Let’s jump in to her story:
✋ At what moment did you realize you HAD to lose weight?
I’d been trying to lose weight on and off for about 5 years. I would lose a little, then gain a lot, then lose a little and repeat the cycle. In early 2019, I got a Bod Pod scan and learned that my body fat percentage was at 50%. My body was HALF fat! I couldn’t believe I’d let myself slip that far.
We took family photos at my brother’s graduation in May, and I couldn’t even stand to look at the picture because I didn’t recognize myself. I hardly have any photos of myself from my early 20s because I was so uncomfortable in my body, and it’s one of my deepest regrets. I didn’t want things to be that way for the rest of my life. I decided once and for all that I was tired of avoiding mirrors and cameras and feeling sluggish and weak.
1️⃣ What was the first step you took towards transforming your body?
The very first step I took was beginning to lift weights, because I knew I liked to work out more than I liked to eat healthy. I’d never been a weightlifter before, but I instantly fell in love with it.
Besides that, I honestly started playing a lot of Just Dance at home for cardio! It’s a blast, and a solid half-hour will REALLY make you work up a sweat! My roommate and I made a habit of weightlifting 2-3 times a week, and I started to hate skipping the gym because it just made me so happy to go. And I tried to dance or go for a walk or just do something to get my heart rate up every day!
Once I’d done that for a couple weeks, my body started loving to move. My lazy days began to not feel as good as they used to—I found that my body really wanted to stay in motion!
💻 What apps/websites/resources did you use?
I purchased an Apple Watch last November, and holy cow, it’s been a godsend. I primarily use it to track my workouts and make sure I’m reaching my Move goal each day. I’ve also used the Happy Scale app to track my weight, which I love because it breaks your big goal up into smaller, more manageable chunks. I use the Zero app to keep track of my intermittent fasting schedule. I have the MyFitnessPal app installed on my phone, but honestly I normally just use the iPhone calculator app to track my calories!
The Progress Pics subreddit has been a huge help too; I often save pictures of people with similar stats in a folder on my phone to serve as motivation. Besides that, I use some random basal metabolic rate calculator sites to calculate my BMR using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula.
🍳 What kind of adjustments did you make to your diet?
I’ll be honest, I still struggle to eat healthy and I still need to work on incorporating more fruits and veggies! The single biggest change I made wasn’t to what I ate, it was to how much and when I ate.
I began doing intermittent fasting, which I’ll say right off the bat definitely isn’t for everyone! I try to do either 18:6 (18-hour fasting window/6-hour eating window) or 16:8 as much as I can. I break my fast around 2 p.m. and finish eating around 8 or 9 in the evening.
I don’t miss out on breakfast, because eating breakfast first thing in the morning usually makes me feel sick to my stomach and/or ravenously hungry for the rest of the day. As someone who used to struggle with Binge Eating Disorder, telling myself that my eating window closes at a certain time keeps me from the late-night binges that contributed to much of my weight gain.
I still get all my calories in, but I normally spread them across a meal in the afternoon, a snack, a meal in the evening, and a small dessert. If I’m feeling super hungry during my fasting window, I’ll eat. Don’t ignore your hunger pangs if your body is genuinely aching for food. Speaking of which, I try not to deny myself anything. If I’m craving something, I fit it into my calories for the day. I have one treat day a week where I eat more calories than the other six days to switch things up and give my metabolism a little boost.
I’ve also gotten much more into cooking in the past year! I get so much satisfaction from eating a delicious meal and knowing I made it. And learning to properly prepare vegetables is basically the only reason I’ve started to eat veggies at all!
🥕 What were your go-to staple foods that helped you achieve your goals?
So when I mentioned those properly-prepared veggies, I was mostly referring to sheet pan veggies. Throw an assortment of veggies onto a sheet pan with some olive oil and seasonings of your choice, pop it in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 420 degrees, and bada-bing bada-boom, you have delicious roasted vegetables. It’s super simple, but it’s made all the difference in getting my daily vegetables in.
For dessert, I keep a bag of dark chocolate chips in the house and have a few of those or a scoop or two of ice cream. I’ve also gotten quite a few Hello Fresh boxes, which have helped me learn how to cook while also allowing me to know exactly how many calories are in my dinners.
💊 Did you take any supplements along the way? If yes, how useful were they for you? If not, why not?
I didn’t take any supplements except for a few instances where I had protein shakes after working out, because I believe that supplements are only really beneficial if you have a genuine deficiency. I actually do plan on taking iron supplements in the near future because I’ve always had an iron deficiency. Otherwise, I just try to eat nutrient-dense foods and that’s about it.
💪 Can you talk a little bit about what you found to work the best in terms of physical exercise? What worked best for you and why?
Like I said before, I absolutely love weightlifting. It makes me feel so strong and empowered, and I now have shadows of ab lines on my stomach that I never had before, even at my lowest weight!
Lately I’ve been following Jamie Eason’s LiveFit 12-Week Trainer, and I also love Natacha Océane and Whitney Simmons‘ Instagram workouts. But as someone who gets bored and restless easily, variety in my workouts is key. I like to do lots of different things to reach my calorie burn goal.
Last spring, I began a habit of going on long walks around my neighborhood while listening to music or podcasts. I also love dancing, swimming, HIIT, playing frisbee, and kickboxing. During the pandemic, I’ve done a lot of YouTube workouts (PopSugar Fitness and Joseph Corella are two of my favorite channels).
The most important thing is just to find something you love that gets you moving!
🧾 What was the best advice you received (or read) along the way?
The days when I step on the scale after a hard workout or after I feel like I’ve been eating super well and I see that the number has gone up really, really suck. It’s so discouraging. But something I read early on has really helped: Weight fluctuates. It just does. And that fluctuation can be caused by any number of things: your hormone levels, how much sleep you’ve gotten, your hydration, your sodium consumption, etc. Your weight on any single day of your weight loss journey ultimately doesn’t matter. What does matter is that that number continues to trend downward.
The other reason I love the Happy Scale app is that it plots all of the weights you’ve entered on a graph with a trend line, so you can see how you’re doing overall as opposed to your one “off” day!
Some bonus tips: Set rewards for yourself when you reach certain milestones. For example, when you reach a certain weight or dress size, you could treat yourself to a mani/pedi and a massage. Also, don’t just use the scale to track your progress! Take measurements and take progress photos every month or so. Even if your weight has been stagnant, you might still be losing inches.
🥵 What was the hardest part about your journey? How did you overcome it?
The hardest part has absolutely been my plateaus, especially over the holidays. Even though I tried my best to stay on track, I couldn’t pass up all the food and drinks people offered me during Thanksgiving and Christmas. My weight loss stalled out, and I even gained 5-10 pounds back. But after the holidays were over, I bounced back.
I saw the holidays as a temporary indulgence, and I didn’t regret it because I’d made some great memories with my family and friends. But I also didn’t allow myself to continue into a downward spiral. I reminded myself why I was doing what I was doing and how much better I felt when I was working out and eating well, and I kept going.
💡 Was there an ‘aha’ moment where everything began to click?
I don’t remember having a singular moment like that. What I do remember is doing lots and lots of research. I did a lot of math to figure out my formula for losing weight. Losing a pound requires creating a deficit of 3500 calories, and I wanted to lose two pounds a week, so I knew I’d have to double that deficit each week.
After calculating my basal metabolic rate, I used that to figure out how many calories I should eat and burn each day to create that deficit. I guess my “aha” moment came when I stepped on the scale a couple weeks in a row and saw that my formula was working; I was actually losing weight at the rate I’d calculated! It’s not glamorous or super innovative, but it works!
😎 How has your life changed since the day you took your before photo?
The amount of changes my life has undergone since that day is kind of insane. Two months after I took that photo, I began dating the love of my life. Since then, I’ve moved three times and quit a job that was making me miserable. I’m now very happily living with my boyfriend, who just began his first job in his dream career. I’m personally considering going back to school to pursue a different career.
Physically, I feel so much better. For years, I bought clothes that were too small for me in hopes that it would motivate me to finally lose the weight. The feeling I get now when I fit into one of those pieces of clothing is incredible. I’m willing to take pictures now, which is huge for me. I have so much more energy, and I don’t feel nearly as self-conscious in social situations as I used to.
Before I began losing weight, I was dealing with some really annoying physical issues.
If I had to be on my feet for any lengthy period of time, it was killer. After a day of walking around an amusement park, it felt like I was walking on knives. I remember paying to have a special pair of sandals shipped to me overnight for a Disney World trip after panicking that I wouldn’t be able to last more than a couple hours in the parks without proper footwear. I ended up wearing one pair of shoes into the parks and keeping another pair in my bag, and I had to constantly switch back and forth between them to keep my feet from becoming unbearably painful. At the time that I started my weight loss journey I was seeing a podiatrist about this condition—which he’d determined to be plantar fasciitis—and I’d begun using a night splint for half an hour every day to try and overcome it.
A couple months ago, my boyfriend and I went to an amusement park (with lots of COVID restrictions in place, of course) and I didn’t even give much thought to the shoes I wore. I almost cried at the end of our 12-hour day in the park when I realized my feet didn’t hurt at all—and that was after discontinuing use of my night splint for nearly a year! This isn’t to say that losing weight is a cure-all, but in my case, it certainly alleviated a condition that had started to become debilitating.
On the more cosmetic side of things, I attended a wedding in September and received several comments on how much weight I’d lost. While it was a little alarming to hear people speak so bluntly about my weight, I have to say it was very satisfying to know other people could physically see my progress and know my hard work really is paying off!
❤ Based on your experience, what advice would you give to our readers who are starting off as the ‘old’ you?
No matter how many times you might have given up before, you can do this. You can reach your goals, and it will be so worth it when you do. Yes, it’s hard work and it will suck sometimes. Just try to take everything step by step and day by day.
When you begin to see the inches and pounds disappearing, you’ll be amazed at what you can do. When I was first starting out, getting to where I am now felt impossible. But I’m here. And you can get here too.
Thanks for the interview, Brooke!