[Warning: This post is long and has Bikini shots of me in it. Please skip it immediately if you are not prepared for the ugly truth! I REALLY wish it didn't have to have photos in it. But it does. I have been tiptoeing around the Publish button for 3 weeks now. It's got to be done. Ready?]
243 days. Or 7 months and 29 days. That’s how long I have been fully committed to changing my body. 208 days of training, 6 days every week, I have been determined to get into the best shape of my life. I wasn’t interested in a quick fix diet. I wanted to feel amazing and look strong, fit and healthy. Rather than starve myself to my ideal weight (or what I thought that had to be), this meant learning about myself first, then about nutrition and exercise. Decide, commit, succeed — as Beachbody’s strapline says, that is what had to happen. Because otherwise I would have never stuck to training every day, anytime between 5.30am and 11pm. Even on the days I travelled, on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, in a tiny hotel room in piping hot Marrakesh and on my 30th birthday. No excuses. Ever.
I pondered back and forth on how to write this post. Several loyal readers had asked me to write about this topic, albeit it being a little removed from the otherwise work oriented LWN posts. And whilst I could give you all the statistics on what I weighed before and how much of my body is made up of fat, I realised that none of that truly mattered. It wouldn’t tell you anything about the challenges that weight loss and the choice of a healthy life style bring. It wouldn’t tell you how to beat the stupid thoughts we think on a daily basis preventing us to be slim. Given the smart and aware reader that you are, you mostly KNOW what to do! You know what to eat and what not eat, and that exercise is good for fat loss and fitness.
So why do we all struggle so much with this?
Well, over the months, since starting my quest in August, I have consulted with Personal Trainers, Sports Nutritionists, a Health and Food Coach, and a Weight Coach, must have read hundreds of blogs, a ton of books on nutrition and spent a lot of money on various training programmes and equipment.
So I will attempt to share what I have learnt so far, in order to answer that question.
One more thing before we start: Posting these pictures of me is a really big deal! I am not doing this lightly and only because I want to be as open and honest with you as I can be. Mostly, I am concerned that you may think that the change is not a big deal, that a stone of weight or so is not ‘big enough’ – but to me, it truly has been life changing and you know what? It IS a big deal! The shift, not only physically but mentally has been massive! So I hope my upcoming posts on exercise, nutrition and thoughts around weight loss will inspire you to have the courage and desire to commit. And be in the best shape you’ve ever been.
“I could never look like that anyway!”
Have you thought this before? Looked at a really hot girl or guy and thought: Well that’s great for THEM but I could never look like that! I have big hips/ a small frame/ heavy bones/[fill in the blank] ‘by nature’. You might not, but I certainly have! I am a tall woman: 1,77m / 5ft 10, I have never been tiny, slim, and tender. My entire life I wanted to be.
And it got to a point last year in July, when I thought: No more! The stark frustration of my past career was still sitting on my hips, and the comfort blanket of my sedentary work at home was visible around my waist. I had gotten into the habit of buying wide airy clothes hiding my figure. I am a comfort eater. Despite regularly running to keep myself fit, I had reached my all-time high of 74.5kg (164.2lbs), measured on the 27th of July 2011. Ooops! How did that happen?
After anxiously consulting with my dear friend Jim who had trained athletes his entire life (“You have to train harder, Jana, not longer!”), I ordered the DVD set of Team Beachbody’s P90X. If you haven’t heard of P90X before, it is a “home exercise system developed by Tony Horton and Beachbody […], a 90 day rigorous segmented training program combined with a nutrition and dietary supplement plan.”
For the next three months I pushed Play every day and trained, mostly in the mornings, (on an empty stomach which is supposed to be better for fat burning) based on the Lean Routine workout plan. Push ups, pull ups, resistance (read: weight) training, lunges, squats, yoga, kenpo (a form of martial arts), core exercises and what they call ‘Ab Ripper X‘. A girl on a mission to get rid of her muffin tops, as the British so lovingly call the extra fat stored around your waist. By the way, I found that the fat around this middle mostly comes from eating too many carbohydrates.
Committing to this routine of workouts up to 90 minutes a day, Monday to Saturday, wasn’t easy. But on the other hand, once the decision was made it was almost easier to just know that there was going to be no exception. No weather, no schedule, no travel was ever in the way. It just had to be done; arrangements just had to be made for it to work out. And it did.
Laughing and swearing
I clearly remember the days when I laughed out loud Tony’s demonstrations of the exercises! I didn’t even know which muscles to tense in order to make my body do that. There was no way I could ever hold this position during Yoga X or pull myself up on a pull up bar. It was just ridiculous. And there were days when I was in pain, (a lot of them), sore from the day before and I swore at Tony for being so bloody persistent and at myself for being so weak. And some days, in my head I had simply had enough, couldn’t be bothered. But I still pushed play. Because I had made the decision to. Decide, the word, is latin based meaning to cut off from. I had cut off from it being any other way.
60 days in I thought I was going nowhere. I felt stronger and could record more reps and heavier weights with almost all exercises, but I didn’t FEEL slimmer. (More about this in Part 3). The progress photos, however, were showing the truth. My body was indeed changing. Muscles started to appear where previously there was just a sad droopy mass. A waist appeared. And so I kept going. Day 90 came and it was time to celebrate! I had never missed a single day! Not once. Wohoo! Fixed by the progress visible on the scale and in the photos every 6 weeks, I kept going. I decided to do another 90 days. No break.
Christmas came up and as usual I spent this with my family and friends in Germany. Now people started to comment on my weight loss. By then I had dropped about 6 kilos of fat, gained a kilo of muscle. This felt good. I felt good. For the first time in my life I believed that it could be done, that I could have this body I thought impossible.
And so it happens that by now I am at my lowest weight in years. Maybe even a decade.
67.0 kg/ 147.7lbs I weighed this morning. Last week it was 66.2kg. It fluctuates a little. As is normal. And whilst I have learnt that the scale only tells half of the truth – body composition is so much more important than the total body weight – I can’t help but be proud.
In total, my body fat% has moved from 34.1% when I first started to now 26%. That’s a lot of fat! About 7kg /15.4lbs. Eating high protein and fat diet together with plenty of vegetables as well as the training have also lead to a gain in muscle mass of 1.7kg. How I know so exactly? I regularly get myself measured in a bod pod now. Every 3 months. Along with the photos, these are the biggest indicators for success for me. The right stuff is going down (fat %) and the right stuff is going up (lean mass %). What you don’t want to do is starve yourself of nutrients and start losing muscle instead of fat.
In the next post I will share more about the food side of things. Stay tuned for what NOT to eat, what a paleo diet is and how I keep eating a piece of chocolate every day whilst still losing weight.
My journey is by no means over. In fact, I think I will always be learning about food and exercise, always improving. But I CAN now hold that yoga posture for a minute. On my 30th birthday, I did 60 push ups as a challenge. And I can actually do 9 pull ups without assistance.
Despite having finished my second P90X challenge in January, I still work out every day but Sundays. I have become slightly obsessed with CrossFit training and more resistance and barbell training. Lifting my butt with special Brazilian help from Leandro, makes me laugh out loud on Tuesdays. Some days I run or do Yoga. Some days just lots of squats, lunges, pull ups and push ups. I am now creating my own workout schedule.
My body, diet, training and my mind are evolving. But this time, in the right direction.
What do you think?
And so the journey continues…
Please post your questions underneath the post so that I can answer your specific questions.
If you liked this, keep reading Part 2 – About eating Chocolate, Battling with Food and Making the Change; and Part 3 – The Biggest Challenge of All: Mastering Your Thoughts.
And please be gentle with your feedback. This is new territory for me.