Before starting this journey, I battled weight issues my entire life. I tried to establish healthier habits through programs like Weight Watchers, but had no luck. Things worsened when I became pregnant in 2014 and started experiencing thyroid issues. Over the course of that pregnancy, I gained 125 pounds. When I had my daughter that September, I was my heaviest at 375 pounds.
I struggled through some of the simplest parts of life. I couldn’t fit behind the steering wheel of our car, so we had to buy a new one. I had to take breaks going up just two flights of steps. Getting dressed was a chore, especially when it came to footwear. I couldn’t tie my own shoes, so I ended up wearing crocs all the time because they were easy to slip on. During this time, I was severely depressed.
I felt miserable and trapped. Over time, it started to seem as though ending my life would be easier than changing it. The day before I decided to make a change, I had a nervous breakdown after getting on the scale in my bathroom. It was paralysing. But then I heard my daughter cry and that was a sign that told me to stay and fight to change my life. After that day, I chose to do something for myself. Every choice I made from that point on has moved me away from that day in the bathroom.
The first decision I made in this process was ordering Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix program. The meal plan portion of the program taught me how to eat food the correct way. The colour-coded containers each represent a different food group (like greens, fruit, carbs) and are sized in correlation to those foods’ proper portion. The container set size is based on your weight and goals. This plan taught me to remove unhealthy foods from my diet and replace them with healthier options. For example, Friday night is pizza night at my house. Instead of ordering from the pizzeria, I make a wheat or cauliflower-based crust, which makes a big difference. Before this program, I didn’t realise that some foods are nutritionally more dense than others.
I like to keep my meals simple, and I’ve stuck to the 21 Day Fix’s rules for the most part. Breakfast is always an omelet with sautéed veggies and toasted Ezekiel grain bread. For a morning snack, my favourite go-to is Greek yogurt with pineapple, chia seeds, and cinnamon. Lunch is a big salad with shredded chicken or roasted turkey, vegetables, and balsamic dressing. An afternoon snack is usually carrots and hummus with some almonds. Dinner is where I incorporate more variation. It could be whole-grain spaghetti or grilled turkey burgers, or chicken.
The biggest changes I’ve made to my diet is that I not longer eat red meat, pork, or dairy. When I tried to begin incorporating these back into my diet after the 21 Day Fix, I started to experience a lot of inflammation and rashes, so now I know that they're a trigger for me.
In the beginning, I followed the 21 Day Fix workouts for 30 minutes every day. Once a week, I'd do an active recovery workout or activity. I ended up doing nine total rounds of the 21 Day Fix workouts. At the end of each round, I’d take three days off in between to rest and recover (and have a cheat meal!). These at-home workouts were great for me at the start of this journey because I felt self-conscious anytime I went to the gym. These videos allowed me to work out in a judgment-free zone.
By August of 2015, I was ready to start more advanced workouts like the Body Beast, a series that’s composed of 35- to 40-minute workouts focused on building lean muscle. I created a hybrid between those and 21 Day Fix workouts to keep my exercise routine from becoming boring.
Currently, I’m trying to switch gears in order to build a maintainable schedule of working out at least five days a week. I got a gym membership about a year ago when I started training for races and needed to run even when it was raining. I go there about once a week now and do a combination of box jumps and rope pulls, and spend time on the elliptical if I need something low-impact.
Every time I felt like giving up, I turned to my Beachbody community. I attended every local event and signed up for all the online challenges in order to hold myself accountable. That way, I was always surrounded by people who inspired me. When I hit weight-loss roadblocks, I always had someone to help me through that through my online community. I felt I had a support system beyond my friends and family—people who understood what I was going through.
This change has positively impacted every aspect of my life. Before all of this, I was someone who was very shy, never spoke to anyone, and kept a small circle. This journey has taught me to be open to people, communicate, and let others help me. I struggled in silence for so long, but now I ask for help when I need it.
The people around me are getting healthier after being inspired by my story, too. Now my family eats much better than we used to—no more living off of Domino’s pizza deals and fast food. Some of the great rewards are simple things like being able to play with my kids at the park, but I've also quit my nine-year smoking habit. Best of all, my thyroid levels have been stable for about a year now with no medication.
The thing I always tell people who are starting out is that the most important element to weight loss is believing in yourself. We’re quick to put all the power in the program, but the real life-change comes from within.
It’s also vital that you become honest with yourself about what got you into this health crisis in the first place. Once you’re honest about that, make it your job to change those habits. I filled a notebook with all my bad habits and made goals each week to change or improve them.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health