From Women’s Health
My name is Kari (@aspire.rise.achieve), and I’m 32 years old. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, and I work as a support worker for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. I struggled with my weight my whole life until I decided to start eating nutrient-dense foods, stay in a calorie deficit, and work out with Les Mills BodyCombat and BodyPump classes.
Before my weight-loss journey began, I had been overweight my entire childhood and teenage years. I remember getting teased starting as young as 6 years old, which was a struggle. I knew I looked different and wasn’t happy with my weight but I lacked the understanding of how to make a change.
Once I was old enough to walk to the nearby store to buy a snack after school, the unhealthy choices became more frequent and accessible. This was when my problem with weight got worse. I always felt like my weight held me back from trying new things or meeting new people. I absolutely dreaded gym class. I couldn’t find clothes in my size anywhere except at specialty plus-size stores that only carried adult styles of clothing—not what a teenager would want to wear to school.
I was at my heaviest around 16 years old, and I couldn’t believe I saw 300 pounds on the scale. I knew it was a big problem, but I felt stuck. I just thought that was what my life was going to look like. I didn’t believe I could change because I had never known anything else.
I also started having health problems. I had blood work done that showed signs of pre-diabetes, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as a hormone imbalance. I wanted to do something about my weight, so I’d try to eat more nutritious foods, but never stayed consistent.
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I continued my poor habits until I hit rock bottom at the end of my first year of college when I was almost 20.
At that point, my knees always hurt and would make grinding sounds as I walked up the stairs. I had no energy and was unhappy most of the time.
I had made many previous failed attempts to lose weight without success, but I knew this time was different. I was going to make a lasting change and lose weight. I researched and learned about the basics of good nutrition, calorie/energy balance, and exercise.
On May 18, 2008, I started applying the things I was learning to my lifestyle.
I finally chose a way of eating that I knew would be realistic and sustainable.
As a college student, I could also do it without it costing me a lot of money. I didn’t want a quick fix or a fad diet that would result in regaining the weight back. So I focused on staying in a calorie deficit, learning to read nutrition labels, and becoming more aware of my consumption. I focused on eating nutrient-dense foods as much as possible, but still allowed flexibility since holidays and food-focused events and gatherings will always be a part of life.
Here’s what I eat in a day now.
Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs, a slice of sprouted grain toast with butter, diced avocado, tomato, and coffee with unsweetened almond milk and Stevia.
Lunch: Turkey or lean-beef patty on a small whole grain bun with sugar-free ketchup and mustard. Raw veggies or salad on the side.
Snacks: A protein smoothie, or one to two plain rice cakes with natural peanut butter.
Dinner: Homemade sesame ginger chicken breast or tofu, 1/2 cup rice, and broccoli, all topped with green onion and sesame seeds.
Dessert: A few squares of 80-percent dark chocolate mixed with raw almonds.
I didn’t start any formal exercise other than using a jumping rope in my bedroom at first. I was embarrassed to go to the gym at the beginning of my journey.
Once I started my second year of college, I learned that students had free gym memberships to the campus fitness center. I had never worked out in a gym in my life, but I was very intrigued and joined. I started going every morning, Monday to Friday at 6 a.m., before my full day of classes and evening work. After graduation I joined a different gym, and I’ve been there for the last 12 years.
I was in love with strength training and running for a long time, but in 2012 I discovered my fitness passion: Les Mills BodyCombat.
It’s a mixed martial arts inspired group fitness class. After I had my first baby in 2015, the group fitness instructor reached out and encouraged me to consider taking instructor training. I taught classes at my gym for about a year. I still do Les Mills BodyCombat and BodyPump workouts to this day virtually, along with running and lifting weights four days a week.
These three changes made the biggest difference in my weight-loss results.
I stayed realistic. I approach weight loss with sustainability in mind, and find healthy foods that I enjoy. I try to make nutritious choices most of the time, then occasionally make less nutritious foods fit my body’s calorie needs. This method helps prevent me from feeling restricted or from missing out on special occasions, events, etc. This is even more important now as a busy working mom of two young children.
I changed the way I viewed fitness. I’ve learned that working out improves my mindset and overall feelings of wellbeing, which makes the weight loss and maintenance journey more enjoyable and positive. I love to challenge myself and see what my body can do now that it couldn’t do before my weight loss.
I found accountability. I found an online weight loss community and forum. People were there for accountability, as well as to support one another. I later switched to MyFitnessPal’s community. I’ve now found an entire health and fitness community full of inspiration to explore on Instagram. Having people with similar goals and support is a very helpful tool to stay inspired and driven.
Overall, I lost 100 pounds and kept it off for 12 years. Now I’m about 75 pounds down.
Through getting married and having two babies, I remain proud of how much my lifestyle has changed permanently. After having my first baby, I lost the weight postpartum within the first year. However, my second child had serious health issues, and after giving birth in 2018, I am now re-losing some weight from that pregnancy.
I advocate for sustainable weight-loss methods, because had I not placed focus on the education of nutrition and my body, I may not have been able to maintain it through so many major life changes. Now that things are settled, I am finally caring for myself again. I hope my story will help others believe in themselves, too.
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