Before we begin, I want you to do two things. One, grab a cup of tea (and by tea, I mean wine), because this is going to be a long one. Two, look at all three of the photos above and write down what weight you think I am in each.
She’s Thick. She’s Curvy. She’s Chubby. She’s Big.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a “big girl” (everyone else’s words, not mine). People have always used different words to describe my size – big-boned, heavy-set, chubby. As I hit womanhood, the language shifted depending on who I was speaking to; some would call me curvy or thick, but never “fat”. At least not to my face. In our home, my dad did all of the cooking and I don’t remember ever eating food from a box. We ate like queens daily and it was magical. Hot breakfast, hot lunches (no PB&J in my house) and supper that was never the same.
There was a time in my life where I was sensitive about my weight for all of the obvious reasons, but namely, I looked different from all of my friends and this milkshake didn’t bring any boys to the yard in high school. Truthfully though, I wasn’t all that concerned with that type of male attention when I was younger, plus I wasn’t allowed to date. I was active in sports and trained in wrestling, TaeKwonDo (I’m a black belt FYI), ringette and kickboxing. I was always big, but I was fit AF.
As time progressed, 10 years, 3 degrees, and two province moves later, I stopped being fit and just became fat. The interesting thing is that even with a 70lb weight gain, I was still happy with myself.
Because even at my fittest, I was still “overweight” according to my Body Mass Index (BMI).
The difficult thing about body size and weight is that you can never tell by looking at someone what their weight is, so nobody has ever in a zillion years guessed my actual weight. Here’s where you will need those numbers you wrote down. Picture one is me at 20 yrs old and still fairly athletic. Picture two is me at 28 at the height of my fatness. Picture three is me at 30, the strongest and fittest I have ever been.
In picture one, I am 180 lbs (+/-). Picture two I am somewhere between 245 and 249 lbs. In picture three I am 208 lbs. In all 3 pictures I am either “overweight” or “obese” based on the BMI. Let that sink in. Granted, in picture 2 I am definitely fat, but obese? In picture 3 I am still obese…. mmmmkay. *rolls eyes*
I Lost 35 lbs Eating Pasta, Drinking Wine and Living My Best Life
*just not every day*
I know you want me to get to the good stuff, so the real question here is how did I lose the weight? Let me start by telling you a few really important things: at no point in this journey did I deprive myself of food, nor did I cut out carbs or only consume 1200 calories a day (read: starve myself).
It all started when I met my now friend Lonie Murdock of Eat Train Live. She approached me in May of 2017 and asked me if I was interested in learning about food and doing a program with her – basically would I be her test subject. She agreed to provide me with meals from Eat Train Live weekly, teach me how to “count my macros” (I’ll get to that) and train me. She promised me that I wouldn’t have to deprive myself and that I could still enjoy food and live my life.
I am not someone who can consume the same foods day in and day out over and over again. I am a foodie – I love to taste, eat and enjoy food because it’s an experience. With this program, I had a way to eat what I want, learn about my relationship with food, and lose weight? SIGN ME UP.
Then she introduced me to Lindsey Bethke, founder of Trust Nutrition, who taught me about “flexible dieting” or popularly known as “macro dieting’. Macros is short for “macronutrients”, which are essentially what make up the foods you eat and what your body uses for energy (protein, carbs, fats). Lindsey explained that there is a magical land where I could eat whatever I wanted, as long as I hit my macros and caloric numbers for the day. It’s kind of like tetris for food – you can eat what you want, but you have to make it fit. In order to do this, I used MyFitnessPal to track every ounce of food that went into my body. No cheating and no cutting corners. I am super lucky because I don’t drink anything other than water, red wine and almond milk lattes in the way of beverages, so I never had to track much on that front. Alcohol and sugar drinks will crush your macros and I prefer to eat my macros, rather than drink them.
This process forced me to consider what I was eating and make a conscious decision about it. For example, before the program in the morning I would normally have a latte and a muffin. Now, instead of eating a muffin that has 55 g of carbs, I eat eggs or a protein shake because I would rather eat pasta or something delicious for supper. 90% of the time I won’t use my macros on a dry-ass muffin. You feel me?
I know this sounds daunting, but I promise you tracking your food is easy and we are creatures of habit. We eat the same things regularly and that makes it simple enough to log your food. With MyFitnessPal I can see what numbers I need to hit and what my macro and caloric intakes are.
The first step in the program was the “Maintenance Phase” which is basically two weeks of stuffing your face with so much food that you literally want to vomit. During this time, Lindsey calculates your baseline caloric intake to determine the maximum amount of calories you can eat without gaining weight. This serves two purposes: the first, to restore your metabolism, and the second, to show you just how much food you’re ACTUALLY supposed to be eating to maintain your weight. My Maintenance phase was 2640 calories daily and I absolutely HAD to consume 218g of protein, 196 g of carbs and 109 g of fat. I am not exaggerating when I say, I was gagging trying to get the food into my mouth. The rule was that I had to consume that amount within 24 hours – didn’t matter what time that fell within. So none of this “no food after 7pm” business. I am pretty sure this is the GIF I sent both Lindsey and Lonie one night when I was trying to eat my last 600 calories at 11:22pm.
The most insane part of this was that during the maintenance phase I thought I was going to burst from fullness and I did not gain one – single – pound. IN FACT, I lost .8 of a pound – I was shooketh. Maintenance was important because I learned just how much food I needed to consume to maintain my weight and how much I had to eat to gain weight, and it was a lot.
Fat Burning Phase
When Lindsey moved me to the “Fat Burning Phase” after two weeks and I only had to eat 1900 calories with 158 g of protein, 139 g of carbs and 79 g of fat, I was literally on bended knee thanking our lord Beysus. From then on, I was training in Taekwondo two days a week, doing a FocusMaster Fitness class one day a week and occasionally throwing something else in there when I wanted to.
And honey child, the weight started to come off. Week after week that scale went down. All that said, I weighed in twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and there was always a variance in weekly weight loss. Some weeks I was down 3 lbs and other weeks 1 lb. On weeks where I was consuming too much salt, or being lazy with my counts, it was reflected on the scale. But what Lindsey taught me is that there are literally one million things that can impact your weight loss – some of which are stress, sleep, your period, salt intake, irregular bowel movements, travel and a whole host of other things. Water weight for me was a big one because I love the sh*t out of salt.
Every week I would check in with Lindsey and Lonie and every week I would hold myself accountable to them both. Now, I fully acknowledge that I had a LOT of help here. Lonie provided me with 3 meals a day, 6 days a week for several months and that was without a doubt critical to my success. However, not everyone can afford that route, so one of the other great tools that is available for meal planning, which I use now, is That Clean Life – they have amazing recipes and it’s so easy to pull them straight from the web link and MyFitnessPal calculates everything for you.
Ok Cleo, But How Much Weight Did You Really Lose?
When I started, I was 241 lbs. When I ended, I was 209.7lbs. I spent 27 weeks and 5 days total on this program with 4 weeks of maintenance in there (so we don’t count them as weight loss weeks). This means that in 23.7 weight loss weeks (June 13 – Dec 31), I lost 31.3 lbs, which is an average of 1.32lbs per week, which is a safe, healthy weekly weight loss number. Today I weigh 206.4 lbs and I’m still steadily shedding weight.
I Learned A LOT
There are a few key takeaways I would like to impart on you before you start this journey for yourself… or before you get tired of reading.
- I Love ME: I loved myself 35 lbs ago, I love myself now, and I will love myself in 10 lbs from now. Never in my life has my self-worth been tied to my size and it never will be. I know what kind of woman I am, and I am exactly the same woman now as when I was 241 lbs, and I like her. That woman has a borderline obnoxious cackle laugh, she is direct and passionate, she is loyal, hard-working and dedicated, she is a low-key nerd who loves Harry Potter and would go to school forever if it were an option; she is imperfect, but works every single day to be a good human being.
- New Me? Nah, Same Me: There is no magical unicorn moment where you suddenly are a “new person”. At least there wasn’t for me. I still have days where I would rather stay home, crush a big-ass bowl of pasta and drink half a bottle of red wine… and I absolutely indulge in that regularly. But now, I plan for it.
- Can’t Win ‘Em All: Some weeks will be better than others, so please don’t be mean to yourself.
- FOOD IS YOUR FRIEND: You do not need to starve or deprive yourself of food to lose weight. If you want to eat the pasta, eat the MF pasta. Stop creating a language of shame or negativity around your food. Terms like “clean eating”, “detox”, “cheat meals/days”, “no food after 7”, “no carbs” etc. all frame food in a way that makes it the enemy. Food is not bad, and neither are you.
- Use Your Reason: If I hear one more person tell me they “gained 5 lbs this week”, I am going to snap a crayon. You didn’t gain 5lbs in 6 days. It’s water weight, constipation, your period or about a zillion other things. Remember that.
- Find an exercise that works for you. I have tried it all — I wanted to be a runner. In fact, it turns out that I have a natural ability to run. I am light on my feet, I make almost no noise when running and I don’t labour when I breathe; I can have a full conversation with someone while I run. The problem is that I LOATHE running with every fibre of my being because I’m bored to tears. I also don’t enjoy many other workouts, including spin, boot camp, and most yoga classes, to name a few. What I do like is Taekwondo, kickboxing and boxing – I could do any of those exercises all damn day, every damn day.
- Fat Goes First: There is no way to have a high-cardio exercise regime and keep your breasts and booty big – I’m talking to you, Khloe. Fat stores will be the first to go and that is that.
- Skin and Sag: You may have to live with smaller breasts that are less taut. You may have loose skin on your tummy. You may see stretch marks. I saw all of these things and while they are a bit irksome, I can live with them.
- What’s your MO?: I understand my Modus Operandi (MO). I’m obsessed with the process, not the goal. In order for me to be successful at something, I need a few things:
- Education: I need to understand why I am doing what I am doing, and I need to be able to question it.
- Accountability: I am a people pleaser at my core and when I am accountable to someone or something, I will deliver. Note that the “people” I refer to are people I love, admire or respect. I love nothing more than being the best at everything I do – I love when people are proud of me. I was accountable to Lonie and Lindsey because they put their faith in me that I would be a good client. That actually turned into me becoming a slightly crazed person who insisted on being the GOAT, but that’s for another blog post.
People often ask me what my “goal” is with weight loss, and legit, I have the same answer every single time – I have no goal.
Numbers mean nothing to me, because nobody really knows what the hell 164 lbs actually looks like. I care about how I feel and look. I still count my macros daily, I still work out 3-4 times a week and I am still losing weight. It’s taken me more than a year to change my understanding of food and exercise, and to develop new habits. But I work hard daily to make sure that I make these habits a regular part of my life.
Until we meet again, my loves.
Cleo is a spicy, curly haired entrepreneur and proud Harry Potter book junkie. She is co-founder of LUXELIFE SOUND, a boutique booking agency that places female DJ talent at corporate events and she works as a personal publicist and brand manager for a couple of celeb clients. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @EllisComms.