LIVESTRONG.COM username: Bdennison1585
Member since: July 2017
Age: 32 | Height: 5'6"
BEFORE Weight: 200 | Pant Size: 14/16
AFTER Weight: 130 | Pant Size: 2/4
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
I was always active as a teen. I played softball, volleyball and basketball. I also liked to lift weights. I was always on the heavier side and would get made fun of quite frequently. It was hard enough being heavier, but I also wore glasses and would get teased about that as well. When I was in grad school, I realized my weight had crept up. Having two children 23 months apart didn't help. I ran in college with a friend, but paid little attention to my diet. I hit my highest weight in 2017 and knew I needed to do something about it. Not only for myself, but I wanted to set an example for my daughters. I went from being a working mom of one to a stay-at-home mom of two. My job had kept me active, but I was eating more while I was breastfeeding, and that did not stop when I cut back my working hours.
I hated pictures, I did not enjoy attending family or social functions, and I was not comfortable with myself. I was addicted to sugars and turned to food for comfort. There was a strain on my marriage as well, because I was not even comfortable with my husband. A typical day of eating consisted of carbs, refined sugars, processed foods, microwave meals or eating out. My health was also impacted. I had zero energy, my monthly cycle was irregular, I was depressed, grouchy and would want to sleep after eating my meals. I had gestational diabetes with both my pregnancies and borderline high blood pressure. My joints would hurt, and I had no desire to exercise.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration for making a change?
I started my fitness journey in the spring of 2017. At Easter dinner, a family member asked when I was going to pop. My youngest daughter was eight months old, and I had not been pregnant for quite some time. I was horrified and knew I needed to make a change. I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. There I found some helpful advice but also some not-so-helpful advice. I am not proud to admit that I tried an egg diet/sugar cleanse for two weeks. I knew enough about nutrition to know what was suggested was not sustainable, but I look at this as my sugar-detox phase, because I did decide to completely stop eating sugar cold turkey. It had gotten so bad prior to this that I was hiding food, eating things in the middle of the night and then feeling terrible afterward.
After the initial two weeks and losing 12 pounds, I decided I wanted something more. I recalled a friend telling me about the 21 Day Fix containers. I thought I would give that program a try. I bought the containers and went back to Pinterest. I found all sorts of charts and information and did that for a while. This really did help me learn portion control. I realized how little I actually needed to eat to feel full for longer periods of time. I continued this for about two months. I was down an additional 20 or so pounds. During this time, I also started doing a 20-minute workout DVD at home. I did this DVD six days a week and would try to walk every day with my kids.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
In July 2017, I decided I wanted to have more of an idea of how many calories I was consuming and what my macros looked like. I remember looking at different apps for calorie tracking and reading different reviews. I downloaded a few, and over a couple days I decided to use LIVESTRONG.COM's MyPlate app. It was just what I was looking for — convenient, programmable and had a barcode scanner, which made food tracking much easier.
After using the app for about a month, I discovered the community boards. Game changer! Until now, my only support came from my best friend, who would encourage me to keep at it and listen to me complain and struggle. The community was a very welcome tool! I asked questions, but really I would read and listen to what others were saying and suggesting. This is what lead me to JERF or "just eat real foods." I also learned about intermittent fasting and saw several users' before-and-after pictures. I was even more dedicated and motivated to continue. After a while I saw a drastic change in my weight. I hit my maintenance weight in December of 2017.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
I had been working out five to six days a week using mostly at-home DVD programs that were 20 to 30 minutes long. They were basically HIIT-style workouts. In January, through some recommendations from the MyPlate community and fitness articles, I changed my program. I started more weightlifting and less intense HIIT. My typical workout routine now consists of 20 to 30 minutes of cardio five days a week. Usually I will use a cardio DVD, do plyometrics or walk or run. I lift two or three days a week and do yoga one day. I do take one day of rest and only do leisure activities. My routine adapts as needed, but I stick with something four to six weeks before I make adjustments. I tend to use my cardio DVDs as a warmup before lifting. I always do about five minutes of ballistic and static stretching after my workouts. I like compound lifts and body-weight exercises.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
On Monday I do a 45-minute cardio and core workout. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday I start with a cardio warmup and then lift for 60 minutes. I work a different part of my body each of those three days. On Thursday I do cardio and a 45-minute HIIT workout. Saturday I do yoga and core work, and Sunday I rest. The lifting program that I follow right now is one designed by the International Weightlifting Association.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
I follow a moderate-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. I achieved the majority of my weight loss using low carbs and high fat, but as my fitness goals changed, so did my diet and my macros. I was eating low-carb and hit a stall in my weight loss. I wanted to lean out a bit, and, after a lot of research, I decided to up my carb intake slightly. I discovered I have some food sensitivities that I didn't have before and some that I had before that I no longer have.
Adding carbs back after being low-carb was a challenge. I had to learn to increase complex carbs while avoiding simple carbs. I still don't meet my goal for carb intake every day, and I cannot seem to manage to hit the recommended level for the program I am following. I average between 75 and 130 net carbs a day, with an average of 20 to 35 grams of fiber. I would like to get my sugar intake below 25 grams, however, right now I aim to keep it below 50 grams, since I tend to eat fruit occasionally.
I still do intermittent fasting, so for breakfast I have Bulletproof Coffee with one tablespoon of coconut oil. Occasionally I will do one tablespoon of butter and a small amount of half-and-half or heavy cream. I usually eat my first meal around lunch, and it is large! I love breakfast foods. I usually have oatmeal with berries and ground flax with a little butter, a string cheese and a side of meat or one or two eggs.
Usually around 3:30 p.m. I have a protein, a veggie and a fat. I'll typically snack on chicken, tuna, lunch meat or yogurt with a lower-carb veggie.
For dinner I have a protein, a fat source and two to three servings of vegetables. If I am still hungry in the evening, I will have a protein smoothie. This usually consists of whey protein with almond or coconut milk, flaxseed, chia seed and spinach or power greens. I was only eating twice a day, but my new program recommends six smaller meals, so I try to eat more often. Some days I only eat three meals.
Some days I do not feel hungry, and I tend to eat less — some days I am a bottomless pit! I try to eat real foods, and I track everything. Every bite adds up. There are so many alternatives out there for comfort foods that most of the time you can still have your favorite dishes. For me, once I stopped having the junk, I stopped craving it. When I would have it, I didn't enjoy it as much. One thing that I have found to work well for me is if I'm craving something for more than a couple of days, I will allow myself to have a reasonable portion. I love barbecue chicken, pizza, French toast and cinnamon rolls. However, I have also adapted these to be healthier choices rather than sugar-packed meals.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
I started out with a daily goal of 1,200 calories and would add an estimated 200 more to compensate for the calories I burned through exercise. I left the macros to default. I bought a heart rate monitor in December and realized I was underestimating my calorie burn and was also too low with my calorie goal. Maintenance level was around 1,500 calories for me, and I was burning an average of 300 calories per day, so 1,800 calories a day is what I would aim for. When I changed my program in January, I also upped my calorie goal because my plan was to increase muscle and decrease fat. I settled for an 1,850 daily goal, with a daily average burn of between 300 and 500 calories. This means that I usually eat over 2,000 calories. I find that days I do more cardio, I am hungrier. Days I don't work out, I eat at maintenance.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
In my kitchen, I always have almond milk, coconut oil, flax, chia seeds, quinoa, canned meat, canned and frozen veggies, eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, whey and berries. I try to buy fresh produce and fruits weekly. I also plant a garden every year and have several home-canned and frozen items available year-round. My family tends to have a pig and a cow butchered yearly or biannually, and we hunt and fish. I have fruit trees on my property and wild blackberries.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
I usually grocery shop once a week for the fresh items and any items I am out of, but typically the big grocery trip is every two weeks. I tend to plan out my meals the day before, but sometimes it's just what I have available. I pack lunches when I work, and we only eat out on occasion.
LIVESTRONG.COM: Were there any supplements that you took during your journey?
I take a multivitamin, vitamin C and omega-3. I sometimes use vegan protein powders or whey protein. I like pancakes, and protein powders are a great substitute for the batter.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge I faced was myself. I had to battle my mind. I still do. In the beginning I had to remind myself what would happen if I quit. I wondered if I could actually stick with it this time.
Once I started seeing the progress, it became addicting, but there are still days that I would rather not work out. Those days, I look back at before pictures and pictures of my girls, and I am at least motivated enough to do it.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Don't reach for what's easy and convenient! Read labels and know what you are eating before you eat it. I believe that sugar is bad and that there is nothing nutritionally sound in some of the prepackaged foods available. If you have children, you are their role model. You do their grocery shopping, and you must make wise decisions. It was a battle, but once I learned to overcome my own obstacles it got easier. My best advice is to find what will keep you dedicated and stick to it. It's not one-size-fits-all. It all begins with the first step!
LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
Prior to my fitness transformation I was unable to go more than two or three hours without eating. My sugar and carb addiction had my body in a vicious cycle. I would spike my blood sugar and then experience a crash and feel shaky with a headache, sometimes a migraine. I would be forced to eat on a schedule to avoid those things. This meant a lot of times I would just eat because I was trying to avoid those symptoms. This likely only added to my weight increase. Now I can go 16 to 20 hours without any difficulty other than feeling hungry toward the end of a fast. My body is no longer shackled by the sugar spikes. I no longer experience the dreaded coma-like state following a large meal. I never experience 2 p.m. fog. I have more energy, less pain, my endurance has improved, my blood sugars and blood pressure are normal and I can do things I didn't think I could ever do again.
Over the past year I have not only transformed my body, but also my mind. I am still a work in progress, but aren't we all? We should never really be finished. Set higher goals, make better choices, live happier! I still use the MyPlate app to track my foods and participate in the community. It is a great resource and has been beneficial in my weight-loss and fitness journey. I recommend it to those who inquire about my success. I am excited to see where my new life takes me. I didn't change, I just found myself! I rediscovered the woman I always was inside. Now I'm starting to feel more confident about the outside too!