On the night of my 35th birthday, I spent an hour in my closet, desperately trying to find something to wear.
It's not that I didn't have a diverse enough selection of clothes - quite the opposite, actually. The problem was that I was at my highest-ever weight, and I didn't look or feel good in anything I owned. In fact, I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin - and I certainly didn't feel like being the centre of attention as the birthday girl.
That was in July 2018. Since getting married in 2014 and facing personal and family struggles over the previous few years, the kilos had slowly accumulated until I barely recognised myself in the mirror. All told, I was about 18kg over my ideal weight.
But I had an ace up my sleeve: an app that counts kJs and provides nutritional advice. A friend of mine had used MyFitnessPal with great success, and it immediately came to mind when I made the decision to diet.
The day after my birthday, I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app, filled out its survey with my current weight and goals, and started keeping track of every kJ I ate. I also committed to working out five or six days a week for an hour at a time on my stationary bike.
At first, counting kJ was hard. I kept forgetting to log snacks - which made me realise I was snacking too much - and had trouble meeting my daily kJ goal of just over 5,000. Considering I'm a writer and maths-averse, it was also difficult to figure out the kJ content of foods I'd prepared myself. (Boxed foods are easy, though, because you can just scan the barcode with the app, and it logs all the nutrition info.)
Soon, I got used to tracking my kJs - thanks in part to the regular push notifications from MyFitnessPal to log each meal - and I started making progress. I lost about 3.6kg within the first month and could already see a difference around my midsection. And I don't feel like I'm depriving myself, either.
In addition to being mindful of kJs, I pay attention to the fat, carbs and protein content of the foods I'm eating, as noted by MyFitnessPal in a handy pie chart, and adjust accordingly. At one point, I realised my high-protein breakfast sandwich was nearly blowing my daily fat allotment before 9AM and immediately made a switch.
The app alerts you when you're nearing your fat, carbs, sugar, or sodium limit for the day so you can try to avoid foods laden with those for the rest of the day. It also cheers you on with positive messages when you hit milestones, such as losing kilos or tracking for a certain amount of days in a row - kind of like a personal diet coach in your pocket.
I've stuck with it as best I can, generally toeing the line during the week and sometimes veering off track on weekends. But the key is getting back on track when I fall off - something I wasn't so great about doing during past diets. If I'm afraid I've gone up in weight and don't want to face the scale for a weigh-in, I just stick to my regimen for another week or two until I feel confident that I've compensated for my transgressions.
It's been a little over four months now, and I've lost 12.7kg. I feel and look better than I have in maybe a decade, and I find I'm actually enjoying getting dressed and trying new fashions. Now that I'm 35, it's kind of like a new chapter in my life, and I'm deciding what that means for me and the way I present myself to the world.
I still have about 5.4kg left to lose before I hit my goal, but I'm confident I'll get there. Whether it's this year or next, I'm taking my time and enjoying the ride.
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