How I lost it { Winston Salem, NC, Kernersville, Wedding Photographer }

Whenever anyone finds out I used to be morbidly obese, the first question is the obvious, how did you lose it? My answer is always the same, “just diet and exercise” I say. This is true, but in fact I did make a lot of rules, and tricks to help myself along the way. And these are by far what made my weight loss so successful, so quick and long lasting. As now, I have kept off 120 lbs for about seven years, which is pretty exceptional. MSNBC reports that 80% of people will gain all, and even more than what was lost initially.

I really want to share these tips, in hopes that they may help someone else out there going through the same problems I did- weight gain, fatigue, depression and even mood swings. Being a mom is the hardest job in the world, and can come with a lot of side effects for some of us. It is really difficult to lose weight from one baby, but 2, or even 3 can be nearly impossible. Living with a large amount of weight gain can seem hopeless. Most days I couldn’t even physically get up, I was exhausted every minute, out of breath and depressed as hell. I never looked in the mirror, because if I didn’t see the fat, I would never have to deal with it. Most of all I was in a huge state of denial about my weight because I didn’t want to even address the issue. Little did I know that  the weight was the cause of all of my problems.

As the weight came off, even the first 20 lbs, I felt like a new woman. Now, about half the woman I was, I have so much energy, love, happiness and joy in my life. My health is great, and I feel balanced. Going from a size 22 to a size 8 didn’t just change my looks, it changed my outlook. Everything is different from the things I do, the people I know, even How I’m treated by others ( yes, sad… but true). I learned a lot through this journey, and I want to share some of  the strict rules I have set for myself, and a few tricks.


1. Stop “Starting on Monday”

We all do this; we start “diets” on New Years, Our birthday, Monday, before that vacation, or reunion. Just start NOW. Why not wait for a special day?  You will most definitely use this as an excuse to eat even more, even worse food than usual- until your “D” day arrives, and you may potentially pack on any number of additional lbs that you will then have to lose, and remember it can take a whole week of hard work to lose just a pound- don’t dig your hole deeper!   It is the wrong mindset: in your life you will cheat,  you will miss workouts, and even pig out on Thanksgiving. No big deal, but by allowing the “start on Monday” mindset you will scrap the whole diet/plan, totally pig out for an entire weekend,  and say you’re just going to start over again… but of course not today. You’ll start in a month because new years is coming up. This is how the cycle works, it goes over and over and over. In order to lose and maintain a long -term weight loss, you have to live one moment and one meal at a time. Just because you went to an all- you-can- eat- buffet for lunch, does NOT mean you scrap your plans for a healthy dinner. As a matter of fact, I allowed myself these cheats guilt free and “paid” for them in trade with an extra long walk outside. This is the difference in a diet, and a lifestyle choice.


2. Be selfish

We have given this word such a bad connotation, selfish is simply looking out for yourself. And that is a good thing!!!

Several reasons for you to be selfish:

– If you don’t have some time to/for yourself you may go crazy

-You need to give yourself little “rewards” for having a successful week. If I stayed on track almost all week I considered it to be a success. I rewarded myself with pedicures, or a new outfit, or even a piece of dark chocolate and a gourmet coffee.

-If you are not selfish you will NEVER make time for you to get your workout on. This is your “ME” time away from it all.

-If you are not selfish you will not think of yourself as valuable or important enough to even lose the weight.

-I promise you personally it will make you a much better mom. (or worker, friend… whatever you are)


3. Cheating and quitting are totally different

Why is it that just because we eat a 500 calorie ice cream, we feel like it’s the right thing to do to say F- everything and just cancel our entire weight loss plan? One binge, –even if you eat an entire cake, is a just a drop in the bucket on your weight loss journey. Shake it off, and make it up to yourself, by doing a double workout, or even just a little extra You will be SO proud that you took control, and stayed on the right track. Throughout my weight Loss this happened almost weekly. I just got in the habit of working out more so I could indulge myself every now and then. I also found that accepting the fact that I would never be perfect at eating, was a huge relief.


4. Count calories like money

Calories are just like Money. You get a set amount at the start of the day… (1500 for me) and you spend them on breakfast, lunch dinner and snacks. Weight loss IS really that simple, Burn more than you take in and you get weight loss. There are two ways of achieving this: consume less calories, and burn more calories. No late night infomercial tricks will help you,  I promise. If you buy into that crap, you’re just wasting precious time you can literally start losing weight right now.

Here’s a trick in tracking your calories that helped me tremendously—

get some rubber bracelets, or colored rubber bands from Staples ( make sure they are loose enough on your wrist)

color code them with number values, if you like or just put on 15 of them valued at 100 calories each I use silver bangles, I have different designs, the widest one is 300 calories, and the rest are 100 calories each, I have  two 50 calorie bracelets also— but work out your own system make it easy to remember.

I start the day with all of my calories on my left hand and as I eat them, I move to the right. When I start running out of bracelets it is a visual reminder that I don’t have much left for the day so I better make smart choices. I round my calories up or down to make counting easier if its 30 calories or more I count it as 50 if its less than 30 I count it as 0.

I NEVER count Raw vegetables. –ever.Most any veggie that can be eaten in the raw is not very starchy or calorie laden, I try to really fill up on these such as a big salad, before meals so I eat smaller portions of the main course. Also not counting them is a huge incentive to eat them, because they’re free, saving my precious calories for other things.


5. If you are physically capable, and your dr. says it’s ok….. Exercise is a daily part of your life like eating, sleeping and brushing your teeth, it is NOT a choice

You Must exercise. I cannot emphasize how important this act is. YES it is hard, but only at first.

If you do it every day, you will crave it. Exercise improves your attitude, quickens the metabolism, and even can suppress the appetite. You will make smarter food choices, and be able to do things with your body you never thought possible. You will lose weight really really fast, and you will feel amazing.

Trust me, I know more than anyone how difficult it can be to get off your fat ass. I started by just walking for 30 minutes a day, on a treadmill because I was too embarrassed to walk outside. ( people actually heckled me on the roadside). After a month or so, I felt amazing bought some new workout outfits and started doing an hour of walking outside. My weight melted off so fast! The first 100 lbs came off in about a year, despite the fact that I cheated my diet a lot.

The best walking partner ever: a dog. They never have excuses, are always eager to go, and will even remind you!! It leaves you with guilt for not walking the dog if you skip a day, giving you a greater responsibility to your fitness because he depends on you.  A dog also helps you feel safer on your walks, an issue for us ladies. Many times we make the mistake of partnering with another person for weight loss. This is usually a mistake because it gives you an easy out, a perfect excuse- you can quit because your friend has been too busy to walk all week long. NO excuses exercise is a must.

The one piece of advice I can give about exercise:  it always feels like a chore, because you need to make it exciting. Change it up!! I spar with my boyfriend, belly dance, I do yoga, Dance Central, weightlifting, jump-training, Zumba, I jog, hike, walk do stairs at work and anything else I can think of. The only thing you need to worry about is make sure you are exerting yourself, and be honest. Are you sweating? Are you breathing hard? Is your heart rate elevated?  Then it’s a workout!  I aim for at least 30 minutes of activities like this a day.


6. Its not what you eat, It’s how much you eat

Learn proper portions, and use them. Portion sizing is important to keep your appetite under control. For the first week when you cut down your portion sizes you will be very hungry but it will go away in a couple of days and you will find yourself very satisfied on smaller amounts of food.For myself servings are as follows:  meat is the size of a deck of cards, salad dressing ,oil, butter, or mayo or guacamole–, a ping pong ball, Cheese –my thumb, and rice bread, or pasta –my fist. The portions are more important than whether you had brown or white rice, or steak or fish. As long as your portions are moderate its all good.

Those little toddler plates are IDEAL for quick easy food portioning,  The plates that I’m speaking of will have three sections, one big and two small… the big one fill up with your fruits, and/or veggies… the small two are for Carbs, and protein.

This really is one of the most important “rules” if you can stick to small portions the weight will melt off!!!

Getting through hungry moments can be one of the toughest things. I tell myself, If I’m hungry then my body MUST be burning calories and losing weight. Right now at this moment- I am losing weight. This turns that hungry feeling into something good. (of course make sure that you’re eating enough to get the amount of calories recommended by your Dr.) I think we all learn from a young age that hunger needs to be satiated immediately, this is because we now live in a world of plenty. In reality, it’s ok to feel the rumble of an empty stomach for a little while before enjoying a meal. I have also found that allowing myself to be truly hungry, makes me very receptive to healthier, more bland foods.


7. Be Real

You must be realistic with yourself, or you’re gonna quit. Don’t say you’re going out jogging everyday at 6:00 am, if you know you work 2nd shift. Don’t say you will never eat chocolate again—especially if you’re female:) You have to be able to do this almost everyday, forever. So… workout at a time of day when you usually feel best, and know you will have a little time to yourself. Eat less chocolate instead of NO chocolate- even do like I do and make a special “chocolate time” after your workout. Just think long term, how you will fit your plans into your lifestyle don’t try to overhaul who you are, just try to moderate your choices.


8. Scales are the Devil

For my whole journey I measured, and I took photos instead of relying on a scale and they both were huge sources of encouragement for me. Why?

You probably already know but I’ll give my personal reasons anyway. The scale is NOT an accurate measure of how fat you are. For many many reasons, like for instance water weight. Or if you weigh after eating a huge meal that could be a gain of several lbs, weighing with a full bladder or when very constipated, these are all sources of weight fluctuation. If you put on muscle when you exercise, (which I do in a huge way,) then you will be really disappointed by the scale.

We put such a value on those numbers, and the illustrious “Goal Weight” I know its so tempting to get on the scale, but don’t disappoint yourself. Psychologically after busting your ass all week eating carrot sticks and exercising when you see a gain of even 1 lb you will get pissed off and quit.  Take a measurement instead. Print a chart out online and track how many inches you lose, how many pants sizes you lose, not lbs.


9. God gave us  Water, not soda

I Just don’t even drink sweet tea, soft drinks, and all that. I do drink herbal tea No sugar, and coffee and water. There are studies showing that artificial sweeteners are linked to Obesity, and I do see an awful lot of obese people using them…. And not getting any thinner from doing so. I just don’t see the point I’d rather drink the water that god gave me. It’s 0 calories, and costs nothing, its readily available just about everywhere.

Other benefits I believe I get from water: great skin, healthy hair and nails, Fabulous health, I’ve never had a UTI, No regular headaches, or health problems. I save a lot of money. Think for a minute how much are you spending in a year on sodas?


10. Don’t set yourself up for a failure

Timelines, goals and all, they are overrated. Just do the right things and it will all come back to you in time. Workout to feel good, not to be a size 10 by June. This is a pitfall because when you get halfway to June, and you still a size 18 you’re going to be disappointed in yourself. Just workout to feel good, consider weight loss a pleasant side effect.


11. You will Always be Fat- even when you’re skinny

Chances are, if you’re obese you are probably an addict. I have come to accept this of myself, and I always have to keep that fat girl inside me in check, because when I say its time to stop eating, she always tells me to get seconds.

Eat to live, don’t live to eat. Learn the right way to indulge, because you will always LOVE food like nothing else in this world. But learn to set it off with exercise. Learn that indulgence can’t be in large amounts every day.

This may sound crazy, but since I have an obsession with food, yet could not eat much I spent a lot of time watching food network, and got great satisfaction from watching the gourmet, foods and careful preparations. I also keep myself busy by taking up new hobbies, and projects as often as I can. This keeps me from being bored sitting around the house with a box of cupcakes.


12. Its NOT all or nothing

-a little bit is better than none. If you cant work out for 30 minutes because the baby is screaming ( I’ve been there) then do ten minutes. Just give your best shot, a little bit is at least something for the day. Please don’t ever cheat yourself and do nothing at all. Even if you just do 50 sit-ups real quick on the bedroom floor before bed-  that’s an accomplishment.

Sometimes being a mom, you literally cant get a break to workout, I have 4 kids, and am raising two stepchildren, ( 4+2=6 !!) there are times when I just can’t be selfish, it might not be safe for me to leave the children in the next room while I work out, –or whatever. So, play with your kids, play tag, or Wii, or put a wiggles video in, I guarantee you those Australian men will wear your ass out!! And your kids will be getting a good example from you– of physical activity, they will be getting quality time, and you’ll probably have more fun than you thought you would.



13. Get Smart!

There are some AMAZING apps out now to help you with weight loss! My absolute favorite is Noom- it covers all areas, gives you levels to achieve and you earn points all day long, like a game! It offers daily articles and advice, the best workout app ever- runs on GPS to track your miles, speed and location. Auto- starts your playlist when you start a workout, and tracks calories in the easiest way I’ve ever seen.

There are also some new running apps, that make your workout into an interactive game, using GPS and having you run to avoid being eaten by zombies….SO COOL!!


14. Stay Busy

If you’re doing something you love, don’t you sometimes forget to eat all day long? So, keep busy  find things you’re passionate about, a hot guy, or a knitting class it’s all good- just get that mind out of the fridge. For me, photography and hours of photo editing in front of the computer was a passion that occupied and entertained my free time. There are a million things you could do, or get into- charities, your own business, arts and crafts, mall walking, or jewelry making. If you’re like me and get satisfied just being around food, you can prepare all of your meals like one of those fancy diet plans, and portion it out on plates in the freezer. I used to make low fat lasagna, and barbecue chicken breasts and all kinds of really good stuff, and just freeze it for later. This takes up a lot of your free time, and keeps you involved with more healthy choices.

– When all else fails paint your nails or brush your teeth two ways to curb the munchies.


15. Challenge yourself

Competition always makes things more interesting for us, if you don’t have a friend to compete with there are many groups on-line that are free and compete in weight loss. My competition of choice used to be Yoga, I compete with myself, constantly challenging my body to new levels of balance and flexibility. It is so much fun!  But now I’m learning to run, so I press myself to run harder and longer.

16. Eat what you like

Put yourself off to a good start at the store. Make a list of healthy foods you like, and start each grocery list with that. There’s no use getting three pounds of tofu if you don’t even know how to cook it, or if you hate it. Just be yourself, and eat what you like, build your diet around the healthy foods you know you will eat.

On the other hand…. It really gets on my nerves when people make excuses to stock the house with little Debbie cakes, pizza, Pepsi, ice cream and chips. Your kids do not need to have these things, especially if you’re fat- don’t you think your kids are at risk too???Be honest- you’re buying them because you want them. The first step is admission!!  seriously, don’t stock junk food in your home. If you have to go out to get it it will be eaten far less frequently.

I always start shopping with baby spinach. I eat as much as I want and don’t count the calories on raw veggies, so its free food for me. I eat lots of grapefruits and oatmeal. Soup and salad are perfect lunch or snack foods so they stay on my list.


17. Only eat when you are Hungry

Forget food schedules, and six meals a day and all that. Do you schedule bathroom breaks or sleep? No. You do it when your body tells you to do it.   Eating is no different, it is a vital body function and if you listen to your body it will tell you what it needs. Eat only when your body really says its hungry. For me it’s a growl in an empty stomach that tells me I need a snack. But each person is different. Learn to listen to your body’s needs, it will put you more in tune with your overall health.

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