My two-year journey of weight-loss and self-love.
Sometime last week, I was talking to a lovely lady who often takes my SoulCycle class.
She was showing me a six-month progress picture of her weight loss – it was incredible. She looked amazing — but more importantly, she looked happy.
I was so proud of her — but mainly because she was so proud of herself. I remember her first class — six months ago; mainly, how she was nervous and intimidated and didn’t think that she could “keep up.”
She could, she did, she does.
In my excitement, I encouraged her to write and share her story on SoulCycle’s community blog (where lots of riders do so), because I figured she’d want a larger platform to show off her progress. Right?
Wrong. Not really – and in hindsight, I totally get it.
And also, same!
We allow ourselves to feel more embarrassed about where we were rather than feel accomplished about where we are now… Why?
Why is it so easy to be your own harshest critic and so hard to be your own biggest fan?
We’ll get back to that…
Anyway, I explained that the reason I encouraged her to write about her journey is because there are other girls that are in her very shoes — where she was six months ago — that are too intimidated, hopeless or afraid to make the same start. Whether it’s with weight loss, a fitness plan — anything. You remember the feeling of something you were once afraid to begin?
It always seems impossible until it’s done… And the first step is the hardest.
Then it hit me — that’s what I’ve been doing in my inability to share this post.
Shitttttt. Yep. My b.
(If you’re new around here, I’ve been promising this post for quite some time — it took me awhile to figure out how to share it. And also, hi! Thanks for reading.)
I’ve been really apprehensive about this topic. It makes me feel vulnerable and I’ve struggled to maintain a positive relationship with my body — much like you, I imagine. Working in fitness is really fucking scary. You are often judged by the way you look — and you can be, because that’s your job.
When I look at photos of myself from a year or two years ago, my initial reaction is always embarrassment. Shame. Anger. Repulsion.
Like this one:
Or this one:
I wasted a lot of my time and energy feeding my ego the negativity it craved.
I was feeling down, degrading myself, making comparisons, you name it. I’d dream up all these scenarios and ways I wanted to look, but that’s where they stayed — in my head.
(To clarify: At the time, I wrongly thought that the key to my happiness and “ideal life” was through a certain body type. Mentally, I regarded weight loss as a way to be happier and more attractive and all those things. It isn’t. Having gone through a transition of self-discovery and love over the past few years, I realize this is not at all the case, which I will elaborate on in the thoughts below.)
When it came time to actually make the commitment to changing, I just kinda… Didn’t. I doubted myself. I was lazy and quite honestly, I didn’t think I could do it or that I deserved to.
The same way I pushed off publishing this post.
Finally, though, I sat down, pushed my apprehensive ego aside and told myself to just fucking do it.
I broke through my writer’s block by doing. — by writing, drafting, deleting and writing some more. I think this is mainly because so many of you held me accountable in doing so. (Thank you — I’m going to return the favor.)
This is the same way I began — and have continued — my journey in health, wellness and weight loss. I just started. I fucked up, I learned, made progress and experienced setbacks.
… And here we are.
I really hope this post is something that helps you, motivates you, or just hits ya right in the feels. Whatever you need it to be.
As a follow-up, I just wanted to add: To those of you who have been loyal readers of Among Other Things (and corals + cognacs back in the day, RIP), thank you. Your constant inquiring about this post seemed to shatter the mental block I’ve been battling (which caused a frustrating inability to create personal, quality content for you guys over the last few months). It’s kinda been like a dry spell around here, I know.
I’m here, so thank you.
Anyway, let’s take a step to “the start” for a bit of context… And let me remind you, the only time you should look back is to see how far you’ve come.
2015: The Lightbulb Moment.
The A-ha moment for me came in 2015 when I had quit my job and was trying to get into SoulCycle training. When I was declined after auditions for that year’s training group, I literally felt my life crumble.
What? Why! What did I do wrong? Was it because of how I looked? How I sounded? Why me?
These internal questions went on and on and on for quite some time. I effortlessly fell into the habit of repetitive periods of doubt, vulnerability, uncertainty and self-loathing. When I needed a distraction from my thoughts and emotions, I’d fill the space with food or booze or whatever was there.
It was almost like I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough or worthy of the life I had dreamed up in my head… In large part, because of how I looked: At the time (mid-year 2015) I weighed 154 pounds — and I felt too overwhelmed to even think about how to make an effort to change that.
“What’s 10 pounds, really, right? Whatever. It won’t make a difference.”
It was as though I was talking myself out of a dream because it would be easier than putting in the effort, sweat, sacrifice and so on. You know what I’m talking about, right?
Yeah, I threw myself a big ‘ol pity party on the reg… It wasn’t cute.
(I am NOT fishing for compliments; I genuinely want what I’ve learned in my journey to help you in yours — good, bad, ugly and all.)
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but one day I finally realized that I was full-on sabotaging my life.
The community and career I so desperately longed for was slipping away from me because I was wasting my time in stewing in thoughts of “Why me?” instead of using it as motivator to get up and think “Why the fuck not me?”
Ding ding ding! Finally.
Let’s fucking go.
This mindset finally pushed me out of my comfort zone and into taking control of my choices — and ultimately, into creating the life I wanted.
In other words, I finally got myself out of the passenger seat and behind the wheel (of my life).
It was not easy. It still isn’t. And the irony is that even though I’m so far from where I was (and I preach this day-in and day-out at SoulCycle), it’s still hard for me to take my own advice.
Sometimes you just need the reminder that you are capable of making something happen and you do deserve to have that life.
(If you didn’t know, I eventually got into SoulCycle training, too — here’s that story. Two years later, I’m teaching in Chicago and I couldn’t be more grateful for my job and our community.)
So, where to begin… Right?
That’s the part that seems overwhelming. So don’t stay stuck there. The fact is:
The hardest part of any journey or change is starting. So just fucking start.
Do something – anything. Get over your mental roadblocks. Don’t sit around and put your own life off another day for any reason. The more you wait, the more your life passes by.
If you are just beginning (or don’t know where to), don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. And if you’ve hit a plateau, don’t compare your middle to someone else’s end.
(And a quick spoiler alert: There is no end. The bad news is that we’re all just free-falling through life — the good news is that there is no ground.)
Before we go on, a necessary disclaimer of sorts:
I am not a dietitian – so please know that I am not writing or advising you as a trained professional from a certified standpoint. However, given my career change into fitness and commitment to my own personal growth and goals, I have acquired a decent amount of knowledge over time about what’s effective and what’s not when it comes to diet and exercise.
Obviously, it’s importance to consider weight loss as it relates to health and wellness at-large, but today we’ll keep the content geared toward what helped me lose 30 pounds over the course of two years…
Slow and steady. That’s the only way to go.
Here is a photo to show you the progression — these are exactly one year apart (2015, 2016 and today). Weight-wise, I was 154, 140 and 126, respectively.
Those numbers really doesn’t mean much to me (now; they used to) — I am just happy to be in a place where I feel confident, strong and empowered.
This might be a tough pill to swallow, but here’ the deal:
If you want to become a healthier person (whether or not that means weight loss to you), you have to embrace it a lifestyle — and not in a way that you dread waking up every day. That’s no way to live.
It has to be a 360-degree approach — and in a way that eventually becomes natural. A choice.
You’ll need to start small by making little choices and tiny sacrifices. Once you add exercise and this all becomes consistent, you’re gold.
I urge you to set goals for yourself that are not geared toward a number on a scale.
Literally anything can impact that number — if you’re dehydrated, you put on muscle mass (muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space in your body), etc. Aim to feel a certain way. Or maybe fit back into your favorite skinny jeans.
Commit. No matter what, don’t quit — what’s the point in even starting, then?
I promise you, you’ll see: Progress is addicting.
It’s also inconsistent and challenging, so be patient with yourself.
WEIGHT LOSS STRATEGIES THAT WORK FOR ME
Here are the physical shifts and mental strategies that have helped me lose weight (and remember, these might have a different impact on you).
The common thread is that they all became consistent over time – I started by approaching them as my choices and ultimately, they united as a lifestyle. (I’m a broken record at this point, but you hear me, right?)
PHYSICAL + GENERAL WEIGHT LOSS TIPS
I don’t eat late at night. This was a tough one for me, in all honesty. I was the mother fuckin’ queen of drunk food back in the day. Like, I could place a Domino’s order and time it so perfectly that I’d be walking up my porch at the same time as the delivery guy. (At the time, that was something to be proud of — lol!)
I try not to eat meat every single day. Eating a solely plant-based diet a few days every week seems to make the digestive system run a lot – uh, smoother. I’m not sure why, but this has a significant impact on my body. (Your body may react differently.)
I stopped drinking pop. (Pop — not soda!)
I limit my alcohol intake. I don’t usually booze it up on weekdays (although summer is a clear case for modifying this rule), and my drink of choice is typically a vodka water with lemon(s) — or a tequila and soda. Occasionally I’ll have beer or a more indulgent cocktail, but see below for elaboration on that point…
I plan ahead. If I know I’m going out for drinks at night, I’ll modify elsewhere in my day/diet/week so I can off-set the calories I’ll be taking in. Give-and-take, friends!
I try not to order out. And when I do, I try to cut as much “bad” food out as possible — whether it’s takeout or a restaurant. Sometimes, that’s as simple as asking for your dressing on the side or no cheese (womp womp). And guys, seriously — ask the waiter to skip the bread basket. If you’re anything like me, you’re gonna reach for it if it’s in front of you.
I eat carbs strategically. Typically, I only eat carbs in the morning (oatmeal, avocado toast, etc) or before a workout. This is because…
I bought a blender. And I learned how to use it in order to replace one meal a day with a smoothie or green juice.
I drink a fuckload of water. Duh, right? I know. Don’t you roll your eyes at me – weight loss or not, it’s good for you. Drink water before you eat — it reduces hunger. In fact, more often than not your hunger pangs are actually signs that you need more water/you’re dehydrated. Bookmark these fruit-infused H20 recipes — they’re good for weight loss, digestion and more.
I stopped eating out of a bag or box. I know it’s hard, but stop your mindless snacking — it’s something you can do right now to make a change (along with these four healthy tips and tricks).
I don’t force the Clean Plate Club. If you’re full, stop eating. If it’s in front of you and you’re going to keep eating it, toss it!
I use smaller plates. Even at Whole Foods in the salad section, I force myself to use a smaller salad container (or whatever) and load up on the lettuce base. (My salads still come out to, like, $19 — but I digress….)
I mix up my workouts.
… I truly believe that you make your body in the kitchen, but what single-handedly started to change the shape of my body (and muscles) was adding variety into my workouts.
Obviously, I exercise daily – I teach indoor cycling. But my body has gotten so used to this movement that it because natural, kinda like walking.
Once I started going to yoga twice a week – and maybe a run or to another HIIT class once a week, my body began to shape. This is a post for another day, but you have to switch up your workouts, you guys – muscle confusion is key. Even if you’re just doing 20 push-ups before bed — it makes a difference.
(If you’re looking for more specific exercise-focused weight loss advice check out this post.)
MENTAL + EMOTIONAL
I recognized my trigger points. This has helped me stop my mindless snacking habit (for the most part). Like, I cannot buy a bag of pretzels, ’cause this bitch will eat the entire thing. IN LESS THAN AN HOUR.
I got to know my body. Some days, I am full-blown HANGRY. Every day is different, and on some I’ll feel like I need to eat more than others — my body craves carbs for energy, coffee in the morning, etc. It takes time to learn what your cravings mean, but when you do, you’ll be better off. That’s when it becomes the lifestyle you’re craving.
I’ve learned to eat for fuel, not just for fun. Or rather, not to eat mindlessly/out of boredom. This mindset has helped me ten-fold. Sure, I still have comfort food moments… Like, ya’ll celebrate Fat Sunday? I do. Almost weekly. Sometimes I will order delivery from two different places, LOL! There’s nothing better than veg’ing out on the couch with some take-out in front of a TV show after a long week/end. And to that end…
I let myself indulge. But only on occasion, that way it feels special. Like a treat! You have to allow yourself a little indulgent – that’s what helped me ultimately change my relationship with food. It’s okay if you have a day where you go ham — it happens. Just get yourself back on track and stop feeling so guilty. One meal, one day does not make or break your body — doing it over and over will, though.
I learned to love the way I look – regardless. I’m telling you guys, if you’re confident and happy and exuding those qualities, that’s what people notice. That’s how they remember you. Not based on the other shit you’re stressin’ over. This is a very difficult one — but remember, either you control your mind or your mind controls you.
I embraced balance. Guys, everything in moderation — including moderation. You know I love to lush it up on the weekends. I love to LIVE! If you don’t feel good, you won’t look good. You have to do things that fill you back up, so-to-speak. My favorite quote: Don’t get so busy making a living (or obsessing over how you’re perceived in yours) that you forget to make a life.
I quit the emotional coping mechanisms. I used to create distractions for myself so I didn’t have to be alone with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings — and usually, this involved mindless eating. Learning to ground yourself or calm your mind is so important, you guys. Like I said…
You control your mind or your mind controls you.
It’s your choice. Meditation is a game-changer, but it’s not something I am very good at. I’ve been trying to get better at embracing stillness, but ultimately knowing this about myself makes me feel good about being self-aware. And of course, there’s an app for that — look up “Headspace.”
I stopped nit-picking my flaws. Girl, trust me – no one is looking at that zit on your forehead. I didn’t even see it until you pointed it out to me. And no, I did not realize that you have super dry feet — nor was I looking at them.
Sound familiar? Yes, SAMEEEEE!
Stop the spiraling, babes. Think about what you like about yourself rather than what you don’t – because you are quite literally a manifestation of your own thoughts. I know that sounds like bullshit, but it’s true. I’m telling you from experience: You are an echo. We are all echos of the thoughts, actions and energy we put out into the world. Just like a Boomerang, that shit’s comin’ back around!
(I’m sorry, Mom. I cuss a lot when I am passionate about something!)
MY ADVICE FOR YOU:
Break your bad habits. It’s not going to be easy, so find your support system (family, friends, Instagram — anywhere) and lean on them. And also, re-read this post on how to get over your mental roadblocks.
Be vocal about your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from people you trust and respect. Make them hold you accountable — this helps SO MUCH! And honestly, you guys — if you feel super connect to someone on Instagram or social media who has been where you’re going, reach out to them (in a respectful way). At the end of the day, we are all just craving connection.
Take baby steps. Don’t try to vastly change how you’re living, eating, exercising, etc — you’ll be miserable. And that’s not sustainable. Start small: Even the smallest modifications and mind hacks can make a big difference when it comes to sticking to plan; plus, that’s how you form habits.
Don’t diet. (Unless you’ve consulted a physician.) Instead, find a way that works for you and your lifestyle so that it’s easy to stick to – and so you don’t put back on what you worked so hard to take off. (I could expand on this for hours, but I think I’ll make it a separate post. Yeah?)
… Just don’t eat like shit all the time. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Therefore, if you’re serious about losing weight, you need to rethink your meal choices. Plus, lots of exercise + a healthy diet = faster results. And, who doesn’t want that?
Be okay with indulging. Learn to know what your body is craving and allow yourself to give in — in moderation. (But again, know the difference between this and a trigger.)
Literally, you guys, I ordered Taco Bell delivery the other night. (It was very late – I didn’t say I never drunk eat – I just don’t usually.) I ordered a lot of it — and I ate all of it. In fact, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch wrapper is still sitting in the garbage can next to me. (Why I was eating late-night in my office is concerning, but I digress… I probably have a Nordstrom order heading my way that I don’t know about.)
To clarify: What I’m saying is, you will not ruin your body by indulging on the occasion. What I’m not saying is order Taco Bell delivery when you are drunk on weekends.
Exercise. Movement – of any kind. The more variety, the better. You will get better at something the more you do it, I promise. You do not have to run a marathon to consider something “exercise,” read this post for more insight and motivation.
Don’t obsess over the scale. Yeah, it’s encouraging to track your number on a scale, but it can also be frustrating as hell — leading you to feel down on yourself. Remember that muscle is more dense than fat — meaning it’s heavier, but it takes up less space in your body. That stupid scale number is absolutely irrelevant if you are happy and confident with yourself and your progress.
Set goals for yourself. That do not involve the scale.
Reward yourself when you meet your goals. But not with late-night Taco Bell.
Do not quit. Keep going. This is not easy — and it won’t happen overnight. (My transformation was TWO YEARS!) As long as you’re smart and consistent in doing so…
You will lose weight if you’re burning more calories than you take in.
REMIND YOURSELF OF THIS SHIT EVERY DAY
Nine important things in particular:
You’re the only one who can put your own life on hold. And vice-a-versa.
Life is for living. Nothing is more important than that — your time on earth is not permanent. you are you and there is no one else on this earth like you. Until you believe that, why should anyone else?
Stop comparing yourself to other people. We are all so different — in what works for us, what doesn’t and so on.
Focus on your progress. For some people, this shit is just easier. Be it genetics or whatever, that’s how it is. Sure, it’s not fair, but don’t lose sight of your goals. It’s your life, your body, your happiness. Okay? Think of this like a track meet; remember those in high school? All the runners start staggered in their lanes, and when the race begins, some people are so much further ahead than others. In the end, though, we’re all pretty even — crossing the finish line (so to speak) right alongside one another.
Don’t let other people’s opinions define you. Anyone who is trying to bring you down is already below you anyway. You’re the only person who gets in your own way — move!
The biggest (and best!) weight you will lose in this journey is your emotional ego.
… And you will feel so. much. lighter. (Bye, bitch!)
The risk is worth the reward.
You are you. Along the way, you’ll realize something… You are you — and all along, you’ve been that beautiful, strong, happy person that you’ve been so eager to become. She just didn’t realize it until now.
Let’s wrap it up.
[*Oscar music playing in the background.*]
Right now, I weigh 127 pounds — nearly 30 pounds lighter than I did in 2015. But like I mentioned, I have learned to love myself beyond a number on my scale and most importantly, I feel lighter without the weight of ego, comparison and expectation on my shoulders.
You are on your way there too.
I feel like I’m rambling at this point, but I just wanted to apologize again for taking so long to publish my story. This community that we’ve built together (over seven years!) is so important to me and my favorite thing in the entire world is feeling connected to each and every one of you. Really, truly.
I’m looking forward to getting back in the habit of creating content like this that you find valuable, helpful, emotional — everything. Fuckin’ missed you guys!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly (contact form is at the top of the site) with any questions, comments, frustrations and vulnerabilities — although I’d love for you to share your own frustrations and thoughts in the comments below. It’s scary to put yourself out on the Internet, but I promise you will be surprised by the support you receive in return — and how many people you and your story impact along the way.
Let’s just keep lifting each other up, okay?
Love ya’ll so much — you deserve to be happy, so just be. There isn’t a single thing in the world or a number on a scale that can make that happen except your choice to be that way. Nothing.