In 2011, I moved from Australia to the USA where I gained 30 pounds within the first nine months. As a personal trainer and health coach, I was devastated.
Even though I'd helped many clients lose weight, doing it myself was much more difficult than I anticipated. For anyone who has lost weight — or has weight to lose — I now understand how lonely, frustrating and demoralizing that journey can be.
In my desperation to regain the body I once had, I turned to extreme diets and exercise routines. I felt trapped by the rules of the weight loss industry: Do this. Don’t do that. Eat this. Never eat that.
The irony is that the “rules” I was following were actually harming my metabolism, my fitness and my social life. It got to a point where I didn’t want to go out with friends for fear of "falling off the wagon."
During this time, I was engaged and as my wedding date approached I realized something had to change. My ability to lose those extra pounds was dependent on breaking the rules and reconnecting with my own body’s wants and needs, and I'm thrilled to say that I now live at my ideal weight and love my body more than ever.
There are many paths to successful weight loss and there's no one right way of doing things for every person. This is my personal experience and I'm not suggesting these same habits will bring you the same results. Rather, I hope to encourage you to look past conventional wisdom and become attuned to what your own body needs to thrive.
Rule #1 Busted: I waited for hours before eating breakfast.
Most of us have been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, once I started listening to my body, I realized I wasn’t hungry early in the morning and instead preferred to eat a few hours after waking, usually post-workout.
What I noticed: Delaying my first meal improved my digestion and energy levels throughout the day, and decreased my tendency to snack.
Tip: If you're like me and prefer a later breakfast, make sure to choose a balanced and healthy meal. Don’t wait until you're starving and reaching for the nearest donut!
Rule #2 Busted: I added in steady-state cardio.
Steady-state cardio has received much criticism in recent years. In fact, some fitness experts have suggested that this form of exercise could actually make you fat! However, when I swapped my regular cardio sessions for short bursts of high intensity interval training, my overall fitness levels dropped but my weight did not.
What I noticed: Since returning to longer cardio sessions, I feel fitter, healthier and happier. I’ve also found that this form of training provides me with a sense of mental calm I don’t experience during high intensity workouts.
Tip: A well-rounded exercise routine should include a combination of high intensity interval training and steady state cardio, balanced with resistance training.
Rule #3 Busted: I returned to carbohydrates.
Diets assume that every person will benefit from eating the same kind of food, a statement that is absolutely not true. I tried a myriad of diets — everything from cutting out carbohydrates to counting calories — and none of them made me feel healthy.
What I noticed: While many people may benefit from a diet that reduces or eliminates carbohydrates, my body thrives on whole grains, vegetables and fats with just a small amount of animal protein.
Tip: Never cut out a macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) simply because other people are doing it. Keep a food-mood journal to track what foods make you feel energized and happy, and what foods make you feel sluggish and grumpy.
Rule #4 Busted: I stopped denying myself.
It’s interesting that my weight loss occurred once I stopped taking things out of my healthy routine (such as steady state cardio and whole grains) and started adding them back in. I decided to take this one step further by allowing myself to eat anything I wanted, guilt-free.
What I noticed: Once foods stopped being “off-limits,” I no longer craved them, and when I did eat these treats I was satisfied with a much smaller portion because I knew I could always have more. Learning to listen to my body’s wants rather than relying on willpower proved to be the most effective strategy in my weight loss (and weight maintenance) journey.
Tip: Basing 80% of your meal around healthy vegetables, grains, fats and proteins will mean that you fill up on good food first and won’t be tempted to overeat the treats.