(Photos courtesy of Kelsey Byers and Jordan Burch)
Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Kelsey Byers is 33, 5′10″, and currently weighs 140 pounds. Over three to four years, she healthfully lost 40 pounds. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
Growing up, I never had a weight problem. I was very active in high school and was always a string bean. But once I went off to college, I took full advantage of the convenience of fast food, and loved going to happy hour a few nights a week. Happy hours led me to snacking on unhealthy foods. I looked at food as entertainment. As a result, I put on about 50 pounds in two years. I had size 4 jeans at one end of my closet and size 14/16 jeans at the other. It happened so fast, and I was miserable inside. I started avoiding photos, and was always shopping for the “perfect” outfit to make my body look better.
I overheard a guy refer to me as a “whale” and I was devastated — mostly because I let myself get that far. I was so unhappy with the woman I saw in the mirror. Instead of getting depressed, I decided to use it as motivation and make a change for me.
I was never a big dieter because I love food way too much. I knew I needed a lifestyle change, so I cut back on happy hours to one night a week and joined a gym. I committed to working out just three days a week at first, and I immediately felt better. I also started grocery shopping more and going out to eat much less. That made a big difference.
It took months of being disciplined before anyone noticed any results, and that was probably the hardest part for me. It took me two years to gain 50 pounds, so I knew the weight would not come off overnight. I believe the main things that helped me were:
Making my goals about my health versus my looks.
Setting short-term, weekly goals so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed with the long-term goals.
Being my own biggest encouragement. I had no accountability partners in the beginning — I only had myself to answer to.
A few years later, I met my (now) husband, Kent. He encouraged me to start lifting weights so that I could build lean muscle. But still, working out five times a week, I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted in my midsection. I eventually hired a nutritionist and decided to take my fitness to the next level. That’s when I realized what a huge role nutrition plays in the grand scheme of things. It affects how you feel, how you look, your energy — everything!
After losing the weight, it took my mind awhile to adjust. I would go shopping and pick up a size 14 out of habit, when in reality I needed a size 8 or 6. Eventually, I fit back into a size 4 comfortably. I think it’s important to find a size that’s comfortable and one that you can maintain in a healthy way. If you are obsessing over every piece of food you eat, a size 4 or 6 may not be realistic for you. We are all beautiful, but the important thing is that you feel confident in your own skin. Find out what that looks like for you and get there.
Kelsey before her weight loss (left) and after. (Photos courtesy of Kelsey Byers)
I eat every three hours, meaning I eat at least five meals a day. I eat a lean protein and complex carb at every meal and fit veggies in where I can. I feel like carbs have a bad reputation. Your body actually uses complex carbs for energy, so it’s great to incorporate them into your meals. For me, it’s all about maintaining a healthy meal plan. Even when life happens and I can’t get to the gym as much, as long as I eat healthfully, I maintain my weight. It’s when I slack off, miss meals, and don’t stay hydrated that the weight and cellulite creep back on. I still love all the same foods and drinks — cheeseburgers, margaritas, pizza, etc. — but finding healthy moderation is key.
I believe I have a very realistic plan. I typically work out four days a week with a mixture of weight training and cardio. I stay in the gym for about 45 minutes total. I don’t drag it out. When I first had my baby and was cleared to work out again, I worked out for 20 to 30 minutes at home a few days a week while she napped.
When I was at my heaviest, I ate about 1,100 to 1,200 unhealthy calories a day. At my healthiest, I eat about 2,000 healthy calories a day. I feel amazing and have enough energy to work during the day, chase my toddler around, and work out at night. I also don’t quit eating at a certain time of day. If I’m awake and it’s been three hours, I eat something healthy. It’s that simple.
Some people eat healthy foods during the day, but if they don’t eat enough, they want to binge-eat at night. Make sure you are eating enough so that you feel satisfied. I aim for 20 to 25 grams of protein and carbs per meal. Even during pregnancy, I kept up with eating every three hours (when I didn’t have morning sickness). I also weight-trained through 40 weeks of pregnancy. My little girl is 21 months old and eats healthy food as well. I am so excited to set a good example for her.
I do indulge in a delicious “treat” meal once a week — sometimes twice. On the days I have this treat meal, I don’t cut back on my other meals. I still eat healthfully every three hours without missing a beat. My metabolism never slows down that way.
Recently, my daughter was sick for a week, and passed her congestion/cold to me, so I was out of the gym for two to three weeks. When I couldn’t work out, I was getting lazy with nutrition and started going out to eat more for convenience. My jeans started fitting a little snug. I usually let my clothes tell me when it’s time to tighten up on my nutrition. Once I started feeling better and focused on getting rest, I eased back into the gym and cut out going out to eat so much. I think this happens to everyone, especially close to the holidays. Even fitness professionals I know are not 100 percent perfect all the time.
I coach women online, so it’s important to me that I set a good example. I love helping people. I have answered thousands of emails online, and sometimes I will stay up late doing that instead of going to the gym and going to bed early. I need to stay in a healthy habit of putting my health first.
As far as cravings, I certainly get those. I like to find healthy ways to make my favorite treats, so I only feel like I’m cheating but I’m not. Or, instead of buying a gallon of ice cream, my family will go have low-fat frozen yogurt, and I get one serving. I can’t keep tempting treats in my house or I will eat them.
If you are struggling to lose weight, I encourage you to adopt a healthy lifestyle instead of yo-yo dieting. It’s way more fun to maintain a healthy and fit physique all year versus going back and forth between loving your body and hating it. Definitely focus on your nutrition first and foremost. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get great results; it’s mostly your food.
Also, know yourself and what you will actually do. If you aren’t into meal prepping, find something convenient but healthful that you will stick to.
You must set realistic goals and incorporate small changes each week. Over time, they become habits, and it’s easier to stay with it. If I can do this, anyone can!