Since all the cool kids are posting their #TransformationTuesday photos on Instagram, I though maybe I’d jump right on that bandwagon.
In all honesty, I get it. This road to a healthier lifestyle wasn’t always easy for me; in fact, it was paved with years and years of shame and cheeseballs. (That’s not a joke).
I was never very athletic, and I loved nachos. (Maybe not much has changed).
But the point is, one day I woke up, and I realized I was sick of complaining about how I looked and how I felt, and knew that nothing was going to change if I kept on keeping on. So I made a commitment to myself that I would start making a change; one baby step at a time.
My point with this is that if I can do it, anyone can. I went from being lazy, unmotivated, and eating out multiple times per day, to someone who can back-squat 135 pounds.
This is the part where I’m supposed to compare the girl on the left to the girl on the right, but you know what? You’re staring at the same girl.
Maybe it’s true that the girl on the left was someone who ate McDonalds daily and the girl on the right stays as far away from fast food as possible (hello no brakes food). Maybe it’s also true that the girl on the left never cooked anything other than a frozen pizza, while the girl on the right experiments with creating new recipes for fun. And maybe it’s also true that the girl on the left suffered from pretty poor self esteem, whereas the girl on the right is just starting to accept how awesome she is.
But don’t let appearances fool you. This girl on the right is about ten pounds lighter than I am now. And some days, all I can think about is that girl on the right, and how if I could just get back to 124 pounds, I’d be so much happier. But you know what? I remember the day I took this photo in Antigua. I was SO self conscious the minute we left our room about my stomach, and my thighs. (Go ahead, slap me).
My point with this is that it’s so easy to get caught up in thinking life will be so perfect when… Or I’ll be happy if..
No. Regardless of our weight, or our social status, or our relationship status, or whatever, there is no perfect. If you’re going to be intent on chasing perfection you’re only going to end up disappointed. My life wasn’t perfect when I weighed 124 pounds. Far from it. I wasn’t even happy with myself then. There will always be something, so we have to choose to be happy with what we have, and enjoy the journey while we’re living it.
Everyone always wants to know what I did to lose 70 pounds. The internet is full of all sorts of magic tips for weight loss, and all sorts of products that guarantee fast results to lose weight. For me, I didn’t take any magic pills (although I did trial Advocare once or twice, and while I do feel it helped speed up my process during those few weeks, I quickly realized how terrible I felt while I was on it and quit cold turkey). What truly worked for me was good old-fashioned diet and exercise.
Here are my top tips that helped me lose 70 pounds
Don’t focus on the large goal (for me, it was 60 pounds). Focus on the small goals and the baby steps that are eventually going to lead you to that end goal. If I would have focused on my need or desire to lose 60 pounds, I might have found myself discouraged right from the start.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start thinking of all the time, work, and effort that will go into making something happen. Instead, focus on the 24 hours in front of you. What are the commitments you’re going to make today, and the promises you’re going to keep for yourself? Don’t think about tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Don’t get caught up on everything that you’ll need to do long-term. Think about today. Maybe it starts with no snacking after 7 pm. Great. Do that today. Don’t start panicking about how you need to do it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT FROM HERE UNTIL FOREVER. Just do it today. You can worry about doing it tomorrow once the next 24 hours hit.
Eat More Greens
This is a rocky road because there are so many fad diets out there claiming to be the answer you’re looking for, and as tempting as some of them may be, I urge you to stay as far away from them as possible. In fact, RUN away from them. Not only will you be avoiding the scheme, but you’ll get in extra cardio.
You’re not looking for a quick fix, I promise you. 99.9% of these fad diets are going to guarantee the world, when in reality, it’s going to give you the quickest fix it possibly can instead of leaving you with the knowledge to make a lifestyle change that will sustain you long-term.
I personally don’t believe in cutting out carbs. (Obviously if you have diabetes or any other diet-related health concerns, this may be different for you and you should always consult with your health care practitioner before adjusting any dietary or physical activity).
Carbs are what help sustain you and give you energy, and also help you burn energy and fat. In fact, you NEED adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fat to BURN more fat.
So I don’t think that cutting out carbs or fat is healthy. What I do think you need to do is figure out what works for you. Finding the right “diet” really isn’t about finding a diet at all, but figuring out what kind of eating pattern works for your lifestyle; making healthy choices every step of the way.
For the longest time, I counted calories. When I was trying to lose weight, I consistently ate between 1200-1500 calories daily. I was barely working out at the time; literally just dipping my toe into the gym, and I didn’t have a clue as far as what my body needed. But I did understand basic math; that if I burned more than I consumed, I would lose weight.
Eventually, as my workouts increased and as my caloric intake need increased, I had to adjust. My normal calorie intake increased to about 1800 calories daily, and I was still burning fat and building muscle.
Even still, I knew that calorie counting wouldn’t be something I wanted (or needed) to do forever. These days, I count and manage my macros, because I’m working on sculpting lean muscle and burning fat.
Okay so here’s my point: Whatever you decide to do, make sure you incorporate more green food into your diet. Why? Because greens are virtually calorie free, but jam packed full of nutrients. This means they’re super healthy for you, you can basically eat as many as you want, and you’re going to feel fuller, longer. Plus, what I found, was when I was making an effort to try and eat one green thing at every meal, I started making other healthy changes as well.
It’s all about the snowball effect.
You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a crossfit competitor to be an athlete. All you have to do is move. Is it going to be fun? Probably not at first. Will it be uncomfortable? Maybe a little. But I can tell you that no matter how bad it sucks at first, it will get easier.
Don’t feel like you have to go out and have this epic workout right off the bat. Sometimes starting with a walk is all your body needs until it adjusts from doing basically nothing to doing something, and then doing a little more.
I used to walk from my apartment to the apartment gym a few buildings away. Sometimes I would turn around and walk right back and call it a night. Other times I forced myself to go inside and do 10 minutes on the elliptical. I did that every night until I was able to increase to 30 minutes, and then 40. And then 60. And then I started experimenting with the dumb bells.
I started small, and I didn’t focus on being the most impressive athlete there. I just moved.
Know It’s Okay to Mess Up
Don’t let one bad day throw you off course. It’s impossible to stay committed to something 100% and never stray (except in marriage). You’re going to have days where you fall off the wagon, and you skip your workout and grab a bag of chips instead. Just know that in doing so, it doesn’t give you the excuse or the right to sabotage yourself. You have one bad meal? So what. Get right back on track with the next. Don’t use it as a reason to say “screw it” and continue making bad decisions for the rest of the day, or the rest of the week. There’s absolutely NO rule that says you have to start on a Monday, or start over on a Monday. Start on a Thursday. Start over on Friday. Just start.
Also don’t be too rigid with yourself. It’s okay to indulge every now and then. In fact, when you deprive yourself long term, all you’re really doing is building up resentment toward your healthy lifestyle which makes it harder to stay on course. Allow yourself to go out to dinner with friends. Allow yourself to have a piece of birthday cake. Just don’t do it every single night. You’ll learn to appreciate those treats when they’re fewer and farther between. And I promise you, they’ll taste that much better when you do.
Find Your Tribe
Make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with people who understand. These may be your family members, friends, people you talk to online, whomever. Just make sure that you have at least one person you can talk to about what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling. This is so important because there are going to be so many people who either a) tell you that you can’t do it, b) don’t care about your journey and want you to continue making poor decisions with them, or c) they just don’t understand the struggle.
There are going to be days that are incredible and you’re going to want to brag your booty off at all that you’ve accomplished. There are also going to be days that are physically and emotionally tough, and you’re going to want someone that you can cry to and with. Find your person who understands it and will be there for all of those days and will ultimately encourage you to keep going.
Take Time to Celebrate
Give yourself permission to celebrate YOU. You’re making a commitment to living a healthier lifestyle, and that in itself deserves a round of applause. But take the time to celebrate the victories. Buy yourself that new book you’ve wanted once you lose your first five pounds, or soak in a hot bubblebath after completing a vigorous workout. Find the simple pleasures you love in life (aside from food) and use them as rewards as you keep reaching small milestones.
Stay the Course
There are going to be bumps and there are going to be plateaus. You may find that initially you’re dropping lbs like crazy, then a few weeks later, nothing. Don’t get hung up on what that number on the scale says. I know you’ve heard it before but it’s time to BELIEVE that the scale is a dirty, horrible liar.
For starters, you are more than that number on the scale, so don’t you dare go putting your self worth into it. You have to realize that your body is also this amazing machine that is responsible for doing SO many things. Having the ultimate responsibility of keeping you alive is a really beautiful thing, and sometimes, our bodies need to hold on to extra water weight, which can actually cause that number on the scale to go up. You know what else happens? Sometimes after a really tough workout, your muscles get inflamed, and they hold on to extra water and inflammation for a bit. This can also cause that number to go up.
And don’t forget that muscle just plain weighs more than fat. You could be losing tons of fat and converting it to muscle. If you want a great indicator for the physical progress you’re making; my advice is to take Before Pictures before you even start this new adventure, as well as measurements. Compare these every so often (maybe every couple weeks, or even once a month). Would you still feel bad about yourself if your weight stayed the same but you lost a ton of inches? Doubtful.
You’re not going to see a major change happen overnight. It does take time. And unfortunately, it takes a lot longer to lose weight than it does to gain it. I wish that were different, and if I figure out the magic potion to swap those I’ll let you know asap. What you do need to do, is trust the process. Keep looking for those non-scale victories (losing inches, fitting into clothes you thought you couldn’t wear anymore, FEELING good), and stay consistent with what you’re doing. Trust in it. It will work, and you will reach your goal. Just be patient.
Time for a little tough love. Starting your own transformation isn’t going to be easy. Committing to making a lifestyle change takes a lot of hard work and dedication. And don’t be fooled; I definitely had my growing pains during my own transition. I wasn’t squashing goals every day. In fact, most days were pretty dang hard.
There are still days where I fall completely off the wagon, and I skip a workout, and I order a pizza. But that’s okay, because somewhere along the way I discovered what it means to find two things: Balance and Grace.
Let me explain that final point.. I really love food. I don’t think that is ever going to change. I’m sure if Freud were still alive he’d tell you that I probably have this obsession because my father was absent in my life. Who knows, maybe it is somehow related. All I know, is that if I have to go the rest of my life without enjoying a plate of nachos, or cheese fries, or the occasional cupcake, then I’m not okay with that.
It’s all about finding Balance. Are you familiar with the 80/20 rule? Don’t worry, I’ll save that for a future post. But basically, if you follow a healthy lifestyle 80% of the time, then you should be able to enjoy the treats 20% of the time. Just keep in mind, like I mentioned earlier, don’t let it turn into Treat Yo’Self every single day.
And last, but certainly not least.. Grace. Know that you’re not perfect, and that it’s okay to listen to your body. Sometimes you need a break from the gym. Sometimes you need a break from counting those calories, or carbs, or macros. Sometimes you just need a break. Just keep in mind the reason why you started, so you don’t get swept too far away from your goal and ultimately a healthier, happier you.
Natasha Funderburk is a wife, #boymom, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Consultant, and ACE-Behavior Change Specialist. When not watching her son play baseball, she can be found on various writing platforms, coaching her clients to live their best lives, drinking all the coffee, and conducting living-room dance parties.