I am a human yo-yo. I've battled with being overweight my entire life, going back and forth between a size 24 in just the 8th grade and a size 12 at my thinnest during college.
It goes without saying that I was the “fat kid” growing up. I was tormented by all those mean kids we know or were in middle school, which of course gave me massive self-esteem issues. I'd eat for comfort and then I'd do extreme dieting in an attempt to get the body that I would see on TV. At least I'm lucky because I'm a 5'10" Hawaiian girl, so at a size 12 I looked too thin, and at my heaviest I never looked as big as I actually was.
Above: Christmas, 2013
I've tried every diet known to man: the cayenne pepper cleanse, the Hawaiian salt cleanse, the green powder 10-day detox, the all meat diet, the Hawaiian diet, the caveman diet, even diets that promise losing 20 pounds in just a month. If there was a diet fad, chances are I tried it.
Over the past year I've done several of these diets and started working out again with great success. I've lost 55 pounds, 2 1/2 pants sizes and am finally back to pre-baby weight (I have 2 and 3 year old sons). But with my extreme dieting, it was hard to keep off the weight and often I'd gain some or all of it back. It wasn't until I started taking some of the basic concepts of the diets and changed my eating habits permanently, coupled with regular workouts that the weight started to shed off. So here's what I've learned:
1. Start small but start somewhere
A personal trainer at my gym told me this: Don't try to tackle everything at once (diet, exercise, becoming more flexible, etc.) Pick one and start with that. For me, that was starting to work out again. When I work out I tend to crave healthier foods.
Below: My first pregnancy.
2. Reduce or eliminate processed foods
With all of the diets I tried, they had the same basic rules. Cut out processed foods and alcohol, and eat vegetables and lean protein five to seven times throughout the day. The basic principles are to eat unlimited amounts of green leafy vegetables and pretty much any non-starchy vegetables, eat 12-15 ounces of lean protein a day, and drink lots of water. I love my rice and side mac, what Hawaii person doesn't? But I learned to make this a regular way of eating and now, rice is a treat for me. Here are a couple of easy ideas: Have a fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast. I love frozen banana with peanut butter, spinach, flax seeds, protein powder and almond milk. Replace rice with cauli-rice, cauli-mash or roasted vegetables. Replace noodles with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash, and snack on a handful of almonds, an apple, hummus, or pretty much any vegetable. If you're hungry, eat! But grab the better option, which leads to the next tip.
Eating right and exercising takes preparation, both physical and mental. I started blocking out time in my calendar to workout. It didn't always work because of various meetings, but I found that this simple act of scheduling a workout made me realize that my health and well-being was a priority so I found myself making time. Some days I can only get in a 20-minute run but that's better than nothing. As for food, I'd spend a couple of hours on the weekend while the kids napped preparing my food for the week. I'd roast vegetables, make a batch of cauli-rice, and cook up some protein options. Some of my favorites are salmon, chicken sautéed in olive oil with low sodium soy sauce and broccoli and mushrooms, or ground turkey with marinara sauce and zoodles. I also always keep a bag of nuts in my purse so if I'm out and hungry I have a healthy option and am better equipped to avoid grabbing a chocolate bar.
4. You need to exercise and eat right
I used to be someone who would work out to eat. I know a lot of people who do this, and that may help you from gaining weight, but if you want to lose you have to do both.
5. Allow yourself to cheat
If you deprive yourself of food, you'll crave it more. So rather than binge on a whole tub of ice cream because you finally cracked, allow yourself one cheat day a week. That doesn't mean to go off the deep end and hit up fast food joints for all your meals, but eat what your body is craving in moderation on your cheat day.
Current photo, 55 pounds lighter!
6. Keep it fresh
If you're getting tired of your food, time to spice it up and find new recipes. The same goes for your exercise program. If you are plateauing, then that means it’s time to change up your workout. There's nothing like enlisting a family member or friend to help...go walking together, lift weights together, exchange recipes. Support is critical to your success.
Best of luck to you and wish me luck as I continue to work towards making health a priority and a lifestyle. If you have tips, great recipes or exercise ideas, please share it below or on our Facebook page. I'd love to hear it and we can support each other on this journey.
Left: Well-Being Hawaii launch party, September 2015