How I Did It
March 11, 2015
So I know I've danced around the "I LOST WEIGHT!" topic a bit. I've mentioned it but haven't really gone into any specifics since I wrote about our grown-up behavior chart, which was...Jesus, last JULY.
I was down about 10 pounds then; I've since dropped another 15.
I'm now really and truly back to my "pre-pregnancy" weight -- and I'm talking the FIRST pregnancy, 10 years ago. It's a good weight, a comfortable weight, and smack dab in the middle of the healthy weight range for my height and frame size. (I am made of Bird Bones.)
After I posted that photo on the Social Media Thingies this weekend, a few people asked me to share the How.
It's sadly, nothing extraordinary, earth-shattering, nor guaranteed to get you a bikini-ready body in 30 days. I have no magic bullet or snake-oil supplement or One Weird Trick to share here.
I lost 25 pounds because:
1) I ate less.
2) I exercised more.
3) And I kept doing these things even after I hit my weight loss goals, and moved gradually into a maintenance plan. A maintenance plan that STILL involves eating less and exercising more, compared to my old habits.
Okay, I can definitely add 4) the Get-Off-Your-Ass Chart, which was our big initial motivator, and 5) my husband, who was totally IN THIS with me. We kept each other accountable, we cheered each other's success, we sympathized with each other's frustrations, and the occasional ARGH I JUST GAINED BACK FIVE POUNDS INEXPLICABLY WHAT THE FUUUUUCK.
(Jason has lost 35 pounds, even after packing on a ton of muscle through weightlifting. Now I have always found him super attractive [OBVS] no matter what he weighed, but even I gotta admit dayum, y'all, boy looks gooooood.)
We did not follow any specific diet plan or fad or brand; we focused on correcting our individual bad habits and replacing them with new habits we believed we could sustain long term. So far, so good.
The rest of this post is long and probably quite boring, especially if you find diet talk tedious. So here, I'll put it behind the extend-o-link for anyone who wants to read on, and everybody else can just look at this photo of a Stormtrooper hanging from a refrigerator magnet before heading elsewhere:
What I Changed
My relationships with food and my weight have not always been great. I had an eating disorder in my teens and continued to struggle with bouts of disordered eating in my early 20s before finally meeting the right therapist and working through it once and for all. I learned to LOVE food and made peace with my normal-looking body.
There was NO WAY I was going to return to that pattern of deprivation, but I have to admit that being an overweight former anorexic is a...strange thing. When I did try to lose weight, I would gravitate more towards crash diets and unrealistic timeframe expectations. Sure, I could drink nothing but juice for three days or eliminate ALL THE CARBS for a couple weeks and maybe drop some weight in time for a vacation. Where I would promptly reward myself with everything I'd deprived myself of, then pack all those pounds back on, and probably a few more for good measure.
When I finally stopped fitting in the jeans I bought to replace my old jeans that I bought to replace my pre-pregnancy jeans, and then hit a number on the scale that was like, NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE, I realized that yeah, I ABSOLUTELY had to make some changes, I also needed to COMMIT to those changes. So those changes had to be realistic.
When I was in prime hardcore weight loss mode, these were the changes I focused on:
1) Exercise every day, cardio and/or strength, for however long I could spare that day. Again, not exactly an earth-shattering concept. But I did try to avoid the lofty goals of working out for super-long periods of time, and considered any exercise time a victory.
If I had a whole hour, awesome. But if I only had 15 minutes before my next conference call or had to leave to pick up a child from school...welp. I would put that 15 minutes to good use and hop on the treadmill. (As opposed to say, dicking around on the Internet or playing Candy Crush.) It still counted.
I am not a gym person. My time with my family is crazy important and already too limited. So we have a treadmill and Jason bought a weight set and bench/bar on Craigslist so we could work out at home. He gets up early to work out in the morning, I typically exercise when all my coworkers break for lunch, and then shower and eat lunch back at my desk. I also have a set of exercises I can do right in my office if I'm crunched for time...or if I'm just feeling kinda antsy and need a little activity to break up all the sitting. I find a quick circuit of squats, chair dips and planks is surprisingly effective for both building strength and combating writer's block/focus problems.
2) Portion control, portion control, PORTION CONTROL. I love food. I love all food.
I was eating entirely too damn much food.
My calorie intake was insane, especially for how sedentary I was back then. So I counted calories and aimed to keep my meals around the 500 calorie mark. This put the crazy portions I was eating (at home but particularly at restaurants) into really harsh focus, along with all the empty calories I was consuming via crap like soda and Boredom Snacking.
Once I started paying attention, I realized I was eating way past the "satisfied, can survive just fine until next meal" mark pretty much all the time. I no longer do this, even when it comes to "splurges" or eating at restaurants. Doggy bag, please!
(This has the added benefit of solving quite a few gastrointestinal problems that I blamed on specific types of food, rather than, OH GOLLY GEE, the fact that I was just overstuffing myself all the time.)
3) Watch the trigger foods. I've gone no-carb countless times. It ain't gonna work for me, especially if I'm trying to fuel an effective workout. BUT. I did cut back drastically on carbs, and stuck mainly with the complex varieties.
That's never something you want to hear -- oh, just swap the white rice with quinoa! Order the turkey burger without the bun! Make a salad instead of a sandwich! Eat nuts instead of chips!
But that's what I did. No fried foods, no pasta, saying no thank you to the bread basket. Lean protein and vegetables, whole grains only, in moderation. No fast food or frozen processed crap. I learned to love quinoa and tolerate bunless turkey burgers. If I needed a snack I ate almonds instead of handfuls of Goldfish or potato chips.
I also cut out refined sugar, more or less completely. This wasn't nearly as difficult as I was expecting: Turns out my salty/carb cravings are much more of a problem than my sweet tooth. Sweets are something I tend to eat more out of boredom or stress, and stopping to ask myself, "It's 10 p.m. Am I really hungry for some leftover Halloween candy or should I maybe just go to bed and have some fruit in the morning instead?" usually helped curb the temptation. If I'm going to have sugar now, it's gonna be something really and truly worth it, like my BFF's out-of-this-world homemade brownies, rather than soda or crap from a vending machine.
(Although HAHAHAHA no, I did not give up alcohol. I HAVE MY LIMITS TO WHAT I CAN TAKE. I did give up beer and calorie/sugar-laden cocktail mixers. I now mostly drink red wine, vodka with lime and carbonated water [we have a SodaStream but skip the syrups], or a nice brown rye/whiskey/bourbon on the rocks or chilling stones.)
I am no longer THAT restrictive with calories, carbs and sugar, by the way, now that I'm in maintenance mode. I would say I am still very mindful about my carbs -- they're a trigger for overeating/portion problems for me because I will eat the shit out of an entire thing of fries even if I'm not hungry. Then I crash and feel sick and sleepy and skip my workout.
This will likely always be true for me. Carbs aren't "bad," but they bring out some bad habits, so I'm careful around them. Alas.
4) Daily weight checks, with accountability. Jason and I didn't buy FitBits, and we both fell in and out of love with various workout/food diary apps so I can't really claim any of them were a huge driving force for us...but we did get a body fat scale. We weighed ourselves every single day, usually first thing in the morning or post-workout. We would then tell each other our numbers and report both good and bad results.
I know for some people this is hugely de-motivating, and focusing too much on the scale can make you miss the big picture, but it really worked for us. Jason started dropping weight almost immediately (GRUMBLE), while it took longer for me to see changes. But then once the numbers started moving down, my progress sped up and every few days was cause for celebration -- even it it was just half a pound or a few ounces.
The daily weight checks also helped me really see what bad habits had the most impact -- one weekend splurge on fried foods and beer could undo an entire week's progress, while a nice brunch and a Bloody Mary wouldn't mess things up so much. Late night meals or snacking ALWAYS made things worse the next day. Skipping even short workouts MATTERED. Eventually, I just started making better choices in advance because I was tired of being annoyed at the scale (and/or myself).
5) Eat like somebody's watching, because they are. I wasn't going to sit there at the dinner table feeding my kids one thing while I picked at some kale salad. I didn't want the boys to even be aware that Mom and Dad were on diets -- I don't think we ever said that word out loud, or discussed our weight loss around them.
We talked about our workouts and exercise plans, though, and tried to model good, healthy eating habits around them. We ate a lot more fish and lean meats, made at least one vegetarian meal every week, swapped whole grain sides instead of white rice or pasta, etc. (Blue Apron really has been a godsend in this regard.) We put less of a focus on "cleaning your plate" but instead encourage everybody to try everything on their plate because each item is nutritionally important, but it's also okay to stop eating once you're full.
Now Amy, About That Tummy Tuck...
So. Yes. I got a tummy tuck in December. Can't dodge that topic anymore.
The standard abdominoplasty procedure does not really produce much weight loss. It's about one to three pounds, depending on how much extra skin gets removed. I was actually nervous that I'd gain weight afterwards, since I'd be on a strict no-exercise order for six weeks...six weeks that included the holidays. GAH.
I needn't have worried. For the first two weeks I barely felt like eating ANYTHING, oh my God, and mostly lived on chicken soup and smoothies. Then there was the weird realization that I simply couldn't eat that much without immediately feeling overfull and bloated. Portion control took care of itself for a good long while, and I still feel like I can't really eat as much as I used to without getting kinda...ugh, yuck. I'd say I've lost about eight pounds since the surgery, a combo of a couple pounds of skin loss and sticking with my diet plan pretty well over the past few months.
(Business travel, though. Yikes. Not the easiest thing to get through without putting some absolute garbage food in your facehole.)
Working out post-surgery has been frustrating -- my ab muscles are still numb in places, so it's really hard to know if I'm overdoing it until suddenly there's PAIN. But after going through the whole ordeal (and LOVING the results, yes, not gonna lie), you DAMN WELL BETTER BELIEVE I'm not messing things up with gaining weight back, or being out of shape everywhere else. I definitely gave back some fitness/muscle gains since the surgery though, so that's been my current focus, rather than the scale.
I actually first consulted with cosmetic surgeons over a year ago, at almost my highest weight. They all recommended liposuction in addition to the tummy tuck, which, guuuuuhhhh. By the time I finally committed to getting the surgery done (aka saved up the monies), I'd lost so much weight that lipo was no longer needed. They did need to take new "before" photos, however.
Imagine a photo of you in your underwear, in the harsh light of the doctor's office. It's everything from your neck down to your thighs at various angles (front, side, seated). They're certainly not designed to be flattering, but I remember thinking mine hadn't turned out too hideously.
I was stunned. I didn't recognize myself. I did not look good. And I know for a fact that I was not healthy, either -- I'm a HUGE believer in the fit/healthy at any size movement but I was a textbook case of someone who wasn't plus-sized (I wore a size 6), but was still treating her particularly body type like crap, and it showed.
It just...didn't even register that that had been my body, and that I'd been mostly pretty okay with it at the time, other than the baby pooch. I could feel the complacency and laziness emanating from the computer screen.
And that's the thing. If you'd told the me of over a year ago that YES, you are going to lose 25 pounds, but it's going to take time, and you're going to have to make a lot of changes, and you're going to have to stick to those changes...I probably would have given up before I even started.
Meanwhile, on the other side, I want to yell at the woman in those old "before" photos: WORTH IT. WORTH IT WORTH IT YOU CAN DO IT,
(Only downside: NONE of my clothes fit anymore and I have to buy all new clothes. Tragic!)
HAWT, lady! You look great. And it sounds like you feel awesome too. Cheers to the hard work of being healthy.
Posted by: Roberta | March 11, 2015 at 02:24 PM
It's so good to hear of a good old-fashioned weight/fat loss! I'm 5'3'', and 6 years ago, was diagnosed with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. I weighed 150 lbs. Now, 2 kids later, I weigh about 128lbs. No diet, and I'm sorry to say, a pretty sendentary lifestyle. But, the diabetes forced me to be eat "mindfully". I'm not on a diet, but I have to count everything that I eat, learning to read label and know what a reference portion is, so the portion control thing is really something that works. After a few months/years, it becomes second nature, and you don't even have to think anymore. Good job Amy!
Posted by: Myriam | March 11, 2015 at 02:33 PM
I am so, so, so glad that I clicked through and discovered that you can lose 25 lbs and still drink wine. And if you can lose 25, by God, I can lose 10. You just talked me into today's workout that I had been trying to skip.
Posted by: Lynn | March 11, 2015 at 02:38 PM
Cudos to you! Dropped 15 myself since last July, 10 more to go!
Posted by: flybigd | March 11, 2015 at 02:42 PM
Rah rah Amy!!!!! You are amazing and strong. It's a great feeling to love how you look and feel like your body is strong and capable of anything. So proud of your success!
I too lost about 20 pounds through the Making Good Choices school of thinking.... then gained 23 with a pregnancy. But now I'm freshly postpartum and looking forward to getting back to the way I was!
Posted by: Liz | March 11, 2015 at 02:45 PM
I know you said this wasn't earth-shattering advice, but it's what I really, really needed to hear (...read?). Thank you for this post!
Posted by: Megan | March 11, 2015 at 02:48 PM
Great job! Seems like you took a very healthy approach and you look fantastic!
Posted by: Liz | March 11, 2015 at 03:39 PM
Good for you Amy - you look fantastic. Thanks for sharing your story. I know all your guys are proud of you!
Posted by: Beverly Buys | March 11, 2015 at 03:40 PM
So motivating! I have been in a state of complacency for a while and really need to snap out of it. While I'm "thin" by most standards, I know I'm just not healthy right now...and truly need to be. Thanks for posting! Think I'll be hitting the gym today. And congrats on your accomplishments!!
Posted by: Allison | March 11, 2015 at 04:22 PM
Totally inspiring. Working out isn't my challenge; portion control is."Satisfied, can survive just fine until the next meal" must be my mantra. And learning that you can undo a week's work with one major food splurge - well, shitballs. Critical takeaway: I will continue to drink red wine. Thank Christ.
Posted by: Courtney | March 11, 2015 at 04:22 PM
You look fabulous, you feel great, you've developed some eating habits that you can live with for a lifetime. Congratulations on all fronts!
Posted by: MJ | March 11, 2015 at 04:40 PM
Well done! I've been using My Fitness Pal since the end of September and am down 44 lbs eating what I always ate, just less of it. CICO. It works. Who knew? Fantastic job and bit congrats to you and Jason!
Posted by: Dawn | March 11, 2015 at 04:45 PM
Amazing what eating right and exercise will do for ya. I have battled with my weight longer than I haven't and finally was able to find something that worked for me (21DayFix). But in the end, no matter what you do, you have to WORK at it. No more mindless cramming full the pie hole and hoping somehow, all those calories won't end up on your butt. No more hoping and wishing for results, but working hard toward them. It's not glamorous, but it gets you where you want to be.
Good for you and Jason.
Posted by: Missie | March 11, 2015 at 05:32 PM
I was settling in for a night of dicking around on the internet and read this, so I did my prenatal Pilates video and some kettlebell instead. THEN I dicked around on the internet. Thanks for the inspiration!
Posted by: D | March 11, 2015 at 06:13 PM
Well done, Amy! I've been reading your blog and column for a looong time, and you gave me great advice a couple of times. I'm struggling through the early stages of adjusting food intake/exercise output, so even if this isn't an "earth-shattering" regimen, it's encouraging to hear that it's possible to maintain.
Gotta question for you -- when you talk about daily cardio, do you count just going for a long walk or hike? Or were you more successful with higher-intensity cardio like running?
Posted by: Molly | March 11, 2015 at 06:16 PM
That's awesome! And yes, thank you for still drinking and losing weight. I know I could stop drinking and probably lose weight, but you know, life with kids is stressful, and wine makes me happy! If I wanted to weigh what I weighed when I got married, well, that would take a lot of work, so I'll still work to be pre-pregnancy. And I'm 5'9", and by no means overweight at all, I'm just not feeling great about where I am. Thanks for the motivation!
Posted by: Stephanie | March 11, 2015 at 07:10 PM
How long did it take to achieve?
Posted by: Maria | March 11, 2015 at 09:13 PM
@Molly Yes!! God yes. I counted taking Ceiba on al extra long walk, or chasing after Ike at a museum.
Compared to the "before", any good healthy exercise counted for us. After my surgery, all I usually did was a casual treadmill walk with the incline set all the way up.
Maybe not the most hardcore calorie burning, but pretty great for mah butt.
@Maria We started our grow up behavior chart in late May/early June. So about eight/nine months for me; six or so for J.
Posted by: Amalah | March 11, 2015 at 09:34 PM
Good for you and Jason! We are trying to lose too. I found out my blood sugar numbers are high and I can't be stabbing mahself in da belly with a diabetes needle. So there IS that! I have the attitude that I didn't put the weight on overnight and it's NOT comin off overnight either. I've lost about 8 lbs. It's a start! And while I'll never be as thin as you, I CAN be a healthier weight for ME!
Posted by: Sue W. | March 12, 2015 at 05:26 AM
Super inspiring! I started a solo law practice a year ago, and my cross-training has slowly faded out of my life. As has grocery shopping and eating healthy, in favor of eating out with wine ALL the time. I still run 3 times a week, but I've definitely gotten soft and chubby. I used your code for Blue Apron and am motivated to get my guns back for the summer! Thanks!
Posted by: suz | March 12, 2015 at 09:51 AM
there is HOPE for me!
Posted by: Plano Mom | March 12, 2015 at 10:10 AM
Congratulations!! You look amazing!
Posted by: AmyX | March 12, 2015 at 10:26 AM
Thanks for sharing all this, Amy. I'm in the weird overweight former anorexic camp myself and finally came around to the idea that yes, I would have to count calories to lose weight and yes, I could do it without going crazy. It's helpful and motivating to see your example.
My bank account wants you to please stop posting about things to buy, though. Because in the last week you've convinced me to sign up for Blue Apron and buy that body fat scale and I'm scared that you're going to post about a new car or fancy vacation next and I can't afford that but apparently I have no power to resist your awesome recommendations, kthnxbai.
Posted by: IrishCream | March 12, 2015 at 10:30 AM
Damn girl, you look amazing! Congrats and good for you for all the hard work.
Posted by: Abbey | March 12, 2015 at 11:10 AM
Go, Amy! Thank you for spelling all this out. I fall so often into the trap of "if I can't do x, well why bother, because y isn't enough" and this is helpful in stepping out of that.
I'm pregnant with #2, so what you're describing will be my plan down the road.
I for one appreciate that alcohol is still part of your game plan!
Posted by: SarahB | March 12, 2015 at 12:08 PM
Very inspiring! And I say that as someone who is usually totally annoyed by people chronicling their weight loss on line.
I'm at the beginning of that journey, post twin pregnancy. I need to figure out a way to get serious about this. Your post is very helpful. :)
Posted by: Anne | March 12, 2015 at 12:13 PM
I did this too. It started when I joined a gym that focused on High Intensity Interval Training. I go at 5 am before I make excuses as to why I deserve a day off (No- I deserve the good feeling that starting off my day like that gives me!) (And I have NEVER been a morning person. Ever.) Then all the food guidelines you described here (abs are made in the kitchen!) and the 25 lbs came off slowly but surely. People always ask me how I did it and I tell them Diet and exercise actually work! WHO KNEW??!
Posted by: Kimberly | March 12, 2015 at 12:47 PM
Haha thank god! Walking I can handle. :)
Posted by: Molly | March 12, 2015 at 04:07 PM
You look amazing. I read this post last night, then stopped at the grocery store on the way home tonight to find quinoa and stock up on fresh, healthy foods. Thank you for the inspiration!
Posted by: Jelourai | March 12, 2015 at 09:19 PM
I needed to read this! Losing weight is so daunting when you see all of the diets and cleanses and Whole 30 crap everywhere. I do well when I log my food, but sometime in the afternoon I just go into a snack coma and don't even realize what I'm doing. My trigger is carbs too, mainly Pirate Booty and pita chips.
Posted by: Leigh Ann | March 12, 2015 at 09:35 PM
You look fantastic, and I'm so excited that you found something that worked for you! This was incredibly depressing for me to read, because I already eat and exercise like this, I've done it for about three years, and I'm still a size 12. It's pretty hard to stay motivated when you don't have any results for so long, but I do it anyway in an attempt to be healthier even if it doesn't make me look better.
Posted by: Gail | March 13, 2015 at 11:29 AM
"I'm a HUGE believer in the fit/healthy at any size movement but I was a textbook case of someone who wasn't plus-sized (I wore a size 6), but was still treating her particularly body type like crap, and it showed."
Yes. THIS. I still look okay, but I'm feeling like crap and trying to get back to where I was (rowing! running! getting sleep! eating to fuel!) before the holidays, illness, and a few minor crises in a row blew life up.
Posted by: jenG | March 13, 2015 at 02:06 PM
Thank you so much for this; you've really inspired me! This was exactly what I needed to read. I'm so happy for you and I have hope for me!
Posted by: Christine | March 13, 2015 at 02:57 PM
Yay, I'm so happy for you, what an inspiring post! I actually gained weight after my abdominoplasty a year ago, but I started strength training two months ago and I already feel like a completely new person - or, rather, the old pre-baby me :) So thank you for the motivation - it's good to see the results of being consistent and patient.
Posted by: Iva | March 13, 2015 at 05:29 PM
OMG you are a fucking genious! Vodka and sparkling water? Wtf, this is the next big breakthrough! Thank you. I've been searching forever for the right low sugar low carb no artificial sweetener mixer. Water never occurred to me......geniuis!
Posted by: m | March 13, 2015 at 11:52 PM
This is amazing. Way to go.
Question: on working out every day/ showering: I used to work at home 2 days a week and it was a godsend for working out on the basement treadmill during lunch. Now that I'm in an office 5 days a week, I am only making time to work out on weekends (and only once). It's all about the workout plus a shower time suck. Any tips? What do you do if you need to be somewhere, clean, after a workout? I totally suck at getting up extra early to do this. It just doesn't happen. Help?
Posted by: Lindsay | March 14, 2015 at 02:00 PM
I needed this post today because I am faltering in my resolve today. Had a bit of a slip up over the weekend, but got back on track. The slowly but surely way is the only way for me. I am doing pretty much the same things, not fully cutting out carbs but cutting waaaay back. Pretty much any meal can be turned into a salad ;) I need something to be doable long term and banning anything esp delicious carbs is not realistic for me. I too weigh myself a lot because it is the only way I know to stay accountable. With 2 daughters, it is super important to model healthy behaviors and I try very hard to be clear that my goal is to be healthy. You look amazing, congrats on your hard work!
Posted by: Maggie | March 16, 2015 at 12:23 PM
It's nice that this worked for you...however I would caution everyone to note that diet and even diet and exercise do NOT work for the vast majority of people over time (e.g. for 95% of people the weight will be back on within five years). your body has a set weight that it wants to be it. Amy, maybe yours was smaller. But lots of people have set weights that are maybe more than they would like and dieting to try to get that down actually causes much more long term health problems.
Posted by: vanessa | March 16, 2015 at 03:58 PM