Let’s jump in to her story:
✋ At what moment did you realize you HAD to lose weight?
Yes. I remember I had been a medium in pants for as long as I could remember. I had spilled coffee on my pants and ran to Walmart to grab a new pair of pants for work. I was really far away from home. I bought a large just in case, because I knew I had gained weight. I was at my highest of 167lbs at the time.
The pants did not even go up my legs. Eventually, after twenty minutes of struggling, they finally got up. It was the worst experience of my life. Not only was I late to my relatively new job, but I was wearing pants that seemed to fit like extra-small.
1️⃣ What was the first step you took towards transforming your body?
I told myself that I would make a new years resolution to go to the gym more often. I didn’t end up going through with the resolution until Jan. 23rd, which was three weeks after the year started lol.
I set a time that I would go to the gym, and I would force myself to drive to the gym. The hardest part is getting there. The hardest part is the drive, but once I got in there, there was not a session I regretted.
💻 What apps/websites/resources did you use?
Reddit (/r/fitness), Google, Instagram, and Bodybuilding.com.
My favorite Instagram influencers:
- @pheasyque (Important for form tips)
- @apfau (Important for form and nutrition tips)
🍳 What kind of adjustments did you make to your diet?
Early stages, I cut out a lot of fried foods, pretty much all cheeses, sour creams, ranch, dressings, and carbs. I was deathly afraid of carbs, so I would eat cauliflower rice instead of rice. Soda, candy, and chips were also out of the picture.
I eventually got comfortable with carbs, and started to track my macros. Nutrition is priority over training. We must eat for fuel, but we must eat mindfully is what I’ve learned.
Q: Could you talk a little bit more about learning the importance of eating mindfully?
Eating mindfully, to me, is really taking into consideration what we are eating. I noticed how easy it is to just order our typical order while eating out, and proceed to eat the ENTIRE meal because otherwise it would be a waste. This was me; I’d eat the complete burger or maybe 90% of it because I didn’t want to waste it.
Now, instead of ordering fries, I always opt out for the healthiest side, even if it’s freaking coleslaw (most places have side salad, please no ranch, opt for Italian). As far as the burger, now I’ll “mindfully” split the burger in half. I’ll eat half now, and save the other half, along with whatever’s left of my salad, and now I have a second meal.
Same thing with eating sides and extras. I was so used to eating CHEESEburgers, or sandwiches with MAYO/CHEESE, that it was so hard for me to kick the habit. I made it a mindful habit to start saying “No cheese or mayo if it has it”—even if it didn’t have it. Saying this over and over caused me to say it at every restaurant. I think all these small little changes accumulated and contributed to the weight loss tremendously.
🥕 What were your go-to staple foods that helped you achieve your goals?
- Apples + Peanut butter
- Beef Jerky
- Banana Chips
- Greek Yogurt and Protein Granola
- Sirloin Steak + Veggies + Jasmine Rice
- Ground Turkey (Lean) + Potatoes + Veggies
💊 Did you take any supplements along the way? If yes, how useful were they for you? If not, why not?
For pre-workout, I like Bang energy drinks.
I tried to mess around with “Muscle Building” supplements and BCAAs, but I never saw a difference or “felt” a difference.
💪 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?
I noticed my body really came into “shape” when I began lifting heavy. I started in January 2019 and only did cardio/stair master/light weight dumbbell circuits for months until I grew enough courage to pick up an Olympic barbell in September 2019, and the rest is history after that. That’s where the love formed, and the passion developed. I focused a lot on compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench. Also pull ups, dips, and sit ups.
🧾 What was the best advice you received (or read) along the way?
- “Squats are like life. It’s about standing up when something heavy tries to keep you down.”
- “It doesn’t get easier, you only get better.”
- “Start today.”
🥵 What was the hardest part about your journey? How did you overcome it?
Gym intimidation—shit! There was not a day where I wouldn’t see a hot gym girl, or a stud gym bro.
I did my research, and always came in with a plan. I would have the videos pre-saved so I could watch them before I perform the exercise, or write down my workout prior to going in so I wouldn’t look lost looking for weights.
Eventually i realized that me and every single person in that gym had something in common. We were all trying to better ourselves one way or the other. And when you are working on yourself, the one thing you are aware of is not judging or downplaying others who are doing the exact same thing as you!
💡 Was there an ‘aha’ moment where everything began to click?
I didn’t see any true weight loss/visible results until 5 months along the way. And even then it was very subtle. After 8-9 months, things began to take off. Habits formed, and things just flowed rather than being a struggle. Once it becomes a part of your life (lifestyle), it becomes very easy.
The hardest part is starting, but one you get started, the hardest part is stopping!
😎 How has your life changed since the day you took your before photo?
Dramatically, drastically, incredibly.
I am a whole new individual. Not only has my physical appearance grown, but so has my mental attitude towards life.
I thought falling in love was a great experience, but falling in love with yourself is surreal. Its a humbling experience, and one I will never take for granted. I promise to work on being the best version of myself every day. I deserve it.
❤ Based on your experience, what advice would you give to our readers who are starting off as the ‘old’ you?
I still think I’m too old to chase some of the goals I currently have. But truly, we will grow old anyways. We will become 30-somethings anyways. Why not make the pathway there meaningful?
There are women in the gym who are 50-60 years-old killing it. Age shouldn’t matter when it comes to bettering ourselves. No one has to know your story, or why you’re there. But we all have a story. Let your story show through your physical and mental transformation. Not through your age.
This isn’t just physical, it’s mental too.
Thanks for the interview, Thao!