"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Lauren, we love you we do," sang my cheerful yet emotional mother as another birthday had come to pass. On February 28, I turned 23. A decorative cake stood before me, complete with chocolate frosting and red icing that spelled my name.
Actually, to be accurate, my name was misspelled because my mother's boyfriend forgot how to spell it when giving directions to the decorator at the local supermarket. Oh well, he tried. I wish I could have said the same about my weight.
At 23, I was happy and healthy both emotionally and physically -- for the most part. Weighing 210 pounds, I felt bloated like an oversized whale. While I was nowhere near the size of folks featured on "My 600 Pound Life" on TLC, that didn't mean I didn't feel like part of the cast. So I decided to make a change.
1. I Started Working Out Five Days A Week
Physical fitness has never been a part of my life, except when I was forced like back in high school. From the moment I made my mind up, their was an instant switch. I went from couch potato to gym rat in a matter of 24 hours. I joined a gym and started taking spin classes, cardio boot camp and putting time on the elliptical.
Some days, I would do double workouts where I do one hour on the elliptical and then take a group exercise class. That's two hours of intensive exercise after I leave my day job. When I get home, you better believe that I'm tired and want to go to bed.
But it's all worth it. I lost my first few pounds simply by exercising more and eating less.
2. I Cut Those Calories
Before I started "dieting," I easily consumed anywhere between 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day. When you do the math, that equates to roughly a pound to a pound and a half per week. Overtime, that adds up. When I started "dieting," I cut my caloric intake to 1,800 calories per day. I put the word "diet" in quotation marks because working out and getting fit isn't a temporary job that lasts a few months before you move on to the next one. On the contrary, working out and getting fit is a lifestyle change.
I knew that from the beginning, but it did take some time to put those words into action. For the first couple months, I was cutting my caloric intake, but still eating the same foods I always did, including ice cream every night. This slowed my progress to roughly a half pound per week.
3. Not All Foods Are Equal
One day, I was casually talking to my mom about some food I got at CVS when she started questioning some of my choices. For one, she pointed out that the Skippy brand contains more hydrogenated oil than natural peanut butter, and that protein bars are filled with unhealthy artificial preservatives that can be equivalent to eating a Hershey's bar.
I was skeptical at first and I didn't believe her. Actually, I got kinda annoyed at her because she was questioning my choices. I know now that it was all done out of love. That night, my mother and I took our 5:30 spin class with Scott and brought up her concerns afterward.
4. I Said Goodbye To Sugar
This is how my intensive eight week "no sugar" meal plan was put into motion. For two months, you consume nothing but chicken, egg whites, protein shakes and more chicken.
The plan is meant to detox your body of sugar cravings and boost metabolism by having you eat small meals every three hours. Every day is work, and as Scott puts it, "the diet is so restrictive even a rabbit would go on strike."
Like the rabbit, there have been times where I have grown peeved and joined ranks in protest. Thankfully, my strikes would only last a couple days, and I would soon hop back on the wagon.
5. I Acknowledged My Addiction
Thinking of this pattern, I started doing some research and have come to the conclusion that I am addicted to sugar. Like those who struggle with gambling, drugs or alcohol, an addict feels like they can't live without that fix. Their drug of choice gets them through tough times, and every worry or pain disappears for a brief moment while they're feeding their addiction.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, a physician with over 20 years of experience and founder of the Ultra Wellness Center in Massachusetts, sugar is a sweet poison that is eight times more addictive than cocaine. Over the course of a year, Americans consume over 152 pounds of sugar. This is far above the FDA recommended limit of 12 teaspoons per day or 10 percent of your caloric intake based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
By acknowledging my over-consumption of sugary foods and drinks, I have grown more mindful of what I put in my body and am actively developing ways in which I can resist temptation. Granted, I'm not perfect. Some days are flat out horrible. Some days my emotions get the best of me, or I choose to submit to my cravings.
But at least I've come to a turning point in my weight loss journey where I have recognized and acknowledged this truth and am taking proactive steps to change my health habits.
With that said, I raise my glass (water of course) to a fit fabulous summer for Gen-Y