PicMonkey Collage.jpg

Hey guys! I receive many, many questions per day, so I thought it would be easiest to just compile my answers into one massive post! Please note that I am not a doctor or dietician and cannot provide personalized advice. I am simply sharing my experience and my journey, and I’m not comfortable telling other people what to do since we’re all so different and have our own goals and medical history and all that jazz! I will share what has worked for me, but that does not mean I have some magic diet plan or fitness routine (as fun as that would be!). We’re all on our own paths and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to one another. The point of this journey is to discover who YOU are and what works for YOUR body! :) Ok, now on to the fun stuff!

How did/do you stay motivated?

This is by far the most popular question, and it has a long answer. First I think it’s important to stress that this was a HUGE mental block for me in the past because I always focused on losing weight instead of getting healthy. I would eat only salads for lunch, cut out desserts and burgers, go to the gym and do the elliptical five days a week, etc. What I WASN’T doing was gradually making small changes, like trying to drink more water, looking for ways to move more, learning to cook, tracking my meals, eating nutritional foods, etc. I always wanted a quick fix, or I’d put a timeline on my weight loss like, “I have five months to lose 40 pounds because I’m going home for a wedding!” So for me, changing my mindset was everything, and I think that is directly related to how I stay motivated. While the scale undoubtedly kept me accountable and motivated, it was/is important for me to not make that my sole success indicator. I set small non-scale goals (drinking eight cups of water every day, tracking my food when I didn’t want to, choosing the turkey burger and sweet potato fries over the cheeseburger and onion rings, etc) and celebrated those kinds of victories. I also always looked at inspiring Instagram accounts, Pinterest recipes, and read up on health articles. I focus on how I feel, how I can walk outside without getting winded, how I’ve learned to cook and cut down on processed foods, and more. Progress pictures, taking body measurements, and fitting into smaller clothes is a great motivator too, even if the process is slow and you don’t see results fast enough (don’t let that discourage you!). The thing to know about this journey is that it is a lifestyle change that you have to live with forever. You have to take it one day at a time, maintain balance, don’t deprive yourself, and do this for YOU, not anyone else.

How do you keep going when you feel like giving up?

I always tell myself to think ahead. If I’ve already lost 20 pounds, but no one has complimented me or I don’t see a change in the mirror, should I quit? No. Why would I quit something that is making me feel better, prolonging my life, and uplifting my spirits/energy/attitude? It is a lifestyle change, and you have to be prepared to truly adjust your habits if you want to achieve your standard of health. I am living proof that this stuff isn’t impossible, it just takes dedication, commitment, and focus. This isn’t an easy journey, but it is completely worth it for me!

What do you eat?

I eat a TON of fruits and veggies, I eat lots of lean meats and fish (deli turkey, ground turkey, chicken breast, shrimp, salmon, turkey bacon, chicken hot dogs), whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa), and probably too much PB2 😉. I have cut down a ton on processed foods, I cook every single day, I bring healthy snacks to work, and I have completely cut fried/fast food (mostly because I now don’t enjoy it). You can also see all my favorite Trader Joe’s products here.

Is there anything you don’t eat?

Yes, but remember that this is based on my preferences, my lifestyle, and my taste buds! I cut some things because they were making me feel bloated and lethargic, because I just didn’t care for them that much, or because I no longer find them to be “worth it.” Just because I cut these things doesn’t mean you have to! Here’s what I (mostly) stopped eating:

  • Fried food/fast food
  • Diet soda, sweetened iced tea, juices, smoothies, coffee
  • Red meat and pork
  • Frozen dinners/meals, canned food (except corn, black beans, chickpeas), packaged chips and cookies
  • White bread, white pasta, white rice
  • Breakfast cereal, breakfast bars, and granola bars
  • Heavy and creamy salad dressings
  • Instant food (mashed potatoes, stuffing, ramen, mac ‘n’ cheese)
  • Any processed foods with a lot of added sugar (women should have no more than 6 tsp or 24g per day)

Do you have a meal plan? What does your average day look like?

No, I don’t have a meal plan! I do prepare most of my own food and basically just cook with what I have in the kitchen. Below is an average-ish day for me.

  • Pre-workout snack: Frozen grapes and raw almonds (3sp)
  • Breakfast: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter, banana slices, cacao nibs, and ground cinnamon (8sp)
  • Lunch: Quinoa bowl with ground turkey, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, apples, pomegranate seeds, and buffalo sauce (7sp)
  • Snack: Carrots with black bean dip and soy multigrain crisps (4sp)
  • Dinner: Spaghetti squash boat (5sp)
  • Dessert: Key lime pie frozen yogurt bites (3sp)

Do you have any favorite healthy swaps?

Yes! And I still eat some of the other things, these are just great swaps if I want to go lower carb or less sugar or something.

  • Ice cream > Halo Top or frozen yogurt bites
  • Pasta > Zoodles or spaghetti squash
  • Peanut Butter > PB2
  • Cookies > Trader Joe’s animal crackers
  • Chips > Trader Joe’s mini soy multigrain crackers, Reduced Fat Wheat Thins
  • Cream cheese > Laughing Cow cheese wedges
  • Eggs > Egg whites (but eggs are still great for you)
  • Cereal > oatmeal
  • Yogurt > Greek or Icelandic yogurt
  • Rice > Quinoa or riced cauliflower
  • White potatoes > Sweet potatoes
  • Chocolate > Chocolate PB2
  • Pizza > Homemade flatbread pizza
  • Burger > Turkey burger or Mahi Mahi burger
  • White bread > Whole wheat bread, Ezekiel bread, or cucumber
  • Mashed potatoes > Mashed cauliflower
  • Tortilla wraps > Lettuce wraps
  • Whole milk > Almond milk
  • Candy > frozen grapes, frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries
  • Ground beef > 99% Fat Free/Lean ground turkey
  • Ranch or bleu cheese dip > Black bean dip or hummus

What is your workout routine?

As of right now, I run 2-3 times a week, I spin 1-2 times a week, and I strength train twice a week (I always have a rest day). HOWEVER, for the first five months of this lifestyle change, I only walked. I would walk a lot, and try to increase my distance/steps/speed/calories burned every week, but I didn’t do the gym. After losing 40 pounds, I decided to join Crunch and I started working out a few times a week (treadmill and elliptical). But I found that SUPER boring, and started doing C25K and Crunch classes instead and LOVED it. I also finally tried Soul Cycle and now I’ll never make fun of it again. To me, fitness is about finding something you genuinely enjoy. I do not look at exercise as a necessary tool to lose weight, I look at it as a stress reliever, a way to get stronger, and a hobby. If you hate running, DO NOT FORCE YOURSELF TO RUN. If you cannot handle CrossFit, don’t do it just because you think you’ll burn more calories. Find what works for you and go with that! My weight loss was mostly about a diet change, not hitting it hard with exercise. 

What tips do you have for someone starting out?

Here are some changes I made when starting out:

  • I changed my mindset and focused on getting healthy as opposed to losing weight (no quick fixes, no pills, no surgery)
  • I signed up for Weight Watchers and used that to track my food intake (MyFitness Pal and Lose It! are a good, free options as well, but if you have a tendency to over-obsess and count calories in a dangerous way, please be careful and perhaps don’t use these!)
  • I got an Apple Watch and used that for tracking steps/calories burned
  • I downloaded Plant Nanny and use that for tracking my water intake
  • I set small non-scale goals and celebrated those victories, like having a fruit or veggie with every meal and snack
  • I weighed and measured some of my food (meat, pasta, rice, ice cream, cheese, dressing, oil, etc)
  • I tried to slowly order “healthier” options at restaurants (wine instead of margaritas, balsamic vin instead of ranch, sweet potato fries instead of fries, turkey burgers instead of cheeseburgers, sautéed veggies instead of mashed potatoes, salmon instead of fried chicken, etc)
  • I brought healthy snacks to work and kept them in the fridge and at my desk (fruit, veggie slices with black bean dip, greek yogurt, string cheese, hummus, wheat thins, rice cakes, PB2, RX Bars, etc)
  • I made myself start moving more (taking the stairs, using a standing desk for an hour, walking around the office)
  • I took progress pictures and body measurements
  • I lowered my added sugar (women should have max 24g a day, men 36g a day) and saturated fat intake
  • I educated myself on nutrition and started looking at it as fuel for my body as opposed to something that just tastes good (pretzels are good and not super high in calories, but they also have no protein or real nutritional value and are basically just empty carbs)
  • Overall, I made gradual changes, which helped me make longterm changes, and stick with it!
  • I did not give up just because I had a “bad day” or went overboard. If I ate a very indulgent lunch, I’d eat a healthy dinner and move on. I would forgive myself instead of feeling so guilty to the point where I assumed I went too far to get back on track.
  • I did this for ME, not because I was pressured to, not because someone made a mean comment about my weight, and not because I wanted to “fit in.” I did this for ME because I wanted to! :)

Which Weight Watchers program do you do? How many points do you have?

For most of my journey I did the Online program, but I am very independent and grew up on the internet, so it worked for me. I am now doing Online + Meetings and love it! It’s so nice to talk with people who just get what you’re going through, and it’s reassuring to hear similar stories and whatnot. If you want more accountability, meetings might be good for you. I also started with PointsPlus and moved to SmartPoints when Weight Watchers changed the plan. I love SP because it teaches you to make healthier decisions and I eat way more whole foods and less added sugar. I started with like, 42 PP and now I’m at 30 SP.

What was your starting weight/size and what is your current weight/size?

I’m not comfortable sharing that on the internet, but the whole point of this health change is to remember that numbers don’t matter! I am fit, healthy, happy, and that is what’s most important. :)

Do you have loose skin? How do you avoid loose skin?

This is a very popular question and I wish I had a better answer. I am not a doctor, dietitian, or trainer, and I have no medical knowledge about how you avoid loose skin. Everyone’s bodies are so very different, and I do not believe there is one magical explanation for avoiding loose skin. I don’t do any specific exercise to “target certain areas,” I don’t have some skin care routine, and I don’t have any sort of solution for this common weight loss problem. Sorry!

What do you do in regards to late-night snacking or bingeing?

When it’s late and I’m hungry, I first drink water. If I’m still hungry, I eat something light. I am listening to my body and if it’s craving food, I’m going to feed it! But I try and only do healthy stuff like frozen grapes or light popcorn with seasoning. If I am not actually hungry and just craving something, I try to distract myself with an activity, like taking a short walk or painting my nails.

However, bingeing is a huge problem for me personally and sometimes I just can’t stop myself - it’s like I become a savage monster who can’t concentrate on anything else unless she annihilates the craving. In this case, it’s very difficult for me to stop and I’m afraid I just don’t have an answer for it. However, I did read the book Brain Over Binge and it has helped me a lot. I have no idea if it “cured me” or if I’ll binge again, but it is a good read nonetheless. It talks about how we binge because we’ve created a habit and the animal instinct part of our brain thinks it needs to binge to survive - so it’s all about separating your true self from that part of your brain. Anyway, I think it’s worth checking out if this is a big problem for you like it is for me!

Do you have cheat days?

No, I don’t believe in cheat days. I personally feel like that mentality is forming a bad relationship with food. Instead, if there is something I’m craving that I really, really want, I’m going to have it. If it’s not worth it in my opinion, then I avoid it. It’s all about balance, and I don’t like to reward my hard work with “bad food.” And by the way, if I am treating myself, it is most likely a Levain cookie because DAMN.

Do you have a Pinterest?

Yes! You can find it here.

Do you have any tips for shopping healthy on a low budget?

It's all about planning ahead! Buy whole produce (not pre-cut), and store in the fridge or freezer so it won't go bad. Look for sales and buy produce when it's in season. Plan out your meals for the week and use similar ingredients, then create a grocery list and stick to that list! You can definitely shop on a low budget, you just have to be dedicated and put the work in to make it as efficient as possible.

How did you get into running?

I used the C25K app and LOVED it! I literally could not run for 30 seconds straight without huffing and puffing when I first started, and now I’ve successfully completed two half-marathons. That app worked wonders! But if you hate running, don’t force yourself to do it. Find a sport/class/routine that you enjoy!

What do you do when eating at restaurants or going out with friends?

The most important thing to remember about this lifestyle change is that it’s permanent, and you’ve got to find your balance. I can’t sacrifice my social life just because I don’t want to gain weight. I plan ahead, have my indulgences once in a while, and move on. I will often look at the menu ahead of time and see what the healthiest options are and plan my day around it. Also, this is about MY health journey, and I no longer have problems making menu adjustments. I don’t care if people are judging me — I order my veggies steamed with no butter or oil, I ask for no cheese on my salads, I ask for dressing on the side, etc. I essentially go for a lean meat with veggies or fruit, and avoid anything fried, buttered, cheesy, crusted, sugary, etc.

If I’m going to a potluck or BBQ, I’ll bring healthy options for everyone to share so that I am contributing but also looking out for myself. In terms of drinking, I very rarely drink alcohol anymore, but I still go to happy hours and just order water with lemon! I have learned that I definitely do not need alcohol to have fun, and my body feels SO MUCH BETTER when I’m not hungover! :) If you do drink, I’d avoid sugary mixers like juices or sodas. Perhaps wine, light beer, and vodka soda are the better options.

Have you experienced a plateau, and if so, how did you break it?

Yes, several times. Nutritionists and trainers have told me that the best way to break it is to switch up your routine because your body is getting too used to it. I wouldn’t go and eat a whole cheesecake or something to jumpstart your metabolism, but maybe try different exercises that target different muscles, or try different veggies and whole grains.

Do you have any book / app / Instagram / product / movie / TV suggestions?

Yes! List below.

  • Fed Up (documentary, available on Netflix)
  • Plant Nanny (app for tracking water intake)
  • MyFitness Pal (app for tracking food and activity)
  • Lose It! (app for tracking food and activity)
  • Fit To Fat To Fit (TV show)
  • Fooducate (app that scans food and gives it a grade rating)
  • Salt Sugar Fat (book)
  • C25K (app for intro running)
  • Instagrams: Skinnytaste, Inspiralized, trackingisthenewblack, drizzlemeskinny, BuzzFeedHealth, graciesjourney, simone_anderson, tradingcardioforcosmos, ilostbigandsocanyou, weightwatchers, emilybitesblog, leslieslosingit, cristinadown100, and basically everyone that I follow on Insta!
  • Products: Kodiak Cakes, PB2, FlatOut Flatbread, Food For Life Baking Ezekiel Bread, Siggi’s Icelandic Yogurt, Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt (I love Key Lime and Toasted Coconut Vanilla), Halo Top ice cream, Enlightened ice cream, Enlightened crisps, Laughing Cow cheese wedges, RX Bars, Quaker Salt-Free Rice Cakes, Frank's Buffalo Sauce, and a whole bunch of Trader Joe’s products!

P.S. Here are some links you might enjoy!

17 Things That Actually Helped Me Lose 85 Pounds

15 Things People Don’t Tell You About Extreme Weight Loss

I Quit Sugar For 30 Days And This Is What Happened

21 No-Added Sugar Recipes I Used During My 30-Day Detox

30 Days Of Meals You Can Eat During A Sugar Detox

23 Free Health And Fitness Apps You Need To Download Immediately

28 Go-To Recipes I Used During My 100-Pound Weight Loss

27 Things I Learned From Running The Disney Princess Half-Marathon

I hope this was helpful! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for following my journey and supporting me through this important change in my life. It has been difficult to be so vulnerable and share these things about myself, but hearing your stories, your achievements, and your strengths has truly inspired me, and I am so grateful to have this community. Go slow, enjoy the journey, and live with no regrets. ❤️