Liz Ash's decision to get serious about losing weight didn't come from a place of distress. Things were going well-a great job, a new "forever home" with her husband, healthy friends and family. "I just kind of looked around and took stock of where I was, staring down the barrel of turning 40 in a couple years, and just decided, you know, there's still a mountain in front of me that I've been ignoring for too long."
At the suggestion of her mother-in-law, Liz decided to download Lose It!, a free app (you can upgrade to $40 a year for more features) that logs meals and tracks calories and weight loss. Two years later, she's down 110 pounds. Liz spoke to Delish about what kinds of foods she ate, how she utilized the app, and the mental toll of losing more than 100 pounds.
"The first step is not the hardest, but it is the most important," Liz says. "You have to find a process that you can fit into your life, and then just trust that process until it becomes your routine."
For her, that meant creating a Lose It! account, tracking her food, and sticking to her calorie budget. (After entering in factors like your age, weight, activity level, and weight loss goals, the app recommends a customized daily calorie intake.)
It also meant combining exercise and a healthy diet for the first time. "I'd never really made a concerted effort on both fronts," she says. "What I realized once I got started was to be serious about it and to make the investment in it that I needed to, I had to address both. I couldn’t just do one or the other."
While Liz didn't have a "terribly unhealthy" relationship with food before, she had begun eating out regularly as a way to destress from her busy job, and was rarely mindful about the choices she was making on those occasions. So when she got serious about losing weight, one of the first rules she put in place was to eat out no more than twice a week.
That, of course, meant more cooking at home. Liz began planning out her meals for the week each Sunday, factoring in work and social events so she'd be prepared for busy nights. On Thursdays, grilled salmon and a salad kit became her go-to meal, largely because it's quick and healthy and she had a rehearsal to get to by 7. "You have to give yourself a road map to healthy eating, and you have to stick with it," she says.
While she didn't cut out any food groups altogether, she did start eating more vegetables in place of flour-based items like pasta and bread. She uses cauliflower, broccoli, or spaghetti squash as the base for most of her meals, or as she puts it, as a "vehicle for other flavors." She'll put ground turkey mix with enchilada flavoring or a shredded chicken mix with buffalo flavoring on top of a sweet potato, for example.
As the saying goes, you have to walk before you run. "In the beginning it started simple," Liz said of her exercise routine. "I actually just walked around the parking lot of my building." When she didn't have time for her usual 1.5-mile loop, she'd walk for 10 minutes or climb some stairs while on a conference call.
As she lost weight, her ability to work out increased, and so did the enjoyment she drew from being active. She went for the first run of her life in September 2016 after she had lost 50 pounds, and just this month, Liz ran her first 5k.
Today, she varies her workouts, switching it up between the elliptical, swimming, kettle bells, running, and yoga. And she actually likes it! "I do it because I enjoy it, and I like the way I feel during and after. I like the way I feel with a higher level of physical fitness."
Using The App
Another rule: No cheat days. "I don’t ever look at eating something I enjoy as cheating." Instead, she uses the app to help her budget out her meals and learn her patterns, like when she was snacking most.
"You are purposeful within your daily budget," she says. "Sometimes that daily budget includes pizza and a glass of wine. Most of the time it doesn't." Fair!
One of the biggest weight loss questions is how you keep it off. Liz has been in "maintenance mode" for about a year and a half, having reached her goal weight in January 2018. While her weight has fluctuated a few pounds here and there, especially around the holidays, that's normal. She's found healthy ways to get back on track, like joining a 30-day challenge in the new year.
It's not easy, though-Liz calls losing weight the fun part, especially because it meant recycling her wardrobe every few months as she went from a size 22 down to a size 8. Once she lost it, she had to adjust to what she thought was "a given" about herself-that she'd always be heavy. "I realized there was a lot of stuff to unpack once the scale told me that’s not who I was anymore."
Her biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to make a change? "It's definitely hard to be disciplined about this but it is doable and you just gotta take that first step."
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