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.
Good for you! I started Zumba in January and absolutely fell in love with it too. I was really intimidated to begin with because dancing isn’t my forte. It’s really fine though. We have a great teacher – she’s a blast and plays great Latin music. Our class is twice a week and I wish there was more!
I found a bunch of YouTube videos by our teacher:
Oh how fun! Your instructor seems great.
jessica @fourgenerationsoneroof says
Keep up the good work 🙂 It will all come together soon!
Congratulations on your achievement, Beth!
Slow weight loss takes such patience; good on you for persisting! I turned 59 in January, and it has become more of a challenge to stay fit than it used to be. Thank goodness my doggies drag me out of the house each day for a walk! Keep up the fight, You’re doing it right!
Congrats, Beth! That is such a great accomplishment. I tried Zumba once in the past, and it was super fun, but I’m really uncoordinated and the instructor singled me out in class (embarassing). I definitely want to try it again though.
Thanks Ginnie! I’m going to write an entire post on Zumba and some tips for those who want to try it out. By single you out do you mean she asked if there were any newbies in the class? A few of my instructors will do that at the beginning of each class to see if she needs to go over some moves or give some tips.
I’m looking forward to your post. Basically, during the class (which was huge … maybe 50 people) she came over to me to help with a move, which was nice. I just wasn’t getting it though and after a while would have been happy to go through the motions. Plus, the whole class turned to watch us … ha ha. Just a little embarrassing;)
Oh wow. I would have been mortified! I have four different instructors (in different classes on different days) and none of them try to help anyone with the moves. Some people just fake it through difficult motions. I did stay after one of my first classes and ask the instructor to help me with a tricky one, but I would have blushed if she had offered first!
Thanks for sharing. I know about the metabolism slowing and lets don’t even get started on what menopause does to you… being a woman sometimes sucks! BUT I think realizing it is half the battle. I do WW and have done WW for 2 years. I am not sticking to it 100% – otherwise I’d have lost a lot more than 32 pounds in 2 years but hey I’ve lost 32 pounds!!!! WHOO HOO! Right. Your weight loss is AWESOME! Keep it up. Exercising is a big deal and will not only keep you fit but I think keep us in better balance as we age. I do yoga to help me with balance – I don’t want to be like my Mom using a cane in my 70’s. I want to be that 70 year old grandmother hiking and biking and walking with my grandkids. Like I said I do yoga – it is amazing for balance. I also do weights and insanity. I have seen Zumba but haven’t tried it yet. I need to cause I love to dance! Again, GREAT JOB! Keep up the good work. Victoria
Thanks Victoria and congrats on the 32 lbs! That’s amazing and something to be proud of! I don’t think there is anything wrong with slow and steady weight loss.
Beth, congrats on the weight loss! You look amazing. I lost 48 lbs. post baby last year, which I talk about on my podcast here: http://livingrichonless.com/howtoloseweight/. Yes, there’s a scary “before” pic I share that was my wake up call, too. But honestly, there was a bit of a mind trigger that motivated me more than anything else – it was this idea that who I was becoming on the inside no longer matched what was on the outside. I had to bring my “A” game to my physical appearance as much as I was bringing it to the other goals in my life. Might sound hokey, but it worked. I’ve gotta try this Zumba thing!
Thanks for sharing Susan! I don’t think it sounds hokey at all.
I have to get the fitbit!!! That’s sounds awesome! I really wish I could shake my hips in Zumba! I went once and felt like a fish out of water with no coordination! I lost 92 pounds last year and have now kept it off for a year!! I take amazing natural supplements and work out with a trainer 2 days a week for an hour!! I love how you said you have to find what will work for you! The diet plan and kettlebell comment made me laugh and I can totally relate!! Have you done any research on Candida yeast? The cravings and other issues can be linked and I have seen so many friends and business partners helped with a good probiotic and cleanse to get ride of the overgrowth that can cause countless issues!!! I LoVE your blog!! Congrats on your 22 pounds! You rock!
Yes! I have done a ton of research on Candida (I have a kiddo with high-functioning autism). And yes, keeping my sugar count low is such a struggle for me. I take a probiotic (when I remember to take it) but it’s a good reminder. Congrats on 92 lbs!!!
laura@top this top that says
Beth- good for you!! proud of you and your commitment to being healthy. As someone who has been obsessed with weight ( I am a twin and was being called porky and my sister peanut from birth) all my life. I noticed that lately,I have really have stepped away from the scale and how much I weigh, and focus on things that make me healthy. I now realize after all these years that starving myself all day and eating just once, does nothing except jack my metabolism and make it harder to lose weight. I don’t do well on programs or people telling me what to eat, it’s a turn off, although WW has given me success in the past. Now, exercising throughout the week, watching my protein and carb balance, eating multiple times a day, and not eating carbs past 12 noon, seems to work out best for me. Everyone has to find what works for them, their bodies and their lifestyles. Looks like you have. You look awesome. Keep it up.
Thanks for sharing what’s working for you Laura! Great advice!
I’ve lost 100 pounds. I realized I had to eat a healthy diet and exercise for the rest of my life, period. iwalk1 hour every morning, eat protein, veggies, and fruit. I eat very little carbs. I only eat to live and no longer equate food with comfort. Best think I’ve ever done!! I’ll never go back to that miserable place!!
Hang in there….and good luck!!
So true! I’ve had to really confront the “reaching for the bowl of ice cream for a hug” syndrome. I definitely emotionally eat—eating chocolate when I’m down or celebrating with something indulgent when I’m happy. Learning not to “feel” through food is such an important life lesson!
Tina B says
After adopting an older diabetic dog a year ago…and dealing with another that has tummy issues…I learned a lot about grains and sugars and the harm it can do to your body (not just weight gain, but overall health issues). So, I jumped on the Paleo/Primal/Real Whole Foods band wagon in September 2013. To date, I have lost 55 lbs! What?! I can honestly say…this the easiest “diet” I have ever tried in my almost 50 years on this planet. I don’t count calories or carbs…I don’t measure food…I eat when I’m hungry. I expected to miss a night-time dessert or a muffin for breakfast, but there are so many scrumptous recipes to be found … I miss NOTHING! Since I’ve changed my thoughts on food, and I don’t consider myself to be “dieting,” I expect to follow this food plan for the rest of my life.
Oh girl I ENVY you! I have tried to go Paleo a few times and thought it would be easier for me since I already cook/bake gluten free for my boys. I find it so hard. It’s the dairy that gets me. I LOVE cheese and ice cream and whipped cream and all things dairy. They are staples for me…and strongholds. I’ve thought about trying to do Whole30 and think I’ll make the commitment in summer when produce abounds and is super cheap. Thanks for weighing in!
Tina B says
Oh, girl…..I love me some dairy! I more closely follow the Real Whole Foods and Primal plan because I need to have dairy, too. I just make sure it’s free of sugars and full fat…no more low fat for me. I enjoy yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, cream for my coffee, whole milk and I use homemade whipped cream on my muffins sometimes if I feel like being really naughty and having a special dessert. lol BONUS: Since it’s ALL allowed…I no longer feel like I’ve “cheated” on my diet, which used to start me on a downward spiral back to old habits.
Good to know! And yes, I really don’t believe in “cheat foods”. There are many diets that suggest you should have a “cheat day” each week. I think it’s good to be realistic and allow for indulgences, but just by using the terminology “cheat” suggests you’re doing something naughty. Good grief, it’s food and we should be able to enjoy it in moderation! Our country has a very weird relationship with food.
Rebekah Baier says
I completely share your sentiment on the word “cheat”, I prefer to call it “planned diversions” to avoid the negative relationship with food. Thanks for sharing your journey (so far), love love love Zumba – so much fun! Husband and I are currently on week 10 of Nutrisystem (similar to Medifast I believe)we’re down a total of approx. 60 lbs, cannot wait to get the weight shed and move on with our lives! Keep up the good work, you are an inspiration 🙂
Woohoo! Congrats on the total of 60lbs! That is amazing :).
my husband and i started Medifast about 3 weeks ago…for the first week i did pretty good but at the end of the first week if knew if i had to put any more of their food in my mouth i would puke! now with that being said, i know it works for some, just not me…however, my husband is sticking with it for at least 60 days and he’s done well. i just got bored with the food and found myself craving something other than their plan. i went back on WW which has always worked for me…i can eat “real food” and while some people don’t like counting, i find it keeps me on track to write down everything i eat and keep track with my points…different strokes for different folks, right?
i’m excited about starting to walk now that the time changes this weekend and it’s getting a little warmer here in alabama.
congratulations on your weight loss….i hope to lose at least 20 pounds myself.
Yes, the food on Medifast becomes very boring after awhile and some of the choices taste just awful. That being said, I really like their pancakes and bars and bought just these items to use with my current weight loss plan. Good luck on your weight loss! I am hopeful that warmer weather will make it so much easier to become more active. This winter has been HARD for everyone.
just completed 41 das on 500 cal diet and halfway thru a maintenance portion of it. Have not started on the part that reintroduces the new foods to see if there are going to be anymore losses or gains. BUT there are still more pounds to come off. challenge is that the major contributor to the weight gain was some long term medication. SO, will my body co operate and get back to its previously normal state ?????
Medication weight gain is so tricky. Congrats on your progress! I plateaued for several months and it was because I wasn’t eating enough calories. Be careful with such a low cal diet.
Cheryl @ The Creative Me and My McG says
congrats! I do aerobic dancing (think Jane Fonda of the 80’s) in my basement 5 times per week for 30-45 minutes – I have lost 6 pounds in the last 8 weeks – probably slower that I would like but I am making this a habit before I tackle the harder stuff like cutting out all the carbs!! I think NOT being in a hurry is the key to success…the weight didn’t suddenly appear overnight and it won’t be gone overnight either…slow and steady wins this race!
Good for you!
Heather @ Beyond the Aisle says
Thanks for sharing what has worked for you. I think I am going to invest in a Fitbit!
Marty Walden says
I know that turning 50 (almost 52 now) was a big change in metabolism and the realization that if I continue to eat like I’m 30 I’m going to have a problem. I’ve lost 8 pounds, starting with a fast from desserts for 3 weeks ( so hard for this sweet lover) and then to monitoring how much I eat. It has been slow and I fail and pick myself up again. I’ve added back in exercise, and i dearly love Zumba but not sure I want to pay for a gym membership. My kids are older but it’s still hard because I homeschool as well as blog full time. There’s always a trade off!
Congrats on your success and the great benefits to your health! My sister died of a heart attack at 53 and I’m ever mindful of that family trait.
I’m so sorry to hear about your sister Marty. I have two sisters and can’t imagine life without them. And yes, a gym membership was a HUGE deal for me. We are on a tight budget and it’s a big expense and commitment. However, I don’t regret if for a minute. You can certainly get exercise without one but this winter it has been a life saver for me.
BRAVO! Your “before” picture looks exactly as mine does right now. I am 5’6 and miserable but I have decided it is time. Agreed it doesn’t come off as easy as it used to and I am on daily breast cancer medication which causes weight gain! UGH! Thank you for posting this – you are truly an INSPIRATION! Keep up the AWESOME work! Looking forward to continuing on this journey together. 🙂
Aw, thanks Tracy! And boo on the weight gain from meds :(. I’m sure that can feel discouraging at times but good for you for deciding it’s time. You have totally got this!
Marty@A Stroll Thru Life says
Wow, good for you, I am on a mission to lose 20 lbs and yes, mine is slow too, but hopefully steady. Hugs, Marty