I love food and I love eating. I don't love dieting. Although I have always been a mostly healthy eater, I'm not one to turn down a piece of birthday cake or a glass of wine during cocktail hour. But indulging a little too much and a little too often resulted in a slow gain of 25 pounds by my early 20s.
When I was younger, I'd managed to maintain my weight of 130 pounds by being active. I belonged to the dance team and played intramural sports, so it wasn't difficult for me to motivate myself to exercise. After college, I started a desk job, and with that came long hours, pizza lunches, and plenty of happy hours. I continued to exercise almost every day, but it wasn't enough—and my weight climbed to 153, too much for my 5-foot-4-inch frame.
My tipping point
I wasn't happy at my heaviest, but I wasn’t really motivated to do anything about it until a ski trip with friends in 2004 put things in perspective. The vacation was a blast, but I quickly lost my getaway glow when I saw photos from our trip. Looking at the physical proof, I was embarrassed by how much weight I had gained. Every photo was a "bad" photo of me. I was so depressed that I threw most of them away.
Soon after the ski trip, I left my desk job to pursue graduate school and took a part-time job working at the front desk of an upscale health club. One of the perks was a free membership, which was the motivation I needed to take control of my weight. I started exercising at the health club most mornings, taking Body Pump and spinning classes on a regular basis. Finding workout buddies helped too. I made some new friends who were avid runners and I began training for and participating in road races with them.
Even though I was burning plenty of calories through exercise, I knew my eating habits were preventing me from losing weight. I wasn't eating unhealthy foods—I stuck with salads, turkey sandwiches, and stir-fry dishes—I was just eating too much of everything. I started tracking my daily calories online at fitday.com. Counting calories really helped me understand my overblown portion sizes and just how many calories I was consuming.
Next page: My four Feel Great Weight tips
My Feel Great Weight
Almost a year and a half later, in the summer of 2006, I finally reached my Feel Great Weight of 130 pounds. My weight loss didn’t happen overnight—in fact it took a pretty long time—but that was because I wasn't "dieting." I hate dieting, remember? Through trial and error and figuring out what worked best for me, I made lifestyle changes, which have stuck with me to today. For example, I almost always have oatmeal with all-natural nut butter and a piece of fruit for breakfast. It helps set a healthy tone for my whole day, plus it keeps me full until lunchtime.
These four tricks helped me lose the weight and keep it off for the past three years.
1. Make an appointment to exercise
Every Sunday I jot down my exercise goals in my planner. Sometimes last-minute plans get in the way, but I generally stick to my schedule once I've put it in ink.
2. Count calories—at least in the beginning
I didn’t realize just how many calories I was consuming, so writing down what I ate helped keep me aware of what I was putting in my mouth. I don't count calories anymore, but I track what I eat (and when I exercise) on my blog, Carrots 'N' Cake, which keeps me accountable.
3. Meal plan
Every Sunday I sit down and plan a week's worth of meals. I almost always brown-bag my lunch, which means I have more control over how many calories are in my meal. I'm also able to save money by making sure I use up all of my fresh produce.
4. Keep truckin'
Maintaining your Feel Great Weight is all about balance. If I overindulge at a weekend barbecue or mindlessly munch throughout the afternoon, I don't throw in the towel. I make sure my next meal is healthy and move on.
Now I'm committed to maintaining my Feel Great Weight without missing out on any important moments, like birthday celebrations or nights out with friends. And I can’t stick to steamed broccoli every night—I have a husband who would not appreciate that—so I’ve found ways to make our favorite meals a little better for our waistlines.
The support of my new fitness buddies and loyal blog readers helped me achieve and maintain my Feel Great Weight. I can't wait to share my tips and tricks with you, but I’ll need you to hold me accountable. I hope you’ll share some of your secrets and successes too.