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How I lost 40+ pounds in a year and what I learned along the way

My roommate bought a scale for her bathroom. I would catch a glimpse of it each time I walked through the hallway, but I never really felt inclined to weigh myself. At the time, I wasn’t at a great place mentally, as I was enduring many personal problems, but physically, I felt okay. Just okay. I’d workout once a week, maybe every other week, maybe once a month, but I still moved my body, did everything I was supposed to do--I’d walk to classes, stretch in the mornings, make healthy dinners or choose healthy options at the dining halls, say “no” to brownies and other sweets. However, I just wasn’t feeling my best, felt weighed down by all the stress in my life. I remember very clearly that I felt tired.

Earlier that year, my family and I went to Disney World and for the first time in a long time, I felt insecure. I wore knee-high workout pants, loose tank tops, and tennis shoes, while every girl around me wore crop-tops and stylish leggings. I remember looking at photos taken of myself and shaking my head thinking, That’s not me, right? Because at that point, I hadn’t even realized my weight gain. And I’d look back up, look at the other girls and wonder why I didn’t look like that. Unfortunately, this comparison, this sudden shame, was one of the catapults for my journey.

I gave into the scale soon after. I slipped into my roommate’s bathroom as quietly as possible so no one would hear, and I weighed myself.

196 pounds.

I blinked a few times. Rubbed my eyes. I remember stepping off and stepping back on four more times, only to be faced with the same number: 196. 196. 196.

I hadn’t weighed myself in nearly a year, when I had weighed 162 pounds. So somehow, without my knowledge, I had gained nearly 40 pounds. It didn’t make sense. For a while, I tried to ignore it.

A competitive swimmer and waterpolo player in high school, I had exercised for two hours a day each morning for years, and even before that, I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t exercising almost daily. In middle school, I was in athletics and ran cross-country and even before that, I attended my mom’s boot-camp classes three times a week. I loved exercise--it was a part of me.

At 5’8, I weighed about 150 pounds for most of my life as a teenager and early young adult. Also, I should share that my body carries its weight equally--if I gain a pound, or lose a pound, that pound is shared between several parts of my body; my stomach, my legs, my face all lose, or gain, a fraction of that pound. This has been both a gift and a curse, as weight gain isn’t noticeable on me, but weight gain isn’t noticeable. It’s silent, seemingly appears out of thin-air.

A couple times in high school, I also embarked down weight-loss journeys, because weight would slip onto me quite easily, even at fifteen. The lowest I had ever weighed, after working out twice a day and portioning my meals, was 143.

A few weeks had passed since I first weighed myself when I weighed myself again. I weighed 201 pounds. Two days prior, I had experienced my first panic attack. So, I knew I needed change.

Some before and after photos!

I don’t remember the exact moment when I started on my journey. My first progress photo was taken on February 26th, 2020, but I remember having worked out before then as well. I remember beginning with yoga, about 30 minutes a day for a week. Shortly after, I discovered Kundalini yoga. Kundalini means “a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine”, and is a way of balancing chakras and prayana. I did one specifically for weight loss (and it was completely bizarre, I should note) for about two weeks. Surprisingly, it worked--I had already lost about 5 pounds. But more than that, I felt… calmer, as well as more energized, all at once. My mind had stilled, my body craved movement, the feeling of my muscles stretching and being used for the first time in many months one of the most refreshing experiences.

That’s when I discovered Popsugar--a Youtube channel for numerous different workout videos. Every day, I’d turn on a 30-minute video, barely finishing but still proud that I got up and did it, and this went on for months. At the beginning of April, I had lost nearly 20 pounds. And holy cow, I was thrilled. I entered my twenties feeling confident and secure in myself.

Yet, I didn’t lose another pound until that October, when I did KETO and miraculously lost 10 pounds in a month.

Between that time, I started Camp Gladiator (I did it three times a week and was only motivated because my dad bought it for me when I showed interest, but I had to workout three times a week. That was the trade-off.) as well as got into running and trained for my first 5k, which was in July. I didn’t finish that 5k, stopped at about 2 miles, but that was okay--it was progress. It was something. Running became something I craved daily, even after the 5k--the act of slicing through the air, the endless road outstretched before me… gosh, I felt infinite.

But I didn’t lose weight. And it was eating me alive--seeing the scale drift between 178 and 182. And soon enough, after everything I had been doing, I began gaining weight. After asking advice from a friend who frequently worked out, I dabbled in counting my macros. When that didn’t work, I tried counting calories and cooking healthier meals packed with more protein. But, nothing seemed to drop the pounds. For four months, I didn’t lose any weight. In fact, I rose to 184 and stayed there.

So, I went on a diet. KETO, to be exact. (You can read all about my KETO experience here.) I knew the connotation diets had. I knew they were frowned upon, especially KETO. That’s why, in a sense, I had avoided them for so long. But, I was running out of ideas to release the stubborn weight. I knew that the reason I hadn’t lost anything was because my body was comfortable, therefore I was maintaining, even gaining. The weight was seemingly afraid to let go--or maybe it was me afraid to let go. Whatever the case, I hoped KETO could help me. And it did--as I mentioned before, I lost 10 pounds in a month, dropping down to 174. I almost continued for another month--I was even planning on it, had gone grocery shopping for it days before--but instead, I did some self-exploration.

More progress photos!

Why did I want to lose more weight?

This was a question I had difficulty answering. My answers ranged from, “Because I’m still at the heaviest I’ve ever been” and “I want to look good” (this answer was followed with “Who do I want to look good for?” which I had no good response to, therefore this answer was invalid). I remember thinking to myself, My life won’t look any different whether I continue on this diet and drop more weight, or if I stop. I realized that it was society, social media, beliefs fueled by what others told me, that put this need to lose more weight in my head.

Therefore, I stopped.

Also, KETO made me tired. My love for running, as well as Camp Gladiator had to be temporarily put on pause, as every time I did either, I nearly collapsed in exhaustion. KETO, which deprives you of carbohydrates, your energy source, finds energy in your fats, therefore resulting in fat burn. As nice the weightless loss was, I no longer wanted my physical activity to be so difficult that I resented it, no longer craved it.

This was another decision that led me to slip into self-exploration: Did I want to go on a diet for weight loss, or did I want to continue moving, continue growing stronger, and lose weight in a more natural way? What truly mattered to me; weight loss, or movement?

I chose movement.

The photo on the left was taken before my official weightless journey when I just did yoga every once and a while.

Just after KETO, I practiced intermittent fasting and over the course of a month, lost four pounds. I really enjoyed fasting, as it was easy to do and I didn’t have to incredibly alter my eating habits. For the first week or so, I hated it, but shortly after, I fell into a rhythm. However, even while fasting, I hit yet another plateau. It was finally time to face my eating habits.

The truth is, I gained weight on healthy food. Did I eat pizza and pasta and brownies until I was stuffed? Absolutely, but not every day, not even every week. I ate salads, grilled salmon and veggies, protein smoothies, fat-free products and never bought unhealthy food from the store. And yet, I had still gained 40 pounds, when everyone around me who ate Poptarts for breakfast and Hot Pockets for dinner didn’t gain anything, or at least not to the extent as me. I soon realized that I actually had a fear of being hungry. Maybe fear is too strong of a word, but when I felt the slightest bit hungry, my hands work grow clammy, and all I could think about was the growing pit in my stomach. I didn’t realize this until I began intermittent fasting. That twisting of my gut, the growls and rumbles, the discomfort, the emptiness… it terrified me beyond end. Even if I wasn’t hungry and my eating window during intermittent fasting had passed, knowing I could no longer eat, realizing that I wouldn’t be able to snack on something if the munchies approached me late into the night, led me into a state of distress and even a panic one evening. That evening, I almost gave up--without food, I felt incomplete.

This was difficult to comprehend at first. In high school, I worked out for 2 hours a day, so when I stopped, those eating habits such as eating whatever I wanted in however many quantities I wanted, rose up to get me. I had no choice anymore; I had to face them. So, I ate extra healthy. Salads, no sweets, limited carbs, calorie counted, tried to drink a gallon of water every day for a week (this didn’t actually help—I just had to pee a crap ton, haha.) But, once again, nothing changed.

When I hadn’t lost weight for two months, I decided to stop weighing myself, as difficult as it was--the scale beckoned me each time I sauntered down the hallway. (I also slipped out of intermittent fasting.) I went running two-to-three times a week, continued doing Camp Gladiator three times a week, and ventured into an exploration of my connection to food. I was able to decipher what real hunger was, what real health was, and found a balance in the foods I ate.

I also stumbled upon Orthorexia Nervosa: the fear of eating unhealthy food. I’m not saying that I have this fear, but man, did learning about it help me tremendously with my eating habits.

I had never bought bread before, at least not bread I liked. I remember the first time I didn’t buy whole-wheat bread with protein and seeds; I picked up a bag of Oatnut bread, placed it in my cart, and my fingers clenched around the handles. Oh, how close I was to putting the bread back on the shelf. But, I didn’t--I carried on. That same shopping trip, I bought frozen tamales, brownie mix, a bag of chips, and some dark chocolate chips, alongside my usual healthy ingredients. It wasn’t that I decided to eat unhealthy, rather decided to buy the foods that I wanted. If I didn’t want carrots, I didn’t have to get carrots (this is how I found my love for cucumbers). If I didn’t want a healthy dinner of grilled salmon and veggies, I could eat some frozen tamales. And that was okay. It was hard to comprehend that eating what I wanted in the moment was an okay thing to do. But overtime, I eased into it, allowed the cravings to guide me, healthy or not while still being mindful of whether I was hungry, or bored. (In fact, a couple nights ago, my roommate and I ordered Little Caesars and I had a total of six slices of pizza--absolutely no shame at all, because Little Caesars is delicious.)

Every once and a while, I will follow my “unhealthy” cravings, and other times, I eat salad, I eat spaghetti squash with lean turkey, I eat quinoa fried rice, hearty soup, and not because I should, but because I like it. Isn’t that just bewildering? I eat healthy foods because I crave it. Probably one of the biggest lessons I learned surrounding food while on this journey is: Eat food that makes you feel good. Eventually, you’ll notice that you may actually want healthy food that you once despised.

And this is not to say that I no longer feel food guilt, no longer beat myself up for indulging in half a pan of brownies or finishing my plate at a fancy restaurant even though I’m full because I don’t want to waste $20. But how much simpler life is, to listen to myself, to my cravings, to my body. Because let me tell you--there are many times when I crave a salad (and I still have no idea why), so I eat a salad, and there are some times when I crave pizza, so I eat pizza. It’s a balance.

All this time, I continued running, continued exercising five to six days a week (I take breaks every Sunday or whenever I’m feeling too sore) and all the while, didn’t weigh myself. Until last week. And I weighed 157.

157. 157. 157.

I didn’t understand it. Couldn’t understand it. In about two months, I had lost about 8 pounds from when I last weighed myself, and the only thing I did was add unhealthy food to my diet, comfortably. The only thing I did was not obsess about my weight, about my food choices.

I forgot to mention that my weight goal at the start of my journey was 160, or losing 40 pounds. And I surpassed it without even noticing.

While a weight loss journey may seem simple on the outside and meant only for specific people--the act of shedding pounds, getting ripped, comfortably wearing shorts, looking hawt--there is so much more brewing under the surface, hence my desire to write this post almost like a diary intended for those who also want to embark on a journey, or are already on one, and perhaps don’t know what truly happens when you lose weight. Who don’t know all the things that really happen behind the scenes.

I didn’t even mention the fact that I had to come to terms with my body. When I lost the weight, my figure emerged after having been hidden for a year. My hip bones protruded, as well as the curvature of my ribcage, and I realized that I would never be smaller than I am now. Of course, I could continue losing fast, gain muscle and tone, but I would never be a small girl. I would never have a thigh-gap, a skinny frame, a cute and tiny physique. Because even now, I am still larger than many girls I know. And I had to be okay with that. Still, I have to be okay with that. Because this is my body--this is me, uniquely and beautifully. And while working out shapes you, there’s only so much shaping you can naturally do.

Losing weight will force you to look at yourself like you’ve never looked at yourself before. You have to ask yourself hard questions, such as, “What is this all for?” You’ll have to face your fears, your doubts, your insecurities, and you’ll have to overcome them, at least a little. You’ll have to push yourself past what you think is possible. You’ll have to ignore the negative thoughts, put your mind over matter, let your feet guide you down that open road.

I completed a 5k, the first 5k I’ve ever completed. In a few months, I will be running my first 10k.

At my heaviest -> completing my first 5k.

To think back on a year ago, when I could barely complete a yoga video, when my anxiety heightened, when I was enduring several personal problems that resulted in losing two friend groups at once, when the pandemic struck and I wasn’t sure if I would see my family again, when I had to rise from my bed and make a change because I knew if I didn’t, it would worsen…. One might say that I’m proud.

I can comfortably say that I’ve never felt more confident, more aligned in myself, more connected to my emotions, more emotionally and physically strong, than I do right now.

These photos are about 10 months apart. The one on my right is me completing my first 5k!

While this probably isn’t quite the post you may have been expecting, I knew I wanted to be raw here. Real, truthful. I didn’t want to give tips and advice because every journey is different, every journey is deeply personal and will take time to unfold, will take your own, personal strength to venture into.

However, I will give one piece of advice, at least one: Consistency is key. You’ve probably heard this before, but in a weight loss journey, this, in my opinion, is incredibly important. If I hadn’t tried to workout every day, regardless of what the workout was, I most definitely wouldn’t be here, writing this post about my 40+ pound weight-loss journey.

Find a workout that you like--it doesn’t matter what it is. Running, walking, yoga, dancing, boot-camp, spin-cycle, anything at all. And do it. Every day, or six times a week, or even three times a week. All you need, really, is something to get you excited, something to get you going, and enough self-motivation to stay consistent, show up for yourself, and traverse into the strangely beautiful, occasionally problematic, oftentimes vigorously challenging journey of weight-loss, and health.

If I can do it, you can do it. And I believe in you.

Probably running, or munching on pizza, Brittney

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