Losing Weight and Getting Fit: What Worked for Me
So I've mentioned that I've lost about 40 lbs, and I just wanted to provide a few details about how I did this and what worked for me. I'm not an expert, and I believe that everyone is different. I know a lot of people who have been successful through entirely different means, so if what I did sounds about as appealing to you as waking up at 5 AM does to me, never fear! There is a solution for you, and EVERYONE can find a healthy weight and be fit.
Should you lose weight?
Your jeans are feeling tight, you have a muffintop, and you're out of breath just running up the stairs. Time to start the diet, right? WRONG. Stop right there for a moment.
A lot of girls (especially teenagers, but women too) focus on dieting when they're actually within a healthy weight range or even close to being underweight. This is a bad idea, because if you try to lose 10 lbs when you don't have that much to lose, it will take you forever and you probably won't be too happy with the results. Find out how much you weigh and check your BMI.
Now, a lot of people point out flaws with the BMI system. For example, it doesn't take into account muscle vs fat. However, if you are obese, overweight, "skinny-fat", or sedentary in general, muscle weight is the last thing you should be worried about. Come back and talk to me when you're at sub 20% bodyfat. It will give you a rough idea of where you fall.
As to the subject of being "big-boned", it's definitely not a myth. Some people do have larger bones and common BMI will be a bit off for them. However, the BMI system was originally designed to take this into account, it's just not widely used since it involves measurements and such. For a 5'5"woman, the highest weight in the "normal" range is 148 lbs. If the system that factors in larger bones is used, the highest "normal" weight is 160 lbs. That's only a 12 lb difference, and in general one should not be 1 lb away from being over or underweight anyway.
If you are in the healthy weight range or close to being underweight, you need to focus on building muscle and burning fat. You want to focus on your body fat percentage, not your weight. If you get active and spurn junk food, you might weigh the same thing in 6 months but look completely different.
Let's say you're overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. NOW it's time diet! Or is it? You see, "going on a diet" almost never leads to lasting weightloss. You'll meet your goal and start eating the same way you did before. That leads to gaining all of the weight back... plus some. Yo-yo dieting is NOT good for your body.
If you need to lose weight, you need to change your lifestyle. Eat less unhealthy food and work out more. Make changes to your diet that you could live with forever (think "I'll only have pizza once a week" not "I'll just stop eating bread"). Find exercises that you enjoy doing. It doesn't have to be a miserable process. Believe it or not, if you do it for long enough your body will actually reject junk food and crave veggies and exercise.
What I Did
I tried a bit of everything before I found what works for me. Back in January, I decided to become a vegan. It seemed like a miracle cure for obesity and I was sure that it would transform my life for the better...
Confession: I was the world's worse vegan. January-March were the most miserable months. I didn't want to count calories since many people painted that practice as obsessive and unhealthy, so I would just eat the same amount of green beans or broccoli as I would have eaten meat or rice. Bad idea. I was eating 1000 calories per day or fewer. I had no energy, I was moody, and I craved bread and cheese ALL THE TIME. When I realized the problem, I tried to aim for 1500 per day (a bit low for someone who weighs 184 lbs). This still didn't work well for me, because soy products make me feel nauseous and vegan "cheeses" and "butters" are just as processed as the nonvegan alternatives.
Veganism wasn't right for me because I'm not a volumetric eater. I don't care for very large meals and you have to eat A LOT of vegetables and nuts to take in enough calories. I can't handle soy products and some sources say that they're not very good for you anyway.
My body functions best on a diet of green veggies, lean meats, and whole grains. I currently don't eat clean because I'm in college. I eat what the dorm has available, and I don't have the money for organic groceries. I also don't put foods like cookies offlimits, though I probably should cut back a bit more. You don't need a perfect diet to lose weight or get fit, especially if you're young and healthy. Find your RMR and stick to it! It takes 3500 extra calories to gain 1 lb, so keep your indulgences relatively small and you'll be fine!
Cleaning up your diet isn't enough to get fit though. You need to get active! I read The New Book of Lifting for Women and started p90x. Now my fitness goals include doing a pullup, squatting and deadlifting bodyweight, and running a 5K. I've exceeded my own expectations in every way- and I'm still not done!
I'd still like to lose 10-15 lbs. After that, my goal will be to get under 25% bodyfat by continuing to build muscle and burn fat. I've only lost about 2 inches from my bust, and I'd really like to lose more. Moreover, I've always been an hourglass shape until I reached my highest weight. When I hit 160 lbs, I was back to my default shape: bust = hips, waist 9 inches smaller. Recently, that difference has shrunk to 8 inches. The fat on my stomach is so stubborn, but I want it gone! I'll keep you updated on my progress, and I'd love to hear your stories too!