My Weight Loss Story

Body Image, Core Challenge, Health & Fitness

I want to preface this post by saying that never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sharing my weight loss and fitness journey with so many. It is an incredibly humbling experience and one that I am forever grateful for. To this day, when I look in the mirror I am amazed, proud, and impressed with myself. While I am my own worst critic and see areas that I want to improve in (be it nutrition or physical), I am happy with my progress and I continue to persist and fight for myself in this health and fitness journey.

NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED

My weight loss journey began in 2014. The story, successes, peaks, and valleys that followed have become an integral piece of the fabric of my life, and by extension my blog, my personal style, and overall how I view myself. Because this is such an essential part of my story as a person, I want to share more details about that journey and answer some questions that I’m frequently asked when sharing this part of my life.

Not a day goes by where I don’t think about the journey that I’ve been through. I think of it when I pull out old clothes that are too big, I think of it when I eat a cookie, I think of it when I workout. It will forever be a part of my personal story and a part of the fabric that makes up who I am.

Often I hear myself say qualifiers like “that was before I lost weight” or “that was after I lost weight.” When I say those statements around folks who have met me within the last 3 years there’s a look of confusion because many times they don’t realize that I used to be more than 70lbs heavier. My weight loss journey has been such a defining moment in my life and that experience has been such a pivotal time for me that it is hard to not see things as “before” and “after.” I want to continue being the “after” (which is a never ending journey), and persist with fighting the good fight for my health.

BEFORE THE WEIGHT LOSS

First, I want to give you a little insight into my personal life: I’m an only child and as such, have been spoiled rotten. Growing up, this extended to my eating style because I was an incredibly stubborn and picky eater. We ate out a lot at both sit down and fast food restaurants and the meals that were cooked at home were often very carb-heavy (think pasta, bread, etc). I don’t recall ever being taught the difference between proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, nor do I recall any discussions specifically about eating right – it was mostly just that sweets were bad. Though my eating wasn’t always healthy, I was a very active child. I took dance lessons starting at the age of 3 (ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, modern, pointe, lyrical, and Irish), and continued through high school. In junior high and high school, I also added basketball and golf to my repertoire.

I was never overly large when I was growing up, at least nothing that anyone was concerned with. My doctor always said I’d grow out of my baby fat and I anxiously waited for that day, but it never seemed to happen… However, weight was always at the forefront of my mind. As a dancer, the need for a dancer’s body was always there. One of my dance instructors even named my tummy pooch at one point so we could have a name she could say to me in class so I’d know that meant to “suck it in”. I remember attempting multiple types of diets in my teen years and twenties to get rid of it. From Atkins to South Beach to different diet pills and shakes, I tried a good portion of the fads from 2003-2013.

I’m often asked what led to my weight gain. I don’t know that it was any one thing, but after much reflection, I think it was a combination of multiple factors:

  1. Genetics: I have always been taller and physically larger than most of my peers. If you look at some members of my extended family you will find that this is true too, though my parents are petite people.
  2. Eating: I don’t recall ever being educated on what a balanced diet looked like or what a protein, carb, and fat was. Sure, I knew what the food pyramid was, but how did that fit into my life? I literally had no idea about nutrition or proper portion sizes until much later in life.
  3. Exercise: I was always active in dance and sports, but exercise was never presented to me as exercise for the purpose of being healthy and part of an overall balanced lifestyle. It was simply activities I would do with my friends because we wanted to. There was no discussion as to what I would do when I grew up and organized sports or dance classes ended because I aged out.

With this in mind, I really started packing on the pounds in college. I went from a very active and busy lifestyle with my parents (somewhat) monitoring my food intake, to complete freedom and full reign of my diet and exercise habits. I became almost completely sedentary because I didn’t know what to do to stay active and I went way overboard with food. I began to eat whatever I wanted since no parents were there to tell me no. Fast food, pre-packaged foods, ice cream, candy, and cookies all became regular staples in my diet. Extremely large portion sizes and multiple servings became the norm. But honestly, I was completely oblivious to the impacts that this would have on my body. Did I know that eating a pint of ice cream wasn’t good for me? Yes. But did I know that sandwich with some potato chips and a latte would make me pack on the pounds? No. Did I know what an actual serving size looked like? No. It seems ludicrous now, but honestly I just didn’t know.

So, just to recap:

Four years of college + Anything I wanted to eat + No exercise

DURING THE WEIGHT LOSS

Fast forward to graduating college (2011). I’d probably put on 100lbs over the last four years, though I can’t be entirely certain because I didn’t weigh myself during that time. I was wearing anywhere from size 14W-18W. At my heaviest I was beginning to push into size 20W. For comparison, when I entered college I was around a size 13-15 in juniors. Like most any woman, I wanted to lose weight, but I wasn’t unhappy with myself. This is important to highlight because often in my before pictures you’ll see a frowny face – but this is simply because I wasn’t happy about standing in my sports bra and my friend was teasing me (about something unrelated), so I was giving a stern look. Flip through any of the other pictures from my before phase on my blog and you’ll see a smiling, happy Kate.

Anyways, after college, I was thrust into another period of change when I moved back home and started working two jobs (one full-time and one part-time). A few months into my full-time job, a coworker invited me to try out a Zumba class. I was intrigued because I have always loved dancing. In October 2011, I decided to go. I absolutely loved it. The music, the dancing, the instructor’s energy. Something inside of me was awakened again. I knew that this would be good for me so I asked my friend to keep inviting me and that I would try to make it when it worked with my schedule. Slowly but surely Zumba became what I looked forward to. It was no longer “when it fit with my schedule” but making Zumba a PART of my schedule and everything else falling in place around the classes. I went from hit or miss attendance all the way up to 5 classes per week at my peak.

For the next few years, I would continue to take Zumba classes, even becoming an instructor myself. As with any form of exercise, when you go from doing nothing to something you will likely see some weight loss. I would estimate that I lost approximately 20lbs during this time, placing me solidly at 14W. I would also say that while I was still eating junk foods regularly, I was eating less since I was back at my parent’s house.

… So, when did it all change?

I remember on January 8, 2014, my Zumba instructor said to me: This is going to be your year. Take a picture of it and this time next year we’ll do it again.

Here’s that picture:

On that day she gave me a challenge. She told me to try cutting back on the sugary Starbucks drinks I was getting at least once a day (generally a Venti White Chocolate Raspberry Mocha or Caramel Macchiato). After that, she said cut it down to every other day, then every third day, till you’re down till once a week, once every two weeks, and finally once a month. I accepted her challenge. By the time I got to the once a week part, I couldn’t decide what day to treat myself so I just stopped drinking them altogether!

This change brought me to springtime, and around April, my Zumba instructor started asking me about doing an 8-week challenge to see if it would work for me. I figured I had nothing to lose for trying and I promised her that I would do the challenge if I had her support and coaching along the way. I also let her know that I was going to prove her wrong ’cause these things NEVER work for me. Eight short weeks later, I was pleased to be proven wrong when I weighed in and found out I’d lost 27lbs and 18.5 inches! It was a hard 8 weeks but the most diligent I’ve ever been on my eating program. Here’s that progress picture:

After the 8-weeks ended, I kept pushing forward with my weight loss. I didn’t want to lose the momentum. I felt great, I looked great, I became even more confident. The next few months after this initial weight loss was really invigorating. The world was opened to up me; I began cycling with Jon on weekends and eventually tried out new fitness classes that became a part of my regular routine: barre, TRX, yoga, spin class. Nothing could stop me!

I plateaued weight loss wise around January 2015. While I’ve weighed approximately the same (give or take 10lbs), my body composition continues to change and evolve. As I put more muscle on and lean out, I have to remember the number on the scale isn’t the only way to gauge progress. It’s also how your clothes fit, your health vitals, and so much more!

 

AFTER THE WEIGHT LOSS

If I had to put a pin on the calendar for when I entered the “after” stage I’d probably say it was January 2015. Like my Zumba instructor said, 2014 would be my year and was she right.

Even though many consider me to be in the “after” part of my weight loss, I still don’t consider myself there yet. Why? Because “after” implies that it’s over, that’s the end. My story and my journey are still ongoing. I truly don’t believe there’s ever an “after” because personally I’m always pushing and striving for more. I don’t want to get stagnant. I want to keep pushing myself, my body, and my limits. I want to be a better and stronger athlete. I want to eat better and healthier things. I want to be better. That being said, living in the “after” has been interesting. Going through a significant change like this is a mental, physical, and emotional challenge. One that, to this day, I am still working through.

While people look at my weight loss photos and think wow that was fast, in reality it was a slow start. It took me a few years to find a fitness program, a few years to get settled into that, and then the changes that I made were over the course of a year. Once I combined all of those efforts (exercise and clean eating) it did happen fairly quickly compared to the lead up. But I didn’t stop there. I continue to be very active and choose healthy options, always trying to thwart my past bad habits.

I had a pre-conceived notion that once I lost weight, everything would be perfect. I’d live a fantastic, worry-free life that I wouldn’t have to worry about what I ate, I wouldn’t have any of my past insecurities, and that I’d have rock-hard abs of steel with a flat stomach. The reality is that my body is still my body, it looks like it did before I lost weight, just smaller. I’m still prone to carrying weight in the same places as before. My confidence has increased ten-fold but I still find myself with certain insecurities (I’m always self conscious of my tummy). I thought that once I got to the “after” that would be it, but I’m my worst critic so I always see where I could be doing more. I’m aware of my food intake on an entirely new level. Getting my workouts in is a priority and I’m always game to try a new fitness activity. There’s now more spandex in my closet than ever before and I have an impressive collection of sports bras and running shoes, things I never thought I’d own. For me, I’m now very interested in nutrition and learning different ways of eating to fuel your body, whether it’s through macros, carb cycling, etc.

I’ve written about it before, but one of the things I didn’t realize about losing weight was that it would be a complete lifestyle change. You don’t lose weight and go back to your “before” habits. If you do, you likely won’t keep the weight off for long. Once you lose weight, you continue down the healthy path. Maybe it’s easy for some people, but every day when I wake up I am making a conscious decision to be present and fight for my nutrition, health, and wellness. While I don’t struggle with prioritizing workouts, I do struggle with eating. I have a complicated relationship with food and unlike other indulgences, such as alcohol (which you don’t need to survive), we have to eat to survive. Meaning that those unhealthy options are going to always be present, and if you don’t eat, you physically won’t survive.

While I prep and plan each week to keep my nutrition on point and attempt to avoid any temptations, the truth is I’m not always successful. I am human and I make mistakes or unplanned events cause me to go off course. I indulge, sometimes by choice, knowing full well that I’ll be partaking in a nice dinner to celebrate my birthday, a friend’s wedding, or a date night with Jon. Other times I completely fail at going according to my plan and I eat the office cookies or run out for lunch for coworkers. And guess what? That’s also okay because that’s life and it’s all about balance. It’s about how you recover from those moments that count.

No matter where you are in your personal journey – maybe you’re looking to make a change, maybe you just started a new program, maybe you are just looking to maintain, or maybe you’re just curious how I did it – remember that we all start somewhere and that the journey is ongoing. Keep pushing. Everyday I make a conscious decision to put my health and fitness first. I’m not always perfect, but I keep pushing forward.

FAQs

When I share my weight loss journey with others, there are some questions I always get. Here’s a compilation of those questions, but if you have more you want to ask, feel free to send me a message or comment with them and I’ll answer!

Were you always overweight? No, but I personally always felt “bigger” than the other girls. I had a little bit extra pudge, but I was not overweight.

What caused you to gain weight? I think it was a combination of things. Once I graduated high school and went off to college, suddenly I was in charge of my own diet. With buffet dinners on campus and little stores and cafes all over, I could EASILY go grab a pint of ice cream, a bag of chips, or even a candy bar anytime I wanted. I was away from home with newfound freedom but also stressed about my new environment and school. Combine that with the fact that I went from incredibly active to completely sedentary and the bad eating quickly caught up with me.

Are your parents overweight? No! They are both incredibly petite people. My mom is a size 00.

Have you ever been called fat? Yes, in fact I was told I was too fat to write a fashion blog when I first started All Things Kate. You can read my response here.

How many times did you try to lose weight? I honestly lost count. Growing up as a dancer, the pressure to remain thin and lose weight was ALWAYS around. One of the studios I went to even weighed their dancers. In hindsight I was not very large at all, though at the time I felt fat and ugly. This environment and poor body image laid the foundation for the negativity that I felt about myself and my body and was potentially the start of my “stress eating”. Suffice it to say, from the time I was a young teen to my early 20s, I tried dozens of diets and weight loss supplements in an attempt to find the ideal body type.

How did you lose the weight? I lost the weight because I was trying to prove to someone that I wouldn’t be able to lose the weight. What jump started my weight loss was completing an 8 week Core Challenge that consisted of regular exercise (which I’d already been doing) and completely changing my eating. I went from regular meals out and quick lunches to preparing all of my food and eating balanced meals of protein, carb, and fat with every meal. The weight quite literally melted off me.

Did the plan you were on allow you to lose weight more quickly than you had before and did it motivate you to keep going? At the point that I started the challenge, I was quite a bit overweight. Combine that with the fact that I completely overhauled my eating habits and I was able to lose weight quickly and noticeably. If I were to adhere to the same program now I would likely lose weight but it would be less weight (since I now have less to lose) and probably wouldn’t be as noticeable (again, because my overall mass is now smaller than my starting mass).

Was it hard? It was incredibly difficult! It took sheer determination and willpower. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. A LOT of tears. Essentially I did a complete 180 on everything I’d never known about about eating and had to examine my relationship with food. Those first 8 weeks I was SO determined to stick exactly to the plan. I still don’t know how I got through it with so much willpower. I definitely feel as if I’ve never been able to achieve that #BossStatus again.

What was the biggest motivator for you? Honestly, it was to prove my friend wrong that this program wouldn’t work. I think that all of my previous diet attempts were for someone else (e.g. my doctor, my dance instructor, my parents, etc). It wasn’t because I wanted it. I was happy with myself and my life and so I did this because I wanted to. It was ME who wanted to do it and prove my friend wrong. It wasn’t someone who wanted me to do it for them.

How much weight did you lose? I’ve lost over 70lbs simply through diet and healthy exercise.

Did you have surgery? No, I have had no surgery to assist with weight loss. I’ve joked about getting some lypo and a tummy tuck but that’s all in jest. 😉

Have you kept it off? I have! Though my weight fluctuates because I’m building more muscle now, my measurements remain the same.

What’s surprised you the most about losing weight? There are a few things that stick out to me. I’m surprised that after all these years I still struggle with sugar cravings. I’m surprised at what foods I don’t miss and are easy for me to say “no” too.

What’s the hardest part about losing weight? Starting is always the hardest part of anything! Shortly followed by sticking to it and not quitting.

What do you think about weight loss programs like Advocare or Modere? Of course you should always consult a medical professional before starting any new program, but my personal opinion is that they can be effective tools in teaching you about meal sizes, building balanced meals, and meal timing. Just make sure to check the ingredients in the program supplements and make sure that they’re healthy for you.

 

TIPS FOR WEIGHT LOSS

PS – I’m not a medical professional. You should consult your healthcare professional before starting any new diet or exercise program. These are simply the tips that worked for me.

Start slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day and my 70lbs weren’t lost in a day either. It takes slow and steady changes and consistency in order to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Give yourself a challenge such as cutting back on the Starbucks drinks or sodas until you’re able to completely (or mostly) eliminate them from your daily intake.

Stop comparing yourself to others. I could really stand to listen to my own advice on this one. It can be so hard to not compare yourself in a world of perfectly staged Instagram photos, but for real, stop the comparing! It will only make you feel worse about yourself.

Find what works for you. Fitness and nutrition are NOT one size fits all. There are truly endless options of fitness. Whether you prefer group classes or individual workouts, there is something out there for you (Check out my Fitness Programs series for a sampling of what’s out there). The same goes for nutrition: high carb, low fat, high protein, plant-based… the list goes on.

Drink lots of water. I really had no idea how much water I should consume until I started this weight loss adventure. Hint: it’s a lot. Carry water with you everywhere and drink it up!

Stay active. Movement, whether walking, jogging, running, lifting weights, or anything in between is an integral part to weight loss. Every body is different so your level and type of exercise will be different than mine.

Stretch. After being active it’s important to allow your muscles the rest and recovery they need in order to keep you at 110%. Making time to stretch especially after high intensity or long workouts is a must!

Switch up your workouts! For years I did only Zumba classes but when I started to change up my workouts and incorporate different types of fitness programs I started to see more weight loss and muscle tone.

Have patience and be consistent. Losing weight is not about how quickly you can do it. You’ll need to be consistent with your nutrition and fitness routine in order to see results. That also means having patience cause it can take some time to get there. You’ll likely also hit plateaus along the way. Those are healthy, just keep pushing forward!

Take progress pictures. I’m so glad that I have my progress photos to document my journey. I hated taking that first photo in my sports bra but it was the best thing I could ever do. Seeing my first comparison photo is when I actually believed the measurements and scale!

Find someone who will support you and keep you accountable. For me, it took a village. I was living at home when I started this journey. My parents supported me by helping me meal prep. My Zumba instructor answered all my questions and told me I could do it. My friends kept me accountable to show up to Zumba class. My coworkers didn’t bring sweet treats around. It didn’t end with my initial 8 weeks though. To this day Jon is an incredibly supportive partner, helping with meal prep and planning and keeping the sweets away from me at home.

Don’t eat processed foods. Every once in a while it’s okay but don’t make them a regular part of your diet. They’re typically packed with tons of unhealthy ingredients, are high in sodium, carbs, and fat.

Plan ahead. I meal plan every week on Sundays for all of our dinners throughout the week (I take the leftovers for lunch the next day typically). This keeps me on track each week so I always food within reach when I start getting hungry.

Ask for help! Find someone you trust and seek them out. Maybe it’s a friend, a fitness instructor, a family member or maybe it’s someone you met through Instagram or at an event. I had to ask for help so many times along this journey (and still do). Ask questions, ask for support, ask for accountability.

If you’d like to read more about the 8 week challenge that jumpstarted my weight loss, you can read those posts here.