Rachel Sharp had battled with her weight all her life and feared no diet or exercise regimen would ever work for her. It wasn't until she turned 26 and was tipping the scales at 236 pounds that she finally discovered the life-changing secret that would help her shed more than 100 pounds in a year — and keep it off.
Two years ago, Rachel was desperate, embarrassed and miserable with her body. She could barely exercise without feeling sick and was tired of having no confidence. After an ill-fated attempt to work out saw her hit rock bottom, she vowed to lose weight, get healthy and ultimately overhaul her life.
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Now at 136 pounds, the 5-foot-4-inch Rachel is sharing her incredible story with LIVESTRONG.com to reveal exactly how she got in shape, and how she maintains her healthy, newfound figure today.
The 'Horrifying Wake-Up Call' I Needed
Ever since I was a little girl I had struggled with my weight. I'd never been taught what the right and wrong things were to eat. I'd shied away from exercise because I was clumsy and I hated people looking at me. Over the years, the weight piled on and no matter what I tried I couldn't seem to shift it.
Then, in 2017, I went on a short hike with my boyfriend (who is now my fiancé). It was only 2 miles, and yet I could barely finish it. My feet were in agony, I was out of breath and I honestly thought I was going to be sick. It was the horrifying wake-up call I needed.
I was tired of being tired. I was tired of not loving myself and criticizing my body every time I looked in the mirror. I wanted to go on long hikes and walks with my boyfriend without feeling like I was going to pass out. I wanted to feel confident when I was in a room full of strangers instead of looking at the ground thinking they were all judging me on my weight.
I was motivated to finally make the change I had always attempted, but never pushed myself hard enough to succeed at. Enough was enough, and I was ready to do whatever it took to get healthy and actually stick to it this time.
"I was tired of being tired. I was tired of not loving myself and criticizing my body every time I looked in the mirror."
How Alternate-Day Fasting Helped Me Lose the Weight
I don't think there was a plan or diet I hadn't tried over the years, from calorie-counting and hitting the gym every day, to Jillian Michaels workout DVDs to Insanity. I'd even attempted the Hamburger Diet, where you just eat plain hamburgers for three days running. Prescription weight-loss pills hadn't worked for me either.
It wasn't that I was thinking "Why can't I lose weight?" I knew the real problem: When I didn't see results fast enough, I gave up on whatever I was trying.
This time, though, I'd reached a breaking point. Something had to change.
My boyfriend was doing intermittent fasting (IF), and I'll admit I was skeptical of it. It wasn't hugely popular at the time, and there were a lot of naysayers insisting it wasn't healthy to fast. But after reading an article by entrepreneur Sumaya Kazi, where she talked about losing 50 pounds through IF, I decided to go for it.
"I started my ADF journey on September 5, 2017, and one month later I was down 16 pounds. Within five months I was down 50 pounds, and within a year I had lost 98 pounds, and I just kept going."
There were a number of different methods of intermittent fasting, but I threw caution to the wind and opted for alternate-day fasting (ADF), which means I would only eat every other day, which I know can sound scary.
To begin with, I allowed myself up to 500 calories on my fasting days to help me ease into it. After the first week, I was able to go every other day, or 38 to 40 hours, without eating. I made sure I learned how to calculate calories and would eat between my basal metabolic rate — how many calories my body needs at rest — and my total daily energy expenditure, or how many calories I actually burned in a given day.
I began my ADF journey on September 5, 2017, and one month later I was down 16 pounds. Within five months I was down 50 pounds, and within a year I had lost 98 pounds, and I just kept going. Now I normally fluctuate between 136 and 145 pounds.
Keep in mind that alternate-day fasting and intermittent fasting is not for everyone. It may not be a sustainable diet plan for people with underlying health conditions, like type 1 diabetes, or if you're pregnant. It can also trigger disordered eating tendencies in those with a history of eating disorders. Talk to your doctor before trying a diet plan like alternate-day fasting, to see if it's suitable for you and your health needs.
My Alternate-Day Fasting Meal Plan
People always ask me what I eat on my "eat days," as perhaps they think I gorge. But I'm actually much more mindful about what I put in my body now.
A typical non-fasting day for me looks like this:
Breakfast at 10 a.m.: I love to break my fast with a serving of oatmeal, sprinkled with Swerve brown sugar, cinnamon and banana. If I'm on-the-go, then overnight oats with different flavors of Light & Fit brand yogurt is great.
Morning snack: I don't often find I need to snack when I've had a filling breakfast, but if I do get hungry, then I'll have popcorn or fruit.
Lunch at 12 p.m.: I'll have either a tuna wrap on an Xtreme Wellness tortilla with a side salad or a sandwich on zero-carb bread with a side salad. I like the salad because it adds lots of nutrients and fiber to keep me full.
"I was going from eating around 2,500 calories a day to fewer than 2,000 every other day, so it was a huge change."
Afternoon snack: I love 0% milk fat Fage brand Greek yogurt with some fresh berries thrown in. It's full of protein and probiotics and gives me the energy I need before I workout for the day.
Dinner at 6.30 p.m.: I'm normally done with dinner by 7 p.m. I never seem to make the same thing twice. But I do like making a lot of healthy chicken recipes, which I'll come up with myself or search for inspiration on Pinterest.
If I feel I need to modify anything to make it healthier, then I do so. The best thing with fasting is that as long as it fits within your calorie range, you can have it! I never count macros or limit myself.
The Biggest Challenge I Had to Overcome
I think I assumed that the most difficult thing would be getting through the days when I didn't eat anything. I went from eating around 2,500 calories a day to fewer than 2,000 every other day, so it was a huge change. But because I was so determined to change, somehow that wasn't the hardest part.
For me, the biggest challenge was finding my love for lifting weights.
I started adding physical activity about six months into my weight-loss journey. I would run on the days I wasn't fasting. When I had dropped 85 pounds, I began lifting weights, too.
When I began, it was something I just could not enjoy. I found it hard to lift and felt like I wasn't making progress. I couldn't see the calories I was burning, unlike when I was on a treadmill. As I pushed myself to continue and get more into it, though, the physical difference was apparent and I was hooked!
Now that I have gotten down to a healthy weight, I work out six days a week, lifting weights on my fasting days and running on my eat days.
Tracking My Progress Helped Me Succeed
I would have to say my results are what helped me to keep going. Every month I was losing weight and getting stronger and feeling healthier. I loved that feeling of seeing actual results for once when I struggled with it for so long before. It's what continued to push me forward and lead me to where I am today.
"You can't go into it thinking, 'This might work for me' and then give up after a couple days just because you aren't seeing results. It takes time and patience."
I took regular photos of myself, too, so I could have a record of before and after. When you see yourself in the mirror every day, it's difficult to see those changes. Even though everyone was telling me how well I was doing and how great I looked, it was hard to believe.
It probably wasn't until I got down to a size 10 that I realized just how much of a transformation I had made.
'Sticking With It Is the Only Way You Will See Real Change'
You have to go into this with 110-percent dedication. It's not easy — it's hard, and you will struggle on some days. If you don't give it your all, you won't stick with this method very long. It takes all of your willpower and motivation to stay with such a strict routine and schedule.
You can't go into it thinking, "This might work for me" and then give up after a couple days just because you aren't seeing results. It takes time and patience. I suggest you only weigh yourself once a month to keep from getting discouraged. But sticking with it is the only way you will see real change, as it is with any method of weight loss. Trust the process!
When you're fasting, use whatever distractions you need to keep your mind off food, whether it's Netflix, going for a walk, reading a book or listening to music. It's key to keep your mind occupied with thoughts other than what you want to eat.
Keep your fluid levels up to keep feeling full, and remember that you've got this!
Keep in mind that alternate-day fasting is often not a sustainable diet plan long term. You may be able to use alternate-day fasting for a certain period of time to reach your weight-loss goals, but it's often not doable for people to stick with forever. Talk to your doctor about the recommended time frame for you.