Well, I’ve been putting this one off, but I guess the time has finally arrived to talk about what we all probably think about first when it comes to self-care: weight and nutrition.
If you didn’t know me in college or grad school, you might not know that I’ve lost about 30 pounds since I graduated in 2007. 30 pounds may not sound like a lot, but I’m only 5’3″ – a couple pounds difference on my frame is noticeable. 30 pounds at the time of my heaviest weight was 15-20% of my total body weight. Now, it’d obviously be an even larger percentage.
I’ve thought about talking about my weight loss for a long time, but I’ve always waited. I wanted to get to my “perfect weight” before I did a big dramatic reveal. But, perfect to me is Carrie Underwood, which will likely never be attainable, unless I suddenly have a job that literally pays me to look beautiful.
So, in the interest of being transparent, and with the hope that my experience can be encouraging or helpful or at least relatable to anyone, here we go. (Warning, this is long – I have a lot to say.)
In 2007, I looked like this:
I wasn’t morbidly obese, obviously. But, I was an unhealthy and uncomfortable weight for my frame. And, I wasn’t really happy with how I looked.
But, I was in school, and I was a good student and kid who did nothing but study and eat ice cream while watching the Bachelor with my best friend and her mom. There were no liquid calories for me all throughout school – it was very real, very permanent food calories.
Once I graduated, though, I had the time and interest to get a little more serious about being where I wanted to be, so I got to work.
Weight loss was not a new topic to me. I think I had my first Slim Fast shake in 8th grade. In high school, I packed my own lunch and took an apple, an orange, and carrots every day. That’s it. It was the early 2000s – I don’t think most of us knew a lot about nutrition then. Fruits and vegetables were healthy, so I thought I was doing great.
Part of my issues with weight at such a young age stemmed from a health class in 9th grade in which we learned about obesity, and the boys selected me to be the lucky girl they called an “obese fat cow.” I knew they were calling me that because I wasn’t fat – they weren’t quite mean enough to call the actual larger girls that. But, still – at 14, a nickname like that leaves a mark.
I can’t blame it all on them, though. Being worried about your body is an almost universal issue among American women, and as a girly girl who was way more into boys and shoes and school than I was running around the soccer field, I was no exception. I also come by it naturally. My grandmother – the mayor’s wife and the best dressed woman in Fort Thomas, Kentucky – was worried about her weight until the day she died, just shy of 92 years old.
Of course, none of my efforts had really been successful prior to this point. I did manage to avoid the Freshman 15 in college, but I made up for it with the Sophomore 20. I would try various fad diets now and then but was never very good at sticking to them. I’m still not.
But, at 22 years old with a master’s degree, I was ready.
The first thing I did when I moved to Virginia Beach was to join a gym. There, I had a few sessions with a personal trainer who helped me learn the importance of weight training, instead of just the cardio I had been doing. Apparently, lifting not only burns calories while you’re doing it, but muscles burn more calories than fat, even when at rest. That sounded very efficient to me.
She also helped me get on board with eating more frequently throughout the day. I’d always been afraid that eating 5 small meals would really end up being 5 large meals (portion control wasn’t one of my strengths), and I’d end up consuming even more calories. But once I started, I found that I actually wasn’t so hungry that I needed to eat that much in each setting.
I lost a few pounds over the next several months, and then I plateaued.
I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be, though, so I decided to change something up. This time, I joined a group training class. I didn’t have the money to continue personal training, but I also knew I didn’t know enough about weight lifting to really be effective on my own. Group training was a cheaper alternative.
I lost a few more pounds, and then I plateaued.
I was getting closer to where I wanted to be, and I was certainly much happier with how I looked and felt. But, every now and then I’d get a wave of motivation and decide to change up something else.
For a while, I was going to the gym two times a day, but that was mainly because I had a crush on a guy working there (shout out, Hot Trainer!), and I really just spent most of my time talking to him. The next weight loss came from me getting a little more serious about what I was eating.
They say abs are made in the kitchen, and while I doubt I will ever have abs…I do think what you eat is far more important than how much you workout, unless maybe you’re a professional athlete (or a “tactical athlete”, as the special ops guys call themselves (insert heart eyes emoji)).
So, I began shopping at Trader Joes and finding ways to incorporate more fresh foods into my diet, while still maintaining the convenience that I value most of all.
At this point, I was down about 20 pounds. It’d also been about 6 years.
I say that to emphasize that this was not an overnight thing for me. Sure, it would have been nice to lose the weight much quicker – to not have so many plateaus.
But, because my weight loss was so slow, I’ve never regained any of it. If I notice that a pound or two has crept back on (which I notice by how my clothes fit; I hardly ever actually weigh myself. It usually makes me feel worse.), I just readjust slightly and it’s gone again. I’ve never yo-yo’ed, which is something trendy diets usually can’t promise.
The next several pounds came off while I lived in Georgia. I had almost no friends, so I ate out a lot less, and worked out a lot more. I also was depressed, and while I can be an emotional eater, that emotion is usually happiness. I don’t advise living somewhere that makes you miserable for two years to lose a little weight, but at least that was one silver lining.
While in Georgia, I also really started focusing on eating more protein. My brother is a power-lifter and big on getting in your macros. I tried it for a while and hated tracking everything. But, it did give me a good idea of how to balance my meals better and the importance of enough protein when it comes to body composition.
And now we arrive to my current weight. The remaining couple of pounds I’ve lost have been since moving to Nashville. I had a personal trainer here for a while, who helped me immensely in working out more effectively. (I also was talking to Bradley Cooper during that time, who was in perfect shape. I was very motivated.)
I’ve become more aware of what my body likes to eat. I saw a naturopath for a while, and we discovered that I don’t do well with night shades (RIP, Chick Fil A waffle fries. I will forever miss you), or gluten. I can handle gluten – I don’t have celiac’s disease, so I don’t want to belittle the experience of those who really suffer. But, I feel MUCH better when I avoid it.
Turns out, eliminating white potatoes and flour from my diet makes a big different in my waist line. Imagine that.
The secret to my weight loss is…diet and exercise.
I wish there were a magic formula we could all apply and immediately be the size we wanted to be. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
I have friends who have found success with strict Paleo or keto or counting calories or macros or whatever. But, for me, it’s really been a process of figuring out how my body works, and tweaking what I’m doing accordingly – while still maintaining balance so I can actually enjoy my life.
Currently, I try to eat mostly clean. I sub sweet potato fries for french fries – I don’t like them as well, but they’re the better overall choice for me. But, I love a burger, and it’s not the same without the bun. So, I usually get the bun – gluten and all. I’m currently drinking a frappucino, but every morning, I eat hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I don’t love them, either, but they’re easy and a good source of protein.
I try to make sure I go to the gym 3-4 times a week. Sometimes it’s 1-2. But, it’s a priority for me, and I chose a gym I enjoy going to, to help motivate me.
I still eat several times throughout the day, but I only buy snacks that are good for me – almonds, La Croix, apples, etc. It’s hard to make healthy choices when I eat out, so I make it as easy for myself at home as possible. I can’t choose poorly there.
I eat a lot of REALLY dark chocolate. Like 85% dark, dark.
I intentionally have not used any specific numbers here, other than the 30 pounds that I lost, because I don’t think the numbers are that important. A girl I follow on Instagram lost 20 pounds, but her starting weight was my current weight, and it made me feel bad. I didn’t think I needed to lose 20 pounds, but after seeing her posts, I suddenly thought maybe I did. I don’t want to do that to anyone else.
What’s most important is being healthy and taking care of your body in a way that will sustain it and allow you to enjoy life to its fullest. It’s being comfortable in your clothes and your own skin. It’s not the number on a scale.
So, now, 11 years and 30 pounds later, I look like this:
I’ve never regained any of the weight, and I don’t expect to. I’ve learned so much about my body. Maybe another wave or two of motivation will hit me and I eventually will achieve Carrie Underwood status. But, if not, I’m happy to say that I’m just that – happy. And I hope you are, too.
Thank you for reading my most vulnerable post I’ve ever written. I love you all.