Like many people who were fortunate enough to keep their job in 2020, I was asked to work from home until further notice, starting back in mid-March.
I knew that this new way of life would last a while (it’s now July and our instruction to work from home remains). I also knew that this situation could have gone one of two ways for me:
- I could have wallowed, found comfort in binging TV and food, and put on lots of weight.
- Or, I could spend this new-found time and energy on my workouts, diet and general mindset towards health and food.
I chose Option 2. Option 1 would have become boring after a while anyway, and I’m the kind of person who needs a “mission” to be working on in order to stay somewhat sane.
After 3 and half months, I have lost 12kg. In addition to the 10kg I lost a short while back, I’ve lost a total of 22kg and am at the lowest weight I’ve been since… I don’t even know when. Probably high school. Not only have I lost 12kg in lockdown, but I’ve become very fit. I’m stronger. I’ve gone down two sizes in clothing and have treated myself to some online shopping as my wardrobe no longer fits.
Most importantly, I feel damn good. Not just because of the weight-loss, but because of how I proud I am of myself.
For sticking to something, for showing up for myself.
For saying enough is enough and actually doing something about.
Below, I explain how I did it, but I want to make it clear that every person and body is different. The things that worked for me may not work for you, but if you’re anything like me and you’re sick of constantly feeling bad about yourself, I implore you to at least start somewhere.
Below are my keep steps, which I’ll delve into:
1. I changed my mindset.
2. I chose a diet that worked for me.
3. I stayed calorie deficient.
4. I made exercise a non-negotiable.
5. I started (occasionally) Intermittent Fasting.
6. I found motivation on Social Media.
7. I continue to learn about health and myself.
8. I keep focusing on how far I’ve come.
1. I changed my mindset
Anyone who has ever wanted to lose weight and get fit will understand that one of the biggest hurdles we must deal with is our mindset. You have to really, really want something in order to stick to it long-term.
“Weight” has always been something that ruled my mind. Occasionally, I would be determined enough to do something about it, but that determination would taper off after a week or two. It really got to the point where I thought “this is it, this is how I’ll always be”.
Until one morning back in February, I woke up in a very dramatic manner. My eyes flung open. My heart was racing. I slammed my fists onto the mattress. I’d had enough. I didn’t WANT to constantly be worried about what I looked like. I didn’t want to constantly think about my weight. I was sick of feeling unhappy. I was angry that my confidence was obliterated. I hated that clothes didn’t look the way I wanted them to on me. I didn’t want to feel bad every time I ate too many calories. The whole thing had come obsessive, and I was exhausted.
I had reached my tipping point. And from what I’ve read about many other weight-loss journeys — most people get one.
I was exhausted, and over it. My desire to lose weight, get fit and healthy, and be the best version of myself (as lame as that sounds) had finally won the battle over my obsession with food, my constant binge eating, etc. I finally realised that none of the latter were worth the former. Not if I wanted to stop feeling the way I was feeling — the way I had been feeling for years and years.
I didn’t have to keep living like this. And so I stopped. Just like that.
2. I chose a diet that worked for me
One of the biggest changes I made was to start the keto diet. I have previously done a low carb / no sugar diet a few years back and had seen great results, however it had really felt like a diet and it was very restrictive. Keto, not so much.
I reduced my carb intake to 20g a day (some days I would go up to 50g but I would try and keep it as low as I could). I stopped having sugar. I drank a hell of a lot of water.
I continued to eat cheese, pizza (made of cauliflower), pasta (made from soy beans), burritos and fajitas (made with low carb wraps). I very rarely feel deprived on keto and will contiue with this diet until I achieve my ideal weight.
I personally find keto amazing. My energy levels are next level. I rarely feel sick or uncomfortable after I’ve eaten. I’m rarely hungry, and hunger used to rule my life. Keto is a great tool to use if you want to get into a caloric deficiency, which is needed to lose weight.
I chose keto because it’s a diet I can stick to long-term, until I reach my goal weight. Yes, I would love to eat a pizza or a giant bowl of pasta, but there are plenty of ways to fill those voids on keto. There’s alternatives for most carbs, especially in this day and age where low carb / keto diets are very popular.
I also allow myself once a month (sometimes two) to eat whatever I want. Keto be damned. KFC, pasta, pizza, bring it on. But the thing with keto is your cravings begin to stop. You no longer feel like those kinds of food, because you know how damn good you feel without it.
You realise it’s not actually worth it — that temporary pleasure isn’t really worth feeling lethargic and yuck afterwards.
Keto has changed my mind-set, and that is why it’s such a great diet for people who want to stick to something without feeling much deprivation at all.
3. I stayed calorie deficient
I absolutely love keto, but you can’t simply lose weight just with a keto diet alone. No matter what diet you’re on, whether you’re simply eating clean, doing Atkins, paleo, keto, etc — you need to be calorie deficient in order to lose weight.
Keto is great because once you cut out carbs, you’re automatically taking away huge chunks of calorie-heavy portions of your food. You’re incidentally reducing your calories.
The other great thing about the keto diet is that when it comes to temptation, eating foods that aren’t keto friendly make you run the risk of knocking your body out of ketosis. It can take a short while (sometimes a few days) to get back into ketosis (which is where you’re burning fat for fuel) and so that fact alone can usually stop you from caving in, rather than the potential calorie intake.
Once a month, for about 7 days, I count my calories. It’s not fun, and it can get pretty tedious. But when you’re first starting out on your weight loss journey (or a new diet), it can be very eye opening. Some of your large portions of daily calories can be coming from places you didn’t even realise, and every bit counts.
If you’re further along in your weight loss journey, it can still be good to track every now and then especially if you’ve reached a plateau. It can get you back on track.
4. I made exercise a non-negotiable
A week before we went into lockdown, I purchased an Apple Watch. And it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done (this isn’t an Apple Watch promo, I’m just a little bit in love with my gadget).
I’m a perfectionist, and the Apple Watch has “rings” you have to close everyday:
1. Close your Move ring by hitting your personal goal of active calories burned.
2. Close your Exercise ring by completing at least 30 minutes of activity at or above a brisk pace.
3. Close your Stand ring by getting up and moving around for at least 1 minute during 12 different hours in the day.
At the time of writing this, I’ve closed my three rings 130 days in a row. And let me tell you, there’s been days where the thought of a 30 min workout made me want to ball up into the fetal position and cry. There was one particular day after a BIG night of drinking… but I just didn’t want to ruin my streak. And so, to this very day, I persist.
As for what exercise I did?
I made sure I went for a walk at least 5 days a week, usually on my lunch break. At a brisk pace, for 30–60 minutes. Usually about 2–5km.
Secondly, I did a HIIT workout 2–3 times a week, and strength training 2–3 times a week too (alternating between legs, arms, back, chest, abs). The free workout videos from Heather Robertson on YouTube are incredible and I highly recommend, but there’s an abundance out there. You really don’t need to pay for quality workout videos.
As I watched my clothes loosen, my muscles grow and my general fitness improve, I started to become addicted.
I became addicted to the results, and I became addicted to the endorphins. I would sometimes exercise 3 times a day (I used to spend 2 hours a day commuting to work, so working from home has given me an abundance of free time). More than anything, exercise gives me a feeling of empowerment and an abundance of confidence. The more I exercise, the more I want to continue doing so!
One of my key tips to ensure you keep exercising is to make it fun (or at least tolerable. It is exercise, after-all).
- If you have the money, join some classes (if your city has allowed gyms to open back up). I joined ClassPass which gave me the option to go to different gyms and classes — HIIT, running, pilates, etc. I haven’t been able to do this during lockdown for obvious reasons, but I’m excited to get back into it.
- Choose videos with trainers and exercises that interest you. For example, Heather Robertson has videos with “no repeats” which is great for people who have a short attention span like me! I also like that she doesn’t talk throughout it, and there’s a countdown timer so you know how much longer you have to suffer for.
- Make amazing playlists — nothing can push you on more than music that you love. Mix it up, walk different tracks, go on hikes, just keep your mind interest so that your body benefits! I have different playlists for different moods or exercises. Cardio is upbeat dance, strength is music that makes me feel like a baller. Whatever music awakens your inner beast, get it cranking.
- Try new exercises — I recently discovered YouTube videos of HIIT dancing classes. It’s basically a HIIT workout disguised as dancing — I’m incredibly bad at it. I have no rhythm and can’t dance well to save my life. But I spend the whole time smiling, and 30 minutes of exercise goes incredibly fast. Plus… no planks.
5. I started (occasionally) Intermittent Fasting
Now that I can wake up at 9am to start work instead of 7am for my commute, intermittent fasting is a lot easier. Waiting until 12pm to eat isn’t as hard when you are awake for 3 hours instead of 5! I eat between the window of 12pm — 8pm.
I’m not strict with this — if I’m hungry, I’ll eat.
It is super important to me that I never let myself feel like this lifestyle makes me feel hungry or deprived, because that will trigger me into old habits.
But if I’m not hungry, I use IF as a tool to reduce my daily calories. Many people who do IF eat the same amount of calories per day, but eat in a specific window and use it as a digestion aid. I use it to cut out breakfast, give my body time to digest and get further into ketosis.
It depends what you want out of it, but it is a handy little tool with many benefits.
6. I found motivation on Social Media
I made an instagram account specific to my exercise and keto lifestyle, and followed 300 similar accounts. This has been a tremendous motivator for me, as well as a great learning tool.
Nothing makes me want to put on my exercise gear quite like watching 10 back-to-back stories of people working out and getting it done. Watching and learning from other people’s weight loss journeys has greatly helped mine.
Sometimes I flop onto the couch and spend 10–20 minutes watching and reading what these people have been up to. Their motivation fuels mine. They remind me of why I’m doing what I’m doing. I roll off the couch and into my sneakers, and get it done too.
7. I continue to learn about health and myself
I’m still learning about all aspects of fitness and health. I genuinely love it. I read articles, magazines and blog posts all the time (and I take everything I learn with a grain of salt — the web is definitely full of contradictions).
More importantly, I’ve been learning what works for me and my body.
I’ve learnt when to take it easy, when to eat a little more, and how my mind works. I’ve learnt what to eat, when to eat and what not to eat. I’ve paid attention to my thoughts and emotions so that I don’t stumble backwards. I don’t let myself feel deprived. If I go out with my friends and they’re all eating pizza, I’m going to eat a pizza. If I stay on track 90–95% of the time, that remaining 5–10% is only going to help me stay there.
8. I keep focusing on how far I’ve come
As I watch the scales go down and my clothes no longer fit, I’m stoked. As workout videos become easier, as I begin to lift more weight and run further, I’m stoked.
Being able to decline food that would push me out of ketosis or into a caloric surplus was rarely something I was strong enough to do, but I can do it now, easily. And the more I do it, the easier it becomes.
I’m so happy at where I’m at. I don’t want to go back to where I was, unhealthy and with low self-esteem. I want to keep feeling proud, strong and happy. I want to keep getting fitter, healthier and stop being ruled by food and hunger.
If you are sick of feeling down on yourself, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. You owe it to yourself to take back control and happiness and I promise it’s easier than you think, if you want it enough.