The 11 Life-Changing Things I Did To Shed 40 Pounds and Become a Healthier Person

Category: 

I got teased a lot for being heavier than most girls, even boys, in primary school. That was mostly in my younger years of education. Teenagers in high school held enough decency to not make judgments about my size, but I still felt awkward in swim class. I always chose to opt for a one piece, rather than a bikini. I went to a sports-oriented school. Girls were toned and boys were jacked. I was neither --quite the opposite to be frank.

As discussed before, I hated gym class. Mostly because I loathed physical activity of ANY form. I also despised going to the doctor for physicals. If I had a nickel for how many times my physician said I needed to drop a few pounds or even mentioned my weight…

She was right, though. I needed to live a bit of a healthier lifestyle. I was pushing 185 lbs. 

I also genuinely wanted to feel fit in a bathing suit and don shorts like the girls on the crew team.

At some point, however, I cannot tell you the exact moment, my desire to drop a few pounds outweighed my distaste for all things sweaty. My attempts to whip into shape in the past never stuck, but this time would be different.

I started in my parent’s basement, following along to a combination of free workout videos on the web after school. About a month or so in, my mom noticed and told me she was proud. Soon after, my father and brother, even my friends applauded my physique shift. Most of all though, I fell in love with my changes, the endorphin rushes during a workout and the daily routine of sweating away the stresses of the day. I decided to go full force and completely adopt a new healthy lifestyle and never looked back.

I lost around 40 pounds in the first two years of consistent exercise and healthy food choices. 

In the first year...

1) I only drank water and unsweetened tea as beverage choices:

Juice, sodas, and most pre-made lattes all have ridiculous amounts of sugar in them. One cup of orange juice contains 21 grams of it! Increased sugar intake can link to weight gain, so I quit cold turkey and trained myself to drink as much water as possible throughout the day. Yes, water can be boring, but you can spice it up by infusing it with some awesome fruits, like this! After almost four years of quitting juice and soda, I no longer have a taste for most kinds. They are way too sweet for me to enjoy.

2) I tricked myself into working out 4-5 days a week:

I think a ton of people think they need to hit the gym every day for hours on end to lose weight. Instead of working out for 2 hours plus for a just few days a week, I committed to exercising almost every day for only 30-35 minutes. More importantly, I chose to use those 30 minutes wisely by sweating to a series of dynamic workouts, rather than exhausting endless miles on a treadmill. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) like this, coupled with a wholesome diet is, without a doubt, the main contributor to my weight loss.

3) I stopped eating white carbs (i.e white bread, white pasta, white flour, white rice):

Basically, I never bought anything from a bakery, abstained from the bread and junk aisle, and hexed away white rice and pasta. I am not going to lie, this took a bit of self-control, but I felt less bloated and heavy. More importantly, I never felt sluggish or sleepy after meals anymore. This alone was a complete game changer. 

One of my go-to, low carb meals: spicy tacos, sans tortilla. Lettuce is substituted for the carb portion.

4) I religiously stuck to whole foods and lean meats:

Whole foods, not America’s healthiest grocery store, are simply unprocessed foods. Think unpackaged groceries, items never in a box, plastic container, or casing. I would not compromise on chicken and fish, so I kept them in my diet but made sure to consume the lean parts instead. This meant consuming the chicken breast over the thigh and opting for thick pieces of salmon rather than the fatty parts. After a while, I learned to master spicing these sections of meat pretty well, as they can be rather boring and dry. The huge takeaway from sticking to this kind of lifestyle choice meant I was energized after meals, rather than feeling like I needed to take a nap afterward. (See #3)

5) I opted for wholesome adjustments to meals at restaurants:

On days I did not have time to prepare healthy meals at home, I made modifications. For example, I would ask for a turkey burger with no bread and substituted steamed veggies instead of fries. I stuck to items not drenched in sauces or oils. I was amazed by the kinds of accommodations restaurants make for people with certain dietary restrictions.

Almost four years later, I am the healthiest I probably have ever been. I naturally fell into a groove of healthy habits after losing weight.

Now...

6) I basically eat whatever I want, when I want to:

The funny thing about the absence of unhealthy foods from my life now means I mainly only crave meals or snacks high in nutritional value. My taste buds completely changed from three years ago. I hanker for green vegetables, fresh fruits, and lean meats almost every day. I mainly eat to fuel my body.

However, there are days I order a medium-size pizza with extra toppings all for myself, crush it in 30 minutes, and enjoy every last bite of it. I do this without guilt because I know I will not gain ten pounds from it and will most likely burn it off the next day in my workout.

7) I walk absolutely everywhere:

I live in a walking city and am lucky enough to not own a car. I not only have to worry about the costly upkeep of motor vehicles, but also burn a bunch of calories just from walking to the grocery store and back. I walk to the gym, walk to school, walk to dinner, and walk to the subway. I walk approximately two and a half miles just about every day. 

Above is a screenshot from my iPhone's Health App which tracks your daily physical activity. The dataset averages my walking and running distance so far for 2018. 

I also try to get out in nature as much a possible, something I never really enjoyed before. 

8) I still workout, but adopted a new training mindset:

I exercise about five days out of the week now, but instead of working out to lose weight, I workout to feel strong. My new routines help in increased mobility, flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance. I try to mix it up as much as possible to keep my body guessing. I love strength training, HIIT (that's a bit more of a love-hate relationship), circuit-training, and Tabata-style workouts. In addition to working out at home, I take a mix of cycling, boot camp, and Pilates classes.

9) I cook the majority of my meals at home:

I cannot pinpoint the kinds of oils and quality of ingredients restaurants use, which can contribute to higher sugar, salt, and fat content in meals. When I cook at home, I know exactly what goes into the food I eat, and my stomach always feels good as a result. When I have to travel, I search for the healthiest options at airports and train stations (which can be difficult, trust me, I know). I look for smoothie joints and salad options. Food vendors selling bagels, burgers, and fries are a big no-no for me. If I can, I will sneak fruit, health bars, and nutritional powder in my luggage. Currently, I munch on KIND breakfast bars, low in a glycemic index and perfect before any of my workouts. I also enjoy Vibrant Green's Green Vibrance superfood powder when I do not have time to make a salad before heading somewhere.  
 

10) I still don’t drink sodas or juices:

I still do not drink soda or juice. However, I like a good cocktail now that I am of legal drinking age. Though I am not a big drinker, I sip when I want to because as with anything, balance is important.
 

11) I do not weigh myself:

I eat extremely well. I sweat heavily at least five times a week. I drink water, I stretch, I rest, and repeat. As a result, I am mentally happy and physically strong. That is all that matters. Numbers on a scale are absolutely useless to me.

Sweat Sisters, how do you commit to being a healthy you? What do you struggle with the most? Share below. 

Mecca Russell, a rising senior at The New School in New York City, studies Journalism & Design. Both her coursework and internship experience reflect the intersections of reporting, photo, and documentary. She enjoys storytelling through mediums of film, writing, and photography and is inspired by journalism's power to tell untold stories. She's contributed to Teen Diaries & Pretty Girls Sweat as a weekly writer and reporter. When she is not editing or writing, Mecca is often found browsing through books at your local bookstore, sipping a matcha latte, or dripping in sweat after a HIIT and strength training workout in the early mornings. Mecca is also a singer-songwriter and can be found gigging around her city quite frequently. She looks forward to learning new ideas everyday and is always up for a challenge!