Here’s a personal post that’s a little difficult to share. Last year I gained at least 17 pounds. (Actually probably 20, but I wasn’t very into weighing myself.) This year I lost it with these three “doable” things. I’m a fitness newbie. I don’t like gyms or “feeling the burn.” I’m as confused as the next guy with all the different popular diets. So I’m sharing my simple plan that helped me shed the pounds and get back to my normal weight. I have also added a mini progress journal on how much I lost week by week.
I don’t know what I thought would happen last year as I ate and snacked and stressed and shared wine with my husband in the evenings — and all that without much exercise. I’m 42 years old so my body doesn’t metabolize like it used to.
One day I finally got the motivation to pick my paintbrush back up and paint the hallway but my painting clothes didn’t fit (like, didn’t fit past my thighs!). In fact, after wearing leggings every day I didn’t realize that most of my clothes didn’t fit. (Oh, 2020, what did you do to us!?)
So I started walking a little more, though still pretty inconsistently. I ate and drank less. Usually. And this afforded me to lose probably 7 pounds over the course of several months. So I thought it would keep going like that. Well, it did not. I got stuck 10 pounds over my normal weight.
It seemed my body really liked that spot. I would go up and down a few pounds from that spot and always come back. So I did three things that finally got the extra 10 pounds off in 2 months. My goal wasn’t anything crazy — I didn’t care about shredded abs or super buff arms — just to get back to my once normal weight.
I don’t have a proper before picture, so I’ll just show you a screen shot of a video I saw of Clara and I that made me realize I needed a change. I wasn’t obese or out of control, but I could see I wasn’t headed down a good path.
This is the part that I tell you I’m not a dietician or health expert and that you should love and appreciate your body. It’s all true. But I think you know that (I’m a DIY blogger after all) and I think that you can still love your body but want it to be it’s best. Shaming ourselves is never a good idea. You can look in the mirror and decide to do better, but please stop there. Don’t spend time chastising or narrowing in on specific “flaws.” We really are our own worst critics, aren’t we?
So here are the three things I did. Take it for what it is. If you’re a fitness guru, you’re going to giggle a little. If you’re a newbie like me, I hope you find something useful!
1. Walk every day
I am a slacker worker-outer. But walking I can do. I even enjoy it. The key is to find something you enjoy. And hey, if you like the gym and classes that’s great! I’m proud of you! (Even a little jealous.)
I am currently walking every day between 5,000 and 10,000 steps a day — always of course aiming for the 10,000 but life happens. I track it using my little fitness tracker watch. I’ve never had a different one to compare it to, but it has modes for different types of exercise, it’s waterproof and sends the info to an app on my phone. So it works for me. Of course you can use an Apple watch if you have one or phone. Just find a way to count steps ;)
Anything in addition to my walk is a bonus. So I park farther away from the store in the parking lot. I play more with the kids outside. I just try to be more active in general.
I decided to focus on weight loss only during this time. There’s plenty to build on here, but I know myself, as soon as it gets complicated I’ll ditch it! I hope to focus on muscle toning when I’m only maintaining my weight.
I love to walk outside, but if it’s raining, nighttime or too hot (southwest Florida summers are brutal!) I walk on my little treadmill. I put on a YouTube video and go to town. I always try to put something on that I can learn from and now I actually look forward to that part!
I love this folding treadmill, it works great for my purposes, but here there are a couple drawbacks you should know about if you’re interested in getting one. Here are the pros and cons. And this is not sponsored, I paid for this with my own money ;)
- It is cost effective at only $350.
- It folds down to only 5 inches tall so you could hide it under a bed or couch when not in use.
- It is small (not bulky) and doesn’t take much room, physically or visually.
- Because the tread space is small, it works best for walking, not running.
2. Keep track of calories
I had NO idea how many calories I was eating! I’m surprised I didn’t gain 30 pounds. I needed to learn how many calories are in what. Did I know that 1 tablespoon of honey I regularly put in my tea is 60 calories? No! I could have eaten 2 clementines or even air-popped popcorn instead.
Counting calories has done a few things for me:
- Education: It showed me which foods would give me the best bang for my buck so to speak (filling for less calories.
- Plan: It helped me plan out my daily diet in advance.
- Track: It allowed me track my calories and weight over time, including calories burned by exercise.
My goal by tracking calories is to be in a 500 calorie deficit each day to lose weight. If you keep this deficit up for a week you will lose a pound. Because it takes 3,500 calories to burn a pound of fat! Isn’t that crazy? But don’t feel defeated with that info, you can do this! Now we know, so we have a goal.
Check out this calorie calculator to find out how many calories you need to eat to lose weight. So if at the end of the day I’m not near a 500 calorie deficit I’ll probably get on my treadmill and figure out how many steps I need.
My sister-in-law, Wendy, told me that she plans what she will eat in a day beforehand and that helped me so much! So now I’m not eating all my calories by lunch, haha! I come up with a more balanced meal plan for the day with planning rather than eating on a whim.
As I continued I had less craving for salty sugary food and opted for healthy food that would fill me up without all the empty calories. My friend Ashby said one time, “Is this food I’m about to eat going to help me or hurt me?” I think about that a lot now.
Starving yourself to your ideal weight is not an option. I found it is not worth it to just go without food for an extended period of time. Not only are will you be irritable and drained of energy, but it is not sustainable. Just reduce calories and be ok with this taking some time.
I’m trying, not always succeeding, at having half veggies on the plate. And I really enjoyed this article on zero calorie food for snack ideas. This has been good for our whole family actually. We don’t have many processed snacks on hand anymore. Instead there are fruits, nuts, seeds, raisins, yogurt, granola, whole foods options. No one complains if I keep options stocked.
We cut WAY back on meat consumption. Now meat is the occasional addition, not the star and not every meal. Meat and fish can take as long as two days to digest, whereas fruits and vegetables take less than a day, according to Healthline. I might consider becoming vegetarian if I lived by myself.
If eating healthy sounds expensive to you, I honestly think it’s cheaper. Processed snacks are so expensive and truly eat away at the budget. (And the added sugar and salt and preservatives will sabotage your weight loss.) Meat is a large expense as well. Best of all, your body will feel so much better without these things!
I use the free My Fitness Pal app to do all of this. You can even track your macros and nutrients there if you’re into it, but you and I are going to keep this simple for now, ok?
Here’s what I enter into the fitness app:
- In the morning I enter what I think I’ll be eating for the day to see how the calories add up
- I enter everything I eat
- I enter each exercise I do
- Once a week I enter my weight
This is such a great tool and they have almost everything in there, even chain restaurant food!
3. Little to no alcohol or dessert
Ok, you were with me until now, right? Haha! This can just be for a period of time. I imagine one of these is harder than the other for you, am I right? Let’s talk about it. If you intake either of these regularly your mind will be blown how much you will lose with a month of abstinence!
Alcohol is a toxin to your body. I know some articles say red wine is good for you and and we WANT to believe it, but the truth is the alcohol, or ethanol, of the drink must be expelled by your body first and foremost, before any food is digested or dealt with, because it is toxic to you. (Here’s an interesting video on what alcohol does to the body.) The calories are empty, meaning of no nutritional value and it actually slows your metabolism.
It lowers your decision making skills and some research shows that it triggers the hypothalamus to increase your appetite. So in other words, you are likely to eat more on top of those empty calories than you would have eaten otherwise and feel bloated the next day. So if the two glasses of red wine are 250 calories and the slice of leftover pizza in the fridge is 300 calories, we’ll go ahead and put you down for 550 calories you didn’t need.
And one more thing. It’s a diarrhetic. When you drink alcohol, you know how you go to the bathroom way more than you drank? Well, alcohol takes some of your body’s water with it on the way out, leaving your skin and organs dehydrated. That’s a lot of the reason it makes you feel so crummy.
And listen, my husband sells wine! This part is hard for me. It’s always around the house, but when I made the difficult decision I started losing more weight.
Here’s what Harvard Health has to say:
“Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease. Excess consumption of sugar, especially in sugary beverages, also contributes to weight gain by tricking your body into turning off its appetite-control system because liquid calories are not as satisfying as calories from solid foods. This is why it is easier for people to add more calories to their regular diet when consuming sugary beverages.”
“The authors of the latest study also point to parallels between the effect of cocaine and sugar on the brain, pointing out that both interact with the same reward system. … ‘The reality is that quite simply the brain’s rewards system and the circuits that control eating behaviour are the same ones that respond to drugs of abuse,’ he said. But, he added, unlike sugar “drugs of abuse seem to hijack those systems and turn off their normal controls.”
I watched a video called The Science of Burning Fat, which says “insulin prevents the hormone that burns fat, lipase, from releasing the liquid fat from the fat cell.”
Let’s make a decision to get out of the sugar cycle. Give it a try and see what the results are.
This takes time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And weight that comes off slowly is more likely to stay off.
You can eat dinner for breakfast! I don’t know why watching High Carb Hannah eat broccoli and potatoes for breakfast changed so much for me, but it did! Revelation: I don’t have to eat yogurt or eggs or cereal for breakfast. I can eat a healthy, full “dinner” to fill me up until lunch!
Get more sleep. Try to go to the bed and wake up at the same time every day. Your body repairs itself when you sleep and this study shows that sleep slows the neurotransmitters telling your body it’s hungry. Plus, you’ll have the energy to work out and stay active! Also, I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired all I want are carbs and sugar for that quick energy.
If you’re sweating quite a bit, you can put electrolyte drops in your water to avoid the sugary drinks. I found these electrolyte drops and use them in a big glass of water after each walk.
Slip ups happen, but don’t give up! Will you have to skip a day of walking? Sure, things come up. Will that craving for dessert get the best of you one night? That’s ok, the worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about it. Will you give in to a glass of sparkling wine at a party? Maybe, but you can do better tomorrow. It’s more about consistency than perfection! Let’s just try to make more smart small decisions than bad ones.
I lost two pounds the first seven days! I’m walking between 5,000 to 7,000 steps a day and while it was a switch to start counting calories I have more energy because I’m eating more healthy and avoiding wine and sugar. That’s motivating!
I lost another two pounds! Sitting in church I noticed that my back didn’t ache sitting in the same position too long. Daily walking and stretching is helping my back pain and even help me sleep better because I’m not tossing and turning, trying to find a comfortable position. I did have to go to bed early a few nights to avoid the temptation to raid the fridge. Diet felt a little bit harder this week, but I have found some great recipes. I started walking between 7,000 and 10,000 steps a day now. I’m getting stronger. I am going to bed earlier, I’m waking up much earlier than normal and can walk outside before it’s too hot. I feel like a different person!
Two more pounds. This is the week that cause and effect started to become new habits. I have a new bedtime routine all together. After the kids go to bed at 8:30 pm I do my nighttime skincare routine (which I sometimes I used to skip after staying up too late watching tv) and lay in bed for awhile listening to the Bible on YouVersion. I’ve been skipping tv to avoid snacking and it’s been great! I’m up earlier and have already got 6,000 steps in by 8:30 am. Who am I right now!? I’m even cooking almost every night because I can’t wait to eat because I’m not snacking much in between meals! I’m less hungry than I was last week, like my body got the memo. It’s amazing how good choices in one area of your life can bleed into other areas. It’s like a domino effect.
Week 4 & 5
Uhhhh. I stayed just about the same these two weeks. There were dinner parties and celebrations. It was a fun couple of weeks and I’m ok with staying the same. After all, food is enjoyable, it is fuel, even a cultural experience. It is not the enemy. But now I need to get back on track and finish this off!
Ok, back on track with one pound of weight loss this week. So I’m 3 pounds away from my goal. I’m more serious about tracking my calories and what I put in my body. I’m also doing intermittent fasting and not eating until 10 am (with the exception of coffee and a little soy milk) because my body is being more stubborn about these last few pounds. I’m walking farther too. I’m fitting back into my old clothes! Almost there.
I lost a half pound this week. It’s not much, but I’ll take it! We traveled out of town for a wedding and stayed with family, so I’d say I did pretty well. I didn’t deprive myself of the breakfast casserole or tacos, I just ate smaller portions. I’m full with less now too. My face and stomach (where I carry weight) are visibly thinner. I’m actually looking forward to my walks and all their benefits.
I did it! I lost the last couple of pounds!!! These last pounds weren’t going down without a fight, so I walked a little farther and really focused in on what I was eating and how much. I was so close to the finish line that I was even more motivated to be disciplined. It was hard work, but worth it. These couple of months have given me some wonderful new habits I plan on keeping. I truly look forward to my walks every morning, especially when I leave as the sun is barely coming up and I get to experience the sunrise in nature. I’m eating much healthier, even vegan a lot of the time! I had no idea that these things that seemed like chores in the beginning would become enjoyable.
Will I keep the weight off?
So those are my three things and tips that brought me back to my original weight. Those and finally committing to changing. Until that mindset is in place, not much happens.
Will I be able to maintain this new weight? That remains to be seen. But at least I know what to do if I need to. I won’t count calories forever, but I will keep walking and eating more wholesome foods. And I’ll enjoy the glass of wine with friends and share a dessert after dinner again, but this time with healthy moderation!
Tell me what you’re thinking in the comments. What is your story? Or what are your goals? Do you have any tips for me?