Weight Loss Truths

Painful truth: Trying to fit into a wedding gown drove me to become a healthier, fitter person

Painful truth: Trying to fit into a wedding gown drove me to health

Monica Danna before and after July 2013 RUN FLAT
The author, in before-and-after photos. She has lost 25 pounds in six months. Courtesy photo/Photo by Holly Hoyt

As I sit down to write this, polishing off my third piece of meat lovers pizza and pretending this is my second, not fourth, glass of Viognier, I think about what this meal would have done to me two years ago.  I’d have felt so guilty for indulging, that it would wreck any chance I had of eating healthy the rest of the week, and I’d vow to start another attempt the following Monday.

Monday. That’s the magic weight loss day, right? Monday.

It must be proven somewhere that fitness plans that begin on a Monday are more effective, right? Monday. A fresh, new week, filled with limitless possibilities and the opportunity to have a clean, solid week of health and fitness.

I’ve struggled with weight and body image nearly my whole life. At least as long as the opposite sex has started to notice me. 

No matter that this pizza indulgence only happened on a Tuesday — week ruined. Next week it is! Followed by the worst meal choices I could have made Wednesday through Sunday.

After all, I’m starting a new plan on Monday! I better get in ALL the foods I’m gonna miss out on before then!

Yet this time, the Tuesday slip up was different.

As a person whose health and fitness does not come naturally, I’ve struggled with weight and body image nearly my whole life. At least as long as the opposite sex has started to notice me.

I’ve tried it all. Weight Watchers, group classes, gyms, pole dancing, boot camps, low carbs, no carbs, slow carbs. You name it. I’ve probably tried it.

A few years back I attended a Weight Watchers meeting. I can’t recall who it was, or the credentials of this particular speaker, but what she said that day has stuck with me ever since.

She compared a weight loss program to a road trip. Let’s say you’re traveling down the road and you realize you’ve made a wrong turn.

“Whoops. Looks like we made a wrong turn back there. What do you say we just turn around next Monday?”

No. You’d never say that. Why? Because the longer you wait to turn around, the further away from your destination you become.

That idea has made it’s way into my health consciousness ever since. Not for lack of trying was the result of my 30-plus-pound weight gain since college. As they say, it took a while to put it on (13 years to be exact) and it would take a while to get it off.

Once I turned 30, things changed from “How hot do I look in this dress?” to Googling the definition of “geriatric pregnancy.” Seriously. That’s what they call it at 35.

Over the course of 2012, between random, unfortunate health events, I honestly did give a great effort. My friend and trainer, Bella Body Fitness owner Bella Barak, will attest to this. She’s been my biggest cheerleader throughout this journey.

The important thing, was that I kept at it. It became a joke, still is, between us. I’d show up in between injuries and we’d laugh about what would happen next. It was much of that banter that kept me at it.

I knew, even after taking six months off, that she’d be there with a big smile, joking about what my next injury would be.

A Real Healthy Lifestyle

It was during that year that I really started to understand what a healthy lifestyle meant for ME. Not for you. Or her. Or him. Because it’s something that you have to define for yourself. If it doesn’t fit your personality, your lifestyle, your friends, your family, it’s not going to be successful.

Having had a particularly troubled 2012, with health issues ranging from digestive issues, herniated discs, deteriorating knees, car accidents, and a broken toe, I was anything but the picture of an able-bodied, willing participant filled with positivity for the new year.

It pains me to say that it took the image of myself in a big white gown to push me to make changes. But let’s be honest. That’s exactly what it took. 

When 2013 began, I tipped the scales at 185 pounds. I can’t even type it without cringing. Not because in any relative way that we measure weight that it sounds like a large number. But for me. Personally, for ME. That was the highest number I’ve ever seen on a scale. Throw in the fact that I’d be getting married later this year, it was enough to send an emotional eater to a Vegas buffet.

After spending my twenties and half of my thirties as a confident, strong, single female, it pains me to say that it took the image of myself in a big white gown to push me to makes some health changes. But let’s be honest. That’s exactly what it took.

After I let go of that cliche of myself, I was able to realize that no matter the motivation, once embarking upon a lifestyle change, other less extrinsic and finite goals emerge. And I’m learning that every day.

I started this year’s journey half a year ago. And in that six months, I’ve lost 25 pounds. I’ve lost six inches in my waist, and four in my hips. These numbers, while they sound large and vast (and they are!) are simply, to me, a collection of experience. Results are the number one motivator to me now. More so than a wedding gown, or a honeymoon bikini. Seeing that scale dip and that ruler cinch is the highest high for me these days.

Two years ago that same pizza feast would have delayed my progress a week, or months. This year, I simply choose to let myself indulge, hop back on the treadmill in the morning, and eat a healthy lunch and dinner the rest of the week. Because I’ve learned balance. And not to be so hard on myself. And that with indulgence comes discipline.

How I Did It

While you might have skipped over this entire narrative above just to get to this part — Get to the facts! Tell me WHAT.I.NEED.TO.DO! — I know if I wouldn’t have gone through the above, I wouldn’t have gotten these results.

I’m quite obviously not a nutritionist, or expert of ANY kind, except for the expert of ME. I know what works for me, and I know what doesn’t. This plan is a result of years of experimentation, help from a trainer, nutritionist, articles, friends. It’s not intended to be used as a blueprint for your fitness program. It’s merely a sample of what years of experimenting have gotten me to.

 Is it a perfect plan? Probably not. Could I be more disciplined at it? Heck yeah. D oes it work for me? Absolutely.

I got a juicer for Christmas, so I began juicing for breakfast each morning in January. I still juice every morning — some combination of mostly greens mixed in with apples or pears. For lunch I eat a big salad, which usually includes grilled chicken and lots of veggies. I prefer avocados, tomatoes, onion, and nuts. I make dressing out of Dijon mustard, olive oil and champagne vinegar.

For dinner (I just began cooking a year ago!) I make a protein, either chicken or fish (if it’s my fiancé's night to cook it’s always steak!), and a vegetable for me and a starch for him. I eat lots of vegetables. Mainly green vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, squash, sweet potatoes. I could write another entire article on my cooking adventures!

I cheat. Yes I cheat. I love fajitas. And burgers. And the cheese grits at Brennan’s. You have to cheat to win. I’m convinced of this. But I try to make it make it a point to cook at home at least four nights a week.

Alcohol. My best friend, my worst enemy. I’ve drastically reduced my alcohol intake. When I kicked off this year, I gave it up completely for one month. While before I’d probably average a few beers a night, and I like GOOD, dark, high calorie beer, I now try to stick to lighter beers on the weekends only. During the week, a glass of whiskey and water, or white wine a few nights a week gets me by.

The workouts are the easiest part for me. I don’t kill myself. I don’t throw up after running up a hill in 98 degree weather.

Do I sweat? You bet. You have to. With all my injuries, I’ve had to modify what I’m able to do to prevent further injuries. I’m lucky to have found a trainer that understands all my ailments and knows the right way to push me to continue to see results.

On a good week, I’m at Bella Body Fitness on Shepherd four times a week doing two back-to-back 30 minute classes of plyometrics, Pilates, low weight/high repetition core strengthening exercises. Each day is a different class and the variety helps to combat workout fatigue. Before class, I complete a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program on the elliptical at my gym, 20 to 30 minutes max.

On a bad week, I’ll make one class, and never see the inside of the gym. I’ve had those weeks. And to balance, I try and eat extra healthy that week. I know I’ll never be that person that’s at the gym every morning. My lifestyle doesn’t allow it. And I like my life. So I’ve figured out a way to fit fitness into it.

Is it a perfect plan? Probably not. Could I be more disciplined at it? Heck yeah. Does it work for me? Absolutely.

I don’t expect my story to change anyone’s life. Nor do I expect it to yield the same result as mine. I simply hope that something I say sticks with you, the way that Weight Watchers’ analogy stuck with me all these years. Because until your motivation, drive, and determination line up, there’s nothing I, or anyone, can say or do that will get you results.

The best advice I can give to you is that fitness has to be a marathon, not a sprint. Short term results don’t last. Love yourself enough to take things slowly. The first day is going to SUCK. The second day will suck a little less. Eat pizza on a Tuesday. And then go eat your veggies.

See you next Monday.