The keys to my weight loss and living a healthy life

When Elliott deployed, I set out to lose a few pounds, get in shape. Ultimately I wanted to lose more than that, but didn’t expect to. Now we’re a pinch over a month away from Elliott returning home, and I’m 29 pounds, 26 inches, and 4 pant sizes smaller than I was when he left. That being said, I’d like to share what I consider my keys to success.

Don’t be afraid to encourage yourself.
That’s right — give yourself a pat on the back when you have a good day. Whether you stayed within your calorie limit or really pushed yourself at the gym, don’t hold back on yourself. YOU did a great job today!

Remember that everyone has not-so-perfect days.
Just as you should encourage yourself, don’t be too hard on yourself if you have an off-day at the gym. Make sure you push yourself, but if you just can’t get into it, don’t beat yourself up. I like to say to myself “So, today wasn’t the best day at the gym. But yesterday I did awesome, and I know I’ll have another great day soon.” It may sound cheesy, but being supportive and encouraging to yourself on the good and not-so-good days will help you in your journey.

Know the difference between “can’t” and “won’t”.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, but don’t let yourself get away with skimping out on a good workout because you don’t want to. I have had some of my BEST workouts after I force myself to go to the gym. Some days are hard to get going – but you know what? You have to make yourself go some days. I go even when I have a headache or just feeling “blah”. But once you get into the zone, you will find that you’re glad you got out of the house. Now, if you’re in pain, the obvious answer is to stop what you’re doing. Just know the difference.

Set goals.
I can’t stress enough how helpful having goals has been in my journey. Especially while I’m working out. Set yourself a mileage goal when you hop on a cardio machine, a workout goal for the month, or a pant size you want to get into. Better yet, set them ALL. Having something to work towards reminds you WHY you’re eating healthy and exercising, and helps to push you through temptations to quit or eat that brownie.

Calories in versus calories out.
Losing weight comes down to the age-old principle of healthy eating and exercise. I sense an “UGH!” coming from the crowd – but trust me, getting into healthy eating habits and an exercise routine will be the best thing you can do for yourself. So balance your calories, eat your fruits and veggies, and get to the gym often. Not only will this help you lose the weight, but will improve your HEALTH. You will feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. This has been extremely rewarding for me.

Keep a food and exercise log.
Track your progress! Even if you don’t count calories: I didn’t start out that way – the first couple months, I simply wrote down EVERYTHING I ate or drank throughout the day. This makes you accountable for the empty snacking and helps you see where you may be lacking in nutrition or exercise. Aside from that, writing it down ensures that it’s on your mind – you will be surprised at how well that simple fact will help.

Carry a water bottle around with you. EVERYWHERE.
You all know the importance of drinking water. Some people have a really hard time drinking the full 8 glasses a day. My solution: I carry a water bottle around with me everywhere. If I’m doing homework, it’s next to me on the table; cooking, on the counter next to the cutting board; running errands, in the car. Carry it with you everywhere. You’ll drink lots more.

Don’t obsess over the scale.
While it is nice to weigh yourself when you’re losing weight, don’t go crazy with it. Weigh yourself once a week, at the most. Your weight naturally fluctuates up to two pounds every day, so weighing yourself often won’t do you any good. Focus on your workouts and the differences you can see and feel in your body, and use the scale as a supplement.

Girls, get yourselves a good sports bra.
It’s worth spending a couple extra bucks to get a bra that holds your girls in place. There is a ligament that runs underneath your breasts, and if you bounce a lot during your workout, it can stretch out. These can lead to sagging – a girls worst nightmare! So get a good sports bra that fits – don’t be afraid to jump around in the dressing room! Also, make sure you get some good shoes to work out in. This is very important to protect your feet, ankles, knees, and back as your work out.

Take your vitamins!
If you don’t take many vitamins, at least start out with a good one-a-day multivitamin. This will help support your immune system, as well as supplement your diet, as we all know that it can be a challenge to get all of your fruits and veggies in every day. I take a one-a-day multivitamin, a calcium/magnesium/vitamin D (this is especially important for ladies!), fish oil capsules (I use Barleans brand – they don’t taste fishy), and a probiotic (great for your digestive system and fending off UTIs and other infections, especially if you’ve taken antibiotics lately). I take these every morning and I LOVE it.

Prepare yourself for your workout.
Don’t head to the gym on an empty stomach. You won’t be able to perform as well because you won’t have the energy to put your all into it. Don’t eat a huge meal either – I like to have a granola bar or something similar before going. Most days I drink a protein shake for breakfast and then head to the gym. Light enough not to weigh me down but still provides enough energy to power through a great workout. Also, it is very important to warm up before lifting weights or doing an intense workout. Get on the elliptical or treadmill for 5 minutes to get your blood pumping – this will help avoid injuries and also get you into the “zone”. Since I am counting my miles, I usually get on the elliptical for half a mile before lifting weights. Just enough to get me warmed up and ready to work.

SWEAT.
Ladies, I know sweat isn’t the prettiest thing to wear. But trust me, you won’t make much progress without getting sweaty. Push yourself and get that sweat pouring. Aside from working hard enough to sweat, this will be beneficial to cleanse your body of toxins.

Change it up.
Doing the same exercise every time you work out can lead to injury, and eventually it will stop working for weight loss. Your body gets used to exercises after a while, and you’ll stop burning as many calories. So change it up, cardio and weights. This is one of the reasons my weight loss has gone so well – I do yoga, pilates, different moves for different muscles when I lift weights, and do cardio on the stationary bike, elliptical, stairmaster, and treadmill. It’s also great for YOU – it gets boring when you do the same thing all the time. Switching it up keeps things interesting.

Eat small meals and have a few snacks.
I know you’ve all heard that eating small meals throughout the day is better for you than 3 large meals. It keeps your metabolism revving instead of settling down between meals. Think of it this way – you get to eat more of a variety. I love eating, especially different foods. This way, I get to eat a little bit of everything. BUT – keep it little. Watch your calories…remember, it comes down to intake vs. output.

Stretch, stretch, stretch!
Stretching is great after a workout to release the acid built up in your muscles. You’ll be less sore, more flexible, and less prone to injury. And it feels good! If I’m running on the treadmill, I’ll stretch before I get on as well. This keeps me from getting shin splints, which used to happen often. Try not to stretch before you lift weights though – stretching signals your muscles to relax, which means you won’t get as much progress out of them.

Finally, everyone is different.
Find out what works the best for you. Don’t try to beat yourself into a diet plan, yo-yo diets are terrible for your metabolism. It’s okay to splurge every once in a while, but be realistic with yourself. You know when you go overboard and when you can allow that cookie. Hold yourself accountable. But HAVE FUN. This has made everything so much easier for me – I love cooking and trying new foods, and trying healthy recipes is a great way to do that. And now that I go to the gym 6 days a week, I can’t imagine not going now. Skipping a day at the gym is not even an option – it’s necessary to go. But it didn’t start that way. My dad always says that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So take the next three weeks and work hard at forming your healthy habits. After that, it’s a piece of cake! =)