is my number-one choice for that! But I also make healthy substitutes for the foods I crave. For example, I make pizza with cauliflower crust all the time. It kills my craving without sacrificing my clean diet.
I was relatively active before deciding to lose weight, so it wasn't a huge stretch to start working out every day after setting out to lose weight. Besides how often I was working out, the biggest change I made was adding strength training into my routine. I had never lifted weights before but I knew I wanted to start. I worked with a trainer for a few months and searched for great workouts online. Lifting weights is my release for anything that is stressing me out or making me unhappy and it's brought me amazing results.
I stick to a pretty regimented workout routine. Monday is leg day, followed by some form of cardio; Tuesday is back and biceps, followed by cardio; Wednesday is chest and triceps, followed by cardio; Thursday is shoulders and abs, followed by—you guessed it—cardio. I repeat this cycle so that at any given time, some muscle group is always sore. When it stops being sore, it's time to work it again. To be honest, cardio workouts are not something I enjoy that much, especially running. Because of that, I'm always trying to challenge my body in new ways. Dancing, kickboxing, cycling, and the stair stepper are great ways to get my body working (plus, I enjoy these more than running). One of my friends and I work out together consistently, which helps me stay on track when I'm feeling like I don't want to work out.
I make sure I do some form of exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day, but I also listen to my body when I feel like a rest day is needed. The key to achieving lasting fitness results is adopting the mindset that there is never (and should never) be a point where you decide "this is good enough. I'll stop here."
STICKING WITH IT
My workout partner has helped me stick with my plan. Having someone with similar goals to hold you accountable is something I recommend to anyone who doesn't feel motivated on their own or doesn't know where to begin. The two of us would go shopping for healthy foods together and then split the bill and cook our food for the week. It really helps to not be alone in this process.
Seeing my clothes fitting looser was definitely a big motivation booster for me, as well. It is a continuous process to keep a healthy body.
After about a year of working out and eating healthy, I lost 19 kilograms and now weigh 62.6 kilograms. I've kept that weight for about a year now, but my body composition is still changing to become more muscular.
Making this big lifestyle change has affected more than just my physical appearance. It's easier to get out of bed in the morning, I no longer become breathless from walking up the stairs, and I feel much happier and more confident overall. The journey has certainly given me a major sense of accomplishment, which is a great payoff after dedicating this much time and energy to being fit.
I tried out for the dance team my freshman year of college and didn't make the team because I didn't have the body type they were looking for. I didn't let it stop me though, and I continued to be involved in dance ever since. Now, I'm a professional dancer for the NBA and the WNBA. I refused to give up my dream.
MY NUMBER-ONE TIP
You have to know that it isn't going to be easy, but you will thank yourself for putting in the work more than you will ever know. Once you get past the stage of craving everything under the sun and being frustrated from not seeing immediate results, you'll start to love it. You may not get that flat stomach in a month, but if you stick to your goals and are consistent with your methods, you will get there in time.
I've learned that if you don't love yourself at your heaviest weight, losing weight isn't going to magically make you love yourself later. No matter what size you are, you need to realise your worth and decide that you are enough. Letting someone else's opinions of you define how you see yourself is one of the worst things you can do for your happiness.
This article originally appeared on Womenshealthmag.com.