After years of trying different diets, I want to give you a quick look at what finally worked for me. My before and now pictures below show how much I have changed on the outside. I am 60 pounds lighter than I was before (180 lbs to 120 lbs). What you can’t see is how much I have grown and learned and healed on the inside. I am healthier for sure, but even more importantly I am happy and enjoying my life!
At 180 lbs., I remember that it didn’t matter what anyone else told me. It didn’t click until I made the decision to change and do it for my own personal reasons; it wasn’t because my friends or family told me to. My doctor had mentioned that it would be good for me to lose weight, she told me that at 22 years old I was already in the obese category and I had high cholesterol. I would try diets but I never got anywhere, I felt like a failure and I started to accept that being overweight was destiny for me.
One day, that way of thinking changed in a big way.
I was looking at a friends photo of a weekend party we were at. I pointed to an overweight woman in one of the photos who I didn’t recognize at all and I asked “Who is that?” My friend quickly replied, “Don’t be silly Maria, that’s YOU!” I said to my friend “Seriously though… who is that?!” My friend held the picture closer to my eyes “Maria, I’m not kidding… this is you!” I kept looking at the overweight woman in the photo… and under all that weight… it was me after all.
I was speechless and it felt like my heart hit the floor. I was completely shocked. I became mad and sad for letting myself get this far off track. I felt like I was in a deep hole and I had no idea how to get out, alone and scared. I was devastated. I will never forget that day. Looking back today I can see it was probably the most important awakening of my life.
People often ask me how I did it. How did I finally break through a lifetime of being overweight and make this transformation? After seeing that photo of myself I was devastated but I was DESPERATE to change. Right at that moment I made the decision to do something to get fit and healthy. I had no idea where to start, I would scour the internet looking for the secret plan but there was so much information I would just get even more confused.
I needed this to be for life, not another yo-yo diet, so I had to break it down to the basics.. I started doing interval exercise 5 or 6 days a week for 25 minutes. I worked out with weights 3 days each week and did aerobics 3 days each week. The workouts were good but I realized that without figuring out the nutrition, I wasn't going to get anywhere. I had to go against my own thinking at first and that meant eating throughout the day and not skipping meals. I started planning what I was going to eat and when the night before and I started eating before I got hungry. These were all new habits for me and not easy the first month. With time though, this healthy way of eating became my new routine and today it still feels very good and isn’t complicated.
What makes the eating plan work for me is that I don’t have to cook meals 6 times a day. I really enjoy using a meal replacement shake from Right Nutrition that gives me all my vitamins and minerals. For example, on a typical day I’ll have 3 shakes and 2 meals and feel really satisfied. Some days I will eat only healthy whole foods, and some days when I am really busy I will use more shakes. The most important thing for me was learning to not skip meals. I will talk more about the damage skipping meals does to your metabolism, and all the science behind it, in another post.
6 days each week I follow my plan. I eat healthy whole food meals that combine the right portions of protein and carbohydrates, I supplement with nutrition shakes, and I drink a gallon of water each day. I plan my meals in advance and follow my plan, and I write everything down. The trick for me is making this a sustainable lifestyle. I never want to gain those 60 lbs back, ever! Realistically, I love food, and there has to be a place in my nutrition plan for me to enjoy some of my favorite unhealthy meals. Enter Free Day. Once a week I will have a Free Day where I can eat whatever I want. Sometimes I will go all out and eat pizza, ice cream, and all sorts of fun foods. Other times a Free Day will be made up of healthy food and one "free" meal. The great thing about Free Day is that it gives me the flexibility to do whatever I want.
I can tell you all about the right exercise to do, and the right meals to eat but I think what is most important is that you are truly ready to change. You have to make that decision yourself if you want to lose weight and keep it off. I tried to lose weight so many times but nothing worked until I was downright determined to changing. Once you make that shift in your mind, your body will follow.
It has been 4 years since I lost 60 lbs and I have really loved my healthy lifestyle. I still eat right most of the time, and I still enjoy being active and exercising frequently. I started by following a program, but one day I woke up and realized that I was just living my life. I guess that is what a true transformation is all about.