When was the last time that you set a personal goal for yourself with the knowledge that you most likely wouldn’t cross the finish line until a good year later? I LOVE setting goals and more than setting them, I love meeting them…quickly and efficiently and within a timeline that allows other people to sit back and say “Whoa, that Reagan. When she sets her mind to something she gets there fast.” Even though I make resolutions every New Year that are intended to last the year, I find myself setting mini bench marks because I need to see the progress in order to keep up my determination. And that sentiment isn’t all bad. Being able to measure progress is key to achieving long term goals but sometimes in our fast food, give it to me now, hot and ready culture we don’t know how to settle in and strive steadily and quietly to the finish line. Life might be a marathon but that four piece band at mile 16 sure does take the edge off.
But I have found that those life changes that are the most worthwhile, the ones that produce lasting results and leave us with a truly better lifestyle are the ones that take the most commitment, the most dedication and a quiet and steady resolve to trudge forward when progress isn’t immediate or obvious. My younger sister, Alli, has recently emerged from one such journey. All of her life her weight has been a sticking point with her. From high school on she has tried diet after diet, drill after drill, workout after workout and yet never really seemed to get ahead of the game far enough to truly relax and be herself. She is the mom to an active and a heartbreaker of a little boy and when she realized that the pregnancy weight wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, she finally decided to put her nose to the grindstone and commit for the long haul to being healthier. To date, she has now lost almost 54 lbs in the last 14 months or so. Read those numbers again. 54 lbs….that’s significant. You can see that difference in her “before” and “after” pictures below. Fourteen months….that is definitely significant. Alli made the decision to lose wight, be healthier and live life differently and she has stuck with it for 14 months and counting. That number blows my mind more than 54 pounds. How many times do you turn on the TV or check your Facebook feed or now even post on Instagram and immediately become inundated with “Get Fit Quick”, “Try this fad diet and lost 30 lbs in 30 days”, “Check out this new gym and tone your way to a new you in just 3 weeks!” But as you will read in Alli’s interview below, the real weight loss, the real exercise regime, the real lifestyle change doesn’t come quickly and doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, dedication and a refusal to quit when the scale doesn’t move.
So, before you read any further let me give you a brief introduction to my little sister that I think you will find helpful as you read about her journey. One, she is hilarious. Really and truly. So feel free to laugh with her because she wants you to! Two, she loves to eat. Why do I mention this? Because nothing makes my blood boil faster than someone touting a weight loss program or an exercise fad that also just “seriously, loves a good salad more than anything else.” Good for you. I do not. I want sugar and grease and carbs. And so does Alli. So when she talks about changing her diet or eating healthier, she doesn’t mean 24/7 kale. She is an excellent cook and meals at her house are delicious and satisfying in every way possible. And she understands the necessity of a Dairy Queen splurge. In other words, she is a real person. And a real mom. She has an incredibly active, non-stop toddler. If anyone would have the excuse to not eat well and exercise, it would be her. But, as you will see later, her son has become an inspiration to her healthier lifestyle, rather than an excuse. Three, she is and has always been beautiful, inside and out. Despite the number on the scale or her dress size, she has always been stunning. Balance is important with any attempt to live healthier and Alli continues to do a great job of perfecting her inner and outer beauty in healthy and balanced ways.
And lastly, this is just my own note, Alli gives some great tips and how to’s because they worked for her. I know that she would echo my sentiments when I say find something that is healthy and you like and then work your little tail off. It doesn’t matter if its running, barre classes, being a gym rat, paleo, weight watchers or Dr. Oz. Just find something that motivates you and moves you to a healthier lifestyle and then commit to it…for the long haul. That’s what Alli did and as you can see and read, the results are life altering:
Where does your weight loss journey begin?
I have struggled with weight my entire adult life, and was about 20 pounds overweight when I became pregnant with our son. Long story short, I ate anything and everything I wanted throughout my entire pregnancy, and gained over 50 pounds as a result. The day I gave birth, I weighed nearly 200 pounds, at 5 foot 1! I naively assumed it would all fall right off in the next few months, but by the time our son was 6 months old, I was still obese, weighing in at 166 pounds. I was eating 100% junk and it showed. I was also incredibly unhappy, unhealthy, and lethargic.
What methodology or philosophy did you decide to adopt in order to try to lose the weight?
I decided to join Weight Watchers at the beginning of my weight loss journey. I’d lost about 30 pounds after my first year of college using the WW program, and loved the idea that I could continue to eat the foods I was used to, only in moderation. As a new mom, I wasn’t prepared for a complete diet overhaul, but I knew it was time to make some changes.
What were your biggest obstacles to losing weight this past year?
In the beginning, I struggled with motivation in general. I was tired, overweight, and overwhelmed. I knew deep down that I could do it, but I would get discouraged when I would look in the mirror and still didn’t look like myself. I knew it would take time, but secretly wished for instant results. I also hit a bit of a plateau around the holidays, not surprisingly. I’d lost a good bit of weight, and achieved my Weight Watchers goal weight, putting me just inside of a healthy BMI range. I got a little too comfortable, even though I knew I had further to go. So, I overindulged all the way into the New Year, but then got back in the swing of things. More recently, I’ve pushed myself to the limits with challenging exercises daily– but those are fun obstacles! I love seeing what my body can do now.
Who or what inspired you to make a lifestyle change?
Honestly, it may sound cliche, but my biggest motivation was just looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger looking back at me. I felt entirely out of control. Beyond that, I wanted to be a strong and healthy mom, and lead a healthy family by example. How could I make our son’s organic baby food with love, while stuffing my face with cheese fries?
Do you like eating? Because I don’t listen to people about weight loss if they legitimately “hate the taste of sugar” or something equally annoying.
Eating is one of my big passions in life! I am an equal opportunity eater, and I have both a raging sweet tooth and savory tooth. My first real meals after both our wedding and coming home after giving birth were an entire order of bacon covered cheese fries with ranch from Outback. I can put it away!
What books, websites, people, etc were essential to you in your weight loss journey?
Initially, I basically cooked my way through every Weight Watchers cookbook I could get my hands on, specifically the 50th Anniversary edition and New Complete Cookbook. I also have loved skinnytaste.com and Cooking Light magazine for food inspiration.
My family has been a big support system for me along the way. My husband has been especially supportive and encouraging. He knows when I need the ice cream, and when to take the ice cream away! Also, my personal trainer has been a huge help as I’ve begun to focus on building my strength. I would not have known where to start! I’m also continually motivated by my skinny sister getting all buff with barre classes and Bikini Bod Bootcamp!
What role, if any, does exercise play in your weight loss plan?
To be honest, in the beginning, I was not motivated to exercise, nor did I feel like I had the energy. I was incredibly inactive before and during my pregnancy, and the idea of true exercise was incredibly daunting. I lost the bulk of my weight just through eating less, period. However, as I lost more and more weight, I became more comfortable with the idea of exercise. Initially, I would just go walk on the treadmill, gradually increasing the incline. Recently, I’ve been going to classes at the gym almost daily, varying from bosu and step aerobics classes, to endurance and outdoor conditioning classes. I also try to get to barre classes whenever we visit family in Orlando and I work with a personal trainer for strength training once a week. At this point, my focus has shifted from exercising for weight loss to exercising to build lean muscle and gain endurance.
What role, if any, do friendships or social relationships play into your weight loss?
Finding a group of people to share support and motivation with has been a HUGE factor in my mission to get into shape. At first, I shared very little with my friends, mostly because my weight honestly kept me from wanting to socialize much. I felt incredibly insecure. However, I did find a huge support system online with other people going through the same struggles. I loved going on Instagram and finding new recipes, sharing successes and struggles, and just generally feeling a sense of community during an otherwise lonely time.
As the weight started to come off, I began to come out of “hibernation” and started to spend more time with friends. I found a great group of girls to hit the gym regularly with, and they encourage me to come out of my comfort zone and try new exercises and classes. I feel that these friends have been integral to my success as well, since they fully support me, never trying to derail my drive to stay healthy. On the flip side, they also keep me in check if I start to get a little TOO crazy with exercise or never letting myself splurge a bit. I’m so thankful to be surrounded by support like that from both friends and family.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone facing necessary weight loss?
It may sound cliche, but just get started– now! My only wish is that I’d started sooner. I could’ve saved myself a lot of grief!
What if advice do you have, if any for people who are forced to eat on the go a lot?
Just be prepared. Even though I stay at home, I begin each day knowing, for the most part, what I’ll be eating as far as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you know you’re going to be out, bring meals and snacks in a little cooler, and always have water on hand. It’s been said before a million times, but failing to plan really is planning to fail! Hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, nuts, lunch meat, and cheese can all be easily transported in little baggies. Don’t be out and about, starving, with no healthy options in hand!
How did this past year influence the way you parent or your family as a whole?
Such a big change for our family! We went from a pretty inactive family with never enough time in the day, to a family that loves moving together and makes the most of every day! We are still just as busy, if not more so, but we have the energy to get things done. I also feel that I’m able to focus more on being a good mother to our son, since I take the time to take care of myself as well.
I know that you started doing a lot more cooking at home when you decided to lose weight. What one recipe has become your go to dinner?
It really goes through cycles, but lately I’ve been loving to make this recipe for lasagna with zucchini instead of noodles. All three of us love it, it’s super-filling, and easily prepped during nap time. I just pop it in the oven when I get the call that my husband has left work, and it’s ready when he gets home! (As a side note: I omit the flour, use fat-free ricotta, 8 oz light mozzarella, and double all the spices.) Find the recipe here.
What is one thing you would go back a year ago and tell yourself about the coming year?
I would tell myself just to be patient. I’m not a naturally patient person, and there were definitely times I felt like giving up, or felt that where I was, was a good enough place to stop. While my value as a person hasn’t changed, how much I value myself and my body has. I respect myself so much more, and I’m so glad that I didn’t quit!