I've always been an active person, but when I gained 15 pounds after getting an IUD, I had to get real about my diet and workouts. I hired a personal trainer at Equinox, and remarkably, she didn't tell me to download a calorie-counting app or work me until I dropped. Her tips for weight loss proved to be practical and therefore achievable. I lost four percent body fat in three months and felt stronger than I ever have in my life. I now can squat and deadlift my weight! I can fit in my skinny jeans again. The thing is . . . I did have to makes some big changes to my daily routine to lose the weight, and now there's no going back.
1. Strength Train With Cardio
Before Equinox, yoga was my main form of exercise. Though I was going five days a week, I didn't feel like I was getting stronger. Enter my personal trainer. She recommended strength training as my number one priority followed by cardio. I strength trained two to three times a week and did cardio two times a week (usually on the StairMaster). For my active rest days, I did yoga or Pilates two times a week. I also started walking an upward of seven miles several days a week.
2. Challenge Myself at Every Workout
My trainer encouraged me to increase the weight I lifted almost every week, even just a smidge, like two pounds. I resisted at first. After all, over the holidays, I broke a capillary in my eye from lifting too much weight. However, my trainer started me out with low weights and slowly increased the amount. I surprised myself by how quickly I was able to keep up and even found myself asking for more. The same rule here applies for cardio, yoga, and Pilates. I find a little way to challenge myself each time, whether it is increasing the mileage, holding side plank for longer, or perfecting my 100 series with straight legs.
3. Cut Out Sugar
Working out is only part of the equation. Diet is even more important, my trainer told me. I had to break my sugar addiction. I decided to stop cold turkey: no sugar, honey, agave, etc. Though some people say it's the worst thing ever, saying "no" to sugar countless times throughout the day helped me feel strong, like I was in charge — not my cravings. I also had to pay attention to nutrition labels and avoid anything with more than four grams of sugar. Dried fruit, as it turns out, is a sugar bomb! As are smoothies from smoothie joints. Sugar lurks in many unexpected places.
4. Choose Protein and Fat Instead of Carbs
If unchecked, I will eat over 50 percent of my calories in carbs. But that wasn't really working out for me. Though challenging, I reframed my meals so they consisted of mostly protein and healthy fats. I would have bulletproof coffee and smoked salmon with avocado for breakfast rather than a bowl of cereal or oatmeal. For lunch, it's veggie-chicken soup or salads loaded with diced chicken or canned tuna. Dinner consists of baked fish, steak, or chicken with a plate full of vegetables (usually roasted broccoli). During the in-between times when I was hungry, I skipped my usual snack of dried fruit or crackers and make a protein shake (Moon Juice Blue Adaptogen plus water) or ate a spoonful of raw almond butter instead.
5. Stop Drinking Alcohol
Over the last year, I started drinking more days out of the week than not — usually just one to two drinks, yet it was enough to cause me to put on the pounds. While weight training, I discovered that even one drink would cause my DOMS to flare up and last for days. However, if I didn't drink, I could recover very quickly, usually within a day. Though I am not 100 percent dry, I always seem to regret drinking the next day, so I've cut way back and reserve drinking for special occasions.
6. Schedule My Carbs For Before and After Workouts
"I lost 10 pounds just by scheduling my carbs around my workouts," my friend told me. Inspired by that, I wanted to follow suit, and my trainer supported that mentality. I would eat brown rice, whole-wheat crackers, fruit, potatoes, and beans before or after a workout and limited my carb intake the other times of the day. If, in the afternoon, I experienced a huge slump (and protein/nut butter didn't help), I'd have a small serving of plain popcorn for a little boost.
7. Cook Mostly at Home, but Plan For Meals Out
I prepared almost all my meals at home and kept things simple. I kept the kitchen stocked with frozen meat, canned tuna, and vegetables galore. I used an Instant Pot to make big batches of brown rice, oatmeal, beans, and lentils on Sunday to last me through the week. That said, my trainer said it's OK to have one off day of the week where you may indulge in the bad stuff, whether it be a cocktail or tortilla chips with dip, fries, a cheese plate, etc. So, six out of seven days, I'd have an A+ diet, while the seventh day, I might indulge in a slice of pizza or an IPA. I found letting loose (just a bit) and having a cheat day helped me stay on track and feel balanced.