Learning to be healthy (and losing 18 pounds along the way)

gym selfie

Most of my adult life I’ve weighed about the same amount (give or take a few pounds) until a couple of years ago when I started a new medication that messed with my hormones. I gained 10 pounds in a very short period of time. And as I changed medications and tried different things, I found myself continuing to slooowly gain weight even thought my diet and exercise habits weren’t changing. Until the point that I just couldn’t handle it anymore. In December of 2015 I was officially up 18 pounds from my previous “normal” weight. My clothes didn’t fit and I felt sluggish. I realized that if I didn’t take control of this, I would only continue to slowly gain more weight and not feel healthy.

To be clear: I was always in a healthy weight bracket, but that doesn’t always mean that I FELT healthy. I think there is a misconception that if someone is in the right BMI weight bracket, that they are healthy. For me, I have not found that not to be necessarily true.

So in December of 2015 I decided to make some serious changes.

Fitbit & Commitment to the Gym

First of all, I got a Fitbit for Christmas 2015. A tangible way to track my exercise. I committed to myself that I would go to the gym every weekday for at least an hour and that I would shoot to still get close to 10,000 steps on the weekend if possible. And so I did it. I allowed no excuses to get in the way. The gym was a priority.

My Fitness Pal & Honesty

I also started using My Fitness Pal in December of 2015 and made myself be 100% honest with it. So that meant that there were lots of days at first that I went over my allotted number of calories. But now I could SEE the proof. Those bites of something here and there really added up. I learned to measure out my food and my portions so I could be honest with myself about how much I was actually eating.

My Fitness Pal & the Fitbit app connect on my smartphone so as I worked out, I got extra calories to eat which was fun. I also would get a weekly report from Fitbit telling me exactly how many calories I had eaten over the past week, how many calories I had burned in the past week, and what my deficit was. It’s just a big math problem, you guys. Calories in, calories out. That’s weight loss.

Quality of Food

Weight loss may be calories in, calories out. But there are some calories that are far more helpful to us than others. I started really gearing my diet toward high protein foods to help keep me full longer. I also started taking my carb-distributed diet more seriously which  meant smaller meals and lots of snacks. And I started eating TONS more veggies and fruits.

Snacks

I mentioned this before, but I started snacking all throughout the day. Last year I shared with you guys some of my favorite snacks so feel free to check that post out here.

Meals & Portion Control

For the most part we have always eaten healthy foods at home, but I have not always been good about portion control. So one of the biggest things I had to learn was what ONE serving of food truly looked like. And if I chose to eat two servings, that was okay – I just needed to be honest with my calorie tracker and put it in there. This helped me realize how often I eat seconds just out of habit and not truly out of hunger. And knowing that I will be eating a snack again two hours after eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, made it easier to stick to one portion of food. For a list of our favorite healthy dinners, see this post.

Water

I have always been bad about drinking enough water. So I decided that if I was taking my health seriously (not just trying to lose weight, but trying to FEEL healthy again), that I needed to learn to hydrate myself. So in January of 2016 I bought a cute water bottle, brought it with me EVERYWHERE, and started tracking the amount of water I drank on my Fitbit app. Once I was in a good habit of drinking water all throughout the day I stopped tracking the exact amount and just made sure I was refilling the bottle at least twice a day. This made a HUGE difference in how I felt. Hydration is awesome. 🙂

Yoga

In August of 2016 I decided to incorporate yoga into my routine. I wrote about my experiences with yoga here for those of you curious. I found that it continued to tone my muscles and has helped with my incredible inflexibility. 😉

My Goal & Timeline

My initial goal was to lose 7 pounds. I didn’t think it was possible to be at my previous weight while on these medications, but I wanted to at least fit into my clothes. I hit that goal within 2 months. I continued to do what I had been doing and found that without working any harder, I was still losing weight. By the end of April of 2016, I had lost 17 pounds. At this point I was a little concerned about losing too much weight so I upped my calories to keep up with the work out routine that I had discovered I loved so much. I considered cutting back on gym time, but I realized that I loved how STRONG and FIT I felt. I was toned and just my overall health felt GREAT so I didn’t want to give up my gym time if I didn’t need to. I still lost one more pound over summer just from being so active, but I have stayed steady at 18 pounds lost since then.

How I Feel

Last summer I told Christopher that I have never felt so healthy in my entire life. I was even smaller weight-wise in college (by another 5-10 pounds depending on what part of college we’re talking about), but I never felt as healthy as I do now. Eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and spending time at the gym strengthening your body does wonders for your health. It wasn’t just about losing weight (though I did want to lose at least enough to fit into my clothes again), but about feeling better again. And friends, 2016 was the year I really kicked off awesome habits.

Also, I felt like a champ being able to lose weight while working against medication that was messing with my hormones. There were times that my calories-in-vs-calories-out equation showed that I should be losing more weight than was actually showing up on the scale and I think that was probably the medication I was working against. But with dedication and hard work, I still lost that weight and took control of my over all health.

Before & After Photos

There are no before-and-after photos in this post because I don’t believe that I looked bad 18 pounds heavier than I am now. Of course if you are curious, this is a blog… it’s super easy to find photos of me from December 2015. But it’s not about how much better I look, but about how much better I feel. About how much healthier I feel. About how my body is hydrated, nourished, fit, and toned.

Disclaimer

Many people say that this sort of hitting-it-hard approach of adding several new things to your life all at once is not sustainable. For me and my personality, it worked and has continued for a year now. I know other people may need a slower approach of adding one new healthy habit (starting a gym routine, starting a healthy diet, starting to drink water, etc) per month or even per quarter. For me, it worked well to just do a total overhaul all at once. So if you need to take it slower, that’s not a bad thing. I think that’s actually what many people recommend.

Closing Thoughts

I really struggled with whether or not to share this post here because I don’t talk about weight loss in general. I don’t like the way that our culture pushes this idea of weight loss and being skinny all of the time. It breaks my heart hearing young girls talking about dieting and wanting to lose weight. But at the same time, I want to show that it can be done in a healthy and safe way focusing on BEING HEALTHY and not necessarily just losing weight. It takes hard work, commitment, and honesty with yourself, but it can be done. I’m proof. 🙂

Love Rach

 

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55 responses to “Learning to be healthy (and losing 18 pounds along the way)

  1. What an encouraging post!! Looks like we have some similar tastes in healthy snacks! 🙂 I’m going to have to try those peanut butter crackers!

  2. Good for you working hard to get fit and healthy 🙂 An hour every day at the gym has never been something that interested me. I’m more of a 3x a week kind of girl and that is a good balance (well I was anyway. Now I’m like a 1x a week ha). But I agree that you have to find what works for you and that’s where you’ll find success!

    • I used to be a 2-3 times a gym kinda girl, but I found that once I had a 5 day a week routine last year, I just really loved it. I will say, I know that I have LOTS more free time than normal people thanks to making my own hours with photography. And I should also say that my gym time is also my reading time. I love getting on a treadmill and reading a book for an hour. So it’s not like I’m running or lifting weights the whole time. That definitely makes a difference!

  3. You look great now and you looked great then. What’s even better is that you feel great now too!
    I am completely obsessed with my Fitbit! I am a firm believer in most things listed except I admittedly don’t drink enough water. Definitely need to get better about that!

  4. You have SUCH a great mindset about losing weight and just being healthy! I think that the freedom came with really just wanting to focus on being healthy (but also being excited about the weight loss, when it happened, since you felt healthier being at a certain weight). I definitely can relate to all of this! I definitely struggled with maintaining my health after having a baby, and I look forward (after Kaitlyn is born) to getting fit and healthy again! Many of my friends were able to do it right after their first baby, but I personally just struggled with it. (I think I was stress eating a lot too, which I don’t do anymore). 🙂
    My Fitness Pal definitely works for me too. I love the structure, and – like you – I enjoy being honest with it. Even going over in calories is helpful, because it just makes a person more aware of where calories are coming from. I can’t wait to start doing it again and starting a fitness routine! 🙂

    • Yes! We are so on the same wave length with this! I remember around this time last year when we started talking about healthy meal ideas. I’m so thankful that I am in some healthier eating and exercise patterns than I was before! And yes, MyFitnessPal is so helpful!

  5. Good for you!! You should be very proud of yourself for taking control of your lifestyle and doing what you needed to do to be healthy. No easy feat but it sounds like many of the changes you made are sustainable as a lifestyle. You are a wonderful role model – making changes and focusing on feeling healthy, not a number on the scale.

  6. You did a great job with the post! Are you still doing the chicken broth too??

    • Girl, I’m not. I added in a new medication during the time when I was doing that and it made me SUPER sick. The meds got adjusted, but I could never bring myself to do the bone broth again. I tried two more times and both times it made me gag because I associated it with when I got so sick. Which is so sad because I really felt great on it at first!

  7. It’s great that you found what works to make you feel healthy! Good health should be the ultimate diet and fitness goal 🙂

  8. I had no idea you had gained any weight! But good for you for realizing you weren’t feeling yourself and that you found something that worked for you. I’m on a healthier lifestyle, but it’s a slow and steady race. Being patient is hard sometimes!

    • It was such a gradual thing. Honestly, I doubt many people noticed. And I tried not to call attention to it because I feel like we as women can be so negative towards ourselves when we talk about our bodies. But I do love the health changes that have been so sustainable! 🙂

  9. Good for you for taking control of your health!

  10. I did notice the change from your pictures and was thinking to myself that you look thinner. And here comes the post. 🙂 Thank you for all the encouragement you give to the people out there who work towards being fit and healthy!

  11. That’s awesome that you are feeling so healthy! I am making some changes myself in 2017 but I’m doing like you mentioned with one thing at a time. With how busy this time of year is at work, I’m just adding the easy changes first (more water, choosing stairs over elevators, extra steps in the evenings) then I’m adding more gym time. Brooklyn and I have committed to doing one fitness class together each week. Once I feel comfy with that I’m adding in 3 gym days for me each week.

  12. Awesome post! I am also on a medication that causes weight gain. I hate that struggle of wondering if the benefit of the medication is worth the health issues that it causes. I was doing so well with regular exercise and being honest with my fitness pal last spring/ summer. Though, my weight loss was slow, I was feeling SO much better! When winter hit, I basically gave it all up because I had been running outside. I have noticed a huge decrease in my energy and mood this winter, so I just decided to bite the bullet and get a gym membership. I am so excited to start feeling better again, and this post gave me even more motivation! Thanks for posting about your journey to being healthier.

    • Yay! I’m so glad to hear that you are feeling so much better since starting up with a fitness routine again! It’s amazing the difference that exercise makes! If you need someone to talk to for encouragement, I’m here! 🙂

  13. thank you for sharing this! you hit the nail on the head with the whole bmi bracket thing. according to my bmi, i am ‘healthy’ but i am 1lb away from being unhealthy. regardless of that, i feel awful and super unhealthy, and i want to lose weight for that reason.

    i know portion control is my #1 offender. that and eating candy/chips like they are going out of style 😉

    i know you’ve talked about yoga and whatnot, have you posted about your gym workout? maybe you have and i’ve seen it and my mind has deleted it, haha, but i’m just curious.

    feeling better is way more important than looking better. i look back on photos when i moved here, and though i look skinny (to me) i felt awful, and i remember thinking i was fat (lol). i want to get back to a couple of years ago, heavy enough that i was feeling healthy but not so heavy that i don’t fit into clothes and feel like a fat slob.

    i think i need to do the overhaul as well. the taking it slow works for some things for me, but not completely, and it’s getting too far away from me that i need to do something more drastic. did you have any willpower issues at all?

    • I honestly don’t know that I have posted my gym workout. Though I really should! I spend an hour on the treadmill just walking while I read whatever book I’ve got in rotation. And then I do a quick weight lifting routine (15-20 minutes).

      When it comes to weight lifting I typically do 3 sets of 10 of everything. My normal routine is:

      Free Weights:

      Bicep curls with a 10 pound weight
      Overhead triceps extensions with a 10 pound weight

      Machines:

      Lat pull down machine with 40 pounds

      Seated Cable Row with 40 pounds

      Other Lat Pull Down Machine (which does the same thing as the machine that I used earlier, but I love lat pull downs and we have two different ways to do them at my gym so I do them on both machines) with 40 pounds

      Triceps Pull Down with 15-20 pounds

      Thigh Abductor with 90 pounds

      Thigh Adductor with 90 pounds

      Seated Leg Press with 90 pounds

      And then I do a quick ab workout (like literally less than 5 minutes) with sets of crunches. I add in a couple of planks and call it a day. 🙂

      And girl, I never had will power issues because once I decided that I wanted to do this overhaul, I was super motivated. I will say, I was doing this during your gym streak time and so I loved being motivated by knowing that YOU too were sticking to something even when it was hard. I loved that! 🙂

  14. In 2001, I gained 25 pounds because of a medicine. After a year of being as heavy as I was at 9 months pregnant, I decided there is no way this is going to happen. So I buckled down, did so many of the things you’ve talked about here and lost 36 pounds in three months. Every now and then I gain 5 pounds or so, including this past holiday season as it gets so much harder the older you get but I know what my healthy train is and what works for me which is definitely lots of exercise, lots of water, good sleep and healthy food. You look spectacular!

  15. Way to go you for working hard at being as healthy as you can be! To sustain both good eating habits and good exercise habits for a year is no mean feat. I do know that my portion sizes for at home meals are larger than normal portions…but I’m okay with that because my doctor and common sense both say that if I was able to gain a few pounds it wouldn’t be such a bad idea, although my doctor is far less concerned about my weight than some random strangers I’ve met. ;P Whenever people find out that I exercise nearly every day–they often seem to think that that’s wrong or unhealthy because I’m thin. In reality, I don’t even do much in the way of aerobic or major calorie-burning exercise, I’m all about pilates or dance or low-impact cardio–because being strong enough to handle life is worth it!

  16. I love how you took control of your health, lady- it’s tough to do, but you took in stride and made some serious gains. Medication and the way it can impact your body can be so unexpected! I’m so happy that you’re feeling strong and fit- and of course, you look amazing.

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

  17. Congrats on getting to the place where you FEEL better!!!! There is something to that. As someone who is naturally thin (ie the only concern I’ve ever had is not weighing enough), I never talk about weight either. But, the thing is…It’s NOT about being thin or strong or in shape so that you look good. That’s all passing away. There are plenty of 60 and 70 year old women whose numbers and measurements say good things, but you still look at them and see the gray hairs, the wrinkles, and the sag. It’s life! BUT…Whatever age we are, we can do things to help us FEEL the best that we can. And I’m all for that! Eat good food. Keep moving. Drink water. Get the rest you need.

    I’m excited for you and admire your dedication to getting things back to where they should be!

  18. What a journey, girl! And way to go for finding what works for you and sticking to it for so long! ❤

  19. I love that you went about this in such a healthy, loving way! That is the way to handle the topic! It seems like self care and focusing on how you feel has been key for you!! Go girl!

  20. I love this post and have thought about it lots since you first posted it.

    First off, I’m so glad you feel so great! I know a lot of that takes discipline but living a healthy life is definitely a pay off.

    My year in Burma and year in the States readjusting took a massive toll on my fitness. I have finally decided to do a lot of the things that you are doing and I’m feeling better already. I’ve added juicing to my routing too (carrots, oranges, beets, kale and apples).

    I’m bad with portions too so I am going to look into My Fitness Pal. I know people have various opinions on tracking calories but I think it would be good to just for the accountability part.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with the rest of us. It’s neat to read.

    • I’ve considered juicing before as a way to get in maximum vitamins! I never have, though, because I don’t have a juicer and I don’t want to find myself doing it for a month and then quitting because I’m over it. You’ll have to let me know what you think of it after doing it for awhile! The few times I’ve tried juice from someone who juices, I’ve really liked it! I hope you like MyFitnessPal! It was such a helpful tool to me!

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  22. sometimes you just have to go through a very serious and dedicated spurt to get back to where you want to be, then I feel like you can still eat what you want in moderation. it’s a slippery slope though – I think going to the gym is such a healthy habit that just keeps you motivated and helps you keep it up. way to go and congrats on your healthy habits.

  23. I am going to have to sit down with you and have you explain how to work My Fitness Pal. I have signed up for it, and I have tried to use it before. I just always get overwhelmed with entering all of the nutrition facts. If I make scrambled eggs and spinach for breakfast, how do I enter the nutrition facts for that? How many calories are in one cup of spinach? You know what I mean? It just seems like a lot of work just to enter the data.

    • Here’s a pretty helpful tutorial video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu9RKqlmD1Q to get you started. I don’t know how often you eat the same types of food, but I’m a major creature of habit so logging my breakfasts and lunches is super easy since I eat the same things all the time. And I LOVE the barcode scanner on the app! It saves tons of time. So for example, to enter your scrambled eggs and spinach you can do that two ways. First, you can type “spinach” into the search bar and then enter the amount you ate (1 cup) and it will tell you how many calories that is. Save that and then do the same thing with eggs. Search “Egg” and enter the number of eggs you used and save them to your tracker. Now, if you eat eggs & spinach frequently for breakfast then go ahead and “save as a meal” so you can super easily click on that meal choice most mornings for breakfast. When I eat eggs & bacon for breakfast, I also always have a glass of almond milk with that breakfast so I go ahead and add 1 cup of almond milk to my “saved” breakfast because I always have it. Just saves time in the long run. Oh! And the other way you can enter your breakfast is by using the barcode scanner. Unless you are using farm fresh eggs, there should be a barcode on the carton of eggs you bought. Just scan that and it will come up in My Fitness Pal. And if you bought a prepacked package of spinach then there should again be a barcode on there that you can scan. I love that scanner! 🙂 Let me know if you have more questions!

  24. I gained about 20lbs back in December 2015 due to a change in medication as well! It messed up my hormone levels to the point that it took me over a year to get back to the weight I started before I gained all of that weight. It stinks that it took that long, but it took a while to get into a rhythm of going to the gym regularly and I continuously kept changing my diet. I also think that medication made my body just hold on to fat and wouldn’t let it go. But now everything is back to normal! Thank you for sharing your story and being an inspiration! It is hard to get into the swing of eating healthy and exercising regularly, but it is ALL worth it in the end if you push through!

  25. Loved it!
    You are a fighter! 🙂

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  27. Awesome post! Ive also had a similar experience in improving the quality of the food I’m eating on a regular basis. It really helps regulate cravings and keeps you from overeating when you’re eating real food with tons of nutrients in them!

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