Meet Lucy Dobson. She wasn't happy with her weight even though, at first glance, she was doing all the right things. She prepared wholesome foods with fresh ingredients, ate lots of vegetables and baked her own treats when she wanted to indulge her sweet tooth. As for staying active, well, what mother of a 3-year-old son doesn't have to do a bit of chasing?
So Lucy joined a weight-loss program and made changes to her diet. Her aim was not to deprive herself, but rather to shift her mind-set about food. No more emotional eating and no more forcing herself to eat or drink anything just because it's healthy. "I keep the fridge stocked with my favorite things that happen to be healthy, and I enjoy my food just as much now as I ever did, possibly more, as I place a lot of energy and thought into every meal being nourishing for my body."
She was successful, but as many of us do, Lucy found herself on that dreaded plateau. Before seeing her efforts come to a frustrating and crashing halt, she began adding exercise to complement her dietary changes.
Seven months after starting on her journey, Lucy has lost — and kept off — more than 50 pounds. Check out how her success story can help you stay on track with your fitness goals. You can do it.
When did you start running, and when did you change your diet?
I started running in late May/early June and haven't looked back. I started making changes to my diet in January after joining a local weight-loss support group (Slimming World). The changes I started making in January kick-started a complete love for nutritious foods. I started incorporating exercise once my dietary changes were well implemented, and my weight-loss was starting to slow down a bit.
How often do you run and for how long?
I run at least three times a week, leaving a rest day between runs where I'll usually do some other form of exercise like dancing or long brisk walks. My runs are currently part of the Couch to 5k plan, so I tend to incorporate some brisk walking in combination with running, which tend to be about half an hour long.
How often do you bike? Do you do other exercise routines?
I only really cycle with my husband, as we have a tandem trike, and I'm not so confident by myself on roads, so it's not a frequent exercise for me. I do Zumba/dance-fitness routines at home (using YouTube to find routines from qualified instructors, dancing to songs I like, and I make half hour- to hour-long playlists to get a decent workout in), I love doing hula hooping, and at least three times a week I go for a long walk of an hour or longer, keeping my pace brisk to keep my heart rate up. We're very lucky to live in a very pretty place, so getting out and about isn't hard, although it is hilly! When I have my 3-year-old son with me, I'll pop him in the sling on my back and take him along. He's good company and provides a bonus 13.5kg load to carry, which boosts the effectiveness of the walking!
Do you keep a diary or use a fitness app, step counter or anything of the sort to track calories/activity?
I have a Fitbit Charge HR, which I got at the very end of June, and I've found it great for keeping track of my exercise without me needing to do much about it. Before I had that, I was using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone to log my activities. I never really bothered with tracking calories as I think choosing healthy foods is more important than calorie counting (as you can easily live off your daily calorie allowance in chocolate and chips, but it's much better to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables and be slightly over your calorie target, really).
Was it very difficult to establish a workout/running routine? Were you able to stick with it right away or did it take some time?
As I started while I was already in the mind-set of losing weight and getting fitter, the motivation was there, but starting the Couch to 5k was spurred on by a couple of close friends who wanted to start it, and we all went for the first run together, which was great. I got into it pretty easily, but I have had days when I think I'd rather not go out, which is when having a supportive husband and friends helps, as they'll usually help kick me out the door, and once I'm out there doing it, I love it.
A few weeks ago you had a nasty bout of tonsillitis. How long did it sideline you, and was it very difficult to ease back into your routine?
It really knocked me sideways. I wound up not doing any running or any of my usual exercise for a week and two days, then had to ease back into things, so started with long walks and hula, and did my first post-tonsillitis run at an easier level than I really wanted to. It's funny, because I spent most of the week while ill being really mopey about the fact that I couldn't get out and run more than the fact that I couldn't eat. If you'd have told me this time last year that I was moaning about not being able to run and wasn't using it as an excuse to down pints of ice cream, I'd have laughed and laughed.
How much weight have you lost, and how long has it taken you?
I have lost 53 lbs so far, although it might be a little more by tomorrow's weigh-in. This has taken me since Jan. 20 this year (so a little more than six months). I've gone from being considered obese, through overweight, to having a healthy BMI, and I feel like a different (younger!) person.
Do you find that your success is because of both running and diet, or do you credit one over the other?
It's definitely a combination of both, I think. But I think any regular exercise, even just walking lots, would be sufficient, and diet plays a much larger role in how I feel and how my body works.
Are you vegan or vegetarian? Is it a help or a hindrance to your health and fitness goals? Do you think it would be harder to do this if you ate meat?
I'm vegetarian, although I don't tend to eat dairy often as my son has an allergy. I don't really think it's a help, but it's not a huge hindrance, either. I eat a lot of lean proteins, of which there is a greater variety in a diet that includes meat, but without meat, I also don't have the lure of most fast foods that trip a lot of people up.
Did you find that once you started running you felt hungrier? If so, how did you alter your diet?
Yes, I definitely felt a little hungrier, not a lot, but enough that I make sure I have a small snack before and/or after a run. I don't run on an empty stomach (nor a full one!) and I'm very careful at choosing what I eat after a run (my favorite is a tablespoon of almond or cashew butter with slices of apple, or a slice or two of sourdough rye spread with a little coconut oil and garlic salt). I don't need much more than I did — just a snack, really.
What do you recommend to new runners?
Good shoes! I got some Asics when I was first starting to run, and they made a world of difference. I keep them by the door so running is on my mind whenever I see them. I went to several running-gear shops and quizzed the staff about which shoes they'd recommend for me starting to run, telling them where I'd be running and how often, then bought some when I felt I knew enough to choose a good pair. I also made some good playlists to listen to, which makes running a lot more fun for me.
I would say that one of the best things you can do is get rid of any all-or-nothing attitude, too. I always give myself permission to stop if I need to, or slow down if I need to while out for a run (although I've never actually needed to), and having that in the back of my mind makes it a lot less intimidating. Knowing that I could slow or stop and try again another day means I get out the door, even when I'm tired or it's rainy, and I consistently surprise myself with what I can do once I'm out there.