Throughout college, Amber Arrington cycled through yo-yo dieting, losing and gaining the same 30 pounds. “I’d get motivated during the summer, but it never lasted once I got back to school,” says Arrington, a 32-year-old Mississippi native.
A few years after earning her Master’s degree in public health, Arrington moved to Maryland for a job in hospital administration. But regularly working 10-hour days was tough, so Arrington picked up most of her meals from the hospital cafeteria or fast-food chains.
Over the next two years, Arrington’s weight crept up. Frustrated, she set out to lose weight and lost the 30 pounds she'd gained in college by working out with exercise DVDs almost every day. But when she lost steam, she gained it back. “I wanted to lose weight and be healthy, but I didn’t know how to go about it,” she explains.
Making Her Health Last
As her 30th birthday approached, Arrington got serious about making a change that would stick. “I didn’t want to go into another decade unhappy and unsatisfied with my health,” she says. “Here I was with a Master’s degree in public health but feeling pretty unhealthy myself.”
That’s when Arrington realized that she’d have to make permanent changes to get lasting results: no more cycling through overeating and punishing her body with exercise. So she enrolled in a six-month health coaching certification program to learn how to create a sustainable, healthy lifestyle once and for all.
A New Approach
One of the biggest takeaways from her coaching course was realizing that she was letting peer pressure to join happy hours and easily-accessible (but not-so-nutritious) cafeteria food sway the decisions she made about how she fueled her body and spent her free time.
So, she started asking herself whether the happy hour drinks or mid-afternoon bag of chips was what she really wanted, instead of letting her circumstances make the decisions for her.
After completing her health coach certification, Arrington, a certified Zumba instructor who always loved dancing, worked up the nerve to start teaching classes four times a week.
On days she doesn’t lead Zumba, Arrington gets moving with treadmill interval workouts or at-home workout DVDs to stay active six days a week.
To keep her stress under control, she also attends hot yoga a few times a month and treats herself to monthly massages. “I want to be as healthy as I can be for as long as I can be—and that takes attention and dedication,” she says.
Eight months after starting her health coaching course Arrington dropped 50 pounds and kept it off.
Though committing to consistent exercise helped Arrington lose weight, learning about food through her health coaching course really transformed her life, she says.
“I learned that food not only affects our body composition but our performance, too,” Arrington explains. She wanted to feel energized and comfortable in her skin and started trading hospital cafeteria food for homemade omelets, green smoothies, and easy recipes like peppers stuffed with ground turkey and beans. She also started eating larger lunches, so she wouldn’t run to Popeye’s hangry after a long work day. Instead, she makes quick, healthy dinners at home.
Arrington’s Best Advice
Arrington says making weight loss stick comes down to setting a goal and taking baby steps to go after it.
“Write down what you want for your life, why you want it, what you’ll need to do, and what resources you’ll need to make it happen,” she says. "Then, just tackle it one piece at a time."
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