My Fitness & Diet Regimen: Before, During, and After my 90lb Weight Loss
So, if there's one thing I took from all of your comments/messages/and emails last year - it's that you are looking for more practical advice on how you can achieve your goals. So, I'm here to provide it! In this post I share my regimen before losing the weight, while losing the weight, and my current routine that helps me maintain!
I first encourage you to read My Weight Loss Story where I give you a high level understanding of my journey. While this article will dig deeper into the process, it may be a good to understand the bigger picture.
Being of Jamaican decent, I grew up in a family that LOVED to eat. In fact, from a young age, I still remember the elders in my family topping my plate telling me that I must eat more. All events - from weddings, to holidays, to funerals - were surrounded by food... and copious amounts of it! And if you've ever had Jamaican food, you know that it's not only dense, but tasty as hell. So growing up we ate... and we ate well.
And because I was heavy into music, I wasn't very active. I grew up singing and it was my life. The only exercise I got was training my vocal chords; this unfortunately meant I continued to gain weight as I got older. I was still eating heavy dense food and not moving much at all. The weight piled on, and on, and on.
When I hit 220+ pounds, it was around 2005-2006 and my diet looked something like this.
Breakfast: Egg & bacon sandwich or a sugary cereal with whole milk
Lunch: Pizza or fried chicken sandwich
Snack: Chips and/or cookies
Dinner: Burger and fries or pasta
Snack: Chips and/or cookies
In addition I would have a few sodas a day and a sugary cream based coffee beverage in the morning. This was fairly consistent for about 2 years and this was the time period I noticeably put on the most weight. During this time, all meals was purchased out and I didn't make anything myself. As for exercise - I just didn't. I would be the girl that had the gym membership, but never went.
If you've followed my story, you'll know I tried to lose weight time and time again. Finally, after a few raw, deep, and vulnerable moments (that I'll speak to in a future post) it clicked and I decided it was time. Once it clicked, I was able to find a regimen that worked and allowed me to really see results. On average, I lost about 2-3lbs per week (or 10lbs a month); the 90lbs were gone after 9 months of consistent and dedicated work. But it wasn't an easy ride, I'll share the details of the journey below - it's easiest to breakdown in 3 month increments.
first 3 months - The first 30 pounds
I lost the weight during a time when IG, Facebook, blogs, and online influencers didn't exist. The plethora of content available today just wasn't there at the time. So nowadays, what's pegged as "obvious", just wasn't common knowledge to me back then. I didn't have anyone preaching the word of health at my fingertips so truthfully, I didn't know what to do. All I knew was I wanted to lose weight. So I went to the library and took out books on weight loss. Which must seem so ancient for some of you, but it's the truth. Through researching, I learned the basics - move your body and eat healthy... so I started with just that. Small and simple. I remember thinking "just cut out the daily joys of cookies and chips and replace it with fruit". I also decided to replace take out, with food I made at home. I was a student, so it wasn't anything fancy. But I tried. An average day in my diet looked something like this:
Breakfast: Raisin Bran cereal with skim milk
Lunch: Deli meat sandwich or tuna sandwich
Snack: Fruit and Granola Bar
Dinner: Whole Wheat Pasta
All of the food above I prepared at home myself - which was a big adjustment for me as I was used to eating out for every meal. Because of those vulnerable moments that led met to this point, I can't say I cheated or fell off the wagon much at all. I just wanted it so badly nothing could deter me.
My exercise routine at the time was strictly classes, about 4 days per week. I was far too nervous to approach weight training on my own, so I felt comfortable in a group class setting. I was also a student, so there was no budget for a personal trainer. I did classes for the first 3 months and looking back, I'm so happy I started this way. It got my feet wet. Again, there was no social media to give me ideas on how train so this was a great grassroots way to learn. The classes and instructors really helped me to understand the basics of weight training. I remember at this stage in my journey I was so fascinated by this new life, I just wanted to absorb as much as possible! I look back now and I smile because I remember just being SO excited. I had no idea then that the mini journey I was on would lead me to my purpose in life 10 years later.
Second 3 months - I broke 200 pounds!
I finally broke 200lbs! It had been years since I saw the 190's and I was on a high. I knew I wasn't finished and wanted to continue to see how far I could push myself. But I hit a plateau. I was doing everything as normal... but the scale and measurements were not budging. To say this was frustrating is an understatement.
At this point, as a natural extrovert, I befriended all of the class instructors at the gym. So when I noticed I was plateauing I went to them with my questions and they were happy to answer. The consistent message was that I needed to switch things up. At the time I learned that the body becomes very complacent and it was evident I had to work harder and do things differently. I realized then that there was opportunity to clean up my diet - as much as I loved Raisin Bran, it wasn't the most nutritious option. And I barely ate vegetables! So with this in mind, my diet switched to this:
Breakfast: Egg omelette with veggies and whole wheat toast
Lunch: Salad with protein
Snack: Yogurt with fruit and granola
Dinner: Chicken w/ potatoes and veggies
As for the group classes, I noticed I could do them with my eyes closed and I wasn't breaking a sweat at all anymore. I knew it was time to venture into the world of weight lifting. I still remember my first day (alone) in the weight room. I was surrounded by (what seemed like) hundreds of university football players lifting heavy and grunting. It was repulsive to me and I was both nervous and grossed out. But, I knew in order to get to my bigger goals, I just had to do this. Soon, those football players became friends and I began to realize everyone in the gym is actually really nice and willing to help. They weren't these scary beasts I had envisioned on day 1. I slowly started getting more comfortable.
My approach to weightlifting started with bringing the exercises I learned in class to the weight room - and pairing these exercises with cardio. Soon, this passion (that I didn't know existed at the time) provoked extreme curiosity. I would people-watch for hours and then copy exactly what they did. Anytime anyone was willing to give me advice, I would take it in and absorb the information like a sponge. I was constantly asking questions, googling information, and eager to learn more. Over the course of these 3 months, I slowly started getting more comfortable with weight training. My fitness regimen looked something like this:
Day 1: 30 minutes of cardio & 30 minutes of upper body weight training using machines
Day 2: 30 minutes of cardio & 30 minutes of lower body weight training using machines
Day 3: 30 minutes of cardio & 30 minutes of upper body weight training using free weights
Day 4: 30 minutes of cardio & 30 minutes of lower body weight training using free weights
Day 5: Group Class
final 3 months - Getting down to 130lbs
And another plateau hit - so back to the library I went! This time I took out books on body building as I was really intrigued by these women who had abs and muscles and strength! I started to learn about how body builders sculpt their bodies and truly build a physique they are proud of. The previous 6 months had been great, but I wanted to be an expert. I was about 160lbs at this point and knew I wanted a toned, lean, and strong physique I could be proud of. And because of my last plateau, I also knew that I needed to switch things up - again. So that's what I did!
From studying the average body builder's routine, I learned there was a gap in what they did vs. what I was doing. They were focusing on eating small meals, multiple times per day in order to speed up their metabolism. They were drinking heaps of water. They were focusing on complex carbs, lean proteins, and consumed way more vegetables. They also focused on limiting their sugar intake. These were all things I hadn't put much thought into... or knew much about. So I decided I would take things up a notch by following the diet/regimen of a body builder. An average day looked like this:
9am - Meal 1: Oats with skim milk
12pm - Meal 2: 4oz chicken breast, 1/2 cup of brown rice with veg
3pm - Meal 3: boiled eggs whites with chopped raw veg
6pm - Meal 4: 4oz fish fillet with veg
9pm - Meal 5: 4oz chicken breast on a bed of salad
As for exercises, I knew I needed to get more strategic with my weight training. So I started training specific muscle groups and created way more structure around my routine. I intensified my cardio by doing things like sprints and HIIT training. An average training week would look like this:
Day 1: 20 min HIIT & 45 minutes of weight training (abs and glutes)
Day 2: 30 min steady cardio & 45 minutes of weight training (back)
Day 3: 20 min HIIT & 45 minutes of weight training (arms)
Day 4: 30 min steady cardio & 45 minutes of weight training (legs)
Day 5: 20 min HIIT & 45 minutes of weight training (shoulders)
With each weight training day I would focus on doing 4-5 exercises for each muscle group and I would complete 3-5 sets and 10-15 reps (depending on the exercise). This stage in my journey truly helped me to shape my physique and allowed me to maintain my curves. It also brought a new level of physical and mental strength to who I was as a person.
It was also during this stage that my love affair with healthy living truly began. It was all I could think of and all I spoke about.
2008 - First time wearing a size small after 90lbs of weight loss
(Late 2007 - Now)
It's hard to believe I'm in my 11th year of weight loss maintenance. Looking back at my journey, losing the weight was easy, exciting, and fun. Maintaining has been the biggest battle. Because even though you are in a new body, the mind and mental struggles still remain. To help illustrate this, I'm going to break the last 10 years into 2 phases.
The oCD phase (2007 - 2013)
After the weight loss, I became obsessed. I got to my "goal" but I continued to strive for more - anything I achieved was never enough.
I needed more definition
I wasn't losing enough fat
My 25" waist wasn't small enough (haha)
My glutes needed to grow
Blah... Blah... Blah...
I got to a pretty bad place with this journey for a number of years. Some people gain the weight back, while others (read: me) become obsessive and compulsive and it takes over their lives.
Instagram became out shortly after I lost the weight and I shared my weight loss story with friends and family. Without even asking for it, I gained a lot of followers as my story went viral. So I felt this self induced pressure to be perfect. And if you've been following me for years, you'll remember that version of me haha. I was extremely lean, and didn't have balance at all. I obsessed with this journey and it literally controlled me. I counted everything that went in my mouth, and tried every diet and detox under the sun (more about this stage of my life can be found here). It's not a time in my life I'm particularly proud of, but I am happy I went through it to realize exactly what I don't want for myself or for my clients.
It's hard to outline my regimen during this phase because I was trying something new every damn month. I look back now and can say this was the time in my journey I felt the most lost.
The Balanced Phase (2013 - Now)
About 5 years ago, I realized the OCD life I was living was not sustainable. I found myself in a world of extremes. I was either extremely focused on losing every ounce of fat in my body, or I would rebel against a new diet plan and binge eat a whole pizza.
It wasn't until I moved abroad and started traveling the world that I realized there was so much more to life than lifting and counting calories. I realized I found joy in being flexible. I realized that for the past few years, my relationship with health was not a positive one. I realized I was painting the wrong picture for the clients I was taking on. And finally, I realized I didn't want my brand to be centered around this extremist life I was living - how I was acting and what I truly believed did not align.
So I went back to basics. To a time when hit I my goals, was BEAUTIFUL, and lived this process with freedom and flexibility. The approach that, ironically, helped me to lose the weight in the first place. I started cooking foods I LOVED again and stopped eating like it was a job. I cut my time in the gym tremendously... I started getting outdoors and exploring. I finally discovered balance. This new approach came with about a 10lbs weight gain, but Lord knows I needed it as I was withering away and my curves were leaving me in the dust. My regimen now is quite simple. An average day looks like:
Breakfast: Oats mixed with granola and almond milk
Lunch: Big green salad with lean protein or toast with eggs
Snack: Plant based protein bar/shake and coffee
Dinner: A FUN (yet healthy) meal that I put effort into creating - the types of meals found in my e-book
If I'm not traveling and I'm home and grounded... I make the above happen. I try to make 3 of the 4 meals vegetarian/plant based because it does wonders for my energy. I don't run away from carbs, and I LOVE the food I eat. I implement balance in my diet... a salad at lunch means I can enjoy a fun, homemade, healthy dinner (like pizza, pasta, or stir-fry). I seldom eat out, simply because it doesn't make me feel great. I enjoy a treat meal (usually pancakes, pizza, or a burger) 1-2 times per week.
As for the exercise, a typical week looks like:
Day 1: 30 minutes of cardio OR activity & 30 minutes of shoulders
Day 2: 30 minutes of cardio OR activity & 30 minutes of back/abs
Day 3: 30 minutes of cardio OR activity & 30 minutes of legs/glutes
Day 4: 30 minutes of cardio OR activity & 30 minutes of arms
The activity is something FUN! It could be a fun HIIT workout, yoga, a Muay Thai Class, or a long walk on the beach. Lifting weights truly makes me feel invincible so that will be a part of my life for as long as it continues to bring me joy.
I realized I found joy in being flexible.
Wow, this was far longer than expected - but I hope that through seeing the evolution of my journey, you takeaway a few things.
I hope you see that it really all started and ended with the basics: a balanced and fun approach to this journey. Not a day goes by where I don't LOVE my workouts or what I eat. Healthy living now truly makes me feel happy and whole.
I hope you see that in losing the weight, I took a slow and steady approach which particularly helped with maintenance. I lost an average of 10lbs a month and I never rushed the process - patience was paramount to my success. I really enjoyed the journey to losing 90lbs and try to instill this mentality to all of my clients.
I hope you see that during this journey I took the time to learn and educate myself. I was planned and strategic and worked hard, constantly pushing myself to new levels. Reflection was also a very important part of my process.
And lastly, I hope with everything in me, that you avoid that OCD stage like the plague. Period. The only good that came from that stage in my life was the fact that I am now able to appreciate this phase SO much more. Don't be like me, don't get there! Haha.
I hope this helped! Of course, I'm always looking for new things to write about and discuss. So please leave your comments and suggestions below!