When it comes to dieting, the internet is flooded with (excuse my French) bullshit. Promises of miracle pills and two day cleanses have most of us believing that losing weight is magic, leaving us running back to our couches for Easy Mac and Pepsi the minute we don’t see results. It’s time to stop focusing on quick fixes and instead realize that the process is just as much about learning as it is about actually working out. For so long I believed that eating good, healthy foods would leave me either bored or broke until one day I decided to stop making excuses and instead make a change. So these, my friends, are the things I wish you’d see on infomercials.
DECIDE TO LOVE YOURSELF
I remember the moment I looked in the mirror and was disgusted at the person looking back at me. I didn’t know how I went from the high school dancer of 107 pounds to a 154 pound woman in sweat pants downing cheeseburgers and root beer. What I did know is that I needed to make a decision. I needed to appreciate who I was, whether that be 125 pound Brittney or 155 pound Brittney. At the end of the day, I needed to look in the mirror and honestly believe that I was beautiful no matter what path I chose. No longer would I consider my curves disgusting, but instead I’d think of them as stories. My love handles were the time I went out with my friends and laughed for hours over dinner. My saddlebags were a BBQ at my parents house over a holiday weekend. I decided that my path was not about shame or feeling bad for the person I had become, but instead it was about trying to better myself as a whole and learning to love whatever reflection looked back at me.
THIS ISN’T A TV SHOW, WE’RE HUMAN
As most success stories go, I can honestly say I tried other diets and failed… multiple times. Keep that in mind next time – that no success story ever starts with “well the first time I tried it, it went perfectly”. I did the whole “starve myself for days’ diet and the “eat salads for everything” cleanse, and of course the only thing I lost with either was my ability to not be a bitch to everyone around me. So this time I told myself I wouldn’t focus on losing 30 pounds at once, because I knew if I did I would eventually become discouraged and give up, again. Instead of trying to become Beyone in a week, I would be more reasonable. I didn’t want to focus on a number because to me weight was not an entire reflection of my health, so instead I made a goal to eat healthy three times a week. I had a FitBit so that meant reaching my calorie intake goal those days. Three out of seven seemed more than doable. As the weeks went on, three times a week became easy, so I slowly increased it to 4 days a week, and then 5 days a week, until eventually 6 days was standard (everyone needs a cheat day). The same method should apply to an exercise plan. If walking for 5 minutes is where you need to start, then by golly get outside and do a lap. Before you know it, 5 minutes will become 10, and 10 minutes of walking will become 10 minutes of running and you’ll keep progressing until you don’t even recognize the person who could only walk 5 minutes.
Tip: I loved my FitBit (probably because I won it) but before you drop a decent chunk of mula on one, consider one of the many free calorie counting apps out there (My Fitness Pal is one of them).
EAT A DONUT ALREADY
I don’t care what the guy in your Crossfit class who eats ground up glass as his pre-workout says, you absolutely need a cheat day. You will 100% fail without one, at least in the beginning. The whole “one day a week” thing didn’t work well for me, so instead I told myself I could have one small treat a day (and I don’t mean the small blizzard from Dairy Queen, we’re talking Fun Size chocolate here). Whether you decide on a cheat meal or a cheat snack, enjoy every friggin’ minute of it. And if you just happen to go overboard one day, who cares. Get back on that bike and start peddling, the race isn’t over just yet.
HOORAY FOR HUMP DAY
Resist the urge to get on that scale every single day and obsess over the .02 pounds you did or did not lose. Your weight fluctuates throughout the day so your progress should be seen as a cumulative effort. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time. My suggestion is Wednesdays because let’s face it, the weekend can be unforgiving. You’ll find so much more pleasure in seeing yourself 2 pounds down once a week then obsessing over a tenth of a pound every morning. Having a weekly weigh in also keeps you motivated on those (few and far between) days that you feel like an utter failure after inhaling a box of Oreo’s, because you’ve got the rest of the week to make up for it.
PREPARE OR PREPARE TO LOSE
“Meal Prep Monday” may seem a little intense, but preparation is absolutely imperative. Your mind will make a million excuses to cheat (how convenient, you didn’t bring lunch and Dairy Queen has a special today), so don’t give it a reason to. I wasn’t much for making 10 pounds of chicken and rice on Monday and eating the same thing all week, so instead I doubled my dinner recipes so there were left-overs for lunch the next day. This kept me prepared but also gave me some variety. And don’t forget about the snacks! Pack some pretzels with hummus, an apple with fruit dip (mix 1/2 peanut butter, 1/2 Greek yogurt, you’ll thank me later), a tuna pack, or some cottage cheese with pineapple chunks so that when those cravings hit, you’re reaching for your lunch box and not a Snickers. Most diets would have you believe you have to starve yourself to lose weight, which is completely false. It’s not about eating less (okay, maybe if you’re eating an entire box of cereal for breakfast); what it’s really about is learning the right foods to eat. Eating 3 meals a day and a few snacks throughout will keep your metabolism going and belly happy.
Tip: A healthy diet is much more than just your calorie intake, but it’s a damn good place to start.
YOU’RE NOT PREGNANT, EAT FOR ONE
Believe it or not, most meals don’t need to be Supersized. Thanks to McDonalds, we all believe that more is better. Us ladies also have the nasty habit of looking at the calorie section of a label and nothing else. 120 calories is great, but not if it’s for 1 cracker. I measured every single thing that went into my mouth (I’m resisting a dirty joke here). My salad dressing, my quinoa, my Mio water flavor, the garlic I seasoned my meal with… everything. I compared calories versus serving size when purchasing food and then made sure to eat only the suggested portion. This was a struggle to begin with just because I was so brainwashed into believing I had to eat half a pan of food, but eventually my body adjusted and it became second nature. Paying attention to serving sizes is also important so that when you do eat, you are full. It seems pretty pointless (and somewhat torturous) to eat just 6 Triscuits when you could have an entire bowl full of fruit drizzled with honey.
PARTY WITH A PLAN
Social eating was my biggest struggle and the only way I survived was by doing my research. When asked where I wanted to go for dinner, I would make sure to pick a large restaurant chain whose menu and nutritional information was online. I’d compare entrees and beverages and have a plan of action before I even left the house. If their nutritional information wasn’t online, I would Google similar dishes so that I had an idea of how many calories a dish would have. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you may want to research that draft beer or Vodka Red Bull you’re chugging.
Tip: Bud Select, Michelob Ultra, and Gin and Tonics are some of the lowest calorie alcoholic beverages out there.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
You will never survive if you hate what you’re doing. It’s as true in dieting as it is in life. Yes, you may need to dedicate one or two days a week to cardio (oh how I loath cardio), but you have to learn to enjoy your time exercising too. Try new activities to see what fits your life best. Go kayaking, bike with a friend, rock climb, practice yoga, join a kickball league, throw a frisbee, roller blade… just do something. And for those days when cardio can’t be avoided any longer, find somewhere to run that keeps you entertained. Most towns have hiking trails or bike paths that will make your run more enjoyable.
GET IT IN WHEN YOU CAN
Don’t pull the “my schedule is busy” shit on me, I’ve been there. Do what you can, when you can. Bike to Starbucks, take the stairs, park a few extra spots back, do some dips at the pool or calf raises on the escalator, bust out a few push-ups on commercial breaks (no joke, I’d run a lap when the Bachelor went to commercial), do a few crunches before you get in the shower… you get the point.
Tip: Kinect boxing is the shit.
Get rid of those nay-sayers. As cheesy as it sounds, I found inspiration on Instagram. I went on a mission to follow as many clean eating and exercise pages as I could until it almost became an obsession. I learned about so many unique foods and ways to be active and was flooded with constant motivation just by scrolling through social media. Find a running or workout buddy that encourages you to be better and do better. If your boyfriend doesn’t like eating healthy… great, make him cook his own food or prepare a meal with his gravy and stick of butter on the side. It’s time to make yourself a priority, the rest of the world can either jump on board or find someone else to bring down.
STOP MAKING EXCUSES
They never end, and won’t unless you take control. I’m proud of my curves, it’s the average size now, I’d rather enjoy my food than starve myself, I don’t have enough time, I’m too old to lose weight, I was born with this body shape, I’m not a good runner, I suck at cooking, I don’t have the money, it’s too difficult, it’ll make me look vein, gym memberships are expensive, I’ll start tomorrow (yeah, right), it takes too long, but I have the kids to take care of, I might fail (again)… and the list goes on and on. Let me burst your bubble by saying that next year will come. It will come whether you eat a cheeseburger or carrots and when it comes you’ll find yourself standing in front of a mirror getting ready for work and you are the only person in this world who can change the person looking back at you.