Weight loss. Ugh. It seems like such a constant battle, doesn’t it? We are probably one of the most educated populations when it comes to nutrition and exercise and yet losing weight seems like a mysterious, herculean task. I’ve lost 22 lbs slowly over the last 9 months, and I thought I’d share with you what’s working for me, girlfriend to girlfriend. And if you’re a man reading this, I’m still sharing this girlfriend to girlfriend so just pretend to be a girl for now. Sidenote: I will frequently say to Matt, “Please just pretend to be a girl right now and tell me what shoes you would pair with this outfit.” He loves it when I do that. Ha!
So a little about me first. I am 5’5″, with a medium build, and have always yo-yo’ed a bit with my weight. I’ve never struggled with obesity, but through my 20’s and early 30’s, I fluctuated up and down between 10-15 lbs. Whenever I felt like I was putting on weight, I would limit my calorie intake for a month combined with some light exercise and the weight would come off. It didn’t feel easy at the time—but it was. Fast forward to last year. I’m not sure exactly what happened to me last year, but I really packed on the pounds. For the first time in my life, my BMI was out of the “normal” range and bumped up to the “overweight” range. I also felt horrible. I was having monthly bouts of insomnia, hormonal mood swings, and out-of-control carb cravings. I felt sluggish and unmotivated. It was not a happy place to be. I turned 39 last August and realized that a slower metabolism and hormonal craziness is par for the course (fun times), but I decided that I didn’t have to accept it as my final fate.
In May of last year, I decided that I was done feeling horrible and decided to get aggressive and take action. A friend recently asked me what it was that made me decide to full-on commit to losing weight. She wondered if there was a “kickstart moment” for me. Oh yes, there was! It was the picture you see below taken candidly by my husband on a hike last May. I wasn’t posed for the pic. There was no time for the hand-on-the-hip-suck-in-the-gut-turn-slightly-sideways-and-smile. It was the first time I really saw with my eyes what I looked like to the outside world and something clicked. In my mind’s eye, I did NOT look like that chunky girl. I was ready to have my delusional “mind’s eye” view of myself become reality once again.
I initially elicited the help of my husband (who is as passionate about weight training and nutrition as I am about decorating) and he came up with a diet and exercise plan for me. I was MISERABLE on his plan! I am not a fan of protein drinks, nearly zero carbs, veggie-loading, smoothies, and kettlebell swinging. If you adore that sort of thing, congrats!! I hated everything about it and knew it wasn’t going to work for me long-term.
So let’s cut to the chase and review what has worked for me so far:
Medifast offers their own pre-packaged food that you mostly mix with water. Sound gross? Well, taste is a very subjective matter, but I have to say that the food isn’t terrific. You might know Medifast as “Take Shape for Life” and you have probably seen Medifast Certified Health Coaches showing you before and after weight-loss pictures on Facebook without telling you how their clients’ lost the weight. They want you to contact them for more details. I guess this is a proven marketing strategy, shrug. I didn’t use a health coach and just ordered the food I wanted and followed the plan on my own. I think having accountability is KEY to successfully losing weight, and the Medifast Health Coaches are a great bonus perk of the program, but I just felt more comfortable having my accountability come from different sources. I followed the Medifast plan strictly for about 2 months and then modified the diet to better suit my needs.
My List of Pros for Medifast: If you want a diet plan that is fast, easy, convenient, and requires little to no extra food prep, this might be fore you. I was on the “5 and 1” plan where you eat 5 Medifast “meals” (which for the most part are more like 100 calorie snacks) and one “lean and green” meal (lean protein and lots of veggies for dinner). The bars aren’t horrible and the other food offerings that you mix with water and pop in the microwave are mostly edible. I didn’t feel overly hungry while on the diet and appreciated the balanced protein to carb ratio. It’s hard to buy other processed foods at the grocery store that are as low in calories and high in protein. And ultimately, it works. You are eating 800-1000 calories a day on this diet which is low. This diet is great for people who are already eating a bunch of processed food and need something highly convenient.
My List of Cons for Medifast Diet: The food is processed. It’s a no-brainer that whole foods are better for you than processed foods. Even if those processed foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, they are a weak substitute for real food. This diet also uses soy as its main source of protein. There is research that suggests processed soy (soy protein isolate) can throw your hormones out of whack. I encourage you to do your own research on this. Dr. Oz has a good segment online about it. And lastly, the food is expensive and doesn’t taste all that great. If you are a foodie, or if you enjoy cooking, there are better options for you.
Bottom line: Medifast works. If you have a lot of weight to lose it’s a fantastic option that will give you results quickly with no guess work. Yes, there are much healthier whole-food diets out there. But if it temporarily takes processed food to get you back on track towards health, then so be it.
2. My Fitness Pal
My Fitness Pal is a free app that helps you keep track of your calories and exercise for the day. It is a great accountability tool! You log what you eat and the database of stored foods will help you determine the serving size and calculate the calories, carbs, nutrition, etc. for you. You can also scan the barcode on any packaged foods and it will automatically recognize the food and it’s nutrition label. At the end of the week, you get a great picture of your overall nutrition. I definitely struggle with keeping my grams of sugar consumed within the goal range. I recently took a month off of using this app because I just needed a break from it. And, surprise surprise, I found myself slipping back into some unhealthy eating habits. Another benefit of this app is that you can connect with friends who are also using it and cheer each other on. On days where I’m feeling discouraged, getting a thumbs up from a friend on a workout completed makes all the difference!
3. Fitbit Zip
If you’re unfamiliar with what a Fitbit does, it is basically a fancy pedometer you wear each day which tracks your activity level, estimated calories burned, and foods consumed. Fitbit connects to an app on your phone/computer to show your progress. You can set a goal of steps for the day that you’d like to accomplish. They recommend 10,000 steps a day which has been hard for me to achieve. To make things easier, you can connect your Fitbit with the My Fitness Pal app so that your food, calories, and activity level are streamlined. There are several different Fitbit’s to choose from. The Fitbit Zip is the cheapest of the Fitbit’s and will track your daily steps and estimated calories burned but it will not track your sleep patterns or stairs climbed. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not having those features. I do find that I’ll start dancing around the kitchen or parking farther away from the store in the parking lot to increase my daily steps!
Just like My Fitness Pal, you can connect with friends on Fitbit Zip. The difference here is that there is a competitive factor to Fitbit that will rank you each week in order of “the most steps” amongst your friends. I actually stopped wearing my Fitbit because of this. I do over 3 hours of cardio a week but have very active friends and it was making me feel competitive and “bad” about myself. This is completely ridiculous I know, but I’m just being real with you all! It’s an issue of maturity on my part, and I’m working through it. I’m ready to start wearing my Fitbit again, but it’s something to keep in mind. If you connect with friends who are runners and athletes, just rest in the fact that you might rank last each week and this “last place” doesn’t diminish the hard work you did during the week. (And yes, connecting with friends on the app is optional!)
4. Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor
This is a fun piece of equipment to have to motivate you during workouts. The Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor includes a watch and an electrode elastic band that you put around your ribcage. It keeps track of your heart rate and the number of calories burned during your workout. It’s a much more accurate assessment of what you are actually burning. You can compare logs of your previous workouts (which are stored on the watch) to track your progress.
Hands down Zumba has been the most life-changing “life change” that I have made for myself. I am passionate about this topic, so I’m going to write an entire post just on Zumba. In the meantime, know that most of my weight loss and improved health can be attributed to dancing around 3x’s a week. Zumba is so much fun and provides a fantastic cardio workout. Stay tuned for my full-Zumba review and whether or not it’s right for you!
I am not at my goal weight yet, but these tools have helped me reach my health goals which is really what matters—the rest is pure vanity. I sleep better at night with little to no bouts of insomnia, my moods are much more stable, and I feel stronger and energized! The biggest change for me in losing weight this go around is to not be in a hurry to reach a goal weight. Sure, I’d love to see the pounds come off faster but I also want to be realistic about my limits. I’m going slowly, at my own pace, and I’m looking at this as a marathon and not a sprint. This keeps me from burning out or becoming completely derailed. It truly has become a lifestyle change and for that I am grateful! I’ve just recently added weight training back into the mix so I’m excited to see the changes that it brings!
Have you been successful in your weight loss journey? I’d love to hear what’s working for you.
FYI: This post contains affiliate Amazon links.