Friday, January 18, 2013

"How many calories should I eat to lose weight?"

One of the biggest things I learned on my weight loss journey was that you need to eat in order to lose weight. This went against everything I had always believed about weight loss, so it made me nervous to accept this information. Yet, when I finally did let it sink in and took the leap of faith to follow through with the plan, the weight really did start to come off. Not only that, it started to come off in regular increments. I was shocked. For YEARS, I assumed that women should consume 1200-1500 calories per day while trying to "diet". That always stuck in my head, so that was my go-to plan whenever I wanted to lose weight. For YEARS, that never worked for me. Now I know why! So whenever people ask me about weight loss, one of the first things I like to focus on is your BMR.

"BMR? What's that?" -- is the common response. That was my response, too, when I first heard of this.

BMR stands for "basal metabolic rate". It is one of the first pieces of information you need to determine, before you can figure out how many calories you need per day. Your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns on a daily basis, just while keeping you alive. Imagine yourself as a vegetable, laying in bed all day not moving. Your BMR is the amount of calories you would need to consume to stay alive in that condition. Your calorite total for the day should never, ever be below your BMR. Why? If you aren't giving yourself enough fuel to even cover the calories you burn without even moving, you are going to be essentially starving your body. Your body will then click over to "starvation mode". Your body notices the lack of calories and as a self-defense mechanism, it slows your metabolism. It wants to try to conserve as many calories as it can since it's not getting enough. Thus, weight loss becomes much more difficult since your body is slowing your metabolism -- your ability to burn calories. This will only work against you.

(I've included a link in the summary at the end of this blog where you can determine your BMR.)

Obviously, we are not laying in bed all day not moving. So, the BMR is a baseline number that helps you to determine how much you should eat in a day, but it is not the whole picture. Your body burns calories all day long: as you work, as you run errands, as you clean your house, etc. You're constantly burning. So, you need to be eating your BMR calories PLUS you need to eat additional calories to fuel your normal daily activities. Now, your activity each day can totally vary. So when you determine your activity calories, this is only an estimation.

To figure out your daily activity calories, you can use the Harris Benedict formula. This is not an exact science, but it can be a great estimation to get you started. Here is the Harris Benedict formula (you need to know your BMR to do this calculation):

Harris Benedict Formula
To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:

•If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2

•If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375

•If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55

•If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725

•If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9

As you can see from the descriptions, the Harris-Benedict formula INCLUDES your workout calories. Some people (such as myself) choose not to do it this way. I only consider my normal routine NOT including exericse.

Why do some people choose to leave out exercise calories? Well, some people (such as myself) use heart rate monitors to get much more accurate information about calorie burning during workouts. I would track my burned calories in a much more specific way, so I did not want to use the estimated numbers. Plus, my workouts would vary week-by-week, so I did not want to have to keep adjusting my calorie counts if I had an easier or harder workout week.

Another reason some people don't include exercise calories is because some calorie-counting websites, such as, ask for users to consider the information separately. Their calorie determination is based on your normal daily activity WITHOUT considering exercise. If you sign up for, in your settings, you will be asked to choose from:

Sedentary: Spend most of the day sitting (e.g. bank teller, desk job)

Lightly Active: Spend a good part of the day on your feet (e.g. teacher, salesman)

Active: Spend a good part of the day doing some physical activity (e.g. waitress, mailman)

Very Active: Spend most of the day doing heavy physical activity (e.g. bike messenger, carpenter)

Then will generate a calorie goal for you based on your BMR and your daily activity NOT INCLUDING EXERCISE. Any time you work out, you get to add those burned calories to your daily total. Yes, that's right. You get to EAT MORE when you workout. It's excellent motivation. Trust me.

"So, how do you lose weight then?"

Well, this is where additional math seeps in. These calorie estimations all tell you how much you are supposed to be eating on a daily basis, if you were not trying to lose weight. But, if you're trying to lose weight, you do need a little bit of a deficit. You shouldn't be dropping to 1200 calories, which was commonly assumed (especially by women). But you do need to lower your calories.

Here's the quick math:
3500 calories = 1 pound
If you want to lose 1lb per week, you need to lower your WEEKLY total by 3500.
3500/7 days = 500 calories per day
You would need to drop your daily total by 500 calories per day to lose 1lb per week.

Let's use my information for example:

When I first started to learn about calorie counting, I was about 165lbs. Using a BMR calculator (I will include a link at the end for that), my information was as follows:

5'9", 31 years old, 165lbs
My BMR = 1551.35

So, I should not be eating less than 1551 calories per day. (Now do you see why those 1200 calorie diets would NOT work for me? I was starving my body!) This is what I would need just to lay in bed all day without moving.

Now, outside of working out, I am really not all that physically active. I wouldn't call myself sedentary (I do have 3 kids!), but I am typically doing light cleaning/chores and running the kids around to activities. I will use the Harris Benedict Equation:

BMR x 1.375 (for lightly active) =
1551 x 1.375 = about 2133 calories

That means if I wanted to maintain my weight, I would need to eat 2133 calories per day. Now, if I wanted to lose 1lb per week, I would subtract out 500 from my daily total so that I could create a weekly deficit of 3500 calories:

2133 - 500 = 1632 calories

So, WITHOUT EXERCISING, I would get to eat 1632 calories per day to lose 1lb per week. Again, this is a lot more than the 1200 calories I was sticking to while trying (unsuccessfully) to lose weight in the past. Plus, it gets better! If you don't include your workout calories in that total, you actually get to eat those additiona calories, too.

Let's say I worked out for 60 minutes and my heart rate monitor tells me that I burned 600 calories for that hour. That means my daily total will be:

1632 + 600 = 2232 calories

Yes, you read that right. A whopping 2232 calories and I would STILL be set up to lose 1lb after a week.

This was a hard pill to swallow, for me. Mentally, I was always under the impression that I would need to eat LESS in order to lose weight. So, the idea of eating 2200 calories in a day AND losing weight was just not something I had faith in. Since I tried so many other options and failed, I decided to take the leap and give this a shot. Shockingly, it worked. It is NOT an exact science. Just because you SHOULD lose 1lb per week does not mean you WILL. There are many other factors: types of exercise, amount of exercise, types of foods eaten, age, metabolism, etc. But this is a great place to get yourself started.

Now let's take my same information and see what says:

If I tell that I am 5'9", 31 years old, 165lbs with a lightly active lifestyle and the goal is to lose 1lb per week, MyFitnessPal tells me I should eat:

1560 calories per day

That is a mere 72 calories off from the estimation I got using the Harris Benedict Formula. Essentially they are the same. DOES expect you to input your burned calories from exercise, though. If you are going to go this route, I HIGHLY recommend getting yourself a heart rate monitor that will track your burned calories so you get a much more accurate reading. The MyFitnessPal system does have estimations you can use when inputting your exercise; however, often they are much higher than what you would have actually burned. The only way to know for sure is to use a heart rate monitor. (Even those are not exact, but they are MUCH more exact than the estimations.) Also, do NOT rely on those heart rate monitor handles and calorie burn counts on the machines. They are NOT accurate.

Don't have a heart rate monitor or the means to get one?

That's OK. You can actually use the Harris-Benedict Equation to determine your calories WITH your exercise included. If I were to use my information from when I had started with calorie counting for weight loss, I would choose the following from the Harris-Benedict Equation:

"If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725"

Calories = 1551 x 1.725 = 2675 calories - 500 calories for 1lb loss = 2175 calories

I was working out 6-7 days per week doing 60-90 minute workouts. Because of that, I would have chosen the "very active" listing. This means my calorie goal would be 2675 per day MINUS the 500 calories for a 1lb loss per week, so 2175. See how close that is to MyFitnessPal's estimation plus my heart rate monitor total equaling 2232?

It can also be beneficial to create a range for yourself if your activity tends to vary. If I use the same BMR and use the "moderately active" formula, I get a total of:

Calories = 1551 x 1.55 = 2404 calories - 500 calories for 1lb loss = 1904 calories

I could try to stick between 1904-2175 calories, depending on how rigorous my workouts were for the week, and still aim for a 1lb loss per week.

Now, to review:

1) You need to determine your BMR (basal metabolic rate) as a way to figure out what your daily caloric needs will be. To determine your BMR, you can visit the following website:

2) You need to add in your daily activity calories either by using the Harris Benedict Formula or by using a website like to come up with your calorie total.
- Decide whether or not you will INCLUDE exercise calories into your daily activity estimation.
- If you want to add on exercise calories later, consider only your normal daily activity, outside of exercise.
- If you want to add on exercise calories later, I highly recommend using a heart rate monitor to accurately determine what you are burning.
- If you WILL include exercise into your daily activity calories, be sure to choose 2-3 of the activity labels (lightly active, moderately active, very active) to create a RANGE of calories that would be appropriate depending on how hard you are working out.

3) For a 1lb loss per week, you will need to subtract 500 calories from your daily total, since 3500 calories = 1lb.
- Remember, already deducts the weight loss calories for you. Only subtract these calories if you are just using the Harris Benedict equation to determine your caloric needs.

4) Never, ever go below your BMR or you will slow your metabolism and make losing weight really difficult.

5) This is NOT an exact science. These are purely estimations. Results WILL vary from person-to-person since every body has different needs and so many other factors play into weight loss. Also, do not expect immediate results. It can take time for your body to adjust to dietary changes.

**It is important to consult with a doctor before starting a new weight loss or diet program to be sure it is safe for you and your medical needs. Remember, I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing the weight loss information I have learned. You may want to consider doing additional research of your own on these topics for additional scientific information. This was meant to be a general overview.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Who does this girl think she is?"

I am sure you may be wondering, "Who does this girl think she is?" I am not a doctor. I am not a personal trainer. I am not a fitness expert. So, why listen to me, right? Well, I am a person who has gone through the weight loss process. I have first-hand experience that I am going to share with you all, if you care to hear it. If you'd rather read a book by a fitness expert or meet with a personal trainer instead, that is great! I am often asked how I lost the weight, so this is just my platform for sharing my experience. By all means, seek out professional help along your journey, too. I did, and I am so glad I did! But in the meantime, I hope some of the information I share might at least get you started and point you in the right direction. So, before I get to the details, let me first tell you a little bit about myself and my weight loss journey.

My weight issues started all the way back in late elementary school. I'd say around the time I was 11, I was starting to chunk up a bit. I definitely had a gut. I was an active kid, though. It wasn't like I was sitting around on the couch playing video games. I was an active dancer and my friends and I liked to play outside. But, back in the 80s, processed foods were the norm. Most of us kids came to school with a sandwich, a bag of chips, a cookie and a "juice" box full of high fructose corn syrup. Things were different back then, and we did not know the things we know today about how bad these foods are for your overall health. Those foods definitely took a toll on my body. I started to gain weight, and then middle school hit. I started eating things like french fries and pizza and other horribly unhealthy foods that were offered in the lunch lines. I continued to dance and play volleyball and basketball, but these activities were no match for my horrible diet. I gained a lot of weight in middle school. I remember feeling fat all the time as a middle school student. I knew I was getting bigger, but I had no idea what to do about it. After all, I was still a child. I was eating foods that tasted good and that were right in my face every day. I was not thinking about calories or overall nutrition. Not at all. Sure, they talked about the food pyramid in school, but it was just an abstract idea to me. I didn't feel like it really connected to my actual diet.

By the time I entered high school, I was around a size 10/12. I was never obese. I carried my weight pretty well due to my 5'9" height. I was definitely overweight, but not in a way that really made me stand out. I don't remember ever being bullied for my size. I had friends who were smaller than me and friends who were bigger than me. I was sort of in the middle. I definitely felt terrible about myself, and I wanted nothing more than to be a beautiful, skinny girl. You know, one of those size zero models that were plastered all over the teen magazines I was reading... Yet, I had no idea how to go from point A to point B (never mind the fact that point B was not even healthy!). My activity level was still high with sports and dance, but the eating of processed foods and fatty foods continued. It was during my junior year that I decided to try to fix the problem. I resorted to extreme calorie cutting. I was eating around 1000-1200 calories a day, sometimes less. Given the fact that I was so physically active, this was not a good choice. I was essentially starving my body. The kicker is that even with that low calorie count, I was still eating bad foods. I was not even making those low calories count. I did end up losing weight, but at what expense? I was hungry all the time. I hated my body. I hated dieting. I was not learning how to live a healthy lifestyle. It was just a quick fix, and it wouldn't last. I got myself down to a size 4/6 by my senior year. Though I lost the weight, I still wasn't happy. Probably because I was too hungry, too deprived to ever enjoy it.

College rolled around and the food got even worse. Dorm food is probably the most unhealthy garbage you can possibly eat. That, along with pizza and Pokey sticks and Jimmy Johns subs had me putting on the freshman 15... ok, more like the freshman 25. Add in the fact that I was no longer doing the sports and dance that I had been doing in high school and I was a mess. I gained a lot of weight that year, and I found myself once again struggling to figure out what to do about it. How was I going to lose it this time? I did get to the gym once in a while, but not often enough. Through more careful choices on food, I did lose some of the weight and was about a size 6/8 for sophomore and junior year. My busy schedule in senior year really cut the time I had for snacking and partying, so I was able to maintain that size for a while. Then I graduated from college and entered the working world. And with all the stresses that came along with the shift in lifestyle, I once again found myself gaining.

My first year of teaching, I was back to a size 10/12 again. I was working so many late nights trying to keep up with my new job, and I turned to fast foods and processed junk just to get me through. This is also when I started looking into diet fads. I tried using those frozen diet meals. I tried the Alli Pill. I tried the Atkins diet. None of that offered any success for me. I held my size for the year as I worked through a bunch of these options. I didn't have a lot of time for working out, so my metabolism continued to be low, which did me no favors.

In my second year of teaching, my now-husband and I got engaged. I knew I wanted a change. I did not want to look heavy in my wedding photos. I am a picture person. I love the memories that photos can capture. I did not want to look back at my wedding and see this heavy woman I had let myself become. So, after trying all these diets and pills without success, I decided I would revert back to the only thing that ever worked for me. I started the extreme calorie cutting, again. I ate really, really lightly throughout the day and then I would eat a regular-sized dinner. I did sign up for the Avon Walk for the month before my wedding, and I used that as motivation for exercise. I was doing really long power walks on the treadmill to prepare for the event. I was also coaching a poms squad, so I was dancing with the girls as I taught routines and such. The low calories and high exercise put my body into starvation mode. The weight had no choice but to come off in an unhealthy way. I got myself back down to a size 4 by my wedding. At the time, I was really pleased. I would not look heavy in my wedding photos! But, looking back at some of the pictures now is disturbing. My arms were like sticks. I was TOO skinny. I was not healthy skinny. I was borderline gross skinny.

Sure enough, after the wedding was over and I started to eat normal amounts of food again, the weight started to come back on as soon as 2-3 weeks after the wedding. That was quickly followed by... my first pregnancy! After spending months working out a ton and eating so little, I was so hungry when I became pregnant. I had no idea how much to eat and since I wanted to keep my baby healthy, I just kept eating. I ate so much I ended up gaining a whopping 75 pounds during my pregnancy. I also developed pregnancy-induced hypertension that headed towards pre-eclampsia. I was on bed rest for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy which only made the weight pile on faster. After finally having Lucy in 2007, I was up to a size 14. In less than a year, I went from a size 4 to a size 14. It was quite the leap. I started to feel horrible about myself again. I knew I just had a baby and that it would take time, but given how unsuccessful I was with keeping my weight in control and consistent in the past, I was feeling overwhelmed. I was exhausted. I was unsure of my new role as a mom. Getting through my day was hard enough, so trying to figure out weight loss too was almost too much.

A lot of the same tricks and short cuts started to come into play again. Though, this time, the calorie cutting did not work. I had no energy for exercise. I tried some diet pills, which were later recalled by the FDA for being unsafe. I signed up for a weight loss contest through work for extra motivation. Anything I could try, I did. I ended up losing about 50 of the pounds before I became pregnant for the second time. Then another 60lbs was put on. The story was the same after Henry was born. I got my weight down a bit before getting pregnant with Charlie and putting on 60lbs, again.

I was a size 14 again after Charlie was born. I did lose some weight naturally in the first couple months and then I was stuck in a size 12/14 for several months without luck. It was as if something switched in my body and suddenly weight loss became nearly impossible. It seemed that no matter what I tried: diet, exercise, etc, nothing worked. I would lose a few pounds and then I would plateau for months before seeing any noteable loss again. I felt like it was going to take forever to lose the weight. Not to mention I was a busy mom taking care of three kids who were 3 years old and younger. I had little-to-no energy. I hated my body. I was embarrassed of myself. I didn't want my photo taken with my kids, because I felt so fat and gross. I did not want my kids to look back at pictures of me with them and think they had a fat mom. It also did not help that we had a lot of friends who did not have children yet... who still had their prebaby bodies. Not only did I gain weight, I gained stretch marks, I gained loose skin. I just felt horrible. I started to wonder if I would ever be able to make a change. A big part of me gave up for a long time thinking, "This is it. Maybe it is time to just accept the body I have been dealt and learn to like it." I did just that for a while. I stopped trying. I just hid behind large, baggy clothing. I continued to avoid being in front of a camera. I tried to accept it.

When Charlie turned 1, I remember looking through baby pictures and realized how few I was actually in. I thought about it and considered the fact that my children might not look back and see a fat mom, but they would see no mom at all. It was almost as if I didn't really exist. I saw there was a problem. It is not normal to hate your body so much that you would hide from cameras to this extent. If I were truly happy and I truly accepted my body, I wouldn't be hiding behind those baggy clothes. I wouldn't be embarrassed to go to my husband's friends' parties where people would see me and how big I had become. I was clearly UNHAPPY. I was depressed. Because I was depressed, my relationship with my husband was strained. I would get easily frustrated with the kids. I had no energy to play with them. I had no desire or energy to workout. I was in a downward spiral, and something needed to be done. What I had been calling "baby weight" for so long was no longer "baby weight". It was just plain fat. My baby became a toddler. It was time to finally fix the problem.

Something in my head clicked that time. I finally realized that I needed to make a bigger change in my life. I could not just fix my weight. I needed to learn how to be healthy. I needed to do this the right way, because I wanted to set a good example for my kids. I realized that if I did not learn how to eat right, if I just dieted to lose the weight and then returned to old, processed-food habits, what would I be setting up my kids for? What kind of life would they end up having? Would they struggle with the same weight issues I did? This was not something I wanted for my kids. I did not want them to go through the struggles I experienced. I needed to learn how to live a HEALTHY lifestyle so my kids would be healthy, too.

It was at this point that I set out on a year-and-a-half long weight loss journey. It started at the YMCA, though this gym ended up not being a good fit for me and my family. I quickly set my sights on Life Time Fitness. I never could have imagined, walking into the club for the first time, that I would experience the phenomenal changes I have made in my life. I had no idea I would be met by supportive, knowledgeabe staff who actually wanted to help me reach my goals. It was overwhelming at times. There is just so much that goes into weight loss and lifestyle changes. I had to take my time and let it all sink in a little at a time.

But in the end, I made the changes that my trainer and my nutritionist recommended, I did the cardiovascular tests, I learned my heart rate zones, I started training with a heart rate monitor, I learned about the benefits of strength-training and incorporated it into my workouts... and suddenly, my world was flipped upside-down. I started journaling my food and realized I CAN eat and lose weight. I no longer had to go through extreme calorie cutting or weird diet pills. I didn't need to eat processed, frozen diet meals. I could actually EAT, A LOT, and still lose weight. My workouts actually became meaningful. I was listening to my body and for the first time ever in my life, I was actually holding the steering wheel with my workouts rather than aimless spinning out in every which direction. I had a goal and I had the tools and the support. I was able to not only lose 40lbs, but I lost 40lbs while also gaining a TON of muscle tone. I did so the HEALTHY way. My body is stronger and healthier than it has ever been in my entire life. The best part is, I made healthy choices that are affecting my entire family. My kids are eating healthy now. We are an active family, TOGETHER. My kids are learning how important it is to eat healthy and stay active. I truly hope that when the time comes, they will be able to bypass all the weight drama I experienced. I hope they will have learned how to be healthy people, naturally, by our example, so that hopefully they can live a healthy lifestyle their whole lives.

I feel very blessed to have come across the knowledge that was shared with me. So, when people ask me, "How did you lose the weight?" I feel very compelled to share what I have learned. I want other people, people who may be experiencing the same depression I have felt, to feel like they are not only not alone... but that there is an answer out there. I want people to see they too can change their lifestyles and become the healthy people they want to be! I decided I would start this blog as a way to slow share some tips I have learned. I am not an expert. But, I have been through this. I have tried a lot, and these methods have allowed me to not only lose the weight, but months and months later I have not gained any weight back. The weight is finally gone for good. If I can help motivate even one other person to take the leap and make it to his goal, then writing out all of this information is completely worth it.

I realize this is really long. That's one thing you'll learn about me. I am wordy. :) This is my story. This is my life, my real-life experience. Maybe you've been through something similar. Maybe your story is totally different. Either way, I hope the information you read here will be of good use to you. I look foward to sharing this wealth of knowledge with you in future posts. Though I am not a professional, I hope you will hear me out and take these suggestions as a starting off point on your journey to weight loss success, your journey to a new, healthier lifestyle.

**Please remember, with all of my posts, you should always consult a doctor before taking on a new diet or exercise plan to be sure that it is safe and appropriate for you. The information I share worked for me, but that is not a guarantee it will work for everyone. You may need to take the information and adjust it for your needs.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My message to New Years Resolution-ers...

My message to New Years Resolution-ers or those just getting started on a weight loss plan...

Now that it's January 1st and the New Years resolution of weight loss is firing up in people all across the country, I cannot help but reminisce about the beginning of my journey a couple of years ago. Other than when I was a child, weight loss has pretty much ALWAYS been on my list of resolutions, always. But, for the first time ever, it's not on my list this year. Over the past two years, I actually stayed true to my resolution and achieved the loss I was looking for. YOU CAN, TOO! :)

I bet it sounds like I am about to sell you something... Fear not. I have nothing to sell you. I bring no gimmicks to the table. I am equipped only with some tips and some words of advice, based on my personal experiences. Everyone's journey will be different, but if I could go back and talk to 2-years-ago me, this is what I would say...

1) Welcome to this incredible journey!!! It's going to be just that... a journey. If you are thinking in your head that you'll be a bikini model by summer, let's tone it down a notch. If you truly want to succeed and want to not only lose weight but also gain health, you have to be in it for the long haul. Are you in it for the long haul? Or are you looking for a "quick fix"? Because I have to tell you, if you aren't going to accept that this is going to involve LONG TERM (even LIFELONG) changes, then honestly the chances of you succeeding are going to drop dramatically. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Trust me. I've tried all the fads, the diet pills, the weight loss diet programs, etc. This is going to be a lifestyle change and it's going to take time. Are you with me?? Can we dedicate ourselves to a NEW LIFESTYLE? Good. Let's do it. :)

2) This is NOT going to be easy. I am sure you're think, "I know this already." And you might... But what you have to understand is that the beginning, though hard, is not the hardest part. Sure, it is hard to get going on a new journey, especially one that involves SO MUCH CHANGE. But, this is not the hardest part. In fact, if this is your first day, it is easiest in the beginning! It's new. You're motivated. You've got a fresh start. The hard part comes later. It comes when you lose your motivation. It comes when you see a gain instead of a loss. It comes when no matter what you try, you totally plateau. It comes when you hit a stressful time in your life and turn to food for comfort. THAT is when things get difficult. THAT is when you're going to need to pull yourself up and push yourself through. Be prepared for those days. As hard as you think today might be, it's going to get a lot worse and a lot more frustrating before it is going to get better. Expect a rollercoaster. Some times you're going to feel like a Biggest Loser contestant with pounds falling off left and right. Other times you're going to feel like giving up, like the world's biggest failure. This is NORMAL. What you have to decide is whether or not you are going to let yourself fail or whether you will PUSH YOURSELF even when you don't think you have anything left to give. Start deciding now... which road will you choose. If you already envision yourself likely failing down the line, your chances of reaching your goal are pretty limited. If you already don't 100% believe in yourself, you've got your work cut out for you. Believe in yourself. You can do this.

3) As they say, excuses are like a**holes, everyone's got one. I get it. Maybe you work. Maybe you've got a few kids. Maybe you can't afford a gym membership. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you've got medical issues. Maybe your spouse isn't supportive. All of these things are just excuses -- things you that are mentally bringing you down, convincing yourself that it's not possible to fix the problem. These things don't matter, really. There is always a way. It's about prioritizing. It's about being resourceful. It's about making the best of what you have. If you really want something, you'll find a way. You don't need to be rich to live a healthy, active lifestyle. We're all busy. I once saw a sign posted at a running store that said, "Someone busier than you is running right now." That really struck me. It's true. I loved to always tell myself that I wasn't losing weight because I "don't have time" to work out or I "don't have time" to cook healthy meals. Total excuses. I did have time. I do have time. I just didn't want to make the time. Because I wasn't ready for the lifestyle change just yet. But, there's always a way. Remember that. The sooner you stop making excuses, the sooner you will see success.

4) You are your own cheerleader. YOU have to be motivated from WITHIN YOURSELF to do this. If you are looking for motivation from your spouse, your best friend, a family member, etc., you aren't doing yourself any favors. It's not about them. Not at all. Sure, it's a bonus when they motivate you or when they support you on your journey. But, let's be real. Just because YOU decide you want to get healthy and lose weight, that doesn't mean everyone else is going to change their lives for you. They aren't going to stop eating unhealthy foods around you. They aren't going to be pushing you to go to the gym when you don't want to go. They shouldn't have to either. It's not their responsibility. It's YOURS. You have to be the one to get your bum off the couch and get busy. YOU have to be the one to make healthy choices, even when you don't want to, even when you're surrounded by temptation from every side. It's all about you. So, dig deep inside yourself... write down all the reasons you want to do this for YOU. Are you wanting to wear a certain bathing suit someday? Maybe a special dress? Are you wanting to fit in some old clothes you used to wear? Is there an activity you want to be able to do that you can't do right now? Are you looking to feel a certain way about your body? Write these motivators down. Save them. You'll need them on the days you forget why you're doing this... those days when you just want to give up.

5) You need to PACE YOURSELF. If you think you're going to start a diet today and start working out 5 times a week, too, while also giving up soda and dessert, you're crazy. That is just too much change at once. If you overload yourself like that, you are just setting yourself up for failure. Do you need to start eating healthy? Yes. Do you need to start working out? Yes. Should you try to drop bad habits that affect your health? Yes. Do you need to do all this RIGHT NOW? No. Please don't. You'll make yourself crazy. Trust me. I've tried it. Take it slowly. Make a list of all the things you'd like to change, and be specific. Then ease yourself into it one thing at a time. Maybe you eat out a lot right now -- lots of fast food. A good way to start is to say you're going to cut back to eating out just twice a week instead of 5 times. This might involve more meal planning and thinking ahead... so start working that into your routine. Slowly cut back from there. This is just one example. But give yourself 3-4 weeks with your first big change before tackling the next. Ease into it. As for workouts... the same rule applies. Ease into it. Don't think you need to get out and run a 5K today when you haven't worked out in a couple years or more (or ever!). Don't exhaust yourself. In fact, fat burning zones (for your heart rate) are the LOWER zones. If your heart is racing so fast you feel like it is going to bust out of your chest, that is a sign you are working yourself too hard. You are in too high of a zone, which means you are going to be burning SUGARS/CARBS and NOT STORED FAT. Slow it down. Try some interval training (example would be: walk 2 minutes, power walk 1 min, run 1 min and repeat the process for 30 mins or longer if you can). My point is, don't over work yourself. This is going to be a long journey, so why rush into the change so fast?

6) Strength-training is your friend. You will not "bulk up". You will not look like a body builder. I promise. I had trainers tell me this, and I was VERY reluctant. I just wanted to tone up. I didn't want to "get big". Only the "big guys" at the gym do weights, right? Wrong. You NEED strength training as much as you need cardio. You don't have to be at a gym loaded with weights to do strength training either. You can do resistance training using your own body weight. Push-ups are just one example. Google strength workouts for women and you'll find a ton of options out there. Definitely do strength though. You won't necessarily see the muscle right away. It might take a long time... but it'll be there, waiting for you, once you burn off the fat that is covering it. Then you'll be REALLY glad you did it. It's not just for bodybuilders. Besides, when you're building muscle tone, you're BURNING FAT.

7) Journal your food, even if just for a while. and other sites like it make journaling SO easy and you can even do it on your phone. You need to start really looking at WHAT you are eating and HOW MUCH you are eating. It's crucial. Do you need to use these websites for the rest of your life? No. They are helpful for LEARNING and they are a great support during the weight loss process. But after a while, you get to know about what level of calories certain foods have, etc. Eventually you will not need these anymore. But you likely did not get to where you are by eating healthy foods in appropriate portions. Chances are you are unaware of just how bad the foods you are eating are... or how much you are eating. Dust off those measuring cups and spoons. You need to start MEASURING out your foods. If you have the means for getting a food scale, GET ONE. READ LABELS. Look up restaurant menus (for chain restaurants) BEFORE going so you know what you're getting yourself into. KNOW what you are eating and where it is coming from. And I can hear some of you thinking, "I don't eat that bad... I don't need to do this." Trust me. I thought the same until I started seeing how often I was going WAY overboard OR way UNDER. Eating healthy DOES NOT MEAN EATING LESS. If you are doing some 1200 calorie per day diet, you are liking NOT EATING enough. You need to determine your BMR to see how many calories you should be eating based on your height, weight, age, and normal activity level. You'd be surprised at how many calories you need to be eating to lose weight. It may even be more than you thought. Check into it. If you are feeling fatigued and irritable while on some "diet", it's probably becase you aren't eating enough or getting enough nutrients. When you undercut your calories, you risk SLOWING your metabolism (your body's defense system for preventing you from starving away).

8) Do not fall into the trap of beating yourself up. You're going to mess up. Accept it now. You might have a bad meal. You might have a bad day. You might have a bad WEEK. Heck, you might even have a bad MONTH. But there is ALWAYS the option of turning things around. Always. Berating yourself. Calling yourself fat. Telling yourself you're ugly and always will be. These things will not help you. This is only going to slow you down. DO NOT TELL YOURSELF ANYTHING YOU WOULDN'T SAY TO SOMEONE ELSE! Respect yourself. Would you call your best friend a fat ass and tell her that she can't do this? No. So why treat yourself that way? Tell yourself, "I had a bad (day, week, month, etc), and I CAN turn this around. I am in control of my choices and I can fix this." Believe it when you say it, too. ;) That helps.

9) Don't OBSESS over the scale. Please don't. I know they say "it's just a number" and this is so true... but I also know how important that number can feel while you're trying to lose. It does matter to you when you're losing weight. I mean, that's the whole point, right? Getting the number to go down? Yes, that is part of it (along with getting HEALTHY, which should be up there, too!). But you cannot obsess. Don't weigh yourself daily. It'll drive you CRAZY. I would recommend weekly, if you must. But no more than that. Also, your weight WILL fluctuate throughout the month. Just because a number goes up, doesn't mean it is a gain. Heck, I lost all my weight already and I STILL fluctuate 3-4 lbs throughout the month. It's totally normal. It's when you're consistently going up that you need to worry. Also, water weight and water retention and hydration levels can play heavily into the number you see on the scale. Remember that. If you're dehydrated for one weigh in and then you feel like you gained 2 lbs overnight, that is not the case. You may be 2lbs heavier, but you don't gain 2lbs of FAT overnight. It's water weight. This is why you shouldn't obsess over 1-2 lbs on the scale. You're going to bounce around a lot. Please, please keep this in mind. Also keep in mind that INCHES matter. You could stay the same weight and drop a pant siz.e This is totally possible. As you start to lose, your body is going to shape-shift. So, doing measurements of your body is another way to follow your progress so you can see changes even when the scale isn't moving.

10) Find activities YOU love. Not everyone is a runner. Not everyone likes Zumba. Not everyone is cut out for P90X. Find out what works for YOU! But in the process, please keep in mind that sometimes it takes TIME for you to develop a love for something. With exercise and physical activity, it is not always "love at first sight". Keep an open mind. If you didn't like something the first time, give it another few tries before giving up on it. Keep trying new things all the time. You might be surprised at what ends up being YOUR love. :)

11) Keep living your life. Losing weight does not have to mean giving up all the things "bad for you" foods you love so much. You can still have a piece of cake. You can still drink a glass of wine. You have to live your life. Deprivation will only strengthen your desire for these things and you will likely end up binging on the foods you're depriving yourself of. Instead, work on proper portions and if you're going to splurge, bank some extra gym time to off-set those extra calories. Living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight doesn't have to mean a life free of all things you once loved. It's all about balance and moderation!

I realize this is crazy long. Sorry about that. These are just thoughts I had as I was at the gym, thinking back on my experiences and what I've learned along the way. I wish you all the VERY BEST! I don't want to say good luck, because luck doesn't really have much to do with it. It's not luck. I wish you a heart full of motivation. I wish you a mind full of focus. I wish you all the stamina in the world. You CAN do this. :)