There’s nothing quite as satisfying as that compliment, “you look really good, have you lost weight?”
I’m no fitness model or nutrition specialist. Im just your average 23 year old female, constantly struggling to keep my weight in check. Within the past 3 years or so I have learned a lot about diet and fitness and I’ve made some lifestyle changes that have had a major impact on my overall appearance and health. As a taller person, it is easy for me to pack on a few extra pounds without people noticing since my weight is distributed more evenly. I knew I was overweight but I was good at dressing to hide my flaws. I didn’t have the motivation or willpower to change my appearance until my brother started body building. I could see how hard he was working to mold his body into supreme shape in order to compete in a body building competition. I used to think he was crazy for wanting to workout every single day and for sticking to such a strict diet. Eventually though, his willpower and determination had an impact on me and I started to become more aware of my unhealthy habits.
My mom has also been a great example of living a healthier lifestyle. A few years ago we both started to make changes in our lives to feel better about our appearances and we unknowingly motivated each other. She has always reminded me to love myself no matter what but to continue to work on becoming the healthy person that I want to be. She has educated me on which types of food are good for me and which ones aren’t. As a kid when my mom took me grocery shopping, she would always make me look at the nutritional value on the boxes of cereal and I was forced to give up all of my hopes and dreams of eating lucky charms for breakfast and settle for a healthier option. Although I would scoff at her advice when she gave it, since I would have much rather snacked on a box of candy than a bag of almonds, I have grown to appreciate the knowledge that she has shared with me.
Once I was finally motivated enough, I signed up for a gym membership and made a goal to go at least three times a week. 20 minutes on the elliptical seemed like an eternity for the first couple of weeks but eventually my body started to get used to it and the task became less agonizing. When you’re out of shape it is easy to be discouraged after your first workout. Everything seems so difficult, but if you stick with it, you’ll find out that it becomes a little bit less horrible each time and eventually you may even enjoy it.
When I started to lose weight and gain muscle, I could feel the difference. When my pants weren’t too tight around my hips and my form fitting shirts didn’t make me feel like a human muffin, I realized that I never wanted to go back to being unhealthy. Now, I’m not saying that I’m the most health-conscious person in the world. I always have and always will love candy and sweets, so I often have a difficult time saying no to sugar. That’s why working out is so great, I pretty much only workout so that I can occasionally indulge in the types of foods which I know are not good for me. To me, dieting is much less effective than exercise. Diet is an important part, but without exercise you won’t be able to burn fat, build muscle and tone. It’s also important to be realistic when you set a weight loss goal for yourself. You can’t look at pictures of someone who is anatomically smaller than you and think that you can workout and make your body look like theirs. You have to be realistic and focus on creating the best version of yourself.
Here are some of the major steps I’ve taken towards living a healthier lifestyle;
This was my first big step towards a healthier diet and it was no easy task. I was huge fan of soda and energy drinks. I would sometimes have multiple energy drinks in one day and also found myself going through drive thru’s just to satisfy my craving for a soda. I slowly switched from coke to diet coke, and regular to sugar free energy drinks. Eventually I was able to stop drinking them all together and it turns out I have more energy without the energy drinks. Now my go-to drinks consist only of water, flavored sparkling water, tea and coffee.
NO FAST FOOD
Fast food is a quick and easy alternative. Unfoturnately nothing worth having is ever easy and if you want to be fit you have to say no to the french fries and hello to a homemade meal. Saying no to fast food was one of my biggest steps toward a healthier lifestyle. I used to eat fast food almost every day. Especially when I was old enough to drive, I took full advantage of my drivers license and went straight to the Taco Bell drive thru for lunch. Not only was it easy, but it was also cheap. The problem with fast food is that it has no real nutrition. Shortly after eating it, I found myself hungry again. I stopped eating anywhere with a drive thru once I realized how unhealthy their meals really were. The few exceptions I made were el pollo loco, because they have much healthier options and of course I still couldn’t resist the occasional trip to In N Out.
LEARN TO LOVE SALAD
Salads don’t have to be gross and unsatisfying. When I started to learn how to make delicious salads they became my go-to meal. I like to prepare my ingredients before hand so that when I get hungry, it makes it easier for me to quickly throw a yummy salad together. I peel and chop a cucumber/red onion/bell pepper (or any other salad-appropriate vegetable) and place them in ziplock baggies at the beginning of the week. I also like to cook chicken breasts, cut them into strips and keep them in a tupperware container. When I get hungry, I pull out my spring mix add my veggies and some chicken strips for protein. Then I’ll top it off with a little bit of feta cheese, avocado and a light champagne dressing. YUM! Quick and easy. Salads are just one of many delicious healthy options to prepare. I love finding new recipes that taste good and are actually good for me. (Stay tuned for some blog posts with my favorite recipes in the near future.)
The hardest part is getting started. Once you get a routine going you can eventually add extra distance to your cardio or extra reps to your weight training. I have never pushed myself to the point of feeling sick because I don’t want a bad experience to keep me from continuing to workout. I started out doing a mile of cardio every day and eventually that turned into two miles. Don’t forget to add the weight training. Using weight machines can be confusing, but I recommend risking making yourself look like an idiot trying to adjust that seat because the machines are really helpful when you’re not sure where to start. You can simply look at the picture and description on the side of the machine and start building the muscles that you don’t normally use. Learn to love your soreness… weights will leave your body feeling.. well.. in pain, especially two days after an intense workout. It may be miserable at first but you’ll learn to love this feeling once you start to feel your body change. You’ll know that soreness is just the not so subtle reminder that you have done a good job and your body is on it’s way to becoming stronger.
DRINK MORE WATER
This one pretty much says it all. Just drink a lot of water. You may have to pee more often but your body will thank you for it.