I have been on a journey towards weight loss and better health for two years now. I have lost over one-hundred pounds (48 kg) and I still have a ways to go to reach my goal, but I’m getting closer day-by-day. Since my weight loss has become much more visible this past year, TONS of people have been asking me what my “secret” is or what “diet” I’m following. This is where I will try and answer those questions as best as I can! Remember, I’m not an expert, this is just my story!
Some valuable points before I tell my story:
- If I can lose weight, anyone can! I was overweight my entire life. I was very set in my ways and I thought it was impossible to change. But it is possible! Anyone can change because of Jesus’ help!
- There is NO secret. No pills, no teas, no secret food, no special diets (keto, paleo, vegan, etc.). I didn’t do any of it. The only secret to weight loss is eating less calories than you are burning in a day. That’s it. It’s NOT easy (at least not at first), but it is simple. It IS lots of HARD work, but it is worth it! I look and feel so much better!!
- From my experience, weight loss is 90% about what you eat and 10% about exercise. When I started losing weight, I wasn’t exercising at all for some time. Exercise is great for your heart, and to tone your muscles or build them up, but for me, weight loss is really connected to what you are eating. That is the short of the story, it’s all about what you are feeding your body.
My Story (to this point):
Two years ago, on my 38th birthday, I took some photos of myself in front of the mirror in some leggings and a tank top and I told myself this was the last time I was going to ever look like this again, I had to change! For several days before my birthday, I began to think about changing my lifestyle and I knew I needed serious help! I still had lots of doubts that I could ever change so I began to pray and cry out to Jesus. I was actually dealing with a lot of fear! I had terrible fear of failure, I didn’t want to fail once again at trying to lose weight. Anytime I had tried to change my life before, I had just done it on my own, this time – Jesus was going to be involved! I repented for believing the lies and fears that I would fail. I repented for being addicted to sugar and asked for freedom! I prayed for Him to give me the strength and courage I needed to take the first steps towards a new life (in the physical realm), a healthy life! After several days of praying, this confidence came into my heart, into my spirit and my soul, that I had made an unwavering decision that I would change my life and never go back again to the old ways. That is why I was able to stand in front of the mirror on my 38th birthday and know that it was the last time I would look like that.
One thing you need to understand about me is that I’ve always loved myself. Pretty much my whole life, I’m sure I had some angst during my teenage years, as most people do, but overall and in general, I always thought I was pretty amazing because God created me. Now there were parts of me I never liked, like my stomach and my knees, but again in general, I loved me. This helped me greatly when I finally determined in my heart that I would change once for all. You have to love yourself and appreciate who God made you to be, or you won’t value yourself enough to make the changes in your life. If you are full of self-hatred and have no self-worth, why would you change, what’s the point? If you struggle with those issues, bring it to the Lord, and perhaps a minister or close friend who can help you break through the lies in your mind. You need to love yourself before you can change, because losing weight still won’t make you happy if you don’t already love yourself. But – as with anyone you love, it doesn’t mean your perfect (I’m far from it) but it means I can accept me as me and work with what I’ve got. I can appreciate the gifting and callings in me and the beauty God has given me to reveal to the world, even in my imperfect body.
The day after my 38th birthday, I woke up and had my normal post-birthday breakfast of chocolate cake, which is what I still do – some traditions shouldn’t die. Then I began to talk with my dear friend Sherika who was also on her own weight loss journey. Without her loving encouragement I wouldn’t be where I am today. We are able to talk about the process, the good days, the bad days, the ups and downs, and tell one another “You’ve got this” “Keep going.” It’s invaluable to have the encouragement of someone who understands what you are going through.
Sherika encouraged me to purchase the four-month program Noom on my phone. At first I didn’t want to spend the money, but for me it proved to be an invaluable investment. The Noom program really helped me with the mental aspect of weight loss. It helped me realize that there are NO bad foods. But there are many foods you shouldn’t eat daily, or even weekly, or even once a month. And that’s okay! It helped me with some of my wrong thinking about food. And also the daily assignments helped me start to analyze WHY I was eating. Was I actually hungry or was I just sad, or bored, or lonely? It’s so important to understand the difference! I also began counting calories while on Noom. Counting calories today is so easy! There are so many free apps on your phone that do the counting for you, anyone can do it! When I first started counting calories I was SHOCKED to see how much I was eating every day. I would mindlessly grab something to eat every time I went into the kitchen, a few nuts, a candy, a little cookie, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but it was! So I am very thankful I did the four-month program. I learned a lot and I saw my habits beginning to change, little by little. I sure got my money’s worth and I ended up losing about 30 pounds those first four months.
The dirty secret the world doesn’t like you to know about is that SUGAR IS A DRUG. It’s incredibly addictive. It highly influences how you feel and why you eat. It gives mood swings and thinking problems, and sugar is EVERYWHERE today. The only way to break up with sugar’s influence in your life is to do the hard work. Fast sugar and break it’s hold on you. I experienced terrible cravings, I was angry at times, and I was moody all because I was detoxing from sugar. That process took me a LONG time! Not just 21 days, it took me months. Because even when I felt better and thought I was doing good, if I allowed myself to just mindlessly start eating some candy or cookies, I’d be hooked again and have those terrible cravings. I can’t even tell you what a difference it made once I finally got “clean”. Everything is better, how I feel, my emotions, my skin! It’s work to not eat sugar though, you do have to do a lot more of your own cooking from scratch, but it’s worth it. Now, two years later, I do still eat some sugar. But I don’t have sweets every day, and I don’t eat very much of them. I knew I had gotten to a good place when that sweet craving at night was more than fulfilled by eating and apple and I’m so happy about that!
My weight loss chart is not a just a downward arrow. It goes down, it goes up, it levels off. It actually levels off for long periods of time, I’ve encountered two four-month long plateaus in my weight loss journey. It could be very discouraging, but when you decide not to go back to the old ways, you don’t go back! And eventually the scale starts going down again. There were times I quit counting calories because I basically knew how much I was eating, but getting back to calorie counting helped me break through one of those plateaus. And it is worth it not to give up!
As I said, there is no secret pill or diet, but I can tell you how I have been living. Along with deciding that I was never going to go back to my old ways of life, I also had to decide that eating what was good for my body was more important than eating just what I wanted. You need a little of the eating what you want and enjoy it! But eating what your body needs takes priority. For me this meant a focus on vegetables and fruits. I will still eat lots of other things, but I need to make sure I’m getting the good foods my body needs! I don’t eat very much processed foods. I make a lot of my foods myself from scratch. And when I do eat out in Ukraine, the food in the restaurants are almost always prepared by a chef from scratch and nothing pre-packaged or frozen – which is a great advantage!
So, what do I eat? Typical breakfasts are low-fat plain greek yogurt with berries and a little squeeze of honey, or a banana with peanut butter, eggs, or oatmeal. For lunch, I try and do a green smoothie -which for me consists of about 3-4 cups of baby spinach, a frozen banana, a scoop of protein powder, and a handful of frozen berries. For a snack I have an apple, or some nuts, or low-fat cottage cheese, popcorn, or cucumbers and some hummus. Dinners are a wide range – lots of veggie heavy soups, lean meats with veggies, I love to make Thai curry, and eat sushi. So, I don’t eat a lot of carbs or bread anymore. I still eat some, but not tons. I still eat chocolate and when I do, I try to have that in the morning with my coffee (it doesn’t always work out that way, and that’s okay. Weight loss is a journey!) I still eat deserts, just not every day. I’ll eat one cookie, or a bite of something and savor it. BUT, since I broke up with sugar, I find most deserts and candy are too sweet for me anyway! Dark chocolate is where it’s at! I try not to drink any sugary drinks. I mainly drink just water (at least 2 liters a day), tea, and coffee (no added sugar). That also took me a while to get to that place of no sugar in my coffee, but I would never go back! A little splash of half&half is all that I need! I don’t drink soda, only on holidays. If I was in America I would drink a lot of LaCroix sparkling water, but that’s not available in Ukraine. I also don’t eat late at night (when possible). I’m typically done eating by 8pm. Also, you CAN learn to love new foods, like all those fruits and veggies you should be eating! I hated bananas my entire life. But, this year I started eating bananas and now I enjoy them!
My eating goes through seasons too. Sometimes I’m stricter when I’m trying to lose weight more rapidly, other times I take it slower and eat more. For now I’m still in calorie depravation. Someday I will be in calorie maintenance where I will be eating more calories just to maintain my weight. That’s basically what I did on this last trip to the States for six-weeks. I had a goal of just maintaining my weight and I was able to do that. America is hard with all your convenience foods! I also do regular fasting: first because God asked me too, secondly, I see how valuable fasting is sometimes just to take a day and remind my body and my stomach that they don’t get to control me!
Exercise. My basic exercise goals are just to have a healthy heart and to tone some muscles! I’d like my heart to be healthy, my arms to be toned, and my stomach to be flatter. So I exercise. The majority of my exercise is simply walking. Walking fast, but walking. Trust me, I work up a good sweat! I got a Fitbit a few months after I began this journey, and my goal became to walk 10,000 steps a day, which is about 4.5 miles. It does make a big difference. When I’m not walking outside, I’m walking inside my apartment with Leslie Sanone’s “Walk At Home” program. It is simple and easy, pretty much anyone can do it, and it works. It gets the steps in, it even tones my bum and my legs. I do some arm exercises, some ab work, and occasionally some pilates. It just makes the body FEEL so much better and stronger. So, my encouragement is just do whatever you like to do, walk, bike, dance, swim, cross fit, it doesn’t matter what as long as you get the blood flowing! I have to say walking is the best! That was also a good revelation for me because I thought I’d probably have to kill myself with some super intense exercise program (which maybe someday I’ll get to that point where I want to do that), but for now walking is great!
I’ve come a long ways, and it’s still not over. I’m not on a diet, I’ve changed how I live. I have no intention of going back. Yes, there are periods and seasons where I have slacked off some with my eating, but I get back to it. It’s just life, you fall down, you pick yourself up, you brush yourself off, and you keep going. Eventually, step by step, decision by decision I will get to my goal. The honest truth is that the decisions get easier the longer you’ve been consistently making them. It becomes your new nature. Just like the spiritual principles of putting on the new man in Christ, it gets easier and easier the more you make the little choices to live like Him every day. The journey towards a new healthy life has its joys and its hardships but the rewards are worth it. It’s helped me learn self-discipline for sure, as well as some more patience with my self. It’s all been worth it!
Living alone and living in Ukraine have both been to my advantage. I only have to cook to please me, and not a family. I’m also not surrounded by so much convenience and pre-packaged foods like in the USA, so I have to cook from scratch. Plus, we don’t have much fast food in Ukraine! BUT, let me say, once in a while you still need to get some McDonalds fries (like once every three months!) If you have a family, try and get everyone on the same page with you. It’s eating to feed your body what it needs, so everyone really can use more of that in their lives!
I hope at some point this year to get to the goal I’ve set for myself, which many people would still call “too big”. But I’ll be okay with it. It’s a jeans size that I can almost wear today and a number on the scale that I feel is manageable. So here’s to the journey! It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I truly never thought it was possible for me since I had tried and failed so many times in the past. But with Jesus, all things are possible. He solidified that decision in my heart that I was changed, He’s helped me keep making the little decisions for health every day, and because of Him, and encouragement from friends, I am where I am today and I’m extremely happy!
My quick tips for healthy living:
- Anyone can lose weight!
- Pray and make the decision that you are going to change for good!
- Count calories. Eat less than you are burning and you will lose weight.
- Eat food that your body needs rather than just what you want.
- Break up with sugar!
- Walk 10,000 steps daily
- Don’t eat late at night
- Drink lots of water – minimum of 2 liters a day.
- Pray a lot!
- Find a friend you can confide in and who can encourage you on your journey
- Enjoy those special foods, just not every day.
- Remember it’s a journey, so have grace for yourself! It’s full of choices and decisions, of ups and downs, of good days and bad days, of good seasons and difficult seasons, but in the end it’s worth every choice you make.
- It’s not always easy to see your progress, your mind doesn’t recognize the changes – so be sure to take photos along the way so you can SEE you are changing!
- All those decisions to live better will eventually become like second nature to you.
- Rejoice in the health you have been given, because with Jesus all things are possible!
Like I said, I have no secrets, there was no miracle cure. It was just deciding with Jesus that I was not going back to my old life. It’s simply being faithful to make the right decisions daily. And when I don’t, just get back up and go back to it. It’s just another part of my journey with Jesus where I’ve learned about His strength, and grace, His care for me, and His deep, deep love!
Here are a few of my goals that I rejoice about reaching over these past two years:
- Losing over 100 pounds
- Getting out of the 200s on the scale
- No longer having to shop plus-sized clothes
- Buying my first pair of American Eagle jeans. They never fit me before and I always wanted some! (*Although now I see they carry bigger sizes than I thought they did!)
Blessings to you and your journey of health!