My Fitness Story

This is not an easy post to write, honestly. I'm not totally comfortable talking about my weight, but I'm reminding myself that you guys have always been encouraging and supportive readers, and I'm very grateful for that. Also, this topic ties in directly to my post last week about growing in confidence, which I'll explain.

Last year, just like the year before, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to lose weight. But in the next couple months, I actually gained weight, reaching my all time high of 150 lbs. I should note here that 150 lbs may very well be your ideal weight, so don't take the numbers out of context. I'm about 5'4", and my "happy place," the place where I'm active and eating well but not stressing out over it, is at 132 lbs. That's right at my optimal BMI, 22.0. So, I started off my year at a discouraging 18 lbs. heavier than I wanted to be.

For the first seven months of the year, I did Jullian Michaels 31 Day Shred, joined a gym and participated in a circuit training exercise class three times a week. I lost 5 lbs.

After we moved last summer, I quit the gym and Jullian. During the last four months of the year, I lost 11.5 lbs.

In short, after quitting the gym and Jullian, I lost over twice as much.

How? I'll tell you. But first, be warned: if you're looking for a ground-breaking weight loss secret, you won't find that here. If you're looking for a magic pill or a quick fix trick, you won't find that here. In a sentence: what works for me is a combination of small steps, perseverance, and lots of grace.
Before and During
I'm starting 2013 1.5 lbs away from my goal weight. A year ago, that remaining 1.5 lbs would have discouraged me, but with all I've learned over the last year, it doesn't bother me. Because I've already lost 16.5 lbs., I know I'm capable of losing the rest and keeping it off. Here's where this topic ties in directly with my confidence challenge. Scott Dinsmore said it best in his article, How to Find and Do What You Love (emphasis mine):
The best place I’ve found to start is with your physical body — with exercise and nutrition.
One, because it’s totally in your control. No matter what happens in a day, you can always decide to get out on that run or choose that salad over the fries — no one can take that from you.
And two, because overcoming our own perceived physical impossibilities gives us confidence that is directly transferrable to the rest of our life — be it business, relationships or whatever. If you got yourself to lose 50 pounds in six months, then who’s to say you couldn’t double your business’s sales next year?
Showing yourself you can do things you used to write off as impossible, has a confidence-compounding effect on our life like no other.

Once you truly believe "My fitness is in my control," you'll find the motivation to do hard things. And as you succeed in doing hard things, your confidence will grow. For example, saying "no" to overindulging in ice cream because I know I won't feel good about it later has actually made it easier to say "no" to requests that will be a drain on my time and emotions and I also won't feel good about.

With each small goal or milestone achieved, my confidence grows as I prove to myself that I can do it. I'm even contemplating possibly doing this program to run a 5K! That's crazy talk from the girl who doesn't like running and doesn't stick with exercise programs for more than three weeks.

Without further ado, here's seven things I did to lose weight in the last four months.

1. I Kept Track.

I used technology to my advantage, specifically the "Lose It" app. With it, I input all my food and exercise, and record my weight, set goals, and track my progress. One of the reasons I love this app is that it rewards you along the way to your goal with badges. Out of the blue, you'll get an email or notification that you've earned the "Exercise Hound" badge for exercising three times a week for four weeks. Celebrating the small successes is so important!

Also, because I was tracking what I ate and my exercise, I began to notice trends. I noticed that on days when I ate yogurt or cereal for breakfast, I usually went over my calories allotted. However, when I ate an egg for breakfast, I usually stayed under or right at my calorie goal. Using that information, I made the deducting that starting the day with protein kept me feeling full, and helped me stay within my calorie range for the rest of the day. Now, I eat an egg for breakfast almost every day.

I also noticed how I felt after eating certain foods. Because I was keeping track of what I ate, I discovered that I'm very sensitive to dairy products. I've cut back on milk and cheese, and feel much better as a result.

2. I Set Realistic Goals.

A quick look at the "Health and Fitness" category on Pinterest shows millions of pins like this:


With the caption: "13 Moves to Get Slim, Strong, and Sexy in Four Weeks!"

And this:


With the caption: "Eight serious LOWER ab moves from top Olympic trainers that will score you a rock-solid middle."

I chose these examples since the photos are borderline appropriate. I won't even get started on all the half covered butt cheek shots, or the "Victoria Secret" workouts. Newsflash: pinning photos of scantily clad women with enticing captions to your "Exercise Motivation" board doesn't work. Here's why:

First of all, you're setting yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. Do you think that chic in the first photo really looks like that after working out for only four weeks? Doubtful. She's been working out a whole lot longer than that, and besides exercise, she's also watching what she eats. Plus, how do you know whether or not any of the photos above, or the others on Pinterest, are photoshopped? I can almost guarantee you that celulite gets smoothed out, and tummies get pulled in on almost all of those photos.

Secondly, pinning photos of women without taking into account body type and height isn't doing you any favors. It's unrealistic for me to think I could look like the second pin above, because I have a curvy figure, not a straight one. No amount of exercise will alter my body shape.

So, set realistic goals. Look for photos of celebrities or average people who are close to your height and have a similar body type. For example, I pinned Emma's weight loss story from A Beautiful Mess because we're the same height and have a similar shape. Plus, she lost weight in a safe, healthy, practical way that I can realistically replicate.

3. I Did What I Could, When I Could. 

Before, I set goals of working out three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But then, if something came up and I missed Monday, I'd tell myself to just wait until Wednesday to get back on track. But if something came up Wednesday, I'd just wait until Friday, and before I knew it, the week had gone by without any exercising. So, I had to change my thinking and get flexible.

Yes, it's good to schedule working out. It's good to commit to a class at a set time. It helps create a habit, and that's great. But when I started working out whenever I could, for however long I could, I found that I worked out more often, and I enjoyed it more. If Monday was a crazy day, instead of waiting until Wednesday, I'd grab my weights and do arm curls, chest flies, and push ups for ten minutes while waiting for the water to heat up for my shower on Tuesday morning. I'd take the long way to get the mail, so instead of a two minute walk, it took ten.

So don't wait until Monday to start eating healthier or to go for a walk. Start with your next meal, or your next five minutes of free time!

4. I Asked for Accountability. 

I can't tell you the number of times I'd read about how important it is to have someone keep you accountable, and I'd always blown it off. Until last October. I gritted my teeth and asked two close friends and role models of mine to keep me accountable. It was hard. I was scared. I felt vulnerable. I didn't like asking for help. But it worked. 

Knowing that I'm going to get a Facebook message every week, and not wanting to admit that I didn't make any progress for the third week in row, is super motivating. And yes, there have been times I haven't made progress for weeks at a time. My accountability partners are great at offering suggestions to help me break through my plateaus and stay motivated, and they're extremely patient with me.

5. I Rewarded Myself.

This was THE game changer. This tip was new to me in the last four months, and of all the things I'm going to share with you, it has made the most difference.

I took every opportunity to reward myself for small successes. For example, I broke my weight loss goal of 18 lbs into three smaller chunks. In my notebook, next to each goal, I wrote down a reward for achieving that goal, and reviewed the list often. Each reward had to be non-food related. My reward for reaching 140 lbs. was Jergens Self Tanning Lotion. My reward for 136 lbs. was watching Harry Potter 7 Part 1. 134 lbs. was going to see The Hobbit in theaters. When I get to 132 lbs., I'd like to buy myself a Sevenly sweatshirt.

If I found myself getting discouraged because I was doing everything right but not reaching my next goal, I'd reward myself for working out 3x that week, or going on a walk every day for a week, or tracking my calories every day for a week. Each reward I achieved meant a boost of confidence in my ability to accomplish my goals, and motivated me to keep going. 

6. I Give Myself Grace.

Source: via Emily on Pinterest

I didn't make my goal of losing 18 lbs. by Thanksgiving. I didn't make it by Christmas, and I didn't make it by January 1st. Oh well. I've lost 16.5 lbs! That's something to celebrate. Along the way, I've beat myself up for not reaching goals, for going up instead of down, and not making any progress for weeks at a time. I'm learning to give myself grace, to be patient with myself, and not give up even when I fail. Instead of throwing in the towel, I'm learning to take a deep breath, and try again.

I often have to give my weight and appearance over to God. Honestly, my upper arm still waves back, my thighs still rub together, my belly still isn't flat. I have to give myself grace and accept  my appearance, because it's where I'm at. It's the body God's given me. When I start spiraling into self-disparaging thoughts or discouragement, I stop and thank God for this body, and for the prayers He's already answered. It's by His strength that I've made it this far!

7. I Found What Works For Me. 

Before and During

And you have to find what works for you. Find foods you like to eat. Find workouts or classes that you enjoy. Find books, magazines, blogs, or podcasts that speak to you. Find realistic inspiration. Find people who support you and keep you accountable.  Find small steps you can achieve, with rewards that motivate you.

Update: in the time it took to write this post, my weight has changed. I'm now 0.4 lbs. away from my goal, with a total of 17.6 lbs. lost!

I feel like there's a lot more I could say about what books, tools, programs, foods, etc. have been helpful for me, but I don't want to make this post any longer! If you have any questions for me, I'm happy to answer them in the comments below!

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