I am incredibly proud to say that I worked my butt off super hard last year and not only reached my goal weight before the wedding, but completely destroyed it. In the course of seven months, I lost thirty pounds, and was able to sustain that weight from September (when I hit my goal) until January (my wedding!). Of course, slimming down and looking great in my wedding gown was awesome, but the reason why I worked so hard was for one reason: I wanted to feel better.
The more weight I put on, the harder it was to do a lot of things. I was out of breath way more often at dance class, my legs and hips ached constantly either from standing too long or from sitting too long, I had trouble finding clothes that I liked to wear, and I had bad self esteem. I am in no way saying that being larger means you aren't beautiful, but I felt pretty down on myself that I felt so unhealthy. I wanted to lose weight so I could be fit and healthy; slimming down was an added bonus.
There are no quick fixes. Dropping the pounds - and getting them to stay off - is definitely a lifestyle change, not just a quick diet you can try for a few weeks and get results. I was motivated by my own progress to continue on with my changes; the more weight I lost, the better I felt, and, in turn, the more I wanted to keep going!
What I did was this: I ate better, I ate less, and I exercised consistently. It's simple, right? No crash diets, no smoothie supplements, no magic drugs to help. All natural, and I know that by doing it "the right way," I will continue to feel great and I won't bounce back up in a few weeks. Here are the three majorly helpful and free tools that I used last year (and still use now!) to help me lose thirty pounds.
There are so many reasons why I love Cassey's Blogilates & Pop Pilates YouTube videos. The first is, obviously, Cassey is super likeable. That really makes a difference when someone is kicking your ass via crunches and leg lifts. Blogilates videos are great because they're short enough to commit to. I had never really done pilates before these videos and, to me, saying "okay, I have the time to do one seven minute video" was a pretty easy sell. After that, you're already down on your mat and sweating, so you might as well do a few more to make it worth your time. I really like how her videos are targeted to specific body parts: there are upper ab videos, lower ab, obliques, squat challenges, tons of booty work outs, and more. Whatever you want to focus on, she has a video for it. When I do her videos for my daily work-out, I would try to do at least half hour to forty-five minutes.
Some of my favorite videos: Drive By Inner Thighs, ABC Abs!, Spring Fling 1: Toning Workout.
Now, I was no stranger to yoga before last year. We did a lot of yoga type stretches in dance class, and I loved going to drop-in classes at the studio in town when I had the chance. However, once I started doing yoga at home on a regular basis, I really fell in love. Setting time aside for yoga is perfect for your body and mind. My favorite time to practice was in the evening; I rolled out my mat up in my bedroom, lit a few candles, brewed a cup of tea (usually Yogi's Detox), and stretched until I was content in savasana. It helped calm me down, relax my body, and get ready for sleep.
Sarah Beth Yoga (all free videos on YouTube) was my absolute favorite teacher that I found online. She's originally from MN (points!) and her videos are super easy to understand and follow, targeted for specific body parts or times of day, and free of any cheese. Many yoga videos can be a liiitttleeee on the serious side, with a lot of time spent talking. I don't have that much free time, so I don't want to sit on the mat for too long listening to chit chat before the first sun salutation begins. Sarah Beth does take the videos seriously, though, and you can tell that she loves what she's doing and she loves to share with viewers.
While yoga is great for mental relaxation, that isn't to say that it can't be used to kick your butt. Yoga can get intense; there are quite a few videos specifically for weight loss and muscle toning. However, a steady stream of simple hatha routines on a daily basis also increases flexibility and stamina, which helps you with your more high-intensity training as well. When I do yoga, I try to be on my mat for at least an hour, if not more, from first down-dog to the last bow after savasana.
Some of my favorite videos: Yoga for a Beach Bod, Yoga for Detox & Digestion, Yoga for Hamstring Flexibility.
The last thing that helped me stay on the right path was counting calories and tracking my exercise with the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone. Counting calories sounds scary and sometime can have negative connotations, but it doesn't have to be bad. I used it to make sure I was eating the right portions and, to be honest, it helped me so I ate enough during the day to make up for my work-outs. Sure, you could be eating a 1200-calorie diet, but if you ran on the treadmill for an hour and burned a couple hundred cals and didn't eat enough to make up for that, you would be in trouble. Using this app helped me know how much I needed to eat during the day, made me mindful of portion sizes, and kept me honest. I started out eating 1400cal a day to get the hang of it, and once I started hitting goals, I dropped down to 1200 calories. This is a NET TOTAL - for example, I could plug in that I bellydanced for 45 minutes and MyFitnessPal would say that burned roughly 200 calories. So my total for the day would be 1200 (regular goal) + an extra 200 calories worth of delicious yummy treats.
Changing my eating habits, along with adding in exercise at least 45 minutes a day 5 days a week, was the key. I learned what foods would fill me up the longest and make me feel the best. I stuck to lean protein, piles and piles of veggies, learned to love cottage cheese (which is a great side replacement in big meals instead of carbs), and made sure to eat a decent sized breakfast. I also learned that if I had an extra 100 calories at the end of the day, I could sneak in a cookie. My goal numbers weren't strict - if I went over by a hundred or so every once in a while, I did not beat myself up. As long as I was active and the food I was putting into my body was something to be proud of, I had no reason to feel bad about the extra few bites I had throughout the day.
FINAL NOTES & TIPS
It definitely wasn't easy and there were many times I got discouraged. But this is the method that worked for me - I stuck it out and I saw results. It took commitment and a knowledge that it was a life style change, but once you get that mindset, you're gold. Here are a few last tips and things that I did that helped me to feel 100% better by the end of 2013.
- Don't Lose Hope! There were times where weeks went by when the scale didn't move a single ounce. It happens. Just stick with it, maybe switch up your work-outs a little, and you'll see the numbers go down eventually.
- Cheat! At least twice a month I let myself have a major cheat day. Not just a cheat meal or a big dessert; a whole cheat day. Where you don't even worry about portions and you get the eat the yummiest food you've been dreaming of. Everything in moderation, even moderation. You'd go crazy if you don't get to indulge. Plus - the weight comes off slow, it's not going to all fly back on because you ate three bowls of spaghetti for dinner one night.
- Get Outside! I'm excited to do this again! I, MaDonna, ran this last year. I can't believe it. But I felt great afterwards. My runs usually only went less than an hour, and, truth be told, I didn't run the entire time straight, but it works! I used the Runtastic app on my iPhone to track my run - it tells you the estimated calories burned for the trip and automatically transfers it over to MyFitnessPal. I also used this when I went on long walks - every calorie counts, especially if that means you get to adjust your totals to eat more delicious treats.
- Find the food that works for you. I'm an incredibly snacky person. The willpower is hard, so I found things that helped me. String cheese was a lifesaver - I got the 50 calorie a stick type and kept them in the fridge at work to eat between meals. Angie's Kettle Corn in the Boom Chicka Pop sea salt flavor only has 35 calories a cup. Veggies I went crazy on - sugar snap peas are great to mindlessly eat while watching TV or sitting at your desk.
- I did have one big workout a week - Wednesday nights are belly dance nights for my troupe. Between class and troupe practice, I was belly dancing at least 90 minutes, if not more. Find something that is exciting and different. I also fell in love with the treadmill this last summer; high-incline was literally a butt-kicking.
- A little bit is better than nothing! Sometimes, I had to force myself to get on my mat and after goofing off online "finding a workout," I fiiiiinally got myself to make it through, like, eight minutes of a pilates workout. And then sometimes that was enough. You're not always in the mood. But guess what? Usually once you start, you do more than you think you would. And the days where you stop sooner than you'd like? That's okay, too. Don't beat yourself up over it.
That's all I can think of for right now! Please email me or comment on this entry with any questions or any other tips or advice for readers that you might have! I definitely took a little break after my wedding and I'm ready to get back on it! However, I will say, that even though I have not been the best dieter or exerciser the past few months, the weight I gained back was minimal. I firmly believe its because I lost the weight "the right way" the first time around. Good luck! I will keep updating with more ideas, inspiration, recipes, and more this year.