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Just like dieting, exercising to lose weight works differently for everyone. Throughout my weight loss journey, I’ve tried a wide variety of exercises. I’ve gone extreme and done hours of the most intense exercise (which I don’t recommend) and I’ve also had periods of time where I just do a yoga class once a week. It can seem like exercising for weight loss is a tango between not doing enough and doing too much, but there is in fact a system to doing certain types of exercise at different stages of your weight loss journey. It is soul destroying to work out really hard every day for weeks with no results. Take the time to try out several different types of exercise to find the best match for you and your body.
At the start of 2018, I weighed 220lbs and today I only weigh 110lbs. In the beginning of my weight loss journey, I thought that my exercise routine and diet would stay pretty much exactly the same all the way from Point A to Point B. I should’ve known that life doesn’t work like that and expected a lot of obstacles. The great thing about having to change my weight loss strategy so many times was that I now have a really broad understanding of how exercising for weight loss works, how to solve plateaus and how to speed weight loss along. It was definitely worth taking the scenic route in the end!
220 – 187lbs – Warming Up
At the peak of being overweight, I really struggled with exercising. One main problem was that I had absolutely no interest in exercising for health and did not see any value in going for a run. I just thought that it was a waste of time. Another main problem was that I never viewed myself as a ‘sporty’ person, and this really stopped me from making an effort to get out, be active and shake up my distorted view of self. My answer to disliking exercise came from an unusual area, my dogs. I felt really guilty on the days when I didn’t take my dogs for a walk and I used this guilt as a tool against myself to get outside and exercise.
I started out walking the dogs for only about half an hour every day and I was surprised at just how quickly that small amount of exercise started to work for me. Encouraged by these results, I started taking the dogs for 45 minute walks (with breaks in between for the dogs and a pram for when they got tired). The dogs absolutely loved it and this gave us a special opportunity to bond. My weight plummeted and it fell off easily and quickly.
Every day I got on the scale and without fail, I had lost weight. It was just too easy! I started to make changes to my diet as I was being encouraged by these results and this helped to push my weight loss even further. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, and I settled into the routine, I was even calculating how many days it would take me to reach my goal weight at this steady pace. I was completely unprepared for that day when I got on the scale and the number just would not move.
187 – 165lbs – Breaking Limits
I had never really thought much about dieting before, and as a result, I had very little knowledge about counting calories and which types of exercise burn the most fat. After doing a bit of research, I decided that the answer to my problems would be to push myself a lot harder and force the scale to move. Luckily for me, my apartment complex came with a gym and I had a great range of equipment at my disposal.
I continued to do my dog walking in the morning for about half an hour and then I would go to the gym and push myself to do almost another full hour of more intense exercise. I would usually focus on doing about half an hour of High Intensity Interval Training cardio on either a treadmill or a stationary bike. I would sometimes go for a swim in the pool after this. I also started cutting calories out of my diet. Initially, this strategy worked well for me and it ultimately helped me to shift 22lbs. But it was not an exercise regimen that I could continue doing for an extended period of time. I was always feeling tired and it was ultimately becoming an unhealthy addition to my day.
Soon the scale stopped again and I found that I could not lose any more weight. I really struggled at this time and continued to blame myself for not working hard enough. It’s important to follow the quotes and advice that you see on social media about ‘never giving up’ and ‘don’t stop until you make it’ to a certain extent, but it’s also important to know that sometimes this encouragement needs to be overridden and you need to do what is best for yourself. A lot of the advice I got was to push myself harder and this really wasn’t working for me. It took me way too long to question this advice and make the right decision: take a break.
165 – 143lbs – Joining a Gym
After taking a break for about a month, I started to lose a little bit of weight, but I was impatient and I wanted to lose more, faster. At this point, I decided that I would try going to a proper gym to get some professional advice, get tips from the other gym members and try out some new exercises. Immediately when I entered the gym I started doing cardio on the treadmill, spin classes, rowing, boxing classes and yoga classes. All of these exercises were great on their own, but the secret to losing weight was swapping them around.
I like to make a routine and stick to it. So, I’d be doing spin classes every day for a week, then a week of yoga and a week of jogging. While this did end up giving me some positive results, they were very minimal. On Monday I was getting a great workout, but by Friday my body had already adapted to whatever I was doing and I just couldn’t burn enough calories to make it worth my while. Once I started shaking it up and never doing the same exercise two days in a row, the results really started to show. But of course, soon enough even with shaking up my exercise, the scale stopped again. This time I started asking around for advice on what to do next and I kept getting the same suggestion: Try strength training.
143 – 132lbs – Lifting Weights
I had never really entertained the idea of lifting weights. It just didn’t seem like something I could do. I started to notice just how many other girls and guys were using strength training at the gym and I decided that I may as well give it a try. I really enjoyed weight lifting. It was very empowering and has so many more benefits than just weight loss. Muscles are necessary for weight loss, so it comes as no surprise that by focusing on bulking up on muscle, you can really speed along your fat loss results.
It’s also important to remember when lifting weights, that gaining weight is not the same as gaining fat. When I first started lifting weights, I didn’t like it because the number on the scale was climbing. What I soon learnt was that even though the number was rising, my body fat was decreasing and being replaced with stronger and more toned muscle. Another great perk of weight lifting is the after burn effect.
When you stretch a muscle, you are actually tearing your muscle fibres. The process that takes place to repair these fibres and leave your muscles stronger than before, requires a significant amount of energy and this can cause your metabolism to rise. As a result, your body can continue burning calories and fat for a long time after you’ve finished exercising, sometimes even up to 72 hours later! This is a great return on investment for half an hour or so spent weight lifting in the gym. I loved weight lifting because I was not only losing weight but I was also becoming a stronger version of myself. Eventually though, I hit another weight loss plateau and I needed to try something new.
132 – 110lbs – From Here On Out
After trying all sorts of gimmicks and strategies to start losing weight again, I decided to give my mind and body a break. I took a few weeks off from the gym and spent them relaxing deeply and doing no more than light walking for exercise. I also made an effort to stop eating a strict diet and really give my body a break. Initially, eating food that I wouldn’t normally eat did wonders for my weight loss. I was trying a keto diet at this time and it was suggested to me that I try ordering a high carb meal, like a pizza, as a one-off to shake up my metabolism and get back into the fat burning process.
I have to say that this was some of the best advice I was ever given. It really goes against the grain to eat a pizza when you’re trying to lose weight, but it was just the right amount of variety that I needed to get back on track. For about a month, I did no more exercise than a spot of yoga here and there and small walks with the dogs. I ate whatever I wanted, within reason. That is, I would eat a slice of pizza, but no more than one or two and I would cut something else out later in its stead.
This relaxed state of dieting really helped to relax my body and the weight continued to fall off just as it did at the start of my journey. When I realized that relaxation was the trigger for this weight loss, I started taking up meditation and other mindful activities such as painting and reading. This really helped to speed along the weight loss process for me.
Now that I’ve reached my goal weight, I still stick to this relaxed view of weight loss, but I will deviate from it from time to time. I change up my diet often and eat whatever I like, within reason. This diet limbo keeps my body guessing and no matter what, I’m still eating healthy and organic food. It’s true what they say about weight loss being 20% exercise and 80% diet. At this stage in my journey, I’m paying much more attention to my diet than I am to my exercise, but I do still place great importance on my physical activity. It’s important to try a wide range of exercises to determine which types of exercise you enjoy and which your body is the most responsive to. Make sure that you’re shaking up your routine regularly and taking it at a pace that is right for you.
What’s your experience with exercising for weight loss? Do you find that some exercises are better than others? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
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