Recently, I've gotten lots of questions about my "secret" to losing about 40 pounds in 2011 and maintaining it through 2012. It seems almost everyone wants to lose weight or tone up, which is amazing! But here's the truth: there is no "secret" to weight loss. At the encouragement of my Pilates teacher in the Spring 2011 semester, I began to track my calories and exercise using myfitnesspal.com (they also have a mobile app; both are free!). Let me tell you, counting calories is an eye-opener. It really introduced portion control, which I think is more important than what you actually eat. I still eat pizza, ice cream, and all those delicious sweets, I just allot calories for those treats. It's also important to understand that you don't need to be perfect in your calorie counting every day; as long as you have a deficit of 2500 calories at the end of the week, you will lose 1 lb a week (myfitnesspal calculates your deficit for you).
I initially set my goal as 15 pounds that I wanted to lose. The first 10 or so pounds come off quickly (more if you're heavier) because this is all water weight. When I got to 15 pounds lost, I loved what I was seeing so I tried for 5 more pounds. Then I tried for 10 more pounds. When I reached that, I was ECSTATIC! I went into maintenance mode and kept my activity as normal. This year, in September, I lost 10 more pounds. I was having a rough time, wasn't eating AS much (although I was still eating and running), but I'm maintaining here for now :) I would encourage everyone who is looking to lose weight to track their calories and find an exercise they love. The cliched "diet and exercise" truly is the best way to lose weight healthily (unless you're under doctor's orders to try something else). Good luck!
Things I've learned about health and fitness
1. You will still have fat days, no matter how much weight you lose. Sometimes my mind doesn't recognize that the person I see in the mirror is a healthy young woman, not even close to being overweight.
2. A strong support system can be your best asset. I was lucky enough to have a boyfriend at the time who constantly reminded me that I am beautiful and that my new body is amazing, and I credit him for helping me develop a positive body image. My family and friends were also really supportive, constantly asking about my progress and reminding me that I was doing a great job.
3. Fat does not make you fat. Dietary fats are not necessarily the cause of weight gain or obesity; healthy fats (think: avocados and nuts) are important in brain health and overall functioning of the body. Don't be afraid of fat!
4. Dehydration is your worst enemy. I have found that working out while I'm slightly dehydrated is the WORST! It can lead to blisters, chafing, headaches, and overall poor performance. If you don't bring a water bottle with you, make sure to drink lots of water before and after your workout.
5. Exercise is fun if you find something you love. I started out with Zumba, Pilates, and Yoga, but now I usually just run. Running makes me feel amazing, it's free, and you can do it whenever you want.
6. Pick a time to workout and stick with it. I workout as soon as I wake up in the morning because otherwise I lose my resolve throughout the day and decide I can just do it tomorrow. It gets you into a bad habit. I saw a Nike quote that says "yesterday, you said tomorrow." So just go out and do it today! You'll feel so much better
7. Not every workout is going to be the same. Just because you did great yesterday in your workout doesn't mean that you'll do great today. Every day is different. Some days you're more hydrated than others, some days you may be more sore, etc. It's okay. You're moving, and that's better than nothing!
8. Rest days can be your best friend. Your body needs time to recover. Take a rest day. You don't have to necessarily eat everything in sight, but it's nice to give your body a break, especially if you want to avoid injury. It's gonna feel weird at first, but if you're working hard during the week, you'll come to appreciate that rest day.
9. Set goals. Instead of saying "i want to lose 50 pounds," try setting a goal of losing 10 or 15 pounds first. When that goal is reached, move onto the next goal until 50 pounds lost is reached. It's less daunting. Now that I'm working on maintaining my weight, I set fitness goals. My next fitness goal is to finish the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February :P
10. Keep at it. You're not going to see results over night. Keep in mind that all of your hard work is going to pay off. Do this for yourself, not for others. I promise you will feel amazing!
Good luck to everyone who is working on their fitness!