How to Begin Losing Weight

 “Lose 1 pound a day!” “Just say no to carbs!” “Follow this meal plan for guaranteed results!”

I could go on, and on, and on about all the diet and get slim quick claims we are inundated with on a daily basis. I could also tell you that Weight Watchers is the only way to lose weight. But, I am not going to do that. Why? Because this journey is personal. What worked for me may not work for you. Each of us needs to define what healthy means to us. The goal is to find something that is sustainable over time for you. I will tell you what worked for me in hopes it will help you with your journey.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

One of the many things I loved about the Weight Watchers (WW) program was their initial focus on this journey being a lifestyle change and avoiding the word “diet.” When you think of diet you often think of restriction and all the foods that are “off limits”. But WW teaches you to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. They focus on helping you learn what a balanced meal looks like, portion control, setting small goals along the way, and increasing your water intake. After that they focus on moving more. I know for myself, exercising was going to be almost as difficult as changing my eating habits because I was lazy.  I know you’re not supposed to say negative things about yourself. But, c’mon. When you lay on the couch all evening after work eating fried chicken tenders dipped in ranch… then what else would you call it?

Since I wasn’t used to exercising I needed something that was easy to follow; yet effective. So I purchased a treadmill and started walking 45-minutes to 1 hour a day 5 days a week. Then I would jog as long as I could and then walk when I got tired. Eventually I started running and running is still my main form of cardio. I also purchased exercise DVD’s and followed TV exercise programs. You have to find something you enjoy; otherwise you will not stick to it and working out will feel like a chore you dread. For you, it may be Zumba, Kickboxing, or CrossFit. Whatever it is, make sure you enjoy it.

With the combination of eating better and moving more, I lost about 1-2 pounds per week. For some, that progress may be too slow. But, again, you don’t want to start something that is drastic that you cannot maintain. It took me about a year to lose 50 pounds. I’ve lost about another 10 pounds after that.

On top of being lazy (or if you want to be polite, you could say sedentary), I wasn’t the best cook. But I didn’t use that as an excuse to not prepare healthy meals. The WW site has a huge database of healthy, easy to prepare meals. I also used Google for recipe ideas. I made a list of all the unhealthy foods I liked and then found healthy alternatives for foods such as pizza, French fries, chicken tenders, etc. I even branched out and found recipes from other lifestyles, such as Paleo, Vegan, and Vegetarian. I also followed a ton of Facebook health pages for recipe ideas.

Tracking my meals was also extremely beneficial, because it kept me accountable. If I was having a good week, it was easy to identify what went well. If I was having an off week, I could see what I needed to change. In WW, you track Points®. All foods have a Points® value and you are allotted a certain number of Points® per day based on factors such as height, weight, daily activity level, etc. But if you don’t follow WW, you may choose to count calories, count macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, & fat), or you may simply choose to write it out in a journal. Whichever method you choose, the key is being honest with yourself and mindful of what you’re eating. Tracking helps you determine if your choices are pushing you closer to or further away from your goals. I currently use MyFitnessPal® to help me track my meals, weight, and calories burned during workouts. Some people think you can eat what you want and just exercise. But you cannot undo a poor diet with exercise. Weight loss (and weight maintenance) is 80% diet and 20% exercise.

I also made sure I ate frequently throughout the day. Calorie restriction is not the answer. If you consume too few calories, your body will go into starvation mode and it will negatively impact your metabolism. Plus, think of the embarrassment of fainting in public! Instead, focus on eating 5 meals per day, spaced about 4 hours a part to keep you satisfied and give your body the fuel it needs. Drink your water, too, people! Our bodies are composed largely of water. Start with drinking eight glasses per day and then increase that to drinking half your body weight in ounces. I was a huge juice drinker and increasing my water intake wasn’t easy, so I started drinking sparking water and lemon water instead.

Finally, I encourage you to set small goals along the way. I had an idea of my goal weight, but I broke it down into smaller 5-10 pound increments. This was helpful to me because I had a lot of weight to lose and didn’t want to overwhelm myself with the thought of losing 50 pounds. Create a plan for how you will achieve that goal. Write out your goal and then describe the steps you will take to achieve that goal. It is OK to reward yourself along the way. But make your rewards non-food related. Your reward could be a massage, pedicure, or a new pair of earrings.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” Zig Ziglar

When you begin your journey, you won’t have all the answers and there will be bumps along the way. This journey will change and evolve over time. Don’t try and figure it out all at once. Stick with the journey, learn, be patient, and continue with those habits that are helping you; work towards changing those habits that are not helping you. These are habits you developed over time and you cannot change them overnight. Strive for progress and not perfection.

I would love to hear from you! What was, or is, the most difficult part in starting your journey? How can I help you reach your weight loss goals?

 FullSizeRenderIMG_0396

Advertisements

Why I Returned to My Natural Hair

Relaxed vs. natural

Straight Hair Obsession

“Mommy. Can I get a relaxer, pleeeeeeease?” “No! You’re not old enough.” *Pouts and walks away.*

I was probably no more than 10 years old when I asked my mom this question. I wanted straight hair like on the commercials. Hair that blew in the wind and could be combed with ease. I didn’t want to wear afro puffs anymore or sit by a hot stove to get my hair pressed (plus I had my ears burned one too many times because I wouldn’t sit still). I wanted to feel like a young woman and go through that rite of passage where I go from getting my hair done in the kitchen to getting my hair styled at a salon. I had thick, long, frizzy hair. Picture a young Chaka Khan and that was me.

When I reached high school, my mom finally allowed me to go to a salon regularly and get a relaxers. Success, I won! No more frizz, no more afro puffs, and no more ear burns! And did I mention how laid my edges would be?! I was officially a young woman. Yep, I was grown.

The Salon Experience

“Ok. We’ll let this sit for about 8 minutes.” Anyone who has ever had a relaxer knows this 8 minutes is the longest 8 minutes of your life! 8 minutes is about the length of time your stylist allows the relaxer to sit on your hair before shampooing it out. While she goes off to attend to another client, you’re in your chair squirming, tapping your feet and taking deep breaths trying to cope with the burning sensation. I’m having flashbacks just thinking about the burn! Sure, you can pick up a magazine, check your Facebook and Instagram, or have a snack to comfort you. But really none of that will work until you can get your head in that shampoo bowl. The stylist finally returns and you feel like a kid on Christmas day! Relief, finally!

She shampoos and conditions your hair, styles it just right, and you feel like a new woman. You also leave thankful you won’t have to experience that torture again for another 6-8 weeks.

But why do we put ourselves through this process? We deal with the scalp burns and scabs all for what? Just so we can have hair that is easier to manage and “looks better” than our natural hair? Where do we conceive this idea that our natural hair is “bad” and thus needs to be fixed? At the root of it, we’ve allowed mainstream society to narrowly define beauty. So, subconsciously we buy into it and think we need relaxers. I bought into this notion thinking my hair was a problem that could only be resolved with a tub of “creamy crack.” Wrong! My hair itself wasn’t a problem; it was how I viewed my hair that was the problem.

Turning Point

And if the scalp burns weren’t enough, I started to experience breakage. My hair was so weak and damaged that when I would run my fingers through my hair, large pieces would fall on the floor. I used to literally scoop hair off my bathroom floor. Before relaxers, my hair was mid back length, but broke off to shoulder length. So I ended up with a bob that I didn’t intend to have. The breakage was enough to finally get me to stop getting relaxers and focus on reviving my hair. My last relaxer was in November 2009. I started wearing extensions in April 2010 to help me transition from relaxed to natural. U was too afraid to big chop since I never had short hair. I wore extensions until October 2012. At that time, a majority of my relaxer grew out and I cut the rest of my relaxed ends. I felt so liberated! I know that sounds cliché. But I was off to a fresh start where I could re-learn my hair: what did it look like again when it was wet? What products would work best for my hair? I was so used to wearing my hair straight, what styling options did I now have? With so many questions and not sure where to begin, I read “The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair” by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy. This book covers EVERYTHING hair related from the basics of what composes a strand of hair, how chemicals change the integrity of the hair strand, how various ingredients effect the hair, building a hair care regimen, and so much more. I encourage everyone to read this book if you’re interested in understanding and growing healthy hair.

I used this book as a foundation to help me build a hair care regimen that included a schedule and products to use (I will cover this in more detail in a later post). My regimen has evolved over time, but this book was a great starting point. Google search’s, blogs, and YouTube were my BFF’s during my early natural years and I still use these sources. There is a wealth of information available to assist you with your natural hair journey and I hope to also be one of those sources. I am so glad I made to choice to stop using relaxers. My hair is the healthiest and longest it has ever been. I went from shoulder length, relaxed and damaged hair in November 2009 to hair that is almost tailbone length as I write this post in May of 2016. I love my hair now. No, I don’t think it is perfect. But it is mine. My hair can be unruly and difficult to manage, but I appreciate it for all that it is. I don’t allow myself to compare it to anyone else’s hair. The fact that my curls are unique to me makes them beautiful in their own way!

My Weight Release Story

Weight Loss Before & AfterI kept putting this off. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. But what if tomorrow never comes? What if I fail to reach someone who can benefit from this and begin their journey into a healthier lifestyle? I kept waiting for the “perfect” time to create my blog. But if we continue to wait for the perfect time, then we will never get started. So, here I am ready after much procrastination and loved ones asking me “Okay, when are you starting your blog?” I am here to tell my story. I hope you will be encouraged by my journey and become a healthier and happier you.

“Are you pregnant?” Yep. Someone asked me that and my response was “No” because I wasn’t. I laughed it off at the time. But inside, it stung. Was I really that overweight that it could be confused with baby weight gain? I knew I needed to make a change. I actually knew that for some time, but kept putting it off (like I put off creating this blog). I am not sure where I thought the weight would go. As if it would disappear into some far away magical land never to return. But what was the magic spell I could use to make it go away? Then I snapped back into reality and realized, nothing will work unless you do! You know you’re tired of feeling sluggish, having acne breakouts, tight jeans, and your thighs rubbing together. And the pregnancy question? That was pretty much the nail in the coffin.

I decided I would no longer feel this way and I didn’t have to! I kept seeing the Weight Watchers commercials and half paying attention to them thinking, “Weight Watchers is for old women!” But still something drew me to it. The program had been around for a long time and so many people achieved success on the program, it must be good, right? I tried the low-carb (Atkins) diet. I lost some weight, but found it too restrictive. So I ended up gaining the weight back and then some. I tried “doing it on my own.” But I didn’t have a solid plan and really didn’t know what I was doing. So again, I lost some weight, but put it back on and then some.

So one day, I believe it was a Friday, back in 2008, I went to the Weight Watchers website and looked up the meeting closet to me. The most convenient day was Monday at 7PM. In 2 days, I can begin to change my life or continue being un-happy. So Monday after work, I went to my local meeting, signed up, and never looked back. I not am saying I was 100% gung-ho from the beginning. There was a small, nagging voice that said “What did you just do?” Was I really ready? Well, I had to be since I signed a contract. So after reading through the materials they provided, I started to feel better; like I had direction and accountability, which I previously lacked. Yes, there were some bumps along the way while I was learning the program and adapting to my new lifestyle. By the way, I don’t use the term “diet.” I prefer “lifestyle change.” I had to learn the basics: portion control, staying hydrated, incorporating exercise into my day, the difference between satisfied and stuffed, and how to make healthy choices during events and holidays. Once I began to make changes and see consistent results, I realized (as in all cases), my fear was misplaced. I had nothing to fear and everything to gain. I could do this!

In one year, I lost 50 pounds and I was so proud of myself. This showed me that I could set a goal and achieve it if I put my all into it. Losing weight was one of the hardest, yet rewarding things I have ever done. As far as accomplishments, I consider my weight loss journey almost as hard as earning my bachelor’s degree! Yes, that hard, because I needed to change habits that I developed over my lifetime and then develop sustainable habits that would help me keep the weight off.

I have managed to keep the weight off since 2009 and people still ask me why I still work out and eat healthy (as if, again, there is something magical that will keep the pounds from coming back), I tell them this is a lifestyle. I want to be healthy for life! Not so I can be “summer time fine” or get in shape for an event. But because I want to live. For a long time. I want to be healthy and confident. Often our bodies are ready for change. It is our minds that need to catch up. So once I changed my mind, I changed my life!

Yours in health,

Sharae