What I learned in one year of weight loss, and the one thing you’re likely forgetting

Ahhhh weight. Everyone’s always talking about it. Losing it, gaining it, shredding it, blasting it…it goes on and on.

A little over a year ago I decided to make a change. While I was never overweight, I was an unhealthy version of myself. I subscribed to Dave Matthew’s Band’s mantra of his song “Too Much.” Too much eating, too much drinking, definitely not enough sleeping or exercising. My lifelong fit frame from playing sports my whole life became dehydrated, doughy and stuffed. I’m already envisioning some sort of Italian ravioli….see what I mean? This girl loves to eat.

Over the course of a year I learned a lot about myself and diet, plus the one thing those who are going through a weight loss transition usually forget about until it’s too late.  As always I have to say I’m not a nutritionist, doctor or fitness trainer. Definitely consult them before making any changes and to make sure you’re fit for exercise. This is just what I’ve learned and experienced as a regular ole Jo and inspiration for other Jo’s and Joe’s out there.

  1. Treat the scale as your gut check, and not your progress check.

Yes you’ll hear it a million times; what you see on the scale is not indicative of your progress. I do agree with this to an extent, and it was realllllyyyyyyy hard for me to come to terms with my relationship with the scale. I have been trying to reach my goal weight for a year. And I hit it! I even went below it. But I didn’t announce that I hit my goal because as I have experienced, two days later I gained four lbs. Dude.

Then the day after that I went down two lbs, another 1 or 2, up again, back down and whatever craziness my body decided to do. Each day my body fluctuated so much due to hydration, food in the intestinal tract, salt intake and how hard I worked out. So, is the scale something you should obsess over on a daily basis? Absolutely not. However, it is something you should track for averages to keep yourself in check. Fluctuations are expected. Creeping increases up and to the right are not part of the weight loss goal and may signal a need for reassessment.  It can tell you if you need to check your diet, remind you that you’ve been scaling back your workouts, and even that you’re over training (more about this later). Ditching the scale to me is an excuse to not hold yourself accountable over time. We like to make a lot of excuses. Which takes me to my next point.

2. Weight loss is hard. Dieting is hard. Changing your lifestyle is hard. Making excuses is easy.

I would rather spend 5 hours doing burpees than listen to someone (including myself, because I have) make excuses about why they can’t do something. Unless you have a medical issue that does not allow you to do ANY exercise or alterations to your diet, keep the drama for your mama. The truth is that everyone can do something and I encourage you to think of creative ways to add tweaks to your daily routine. Taking the stairs, eating fruit for a sweet snack instead of cookies, watching the TV while on the treadmill, playing soccer with the kids are all great options.

I made a lot of excuses. I owned them, but I made them. I personally had to make a HUGE shift in my lifestyle. I understood that I could not do this alone. But I didn’t require an expensive trainer or meal planning service (and if you do, that’s ok!). I bought a $30 fitness tracker, subscribed to the free MyFitnessPal to track my food intake (and I must say their blog posts are actually informative especially for those who like to cook) and slapped on my cheapo leggings, 10 yr old sports bra and outlet mall Nike’s. Tracking my food was eye-opening. I was hitting my calorie goal before dinnertime. I was way over in salt and carbs, with never enough protein. I was eating the same types of things everyday and noticed hardly any fruits and veggies.  I also noticed that anytime I drank (which I must admit I enjoy) my calories quickly went through the roof. Yowza. Time to put my [calorie deficit] where my mouth was and put in the work.

No one is perfect. Hardly anyone is a model for fitness and diet. We are human, and dang it humans like to have fun every once in a while. So please, have your fun and eat your cake too. But be accountable that if you want that cake, you’re going to have to put in work for it (or eat something healthier the next meal).

3. The internet and YouTube are your friend.

You don’t have to get fancy and spend a ton of money to see results. If you like things like OrangeTheory and CycleBar, then go for it! Anything that makes you excited to get the blood pumping is great. But, you don’t have to do that (nor should it be an excuse, ahem) because you can do a ton of workouts right in your own home or in the back yard.

I found a ton of great calculators and blog posts with different types of workouts.  YouTube is great because you can type in “for beginners” or different areas you want to target. Here are a few of my favorite videos:

HIIT routine for those who get bored easily

Killer workout burns about 500 calories

Monster Monday workout

Total Body Tone Up

Total Body Mashup

4. Train for the body you want

For those who are just starting out, the goal is to get in the right mindset and find the right balance to make the healthy choices. Don’t over-complicate it. But once you start seeing results, it is a good idea to assess what type of body you want, and what you can achieve.

As we all know, not everything is attainable by everyone whether it be simply genetics that limits you (being a 6ft runway model if you’re 5’2) or the lifestyle you can/want to live isn’t conducive. Being a body builder is hard work. It takes a ton of dedication in and out of the gym requiring very strict diets that honestly just might not be that fun for you and therefore unattainable. And that’s OK!

I found it very helpful to start to do exercises for the body I wanted. A runner’s body and how it functions, and what type of fuel it needs is much different than a basketball player, weight lifter or a dancer. It’s hard for anyone to be great at everything, and that’s the same with our bodies and its composition.

There are so many variations to strength and cardio training that you can customize to your skill level and what you want out of it. Cardio can be variable, endurance, explosive and rolling hills. Strength training can be all body weight, high reps or heavier weight. You can do multiple styles of these routines without paying a dime or getting in your car.

I personally wanted my old volleyball body back which is full-body toning with LOTS of jumping, squats and leg presses to get that booty lifted and sculpted. I run 30-45 minutes and focus all of my training on full-body HIIT, dynamic movements and some heavier weight but mostly higher reps. I’m not training for a marathon so I don’t spend a ton of time running. An endurance runner would smoke me and I am pretty worthless running outside. But I guarantee you my core and legs would outlast most.

5. Nutrition and exercise are not a 1:1 ratio

I’m stepping a bit out of my lane as I mentioned I am not a dietitian, doctor or fitness trainer, but I can tell you from experience that you can be much more successful with a solid diet and less exercise, than a ton of exercise and a so-so diet. And transparently this is where I fall down and can always do better.

This is where a fitness and food tracker can come in handy. The typical person way underestimates the amount of calories/fat/sugar/carbs in what they eat. They also way overestimate the amount of calories they burn during a workout. Even those workouts that say “burn 1000 calories fast!” are likely overestimating because it does not take into account your height, weight, fitness level, current body composition or how hard you’re really going during those workouts.  A 500 calorie treat that takes you 3 minutes to eat will take you an hour+ in the gym sweating your rear off. Is it worth it? I personally like working out so I tend to eat a little worse, which is also why it has taken me a year to shed 30 lbs. Want fast results? Hit it hard in a healthy diet.

By making healthy choices in the kitchen you can greatly decrease the amount of extra water weight, sludge and crashes you have making you feel better and likely with more energy to want to get out there and do something. Bonus with filling in vitamin deficiencies you might have and removing buildup with more fiber are brighter and clearer skin, stronger bones, healthier hair and nails and pep in your step.

6. Feed your workout properly

You’ll read a million different thoughts on working out on an empty stomach, eating beforehand, protein within 30 minutes, intermittent fasting, etc. All of that really has to do with what makes you feel your best, gives you the energy to get a good workout and not hurt yourself, and gives you the right type of calories to feed your body and heal.

In general for the average person, here’s what I do: light protein and carbs in the morning of less than 300 calories (typically peanut butter and rice cakes), workout, protein-full lunch with some carbs within an hour of working out, snacks of fruit/eggs/nuts/veggies if needed, and a lighter dinner of whatever I want as long as it stays around my calorie goal.

Unless you’re working out for over 60 minutes or with extremely high intensity, what you don’t need is a big, heavy meal beforehand, carb-loading or pre/post workout support like a protein bar or Gatorade which are high in calories and salt. Your small meal beforehand and lunch afterwards will be just fine.

When I started out, I felt better working out on an empty stomach. But now that I’ve trained my body for harder workouts and have gained a lot of calorie-burning muscle, my body needs something to nosh on while I’m brutalizing it in the gym. You do you.

7. Over-training is a thing

Feel like the scale isn’t moving? So hungry you could eat a horse? Feel like crap after your workout? These are all signs of over-training. Your body is an AMAZING work of art (seriously, it blows my mind how incredible the body is) that needs protein, water and calories to make fuel. Going to extremes in working out and dieting puts stress on the nervous system, increasing cortisol. This causes the body to think it is starving, so it hoards fat, water and starts burning protein. Push it too hard and adrenal failure is possible. Not to mention cardiovascular and muscular stress if you get too excited and do the mega ripped ultra workout on day two of your fitness journey.

Isn’t that a rip? You work out and your body does the opposite.  Hit the reset button, take a few days of rest, and stretch it out. Everything in moderation seems to work every time.

8. Want to look a certain way in a few days? Tailor your workout

Your body goes through temporary changes while you work out (we’re talking days, here) which can alter the way you look. Sometimes it’s a bonus, other times it may be something you want to plan for. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Want to look ripped? Lift those weights, get that blood pumping and skip the cardio. Water, dilated blood vessels and glycogen cause muscles to swell. This is particularly awesome if you want to look extra toned in your IG post or prior to hitting the pool. The next reason is why to skip the cardio, though.

Want to de-bloat? Skip the cardio. When you run and drink water, we sometimes gulp down air. This, mixed with the swelling for the reasons above causes our stomach and intestines to sometimes bloat. Skip the cardio if you’re looking to wear that tummy-baring t-shirt.

Want to look thin and lean? Stop working out 2-3 days before your event. Muscle is made after the gym, not while you’re working out. 2-3 days will give your body time to release excess water, bloating and get back to basics.

9. Get creative

Whether it’s treading water in the pool while the kids are swimming, doing lunges around the house, or parking away from your normal spot, there are creative ways to  add in more movement. Experiment with spices instead of salt and pepper, or get your oil-based dressing on the side to save a few calories.

That comes to changing up your diet as well. I know I’ll never be able to follow a diet, so while washing my hair one night I made one up. Each month I’m going to give up the bad foods that begin with a certain letter. Each month that letter changes, so that I can keep it fresh. The idea is that I will have found alternatives for the things I gave up months before and that I won’t be so restricted that I go nuts and blow it all.

I started with the letter P because pasta, potatoes, pizza and pretzels are staples in my diet. My husband joined along as well. I’ve found it’s been easy to find alternatives, I still get to eat fun things. I’m not going to lie that I was white knuckling the end of month 1, but we decided to extend it a month. We both decided that if we go back we’ll split our customary Friday night pasta and wine dinner. Bada-bing!

Go ahead, be a trailblazer and create your own take on healthy living.

10. The thing people forget about during a weight loss journey

What I’m not an expert in, is working out. What I am an expert in, is skin. And this is one of those things that people tend to forget about when they set out on their journey.

The best thing we can do for our skin is protect it, keep it moisturized and feed it what it needs to be healthy. Many times when we’re not living a healthy lifestyle, our skin shows it with acne, excess oil and dry, sallow skin. The skin also only has so much elasticity. Depending on your weight loss goals, the skin may or may not bounce back. Here are some things to prep your skin for the best chance your skin will be as tight as your playlist.

  • Running outside? Wear a proper shirt, SPF and sunglasses. Nothing destroys collagen and elasticity faster than the effects of the sun. Think about it, dry leather doesn’t bounce back once it is stretched and cracked.
  • All that bouncing/jumping/pounding pulls down on the skin. Alternate routines like using the elliptical instead of the treadmill (this is also good for joints) or use leg lifts and presses instead of jumping.
  • Keep your skin moisturized. Dry skin does not have the ability to bounce back. Much like over time our faces start to drop with age, so does the skin on our backs, thighs, knees, chest and arms. Slow and steady in weight loss wins the race. It is better to keep a steady weight and slowly decrease than yo-yo. This puts a lot of strain on the elastic and support structure of the skin, and much like a rubber band, it can only do so, so many times.
  • Protein, collagen, vitamin C and other essential vitamins and supplements help to replenish what you may lose during your workout, boost your energy (hello B vitamins!) and give you some gut support to aid in digestion. Things like microneedling, exfoliation and massage help remove old, dead cells and boost circulation.
  • Just like you can’t target fat-loss in one area of your body, your face also loses the fat as part of the total body package. Doing the above can help keep the skin lifted and youthful, but there are also alternatives like Sculptra, fillers and more invasive options if that’s your goal.

Health = Happiness

The #1 thing is to be healthy, and I hope you’ve found some inspo in how to implement somethings for yourself. It’s an amazing thing to be healthy, and sometimes we have to check in with ourselves to make sure we’re doing our part to give our beautiful bodies what they need.

So on that note, my fitness tracker told me I’ve been sitting too long. Time for me to hit the gym.  Thanks for reading, Readhead readers and if you have an inspirational story, workout or recipe you love, please share in the comments!










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