Bye-Bye Fat, Hello My Fitness Pal!!!
How I Got Fat
I've always been what you would call a "voluptuous" woman. My boobs are big, my thighs are thick, and Shakira herself would agree that my hips don't lie. Yet, no matter how curvy the world perceived me to be, I was never really insecure about my reflection in the mirror. Sometimes, I even felt beautiful...that is, until I got fat.
During my senior year of high school, I weighed in at about 128 pounds (5'6"). At the time, I was pretty active. I swam a lot, spent weekends bodyboarding, and often walked or rode my bike around the neighborhood.
I also ate whatever the hell I wanted (and lots of it!) My family is made up of outstanding cooks, so there was never a shortage of delicious food in the fridge. I lived for desserts and leftovers and, luckily, I always worked off the calories just by having fun with my friends.
It wasn't until after high school that I truly started packing on the pounds. My life consisted of school, work, eating, studying, and sleeping. I lived off Twinkies, Snickers, and fast food. I ate mountainous plates of greasy meals and stacks of sugary treats. The unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise wreaked havoc on my body quickly. In fact, by the time I graduated from college with my teaching degree, I weighed in at 185 lbs.
Although I was proud of myself for gaining an education and securing a career, my self-image was destroyed. Life was miserable. I hated cameras, I hated shopping for clothes, I hated my reflection, and I hated the way I felt about myself. Every Halloween, every New Year's, and at every family gathering (or whenever photos were involved), I wished that I could feel beautiful again. I knew I had to do something, yet it took me quite a while to find the "something" that actually worked.
Sometimes, you have to fall flat on your face to see clearly. While it's true that failure can be the poison that decays your dedication and motivation, failure can also be a powerful and inspirational tool that leads you toward success.
After gaining a significant amount of weight, people tend to shy away from the camera. I, for one, got pretty good at avoiding the whole "say cheese" thing. But, sometimes, photos just can't be escaped...and these were usually the pictures that came back to haunt me. Living in an era when photos could be easily spread across the globe made it difficult to hide my fattest of moments.
Looking at random pictures on friends' profile pages melted my self-esteem like a snowball in a sauna. Social networking became my enemy. In every picture, I looked a mess. I had flabby double-chins here and flubber pouring out there. My shirts stretched around muffin tops and jelly rolls; it was as if a bakery had exploded inside of me! Seeing those pictures made me sick. I had never felt so ugly in my entire life. And there it was; my ugliness being displayed on the internet for the world to see.
Ugliness. Heartache. Disgust. Despair. These were my biggest motivators and, had they never crossed my path, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I'm grateful that I recognized my faults, and I'm glad that I endured the painful truth. My experience as a "fatty" taught me that happiness isn't something you find...it's something you EARN!
As soon as I took responsibility for my weight and followed through with a plan to improve my health, I started to see some results.
The Lumpy Road to Skinnytown
One can only sulk about their weight (while sitting on the couch eating corndogs and Häagen-Dazs) for so long before it becomes annoyingly clear that they have food issues. Admitting you need help is always the first step toward fixing a self-inflicted problem. However, a mental roadblock occurs when you focus too much on the problem itself. The key to solving the most complex problems is found when focusing on the solution (thanks, Richard Rahl!)
First came the pills; Hydroxycut, Dexatrim, and Zantrex (to name a few)...I was wishing for a quick fix and praying these were magic pills that would do the trick. No luck. Turns out, I can't sit on my ass, eat whatever I want, take a pill, and be skinny. Bummer.
Next, I tried meal replacements; I drank Slimfast and ate granola bars. My dinner portions were still Zeus-like in size, but I lost a few pounds anyway. Sadly, my palate is much too greedy to be satisfied with endless c-grade shakes and nuts brushed in honey. My hate for the flavor monotony made quitting meal replacements as easy as...oooooh, apple pie!
At this point, I realized resistance was futile; I needed to get active or I'd never see results. I started walking regularly, bought workout DVDs, purchased a gym membership, and started sweating. Each workout session boosted my confidence level and I was surprised to find that exercising actually gave me more energy. I made a consistent effort to embrace the exercise three times a week and, much to my delight, more pounds came off.
After three years of mediocre exercising, I saw some results. Still, my eating habits were erratic (a little veggies here, a lot of junk there) and I was far from feeling comfortable in my own skin. Although I had lost about 15 lbs., I wasn't happy. Looking in the mirror was still a painful experience, but I didn't lose hope. It was time to get my food abuse under control- for good!
To push past my plateau, I adopted some peculiar diet doctrines; I kept exercising and ate this instead of that. I endured month-log streaks on Lean Cuisine, Lean Pockets, and yogurt. I fasted on spicy lemon water for over a week each season (me-no-rikey!!) And, in the end, one more year of this substandard-effort barely shaved off another 5 lbs. While I felt a sense of joy for my small victory, I still winced at cameras and cringed when trying on jeans at the mall.
On New Year's Eve, 2011, my mind raced with dreams and hopes for a healthier future. I had come a long way, yet I was only halfway down the road. I knew the path ahead was even rockier, and making it through without guidance was impossible. Hence, I made a resolution that involved reaching out. I needed praise, support, and -most of all- a way of keeping myself accountable for what I did to my body. When the clock struck midnight, I made a silent promise to find the help I needed. And, like an angel, it came from a merciful and gracious source.
Along Came My Fitness Pal
Early in January 2012, two supertastically-important things happened in my life; 1) I got married & 2) I joined My Fitness Pal (MFP). My bestie, Rachael, had heard about the program from another girlfriend of ours and said she was going to try it. I had already started keeping a food diary (on paper---what a pain in the ass!), so I agreed to give MFP a try as well. After all, joining was absolutely FREE and I had friends who'd be there to offer support...SCORE!
Signing up was a breeze! The website was easy to navigate and the forums offered lots of wonderful advice (as well as a way to find other MFPeeps that would help guide me on my weight-loss journey.)
The MFP food database contained an extensive catalog of all kinds of munchies (from breakfast to beer), and the "add a food" & "add a recipe" options allowed me to be precise with the things I couldn't find. Better yet, the smartphone MFP app made it easy for me to keep track of what I ate on-the-spot. There was even a label scanner to make entering nutritional info as easy as clicking a button. For something that was 100% FREE, I couldn't believe all the stuff I could do.
MFP also encouraged me to embrace new types exercise. Just do a little search through the MFP exercise database and you'll see a wide array of ways to break a sweat. I was amazed at how much calories I could burn just by swimming, dancing, and rollerskating (three of my favorite activities!!) Yet the best part was, every time I logged in my exercise, my MFP friends gave me praise for a job well done! The added support was enough to keep me logging in and staying active.
Before MFP, I never checked nutritional facts, knew nothing about counting calories, didn't worry about how much calories I burned (so long as I did something), and never paid attention to my BMI, BMR, or heart rate. Now, keeping track of those things is a part of my daily routine...and MFP makes it so easy!!
SO...HOW DOES IT WORK?
It's simple mathematics, really...
Calories consumed + daily exercise completed = net calories
As long as you burn more calories than you consume, you'll lose weight. MFP helps you keep your net calories at the optimal amount for weight loss. That doesn't mean you have to starve yourself or even stay away from certain foods, it just means you have to be honest about what you're eating. It also means that you'll be held accountable for your actions; go ahead and have a BK value meal and a chocolate sundae...just remember that, to stay under your calorie goal, you might have to hit the treadmill.
With the help of MFP, I lost 35.6 lbs. in seven months. Just by following a simple, successful formula, I was able to get back the figure I had as a teenager. I even have PROOF on paper. During my MFP journey, I participated in the TriFit assessment. The results were astounding!
After a span of about 8 months (2/29/12 - 9/12/12), I had improved dramatically in every category (from blood pressure to bicep strength.) My body fat percentage went from 25.7% to 19.5% and my "body age" ended up even younger than my "chronological age" (Wait...you mean it says that I'm a 32 year-old in a 29 year-old's body? AWESOME SAUCE!!)
I feel like Einstein...mE = happy2
The "HARD" Way
When I run into people I haven't seen in a while, I always get the same question...
"Wow, you look good!! How'd you lose all that weight?"
Whenever I say that I'm watching what I eat and exercising regularly, I get funky looks and comments like...
"Oh, you mean the hard way."
No one wants to hear that losing weight means you actually have to DO something...but it's the truth. Only you have power over what your body does. If you choose not to pay attention to what your body needs (and what it doesn't need), then it becomes easily damaged. Yet, no matter how damaged you may feel- whether it be physically or emotionally- you DO have the power to make it better. Strength is not something you have, it's something you build...one day at a time.
True, it's not easy to make a drastic lifestyle change. Yet whether it be losing weight, quitting smoking, or pursuing a new career; the more time and dedication you invest in your efforts, the better your results will be. And, after a while, that "drastic lifestyle change" you feared so much will become "your normal routine". You'll even start to wonder how you could have lived otherwise.
In the end, losing weight isn't as hard as dealing with the pain that comes with carrying it around. Exercising isn't as hard as crying because you feel ugly. Watching what you eat isn't as hard as avoiding cameras. And, finally, taking care of your body isn't as hard as trying to convince yourself that you're wonderful just the way you are.
So...please don't fret about failure or mope over how much you hate your reflection. Don't cry when your friend "instagrams" that awful picture of your muffin top. Just join My Fitness Pal. The only thing you have to lose is weight.
May my successes lead to yours,
Join MFP Today!!
- Free Calorie Counter, Diet & Exercise Journal | MyFitnessPal.com
Free online calorie counter and diet plan. Lose weight by tracking your caloric intake quickly and easily. Find nutrition facts for over 1,000,000 foods.