How one woman kept the pounds off for good. Image by: Genia Shapira
Learn lessons from one woman's long-time weight-loss success story to help you stay on track with maintaining your healthy habits.
Healthy and positive changes
Lisa saw a poster for a boot camp exercise class and signed up on the spot. She'd never done anything like it before, but she stuck with it. "I started at the back of the class and I got winded in no time—I couldn't even do one pushup on my knees." Slowly but surely, Lisa lost 50 pounds and, today, at age 50, has gone from a size 14 to a size 8. "I've never been in better shape," she says. "I feel strong and healthy, and my back rarely bothers me anymore."
In addition to building regular exercise into her weekly schedule, Lisa changed her eating habits. "Before, I ate out a lot and had greasy breakfasts every Friday with people from work, but I stopped doing all that. I don't eat out during the week, I eat smaller portions at every meal and I have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast Monday through Friday." Still, Lisa doesn't deprive herself. "If I want dessert, I'll have it, but I'll have a smaller serving or share it," she says. She's also come up with a strategy to conquer her weakness for anything salty. "I could sit down and eat a big bag of chips no problem, so I just don't have them in the house."
Commitment is key
Lisa says her secret to losing the weight—and keeping it off—has been the fact that she never misses a fitness class. Twice a week, for one hour at a time, she practises a vigorous routine of squats, lunges and burpees. "Even when I go on vacation, I do my own version of the workout," she says. "I may not push myself quite as hard, but I still do it." The lasting friends she's made in the class have helped her stay motivated. "For me, going to the gym and trying to do it on my own never worked. I've met some great, supportive friends. We encourage each other to do better and will tell each other, ‘One more pushup. You can do it!' "
After Lisa got into a routine of going to boot camp, benefits beyond weight loss became clear. For her, exercise became as much about relieving stress as it did about staying fit. And to help keep herself motivated through the years, she gives herself new challenges. "My goal this year is to try to do pull-ups. I continually challenge myself with new goals."
A bump along the road
When it comes to healthful eating, being realistic has helped Lisa maintain her habits over the long term. If she were to deny herself the things she likes, it would only set her up for failure, she believes.
Despite her success, there have been some setbacks. A pinched nerve in Lisa's neck kept her out of boot camp for months, and a bit of weight crept back, but as soon as she was physically able, she jumped right back in. "I don't ever want to go back to the way I was before. I love going to boot camp, and once those endorphins kick in, I can just go and go," she says.
"One thing my trainer said that always sticks with me is: 'Your body can do this; it's your mind that wants to stop.' That's what keeps me going, no matter what."
Secrets to success
Weight loss isn't about losing 10 pounds in 10 days, says Laura Jackson, a personal trainer and cofounder of Fit Chicks in Toronto. "It's about making positive, healthy lifestyle changes." Which is exactly what Lisa did.
Make it sustainable
Consistency is huge, says Jackson, so Lisa's commitment to her program and her network of gym friends are big factors in her success. "If you surround yourself with like-minded people, they can support you on days when you're not feeling up to it." Although Lisa's boot camp is a great way to lose weight because it combines cardio and strength training, Jackson recommends talking to your doctor about trying a lower-intensity workout if you do get sidelined by an injury. "I'm a big believer in walking," she says. "I wear an old-school pedometer. Ten thousand steps a day is eight kilometres, which is 500 calories burned—a measurable target helps keep you accountable."
Eat well and enjoy it
Jackson applauds Lisa for paying more attention to portion size and starting her weekdays off with a healthful breakfast. When it comes to nutrition, Jackson recommends the "complete in three" rule, meaning every meal should contain fibre, fat and protein to keep blood sugar balanced. The fibre in Lisa's oatmeal is good, but Jackson suggests giving it a boost with Greek yogurt and nuts or seeds, which contain healthy fat and protein that will give her energy and keep her feeling full longer. As for Lisa's occasional indulgence? "I think it's awesome," says Jackson. "It's important not to deprive yourself. And labelling food 'good' or 'bad' is dangerous. As soon as you put food in the ‘bad' category, you're just going to want it more."
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This story was originally part of "Lose It For Life" in the February 2016 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!