Back in January, I announced that I wanted to look my best when I turned 30, so I challenged myself to a 5-month shape-up called Lose the Dough. My ultimate goal wasn't necessarily to lose weight, but I did want to tone up and increase my lean muscle mass.
To make things a little more complicated, I didn't want to go on a diet. Deprivation had no part in my plan.
Six months later, I've dined out at delicious restaurants, indulged in weekly cocktails and wine, and eaten my fair share of dessert. Lose the Dough disaster? Hardly! I've lost 2% of my body fat and an inch from both my hips and waist. (See photos of my progress here.) A couple of small changes paid off in big ways. Here's how I did it.
I ate more protein
For years I thought the “eat tons of protein” trend was all diet hype. And while I certainly won't be giving up carbs any time soon, I've learned that a healthy mix of protein and whole grains is key for satiety and controlling my cravings. After meeting with a registered dietitian, I've made an effort to include more protein in my dietusually avocado, beans, peanut butter, and tofu. Not surprisingly, I feel a lot more satisfied after meals (and less tempted to raid the cookie jar).
I started strength training
I haven't added any more workouts to my schedule or increased my time at the gym, but I've made a solid effort to lift weights. Instead of just cranking out the cardio, I'm taking two or three hour-long Body Pump classes at my gym, and this has made all the difference in my body composition. Body Pump is a mix of aerobic exercise and strength training, so you kill two birds with one stone. I get both workouts in just 60 minutesand I work really hard during that hour. I'm usually dripping with sweat by the end of the class!
I thought twice about eating treats
I love wine, cookies, cake, nachos, and beer as much as anyone, but I noticed that indulging too often started to catch up with me. I didn't want to cut these treats out of my diet completely, so I made sure to plan for my diet splurges. If I knew I was headed to a tempting party or night out with friends, I made certain that all of my other meals that day were healthy and filling. And I found that a few bites of a cupcake (instead of the whole thing) or a glass of seltzer (in place of a second cocktail) was enough to keep me happy.
The numbers on the scale are still the same, but my body looks (and feels) a whole lot better. I could have lost a few pounds if I had cut my daily intake by a few hundred calories or exercised for two hours a day, but I couldn't have maintained this way of life for long. Plus, why would I want to? I'm stronger and more fit than I've ever been, and, really, that's the best 30th birthday gift of all.