For Alison Schultz, 2019 was the year to get healthy. She not only lost more than 50 pounds in 12 months, she quit drinking, too.
The 39-year-old mom of two daughters, ages 9 and 13, says she feels better than ever. Read on as this healthcare manager shares her story in her own words.
What Empowered Me to Change
When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I didn't think much about my weight. I was never skinny but I'm tall (5'10"), so I was used to being bigger than most women. I'm muscular, too, and always have been.
But in my mid-30s, my joints began to hurt from carrying extra weight on my frame, and a healthier lifestyle became important to me with our daughters beginning to grow and learn about health, too.
The other part was that I wanted to feel better, and that meant giving up alcohol and food as a way to cope with stress. I have a very high-stress career and I was addicted to alcohol, late-night eating and other unhealthy eating habits that paired with booze. I started to shy away from events where alcohol wasn't being served and started hanging out with friends who enjoyed drinking as much as I did. I kept blaming my unhealthy life on my stress. That was easier at the time than actually meeting my social drinking addiction head on.
It was shortly after my uncle passed away unexpectedly in January 2019 that I really drank to forget my pain. The grief that I felt hurt less when I was drinking. My husband told me he was worried, and I'll never forget the look on his face as he shared his fears. I realized then that my drinking had affected my whole family, and I was blown away.
I felt empowered at that moment to make a huge change in my life. I quit drinking and began adopting healthier eating habits and daily exercise, which helped to curb the desire to drink.
The Routine That Helped Me Lose the Weight
When I started changing my habits to get healthy, I weighed 273 pounds. I began walking and then running 45 minutes a day three to four times a week. At first, I hated it. I kept thinking to myself 'Why do people talk about enjoying this?'
I ran inside and out, depending on the weather. It took me one and a half months to get from walking to running, and I continue to train. I'll run farther distances or set my treadmill with incline changes to mix things up a bit.
The whole time, what kept me going was a workout playlist — a mix of songs from all genres. As long as the beat is there, I'd listen to it. I love it now! I just set my tunes, crank up the volume and focus on me. It's awesome.
"While I used to think about routine through a negative lens, I can say with complete certainty that routine has kept me on track with my fitness goals and healthier eating habits."
As for my diet, I'm not such a huge sugar-craver, so it was actually harder for me to stay away from the chips. It's still difficult sometimes, so I'll treat myself to a cheat day because, hey, everything in moderation, including moderation! I also added low-starch veggies and fruit and ate lean meat such as chicken and turkey more often.
In fact, my Monday through Friday diet is a bit like a record on repeat. And, while I used to think about routine through a negative lens, I can say with complete certainty that routine has kept me on track with my fitness goals and healthier eating habits.
Breakfast: A protein shake with sugar-free coconut-almond milk or chia pudding (2 tablespoons chia seeds, a half-cup of almond milk, splash of vanilla and a tablespoon of frozen raspberries)
Morning snack: An apple and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or two rye crackers with cream cheese
Lunch: Spinach, romaine or kale salad with chicken or turkey, a container of fresh-cut veggies and a small serving of hummus (2 tablespoons) or a quarter to a half cup of cottage cheese with pepper
Afternoon snack: Celery with low-fat cheese, a small handful of almonds or a hard-boiled egg
Dinner: A protein, like chicken, with a big green salad
Nighttime snack: An apple with peanut butter or no-added-sugar vanilla yogurt and a tablespoon of fruit
Today, I weigh 219 pounds and my goal is to ultimately get down to 200.
My Biggest Challenge: Curbing Late-Night Eating
I curbed the late-night eating by changing my routine and staying busy. I realized that when I would sit on the couch watching TV, I'd want to shove food in my face, so I started working out in the evening. I get right into my running gear as soon as I get home from work so that I'm motivated to get it done!
After dinner, I'll do some crocheting to keep my brain preoccupied if I'm watching TV. I find that these little crafts really help curb my desire to eat. I also use that time to organize my calendar for the week or look at healthy recipes or new healthy snack recipes to try. I know it sounds silly, but this helps me to avoid snacking constantly all evening. I also drink flavored tea in the evening straight up — no honey or milk or sugar.
How Meal Planning Has Helped Me Succeed
With a busy job, two growing kids and a farm, meal planning has been my saving grace. Sundays are meal planning day, and this sets the tone for the whole week. I don't stress because I know what's for supper every night, and I've got it in my calendar so I get digital reminders the night before in case I need to thaw meat for supper after work.
"Remember that the weight didn't add up overnight and it doesn't come off overnight either. A little bit of grit and grace will help you get through the tough days."
I work in another city three days a week, so I'm gone overnight two nights. I make casseroles ahead of time so that supper is easy and healthy for my family, too, even when I'm not there.
For lunches, I pre-cut a whole container of vegetables and hard-boil 18 eggs per week. They're super easy and healthy as a lunchtime snack, and my kids love them, too.
My Best Advice for Others
Find a strategy that works for you and don't feel pressured by what works for other people.
I also think it helps to have a strong support network, whether that's a friend, a spouse or co-workers to work out with.
And set attainable goals for yourself. My vision board keeps me on track. A year ago, I had envisioned living a healthier lifestyle, one that I wasn't ashamed of. I empowered my vision by researching how to achieve my goals through clean eating and exercise. My vision board today has the same foundational choices.
Finally: Remember that the weight didn't add up overnight and it doesn't come off overnight either. A little bit of grit and grace will help you get through the tough days.