For as long as I can remember, sometime before hitting puberty, I have been aware of my body and always felt like my weight did not affect my life in any significant way for better or worse. That was until one night, sitting on the couch eating potato chips and watching my two children wrestle on the floor with the energy of a pair of newborn puppies, that I realized that I was letting my weight affect my life!
It dawned on me that I left the house less and less for anything other than school and work! That very night I made a promise to myself and to my two children to start living a healthier life. I had been divorced for almost three years at that time and my children depended on me.
I went nuts - like many women new to exercise – working out every day for at least 45 minutes. For the first two months I did not lose a single pound; in fact, I gained a few if you can believe it. I know now that it was because I only focused on exercise and did not change my eating habits. I had to realize that exercise is great for being healthier overall, but for weight loss I had to do more.
I cut out diet pop and caffeine and increased my water intake by over 32 ounces. After the first six months, I hit the wall; I stopped losing weight. So I started working with a registered and licensed dietitian who vowed to help me lose the remaining 40 pounds.
How did my dietitian help me?
She helped me navigate through the thousands of diets, misinformation, and fads out there and helped me find what worked for me. She taught me the most important thing; when it comes to nutrition for improving your health, improving body composition (reducing body fat), or training performance (increasing your stamina and muscle), it’s crucial to realize there’s an underlying hierarchy of importance. At the top of priorities is the total amount of the macronutrients (calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates) consumed by the end of each and EVERY day. She pointed out that there is a precise timing for releasing those nutrients which is why athletes and active individuals eat multiple times per day.
I had been skipping meals most of the day and then eating a large meal late at night after my children went to bed which sent a signal to my body that I would not be eating again for a long time, triggering fat storage to preserve energy. My dietitian explained to me that the body can enter starvation mode during long gaps between meals and may begin breaking down your muscle for energy, which can slow your metabolism. By eating frequently, it would help me to avoid these problems. Basically, changing to small frequent meals helped me with maintaining portion control and “feeding” my new muscles from the gym! Less than two weeks after I became adjusted to my new lifestyle, I started losing two pounds a week and gained at least one phone number a month from a potential boyfriend! What a great bonus!
I mentioned being focused, but after the first year you must also stay consistent. I make sure that I exercise in some way every other day, even when I occasionally travel for fun or business. It is also SO important for me as a single mom (now with a great boyfriend and workout partner!), to keep everything in perspective. Just like everyone else, I don’t always make the healthiest eating choices and often make a bad food choice, or a bad meal choice, or even have a completely terrible day. But now I can rest assured that it does not mean I am condemned to gain all of my weight back. Through all the mistakes that I made, I learned that the key for me has been staying motivated without becoming obsessed.
One last word; it pays to seek the advice of an expert!