Ok, it was 18 lbs. But close enough. I still dropped the weight of two gallons of milk off of my body. The weight didn’t come off overnight. Instead, I nixed my bad habits, created healthier ones, and lost the weight over several months. More than four years later, I've still kept the weight off. I feel better. I look better. In this post, I’m sharing my story and what I learned to lose nearly 20 pounds.
My Weight Loss Story Began Nearly 20 Pounds Ago
At my heaviest, I weighed 138. That's considered a healthy weight for women my height (5’7’’), but my lifestyle was not healthy. My diet was garbage, I was not exercising, and I packed on extra weight over the course of a year or two. Now at 120 (still a healthy weight for women my height), I eat better, exercise regularly, and feel like myself again. Although I talk about weight loss in this post, creating healthy habits is far more important than the number on the scale.
My Wakeup Call
Prior to 2012, eating clean and staying fit came naturally to me. But one day, while taking a bath, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. It was my gut, hanging out well above water level, while my ribs were comfortably submerged. All of my bad decisions and laziness were staring me in the face in the form of a cold, naked belly.
Before you take offense to that or skinny shame me, please know that I know there are millions of beautiful, healthy women whose bellies hang out above the waterline. That moment in the tub was my personal wake up call. It indicated to me, I had let my health slip. I remember it vividly, and I am just trying to keep it real with you guys. This is my personal experience.
Forming Unhealthy Habits
I packed on the extra pounds over the course of a few years while I was working as a TV news reporter. It was a stressful job and I never took a lunch break. I was “in the field” most of the day and instead of packing a lunch, I’d stop by McDonalds or Subway (Yes, I do want three cookies for a dollar. Thank you for asking, sir.) and eat it in the car. Or worse, I’d skip lunch altogether and go to town on my cheese and crackers when I got home. Not exactly a well-balanced meal.
The job was physically and mentally exhausting. (No, it wasn’t glamorous. I had to carry around 35 pounds of video equipment and get people to talk to me on the worst days of their lives). After a stressful day at work, I didn’t feel like exercising, so I didn’t. I felt gross and I felt tired, but after my belly stared me in the face, I finally felt ready to make a change!
Step One: Get Your Mind Right
Before I get into the nitty-gritty about how I took action to lose nearly 20 pounds and get my health back on track, I want to share with you a few sayings. These phrases connected with me mentally and enabled me to make changes physically.
1. Work out for your heart
I didn’t own a scale during my weight loss. I stepped onto the scale at the gym every so often, but I was careful not to let myself get obsessed with the numbers. My goal was not to be skinny, it was to be healthy. I consistently told myself to workout to build a strong heart and the body will come. I would actually repeat this in my head while I exercised and it kept me motivated.
2. Abs are made in the kitchen
This is everything. What you put in your body trumps what you do at the gym. You can Soul Cycle your little heart out, but if you’re filling up on cheese and Wheat Thins, you’re probably not going to see results.
3. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Why was I eating a Subway sandwich with a side of cookies for lunch? Because I failed to plan ahead. Because I was lazy. To be honest, part of this was just reminding myself that I matter. That I deserve a nutritious meal. We all do. So for goodness sakes, Elizabeth, take 5-10 minutes to pack yourself a G.D. lunch! (By the way, I’ll touch more on nutrition later in this post.)
You have to prepare for exercise too. If you don’t schedule your workouts, you’re not going to magically start working out. Plan ahead. Prepare your gym bag so you can go straight to the gym before/after work.
Setting Goals for Healthy Weight Loss
If you’re motivated by a number, by all means, set a weight-loss goal. However, I suggest setting specific actions as goals that will help you create long-term, healthy habits. Remember, strive for a healthy heart and the body will come. My goals looked like this:
- Exercise at least 4-5x per week and at least 2.5 hrs per week.
- Bring your lunch to work at least four times per week.
- Meal prep once a week.
Step Two: Take Action for a Healthy Weight Loss
1. Buy a large calendar
The calendar I bought was a calendar much like this one. Yes, there are tons of apps out there to track your workouts, but they get tucked away out of sight in a folder on your phone. I actually hung this large calendar on the wall in a place where I was forced to look at it every day.
I used the calendar to plan out my workouts. At the very top, I wrote my workout goals: Strength training 2x per week. Cardio 2x per week. "Your choice" 1x per week (this could be yoga, spin, another boot camp class, etc.)
2. Select your Workouts and Schedule Them
I love the variety in my workouts so signing up for a gym with different group exercise classes served me well. When I began making healthy changes, I signed up for my first half marathon and found a 16-week training schedule to follow.
Each week I would schedule my workouts in advance to make sure I hit my goals. I’d pencil them on my workout calendar and cross them off with a highlighter once I completed them. I tried to schedule most of my workouts early in the week -- which I found, made it more likely for me to hit my weekly goal.
3. Create Two Layers of Accountability
The calendar is a tool to help hold yourself accountable, but having a workout buddy or signing up for a race also helped me stay on the right track.
4. Stop buying Junk
Do yourself a favor and remove whatever irresistible junk food is in your home right now. For example, for me, Ben and Jerry are unwelcome houseguests. That ice cream will last about as long as free pizza in the office break room. Hint: It’s easier to resist buying ice cream, cheese, and whatever other junk food you crave when you go to the grocery store on a full stomach.
5. Take out the guesswork
Nowadays, I often eat a lot of the same things and workout at the same times. For example, I eat a protein shake every morning (see the recipe in this post) and cycle through the same few dishes for dinner. I typically work out at the same time: 6 or 7 am during the week and 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. on Saturdays. I don’t need to think about it. It kind of just happens now. Creating a healthy routine not only helped me lose the weight but also keep it off.
As I mentioned, I try to work out at least four times per week. I joined a gym that offers a variety of classes, but here are some other workouts and memberships I recommend:
- Solidcore - AKA “Pilates on crack.” There are several studios across Chicago and the nation. I wrote a whole post about Solidcore with a video.
- Aaptiv - This is an audio-driven app that I use and love! There are all kinds of guided workouts (strength training, cycling, yoga) for all levels. The trainers are super motivating. My favorite trainer is Akeem!
- Class Pass - This is a membership that lets you try different exercise studios in your area.
- Jogging - Here is my favorite running route in Chicago.
The main things that helped me improve my diet included: 1) planning ahead 2) eliminating the junk from my apartment 3) asking myself if the food I was considering aligned with my health goals. #3 may sound silly, but it’s often a mental game!
If you want specific grocery lists or recipes, check out these Chicago-based blogs: The Four Percent by Barry's Bootcamp Instructor Kate Lamere or The Fox and She by wellness & lifestyle blogger Blair Staky.
Diet vs. Exercise for Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, I think improving your diet is more important than improving your workout routine. However, the two go hand-in-hand. A good morning workout sets the tone for eating healthy the rest of the day.
Forming Healthy Habits
I am not perfect. I still eat pizza and hit the snooze button. What helped me improve was getting into a new routine. When I focused on creating healthy habits, one step at a time, I saw big changes. It took at least six months to shed the weight, but I have now hovered around 120 pounds for several years and most importantly: I am living a much healthier lifestyle.
If you are on a mission to live healthier in 2019, I commend you! Let me know if you would like me to track my workouts or meals in January 2019 and share them with you on the blog or on Instagram (@heylizzyfay).
Thanks so much for reading this post! Honestly, I was nervous to share this post, but I hope someone finds it helpful.
Here’s to making lifelong healthy habits!
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