I have recently lost just over 10kg and plan to keep going. I am not a doctor. I am not a nutritionist. I am not saying this is the best way to lose weight, I’m just saying what worked for me. Perhaps in a perfect world we’d all be vegan and only eating organic foods from the markets, etc. etc. but I’m not telling you the perfect way to eat, just a way that I found easy to stick to. I’d love to have the will power to eat “perfectly”, but I just can’t. In the end, you’re only going to keep the weight off if you have a weight-loss plan you find easy to stick to. It will be different from person to person. Here’s what is working for me.
I found it very easy not to lose weight. My body wasn’t causing me any problems and I didn’t hate my body or find disgust in it. I liked my boobs. My self-esteem was healthy. I thought I was pretty awesome despite being overweight and I had people interested in me sexually and romantically so it wasn’t like being overweight was ruining my life. I liked eating junk food when I felt like it and didn’t enjoy exercise.
Sure, I had things I wanted to change about myself – I would have loved a slimmer tummy, butt and thighs if it meant I could keep the boobs – and I had the occasional bad day where I’d try on so many outfits and think they all looked crap on me, but who hasn’t? I also used to find it very frustrating that my skinnier friends would get approached over me while out clubbing almost every time. I made it a rule to never be second pick, and to only date people who hit on me first instead of after a slim friend turned them down.
My attitude at the time was: “I would rather be chubby and not have to exercise or watch what I eat than be slim and on a diet”.
Before I could even get started on my weight loss journey, that attitude had to go. You can’t start trying to lose weight if you don’t see the benefits as outweighing the work that will have to go in. You have to seriously think that it will all be worth it in the end, and that you would rather be slim and healthy than chubby and free to eat junk all the time.
So how did I get there?
First, it’s because I gained more weight. I had been a size 12 dress for years, and while I would snack on junk food, I still had pretty healthy meals. I was definitely a comfort eater though; I’d buy chocolate if I had a bad day or period pain, for example.
Then I got the role of Tracy in Hairspray and I knew that despite wearing a fat-suit, it would look weird if I didn’t stay chubby. I took the rehearsal period as a time to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I was also a student at the time and under a lot of stress trying to keep up with my studies while rehearsing most nights. If I felt like McDonald’s, I would eat it. I would buy a block of chocolate and work my way through it as I wrote an essay. I would buy chips and lollies for lunch.
I went up a dress size. Now size 14, in my opinion, still isn’t that big a size, but it was so depressing trying on dresses I’ve worn for years and struggling to get the zip up. Not being able to wear a lot of my favourite dresses any more was a motivating factor.
Next came plenty of photos that I thought I looked huge in. I think that was the wake-up call. I saw myself how, I assume, other people saw me, and wanted to make a change.
It should be added that I was in a relationship through all of this (still am). One day I said to him, “does it bother you that I’ve gained so much weight?” and he looked really confused and said “I didn’t realise you had. You look the same.” Bless his heart. I believed him. It was nice to know that even at my biggest he still thought I was hot.
The other big motivator was the next show coming up: Mamma Mia. After a boozy sing-along to Mamma Mia songs at a party, I realised I really, really, wanted the role of Sophie, and I knew that wasn’t likely to happen at the weight I was. If I had it my way, the best singer / dancer / actor for the role would get it, no matter what they looked like, but that’s not the world we live in – yet. Leading ladies tend to be slim. If you want something badly enough, you have to work for it. This won’t be the only show with roles I want in it, and I don’t want my weight to put me out of the running. In case you didn’t know already, no, I didn’t get the role, but I’m having fun in the ensemble and I’m not giving up on the weight loss journey!
Things that motivated me
- I want to get lead roles in musicals
- I want to be more fit
- I want to be able to wear a larger variety of outfits (so many dress styles that are very unflattering on anyone who is chubby but that I’d love to wear one day)
- I don’t want to feel self-conscious on the beach
- I want to be more flexible (for dancing)
Things I learned to realise
- The weight isn’t going to come off quickly, and to not get put off by the time it takes. If I have a day where I eat junk, then that doesn’t mean give up, it means try again tomorrow and do better.
- That I’m not going on a diet, I’m making healthy changes for life. This was the hard one – to commit myself to something for life. It’s easy to commit to a weeklong detox, but less easy to realise you need to make changes and stick to them forever. I know I can’t just go on a diet then go back to the way I was eating. I don’t want to lose weight, feel great about it, and then just put it all back on. I have to be healthy, always, to keep it off.
How I did it
First I did my research. I spent a lot of time browsing subreddits on reddit.com such as r/loseit, r/progresspics and r/xxfitness.
The thing that kept coming up again and again is: calorie counting.
I think calorie counting has a bad rep. There are so many articles with titles like “lose weight without counting calories!” and they make it sound like anyone who does count calories is boring and spending way too much time worrying about what they eat. “Just eat healthy instead!” they say.
Well I found calorie counting a really helpful tool in educating myself about what really is healthy and how to eat the yummy stuff in moderation.
When I was a student I had a friend who was calorie counting, and at the time, chubby junk-food eater that I was, I found it annoying: What do you mean you can’t have a glass of wine with us because you spent your calories on M&M’s and popcorn? Who cares, a glass of wine won’t hurt!
That attitude is what makes it hard for people to calorie count. Their friends seem to think they’re being too strict and rigid about it and that surely one slice of cake isn’t going to stop them losing weight.
Well I’m here to say that calorie counting worked for me, it works for tons of people, and it was easier than people make it out to be.
PS: Anyone who has used Weight Watchers will know that it is essentially the same premise as counting calories, except they give a number value to products that correlates with the amount of calories in them.
I used MyFitnessPal
Myfitnesspal.com is an online calorie counting website. They have a database of every food you can think of, and if it’s not in there, you can add it to the database yourself using the nutritional info off the back of the packet.
They gave me a daily calorie goal of 1200 calories a day (you can count KJ instead if you prefer). Other websites think this is too few for my height, weight, and gender, and recommend around 1400-1500, so I keep this in mind and don’t feel bad if I go over the 1200. Normally, because of what I eat each day, I don’t need to go over it anyway.
You can imput your exercise, and that extends the amount of calories you can eat that day. For example, if I put in that I did 45 minutes of Zumba, it says I can eat an extra 475 calories. That’s a lot. Usually I don’t eat the extra calories from exercise, but if I have exercised and I’m feeling hungry later in the evening I don’t feel bad about going over the 1200 limit. I read in a blog that someone plateaued and wasn’t losing any more weight despite calorie counting and exercising, and they decided to eat the extra calories “gained” by exercising, and they found that the weight started coming off again. It’s not an exact science, so play around with it and do what works for you.
On MyFitnessPal you can save meals. When you first start out it seems a bit time consuming looking up all the ingredients in your dinner, but when you’ve done it once, you can save those ingredients into a Meal, and next time you cook it you can add it from your meals list without looking up all the ingredients in it. Plus, often people have made similar meals to you. For example if I use an Old El Paso Fajita Kit, other people may have added their own meal to the database: “Old El Paso Fajita kit with chicken breast and red capsicum” so I don’t need to. I like to try new recipes, but I have plenty of new favourites now, so I hardly ever need to look up ingredients as I have a long Meal list.
MyfitnessPal has recommendations of how much sugar, fat, carbs, etc. you should be eating within that calorie count and tells you if you’ve gone over it. So yes, technically, you could only eat chocolate one day and still be within your daily limit, but you will be far over the sugar count, and you won’t be getting the nutrients you need! The key is to combine healthy eating with calorie counting, rather than trying to fit junk food into your calorie count.
It’s not about restricting certain types of food
Plenty of people have weight-loss success from cutting food types out of their diets. Subreddits like r/keto are big advocates for a low-carb diet and that works for a lot of people. Other websites recommend cutting out sugar altogether. This can work too. In the FAQ page for r/loseit, they said that these diets work because a low carb diet or a low sugar diet are simply low calorie diets. I’m sure there’s more to it than that but…
For me personally, I had to remind myself that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. I had to think to myself: can I give up carbs forever? Can I give up sweet treats forever? I have a real sweet tooth and many of my favourite foods have carbs in them (such as wraps and brown rice) so the answer ended up being no. It came down to “everything in moderation” being something I will find much easier to stick to forever. I can still have the things I love, just not all the time and not in huge quantities. My will power isn’t the greatest, so I need my weight-loss plan to be something I find easy to stick to, and by not cutting out food groups altogether, I am much more likely to stick with this for the long haul. But that’s just me! Do what works for you.
It’s fun finding out how many calories are in things
Once you do, you’re like, holy shit – no wonder I’m overweight!
- That whittakers creamy milk chocolate block I worked through while writing an essay? 1400 calories. Over my whole day’s allowance. Seems obvious, right? Don’t eat a whole block of chocolate, fatty… but over an entire evening of essay writing you’d be surprised how the pieces go and go.
- Those four pieces of Hell’s Lust Pizza you had for dinner? 924 calories. That leaves you 274 calories for your day. If you are the type to eat a whole pizza you’re downing 1848 calories in one meal! That’s well over your daily count before even factoring in anything else you ate that day.
- Big Mac Combo? 824 calories. Big Mac on its own is 494 calories.
- Slice of chocolate cake? Around 300 calories.
- That bag of pretzels you snacked on while watching a movie? 731 calories.
- Four squares of black forest chocolate is 252 calories.
- Two Guylian seashell chocolates? 130 calories. So many calories for something so small!
- Bottle of Heineken? 150 calories. So if you are the binge drinking type and have, say, 7, that’s 1050 calories just on drinks.
- Even a Jim Beam and diet coke is 65 calories and that’s one of the lower calorie options when it comes to alcohol.
So it made me realise, if I want to have those things I need to fit them into my count. I’m not going to go hungry just so I can have a few pieces of chocolate, so most days I’ll go without junk food and feel better for it. The days I do want something I have a smaller amount than usual (calorie counting is a good way to become really good at portion control!) or I’ll make sure everything else I eat that day is low calorie.
I find lower calorie options to satisfy cravings
I often crave chocolate in the evenings. Having an Avalanche sugar-free hot chocolate with trim milk (84 calories) gets rid of that craving.
Fruit also makes for a nice sweet treat.
Juicies iceblocks are only 45 calories and chocolate Paddlepops are 79 calories so those are good alternatives if you want an icecream or iceblock.
Like I said, I don’t eat 100% healthy all the time, so when I do have a treat I try and look at which is the lower calorie option.
I have cheat days
If a friend is having a party, or we are catching up and having some yummy snacks, I don’t count calories that day, and I just eat what I want. It keeps me sane, and while it may slow down the weight loss process slightly, it’s made it easier to stick to in the long run. Also I’ve found that over time I crave junk food less and less. I also make sure not to go overboard on cheat days – I don’t have McDonalds for every meal or anything. I usually stick with my normal breakfast and lunch then don’t worry about going out for takeaways or having lots of lollies for dessert.
I also think about whether the junk food on offer is something I actually want. If chocolate biscuits are on offer and I don’t even feel like one, I won’t mindlessly eat it because it’s there. I’m a more mindful eater. After eating say, a chocolate bar, I think about how I feel – was it really that great? Usually the answer is no and I remind myself of that the next time I am at the supermarket. I think to myself that losing weight will make me far happier than eating that chocolate bar will. This way when I do have a treat, it’s worth it because I know I really want it and it’s not as common an occurrence. Similarly, when I’m not feeling motivated to head out the door to Zumba, I remind myself how much I enjoy it when I’m there and how great I feel afterwards.
I don’t need to calorie count any more
For a while, I was strict about tracking what I ate every day. After about a month of doing that, I found I didn’t need to any more unless I was looking up something I hadn’t eaten before or if I was tempted to eat a sweet treat and was curious about it. I’m a creature of habit and I eat pretty much the same thing every day without it bothering me, so I’ve learnt how many calories are in the things I commonly eat and no longer need to track them.
I love to cook healthy recipes
My absolute favourite magazine is New Zealand Healthy Food Guide. I never struggle to find ingredients as they are all available here, and they keep the recipes simple. They also list how many calories are in each meal. Perfect! I feel so good about myself after chopping up fresh herbs and veggies for a meal.
I got the family on board
The whole family are on the weight loss journey together. My parents have both lost over 10kg each themselves! We know we all have a sweet tooth and that we don’t have the best willpower at times so if there is junk food in the house we will most likely eat it… so we simply don’t have it in the house. We make each other smoothies, cook healthy meals, and decided it was The Year of Motivation in our house. This means if someone suggests exercise, like walking the dog, we have to say yes instead of making excuses. This is a work in progress, haha.
What I typically eat in a day
Breakfast: Bowl of Kelloggs Sultana Bran with trim milk (278 calories)
Lunch: Smoothie made with trim milk, Healtheries Naturally Slim Vanilla smoothie powder, a handful of frozen strawberries, and a tablespoon of Yoplait Delite mixed berry yoghurt. (245 calories)
Or: Four cruskits with mango chutney, cherry tomatoes, and a little bit of cheese (151 calories)
Or: Four cruskits with marmite and cheese (234 calories)
And: A piece of fruit. Apple (about 90 calories), or Mandarin (37 calories)
Snack: Ten almonds (69 calories)
Dinner: This leaves anywhere from 500-700 calories for dinner. You can make pretty decent meals for that.
Some of the meals I have saved to my Meals list on MyFitnessPal:
Chicken and Chorizo Paella: Chicken, chorizo, garlic, lemon zest, green beans, parsley, rosemary, brown rice, chicken stock (358 calories)
Vegetarian Mexican Pizza: Wholemeal pita bread base, Salsa, four bean mix, cherry tomatoes, red capsicum, red onion, avocado, little bit of cheese (558 calories)
Lamb and CousCous Meatball Wrap: lamb mince, wholemeal couscous, wholemeal wrap, spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas (636 calories)
Chicken and Chickpea Rice Salad: Brown rice, chickpeas, chicken, cherry tomatoes, spinach leaves, pesto (510 calories)
Sweet and Sour Sesame Chicken Burger: Wholemeal hamburger bun, lite sour cream, chicken breast, beetroot slices, carrot slices, liquid honey, sweet soy sauce, side of salad (541 calories)
Italian Steak Salad Stack (see photo below): Beef steak, pumpkin, kumara, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, wholemeal pita bread, pesto, marinade (631 calories)
They are all so tasty.
I found exercise I enjoy
Once again, it’s all about what you are able to stick to. I love to dance, so I go to Zumba twice a week at the gym. Once you’ve done a dance a few times and know the moves, it’s much easier to get really into it and go hard. I usually end up exhausted by the end of it, although I have seen my fitness improve! I also enjoy Centergy classes which is a mix of Yoga and Pilates. If you think Yoga is easy, try a class like this. It’s great for strengthening muscles and getting flexible. I am often sore (in a good way) the next day. I also like swimming lengths in an indoor pool, and walking the dog with my family, although it’s a lot harder to find the motivation to do those now that it’s so cold! Now that I’m in a musical that rehearses three times a week, it clashes with a Zumba class and two Centergy classes, but luckily we do little work-outs at rehearsal. I taught my sister three of the Zumba dances I had memorised and we take the whole Mamma Mia cast through them as a work-out, which is fun! I’ve also started doing Zumba in the lounge with my sister and a friend to make up for the missed gym class.
I literally only use my gym membership to go to classes because that’s the only thing I enjoy. If I don’t enjoy it, I find it hard to do it. I know some people see exercise as a necessity and just suck it up and do it even if they don’t like it, but I’m not there yet. I still find it hard to leave the house and actually do it if I know I’m going to hate it (eg. running) so I try to fit in exercise I actually enjoy instead. If I enjoy it, I’m more likely to show up rather than make excuses.
That’s pretty much it
To sum up: I lost 10kg by finding motivation, calorie counting, portion control, being more mindful of what I eat, finding exercise I enjoy, cooking healthy meals, and getting the family on board too. Oh, and I am back into those size 12 dresses and that feels really great!