When I lived at home, my mom never cooked super-healthy; there was a lot of Crisco involved. But I kept my portion sizes in check, so my weight stayed around 180 pounds, which wasn't unhealthy for my height. But when I met my husband, we started turning to fast food because we were both really busy and it was so convenient. As I started to eat more fast food, my portion sizes started getting out of control, and I started going for the double cheeseburgers instead of the singles. Over the next two years, I gained 25 pounds.
My weight gain continued, and I got to 225 pounds right before I got pregnant with my first baby. After she was born, I quickly lost the 40 extra pounds I'd put on during my pregnancy, but I couldn't get past the 225 mark.
After my daughter's first birthday party, I looked through all of the pictures we took and couldn't find one that I actually liked of myself. I decided I didn't want to be like this anymore; I wanted to take pictures with my daughter and actually be okay with them.
The biggest thing I did when I started to make healthy changes was start exercising. We have an Xbox Kinect and a Zumba game that I'd bought a while ago but never used. I decided to give it a try and realized that it was actually pretty fun and challenging. After one game, I was very sweaty. So I started keeping it up for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. After a few weeks, I noticed that I was losing a pound or two every week.
After discovering how effective exercise was on its own, I started making changes to my diet to help speed things up even more. One of my family members told me that they were using MyFitnessPal to track what they ate and it was helping them lose weight. So I downloaded it and started reading labels for the first time ever. I was strict with myself at first; I wouldn't eat anything without tracking it. It was crazy to see the nutritional value of the things I was eating all the time. It really helped me learn about the value of the foods I was eating—300 or so calories for a Little Debbie is a lot!
Though I was definitely conscious of the things I was eating, I didn't cut out fast food or candy entirely. I just kept an eye on my portions. When I went to McDonalds, I'd get a grilled chicken sandwich without the bun and skip the fries. I also cut way back on soda. Before I'd set out to lose weight, I would drink three 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew during an eight-hour shift at work. Then I went home and drank more. It was a lot. I still drink soda, but it's only about twice a month now.
I also began cooking dinner at least four times a week and pack lunches for work. After eating better, the weight came off even faster. A little less than one year later, I lost 65 pounds and weighed 160 pounds.
Not long after that, I became pregnant with my second baby, and I gained about 30 pounds back. Unfortunately, losing the weight wasn't as easy post-birth as it had been the first time. But I also didn't gain as much as I did with my first pregnancy, and I knew what I needed to do to get back to my goal weight of 160 pounds. About a year and a half later, I was back at my pre-baby weight.
I can actually be tagged in pictures on Facebook and not be worried about it. Now, I'm like, "Hey, I look good!" I also have more energy to play with my kids without having to rest or without losing my breath.
Don't compare yourself to others. One thing that helped me stay on track was realizing that everyone loses at their own speed. When I stopped comparing to myself with women I saw on Instagram with abs, I realized that I'm okay with the way I look, even if I'm never going to look like those super-fit women. Feeling healthy and being happy is more important than looking like someone else.
You don't have to dramatically change your diet. You don't have to go from eating fried food all the time to only eating grilled chicken and broccoli. Using that strategy helped me stick with my diet more than giving up all my typical foods.
Have fun with your workouts. I realized I didn't need to do a serious workout to lose weight. Doing Zumba on my Xbox is fun, and it actually makes me work hard because I love to dance. And since I like doing it so much, I don't dread exercising.