How I Changed My Lifestyle to Lose 30 Pounds (and become fit as fuck)

Two photos showing my weight loss from 165lbs (left) to 135lbs (right)

Two years ago (oddly enough, on my wedding day) I weighed almost 165 pounds at 5’8″. That was the heaviest I’d ever been in my entire life, and it was certainly the first time I’d ever been so nearly in the “overweight” category (if we’re going by BMI).

Today I’m creating this post because I recently hit my original goal weight of 135 pounds and I thought I’d share a bit about my journey. So much has changed!

Before I get started, I sadly need a bit of a disclaimer. Weightloss is such a touchy subject. Everyone has a different opinion on “what works” (even researchers). For every article you read about “why x helps you lose weight”, I guarantee there’s another out there that says “x doesn’t help you at all, it’s all about y.”

I want to be clear that the purpose of this post isn’t for me to give you advice. Even if I say things like, “I learned that x is how you lose fat” my intention isn’t to claim certain things as fact and others as false. That’s just how I talk. I may have learned something, and it may have worked for me, but my goal isn’t to convince you that x works and y doesn’t. The purpose of this post is to tell you what I learned, what I did, what worked for me, and what didn’t. Do with that information what you will (ignore it, use it, roll your eyes, whatever). But let’s not start a debate. πŸ™‚

Photo of me in Egypt around 148lbs
Photo of me in Egypt, around 148lbs

2014: It all started with “Keto”, three months after the wedding.

My husband and I decided to lose weight together. We did a bit of research and decided to try out the “Keto diet”. This is where you put your body into a state called “Ketosis”, which switches your body’s main fuel supply from carbs to fat. In order to get there, you need a low carb diet (typically less than ~25 grams of carbs per day).

Down to ~145 pounds

Keto lasted a few months and it went really well! In six weeks I lost 9.6 pounds and it felt effortless (in the same time period my husband lost 15!).

Low carb keto weight loss graph

(If you’re wondering why first number on the graph is 157-ish and not 165, that’s because I did lose a little bit of weight before starting keto. Probably due to reducing my Oreo intake.)

The best part about keto was easily all the “goodie” foods we could eat.

  • Butter! Loads of butter.
  • Bacon. ♥
  • Cheese.
  • Cream.

I’ve already posted about some of my favourite keto meals if you want to check them out: The Keto Lifestyle Rocks!

After maybe 2-3 months of this I stopped keto. I started having some problems with dizziness, and while I couldn’t certainly say that keto was to blame, I decided to go off it as a test. The dizziness didn’t stop right away—it took a few months. So I still don’t really know what the cause was. But I never went back to keto just in case. (My husband stayed on it though and continued to love it!)

2015: Cardio, C25K, wannabe strength training, and no diet.

In June 2015 I posted about how I’d become a “fitness monkey”. And I kind of was.

A photo of me at the gym, right before my last Couch to 5K run

At this time my focus was on fitness—not weight loss. I was still down to about 145 pounds from keto, which was far more acceptable to me than 165. I was no longer in a hurry to lose weight. I wanted to lose more, but I was patient.

In hindsight, there are a few things I could tell you about this period. I don’t think I fully realized them until later.

  • I didn’t love running. Sometimes I think I convinced myself I did, but I didn’t.
  • What I liked, was the feeling of accomplishment. Take a 30 minute run. I didn’t enjoy it in the moment, but I enjoyed how I felt after. It was kind of like, “Holy shit, I can’t believe I just did that successfully.” I was proud of what I could do, but it wasn’t an enjoyable experience in itself.
  • The commitment was what motivated me to keep going—not necessarily an enjoyment of the actual process.
  • I liked the strength training most of all and I was ready to do more, but I was afraid. I was afraid of venturing into the weights section at the gym so I just did home workouts. I was afraid of looking stupid or doing things wrong. I was holding myself back because of those feelings.

2016: No more fear. I’m ready.

2016 has been amazing for me. It had nothing to do with new years resolutions. It had everything to me with me wanting to grab fitness by the balls and stop letting my insecurities rule my life.

January: First baby step into the weight area

My apartment gym has several weight machines, a cable machine, benches, and dumbbells. In January I finally told myself that I was going to stop being afraid of the weights and try out the machines. So I did.

And guess what? No one looked at me funny. No one judged me.

In fact, one gym regular who’d seen me on the treadmill all the time said, “Now that’s how you exercise!”

February: Big girl lifting, I’m ready for you

Photo of me in January 2016 (142lbs)

January was my time to break my insecurities about weightlifting. February was when I took the next step.

  • I moved away from the machines and started using free weights.
  • I started using a barbell.
  • I started StrongLifts 5×5, which involved: barbell squats, barbell bench press, deadlifts, rows, and overhead press.

I was getting fitter and stronger.

But most importantly, I got my diet in check.

I started browsing two subreddits: /r/Fitness and /r/xxfitness. I learned a lot about both fitness, diet, and weightloss. With this new-found knowledge, I finally decided it was time to get my diet in check. I didn’t have that much weight to lose, but I wanted to drop another ~8 pounds to hit 135.

  • I used an online calculator to figure out my “TDEE” (total daily energy expenditure). This is an estimate of how many calories you burn per day.
  • My goal was to eat less than that number in order to lose weight.
  • I logged everything in MyFitnessPal.

With my diet in check, the weight started coming off. There were ups and downs, which is common with weightlifting, but it was coming off. Over the next few months, I lost fat, built muscle, hit 135 pounds, but most importantly, I changed my body composition. If I’d just gotten down to 135 pounds without weightlifting, my body would look very different.

Graph showing weight loss down to 134.4 pounds from February to May

Weight loss graph from February 2016 to May 2016.

Below, you can see how my progress was nearly non-existent between June 2015 and January 2016, but huge between January and April!

Things I learned along the way

That’s my story, but now I’ll share some things I learned.

Baby steps are better than no steps.

I’m always weird about trying new things. I’m insecure about it. As I mentioned before, I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong, then people will look at me funny or judge me… It’s all very silly, but I can’t help it.

  • First I was afraid of the gym completely. What if I got there and didn’t know how to turn on the treadmill? I’d look so stupid standing there trying to figure it out.
  • Finally, I worked up the courage. I went to the gym in my apartment building (which is small and not often used) and I was fully prepared to look inside and go back home if it was occupied. It wasn’t, so I went in. I figured out the treadmill (it was easy). Thus started my cardio journey (and C25K).
  • When I wanted to start strength training, I did bodyweight exercises at home where no one could see me.
  • When I wanted to incorporate weights, I bought a set of dumbbells I could use at home.
  • When I wanted to lift heavier, I worked up the courage to use the weight machines at the gym (again, when no one was there to see me possibly fail).
  • When I decided I was comfy with the machines, I moved onto free weights (dumbbells).
  • When I wanted to use the barbell, I took advantage of a free personal training session at another gym. I told the trainer, “I want to do StrongLifts 5×5—can you walk me through the exercises?” So he showed me squats, rows, bench press, deadlifts, and overhead press.

It took me two years to cycle through all those steps. But instead of taking no steps, I took baby steps, so I finally made progress. Slowly but surely.

Losing fat is about diet—not exercise.

Yes you burn calories while exercising, but exercise shouldn’t be used to lose fat. It should be used for two things:

  1. To improve health.
  2. To change body composition (i.e. build muscle).

No matter how much you exercise, you can still gain fat if your diet isn’t what it needs to be. If you’re still eating more calories than you’re burning, your fat is only going to keep building.

A popular phrase is, “you can’t outrun your fork” and it’s totally true. You can’t exercise to make up for a bad diet.

Finding a physical activity I loved made all the difference (keep looking!).

If you do want to get into exercise, it doesn’t have to suck. If you think it sucks, then you almost certainly won’t stick with it.

Remember when I said I didn’t love running? Well running isn’t the only option. I found my love in weightlifting.

  • Half my time at the gym is spent resting. Exert a bunch of effort for a minute, then rest for like 3 minutes. I like that. It makes me look lazy, or like I spend all my gym time on my phone, but screw appearances. My results are undeniable.
  • I like feeling strong and powerful. Some people love being able to run fast or run long distances—but I didn’t really care that much. But I LOVE feeling strong. Find what you love.
  • Doing pull ups makes me feel like a total boss. This is my favourite exercise to hit new records with.
  • Remember when I said I didn’t love running in the moment—I only liked the results afterwards? Well, I enjoy lifting in the moment.
  • I love the affect lifting has on my body. Cardio did squat for changing my body composition. Weightlifting helped me build muscle, which means when I lost my fat, you could actually see something underneath it. This made me start to look “fit” instead of just “skinny” A lot of people think they look “skinny fat” and weightlifting helps change that.

Fitness can come in so many different forms. Running, lifting, cycling, rowing, swimming, rock climbing, soccer, basketball… Look hard enough and you can find that something that you enjoy. (Or if you truly don’t enjoy anything and your sole goal is weight loss, then seriously just focus on getting your diet in check. See previous point!)

The scale is just a number. What’s more important: the number on the scale or how you look in the mirror?

People set goal weights. They want to get to x pounds. But surely it isn’t the number you really care about, is it? We truly care about:

  • Whether or not we’re at a healthy weight.
  • How we look in the mirror (or in a bikini… or naked…).
  • How our clothes fit.

Sure, this post started because I reached my “original goal weight of 135 lbs”, but somewhere along the way I realized that weight as a number is irrelevant. I want to LOOK good. I want to FEEL good. Those are the things I truly care about.

I keep calling it “my original goal weight” because it’s no longer my goal. I don’t have a “goal weight”. It stopped being my goal a long time ago. My new goal is just to look good, feel good, and get stronger.

I’m bringing this up because when you start weightlifting, the scale can lie to you. You can go up in weight but down in measurements. That’s because of muscle and water retention (more on that later). Muscle has weight and you build some when you weightlift. So you can gain weight but actually look skinnier and be a smaller clothing size.

I could eat so much more than I thought.

Thanks to the media and default MyFitnessPal settings, I thought that in order to lose fat, I had to eat insanely little.

  • MyFitnessPal defaults to setting your goal to something outrageously low like 1200 calories.
  • The media often highlights 1200-1400 calories as an acceptable allowance for women, or spotlights celebrities who supposedly eat in the 1200-1400 range.
  • When I first saw the term “BMR” floating around, I thought that number represented how many calories you should eat to lose weight (mine was about 1450).

When I saw those things, I thought I had to eat that little in order to lose weight. That’s why I often ranted about how much I hated counting calories. Eating that little felt awful to me. Later I learned why…

…I could (and should!) eat so much more than that.

First, I learned that “BMR” (basal metabolic rate) is how many calories your body burns while basically in a coma. When you’re doing nothing. But when you factor in exercise, walking, digesting food, and even just sitting, your body actually burns quite a bit more than that. That’s where the “TDEE” (total daily energy expenditure) comes into play.

  • BMR: Calories burned while doing absolutely nothing (in a coma). It’s the bare minimum your body needs to survive.
  • TDEE: Calories burned during normal daily activity, after factoring in all kinds of movement you do throughout the day.

“Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting).

The release of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, brain and the rest of the nervous system, liver, kidneys, sex organs, muscles and skin.”

Between February and now I lost nearly 10 pounds and I was eating an average of 2,000 calories a day. Here’s a typical week for me:

Date Calories Meals
April 13 1796 Breakfast: Latte, blueberry muffin
Lunch: Chicken sandwich
Dinner: Meatballs with pasta, baked carrots, 100g bread
April 14 2319 Breakfast: Latte, 2 blueberry muffins
Lunch: Salami sandwich
Dinner: GBK bacon cheeseburger, GBK onion rings
April 15 1865 Breakfast: Latte, blueberry muffin
Lunch: Salami sandwich
Dinner: Paprika chicken and sweet potato
April 16 1936 Breakfast: Latte, blueberry muffin
Lunch: Paprika chicken sandwich
Dinner: Pizza
April 17 1757 Breakfast: Latte, blueberry muffin
Lunch: Ham and cheese baguette sandwich
Dinner: Chicken chow mein (take out)
April 18 2314 Breakfast: Latte, blueberry muffin
Lunch: Ham and cheese baguette sandwich
Dinner: Nando’s chicken fillet wrap, garlic bread, and creamy mash
April 19 1747 Breakfast: Latte, blueberry muffin
Lunch: Paprika chicken sandwich
Dinner: Paprika chicken, baked carrots, and sweet potato

NOT being restrictive in my diet helped me succeed.

  • I drink Pepsi max.
  • I have a latte and a muffin every morning for breakfast.
  • I have pizza at least once a week.
  • I order Nando’s (with two sides, TYVM) at least once a week.
  • I have a cheeseburger and onion rings probably once every 10-14 days.
  • I factor in dessert if I decide I want it (but often I’d rather just have a bigger dinner).

Those things don’t sound like dieting, do they?

If I want something, I make room for it.

I know I need to aim for an average of 2000 calories a day to lose weight. I usually end up having 50% 1700-1800 calorie days, which is when I eat “healthy” food. Then the other half of the week is made up of 2000-2400 calorie days, which is when I order take out and have the “unhealthy” stuff.

I keep my calories what I know I need them to be, then I let myself eat whatever I want within those limits. I ensure that I’m still meeting my goals, but let myself have some freedom.

  • If you want dessert, you can work it into your day. Maybe it will be one cookie instead of five, but you can still make it happen.
  • If you want pizza, then tweak your meals for that day to make room for pizza. Maybe it will be a small pizza instead of a large, but you can still have your pizza.

The “trick” is to create a new lifestyle for yourself—something you can live with for the rest of your life. I have no interest in cutting out all dessert or all pizza or all cheeseburgers. So, I eat those things in a way I can work with. I need to let myself indulge or I’ll get caught into a horrible diet/binge cycle that gets me nowhere.

But finding healthy foods that I really enjoyed also helped me.

Yes being lenient is important, but it was also equally important that I was able to find healthy (and low calorie) foods that I truly loved to eat. For me, that’s become one main meal: paprika chicken, sweet potato, and vegetables (usually carrots or asparagus).

I always hated vegetables. Or, maybe more accurately, I never LOVED them. Until now.

I learned how much seasoning helps.

  • Plain asparagus: ehh.
  • Asparagus with salt and a shitton of pepper: tasty!

Although these days I’m basically addicted to carrots. I season them with salt, tons of pepper (I eat it like candy), and garlic powder.

A typical “healthy”/”low calorie” day for me is:

  • Breakfast: Latte with blueberry muffin (455 calories).
  • Lunch: Baguette sandwich with paprika chicken, arugula, mozzarella, and mustard (546 calories — varies depending on the bread).
  • Dinner: Paprika chicken, sweet potato, baked carrots (565 calories).

If you find foods that aren’t calorie dense, you can eat a lot. You’ll feel nice and full, but still be pretty low calories. Chicken and vegetables are great for that. That final meal is only 565 calories but it leaves me STUFFED.

There are some weeks where I have that exact meal 4 times. I love it that much. I suppose it helps that when I find a food I love, I can easily eat it every day.

It takes longer than you think to gain even one pound of fat.

  • Weight fluctuates over the course of the day. It’s normal for your number on the scale to change 3-7ish pounds over one day. I probably weigh 135 pounds in the morning and more like 140 in the evening.
  • When you exercise, your body will retain more water as your muscles recover. Water retention can cause the scale to go up. But it’s not fat—it’s water weight.

This is a super loose estimate (varies based on height/weight/etc.), but it takes approximately 3500 calories of overeating to truly gain one pound of fat. That’s not 3500 calories in a day, that’s an EXCESS of 3500 calories.

So let’s say my maintenance number (where I neither gain nor lose weight) is 2300 calories in a day. I have to eat 2300 + 3500 IN ONE DAY to gain one pound of fat in a day. That’s 5800 calories in one day. Insane.

My point is this: if you weigh yourself today and you’re 149, then you weigh yourself tomorrow and you’re 151, don’t freak out. It’s highly unlikely that you TRULY gained two pounds of fat.

Weightloss is not linear. Look at my weightloss graph. My weight didn’t go down every single day. I gain a bit, lose a bit, gain a bit, lose some more. Weight fluctuates all the time for so many different factors. Trends are the important thing. If you’re on a general downward trend over the course of multiple days, then you’re on the right track.

I realized that I have my whole life to get to where I want to be. I won’t put it off forever, but I also don’t need to rush.

This shouldn’t be used to put off weightloss and fitness forever, but it should be used to realize that slow progress is better than no progress.

When it finally clicked for me that I have all the time in the world to get to my goal, it was freeing. I didn’t have to get to 135 pounds by TOMORROW. Or even next month. It would take as long as it would take. And in the end, you could say it took me two years to lose 30 pounds, due to all the changes and on again off again. But I’m glad for every step of the journey. I learned so much and I don’t care that it took me two years.

This isn’t a “quick fix”. Any quick fixes are usually followed by quick rebounds back to where you started. This is a lifestyle change and those take time and patience. What I’ve done may have been slow, but it’s sustainable. It’s something I can imagine doing the rest of my life and that’s what’s important.

Your turn to share! Have you had a similar experience? Or is this something you will be going through in the future? Feel free to share in the comments. I’m listening!

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. Thank you so much for this post, Ashley… I’ve started C25K myself recently and been discouraged by the scales actually going up instead of down! I really need to stop worrying about the numbers and start tracking my food properly. Thanks for the motivation πŸ™‚

    1. Definitely put less emphasis on the scale and start tracking your food. πŸ™‚ Good luck!

    2. Hey Angela–that happens to everyone. My DR told me when starting strength training to only step on the scale once a week and then only after your rest day. It will take weeks (maybe a month) for your body to get used to a new normal. It will fight to hold on to lbs. Dang bodies with their own minds LOL

  2. Great post, I really hope it helps others. I have, as all computer workers seem to, been battling with my weight for ever. 3 years ago I hit the tipping point at 280lbs. I decided to get more active. With regular bike rides and aerobics, T25, I got down to 230 in less than a year. Due to injury I haven’t done much lately but sitting seady at 240lbs. I am slowly getting back into it.
    I also switched to a vegetarian diet and feel amazing!
    My wife simply cut out high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils and lost 60lbs in 6 months. Then she switched to a vegan diet. She has been able to keep it steady after that.

    PEPSI MAX, ME TOO! I thought I was the only one πŸ˜‰

    1. Congratulations to you both!! Sounds like you’re making some really positive changes. πŸ™‚


  3. Congrats on the weight loss. It is something I myself fight with and can’t seem to accomplish. I try for a few days and then it all goes down hill. I also do not workout enough and I need to. I don’t motivate myself. My bf tries, but I just don’t. I know I really do. You have set a few things in motion in my mind.

    Penni @ Penni's Perceptions recently posted: Sunday Post #10
    1. I personally think the first 1-2 weeks are the hardest. That’s when it feels like I’m fighting withdrawals and have all kinds of cravings. After that, it always gets easier for me.

  4. I LOVE THIS POST! I love how you described your entire journey and how your focus shifted from wanting to lose weight to enjoying being fit and feeling strong. It’s why I started fitness, I’ve had issues with self-confidence for as long as I can remember. Not necessarily weight, but I just didn’t feel strong, I wasn’t really happy, and I wanted to throw that around so badly. Life’s too short to not enjoy it and be happy. So I started running, which at first I didn’t like AT ALL (except for that feeling of accomplishment at the end you mentioned as well). It all changed when I hit that first 5k, and when running a 5k became easier and easier for me, that’s when I started looking into ways to become stronger and faster. Hello fitness! The rest is pretty much history, I love fitness, I love how strong I feel now, and above all I am happy with myself! Which is all that matters to me. I’m looking into starting to lift more, but if I gotta be honest I’m not to sure about going into that weights area lol, but I’ll get over that! Funny thing is, my body has definitely changed, but my weight is still the same! Which is why I don’t measure my progress with a scale.
    Love this post Ashley! And keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks Iris! I loved your post a while back too. πŸ™‚ You’ve done an amazing job with your running!

      I love feeling strong too. I’ve really found my happiness with weights. Building up the courage to actually get into the weight area took me a long time, but it was worth the wait. πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks Jennifer!!

      I find that the first 1-2 weeks are the hardest diet-wise. That’s when it feels like a real struggle—almost like withdrawals.

      After that, it always gets easier for me. I don’t know if it’s because I legit weened myself off some kind of addiction, or just because I broke an old habit and formed a new one.

  5. You look amazing Ashley! I’ve been losing weight unintentionally this year too. Mainly because I eat less than I used to and there are weeks where I don’t eat anything but soup for dinner, just because I feel like it.

  6. I love this post! I’ve struggled with my weight for so long. Last year I managed to lose like 15 kilos, but I’ve put it back on (and then some). I’ve tried everything – I did 1200 calories/day (which was what I was on to lose the 15 kilos), I then did Slimming World on and off since August last year, and that worked but when I had a bad week I just put it all back on, and I’ve come to the realisation that I just need to eat “normally” for a while, although at the moment I’m stuffing my face, so yeah.

    Basically, I want to get into a rhythm where I eat like a regular person. Cereal for breakfast, sandwich for dinner, salad and rice for tea, and then cereal for supper, instead of over-indulging and snacking, or eating so little I skip meals. I also want to make the gym a regular thing, every day, I’ve got a weights programme from the trainer there, I got it a month or so ago and I like it, I just need to get my motivation back.

    I know I can lose weight – I’ve done it before, and I’m hoping that if I can just eat a little less/a little better, I can lose weight and feel better and then try and track calories again, because while eating 1200 calories was easy in theory, and I managed it for months, it’s not sustainable, and that’s most likely why I put it all back on, along with over-eating.

    Like you, I have no idea what goal weight I would want to be (according to the internet, I should be like 10 stone or something IDK.), I just want to be healthy, strong and feel good about myself. I just need a kick up the butt to get my going again.

    You actually look amazing, though, good job. I will use you as my inspiration to get healthy/strong as I’d love to look even a little bit like you do! (I have no idea if I could get that low, but it would be nice and you look fantastic). Well done!

  7. This post is made of so much awesome and is really inspiring for me. Thank you, Ashley. You look fantastic!

  8. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! I love hearing this πŸ™‚ I think it is important to find what works for you cause it will be the only thing you stick with. You are so right about the baby steps and I would add finding a tribe that lets you lean on them. Cause let’s get real–it is a hard journey and one that is helped with friends. You are awesome! πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, you’re so right Felicia! If you hate every step of the process then you’re honestly just setting yourself up for failure. You have to find something that you can live with and imagine doing for the rest of your life.

  9. I’m on the weight loss journey for the second time. I lost 25-30 pounds back in 2010 and gained it back and then some because depression is a bitch. Also, my genes are against me. I come from mostly short, stocky, bigger types (my mother is barely five feet tall) so if my diet and exercise habits get out of control for too long I tend to pack on the pounds.

    When I started working from home I knew I had to work harder to be an active person. I finished C25K last month and like you I don’t enjoy running. I’m currently on the lookout for an activity I enjoy that I can do more than three to four months out of the year. I love hiking and riding my bike, but where I live it isn’t always possible to go outside and do those things. It’s either swamp ass hot or witches tit cold most of the year. :/

    Food wise, I’m giving keto a try right now. I LOVE bread, pasta, and rice so I thought it would be really difficult but so far I’m doing great. I figure I’ll treat myself once in a while. After all, pizza is my favorite food. πŸ˜€

    Thank you for sharing your story and congrats on the weight loss. It’s really motivating! My doctor told me that I’ll never be able to get back down to 135 pounds (I’m 5’6″). Whatever, dude. Watch me.

    Let me know if you want another motivator on myfitnesspal. I’m on there daily. I love my myfitnesspal buddies. πŸ™‚

  10. Great post Ashley! Even though my journey looks really different – because of the amount of weight I’m losing… Already lost more than 100 lbs and got more to go… The sentimients are actually very similar. It’s baby steps for me to, finding what works for a while sometimes and then changing it up. I did C25K and haven’t managed to finish it yet, but for now I have my sweet spot. I love a lot of variety in my exercise – I walk, I jog, I do zumba, I swim, I do weight lifting class. I have to have variety. I think the main difference for me is the calories, I can’t eat as many as you – but I have a metabolic disorder making shit a little harder. That’s life, right? I laughed when I saw your repeated blueberry muffins… I’m the same way with my daily diet. Boring. Once you find your sweet spot and enjoy the foods, why change it much? Really glad you’ve come so far and are enjoying you’re new-found fitness πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for sharing Berls!! Sounds like you have a pretty awesome variety going. πŸ™‚

      I’m definitely one of those people who likes routine. When I find foods I like, I’m quite content to eat them all the time. One of the big things for me has been finding SIMPLE foods I like and sticking to them. I went through phases where I tried all kinds of ‘big’, complicated Pinterest recipes, and they just always felt like too much effort. I prefer really simple, easy, quick, tasty meals. They might look boring, but I love them and they work for me. πŸ™‚

  11. Congratulations! You look great, and more importantly, you feel great too! I’ve been weight training for over six months now to gain weight. For years I’ve had problems maintaining a healthy weight and frankly I got tired of being called scrawny or told to “eat a sandwich.” I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made so far…my clothes fit better and my figure is more feminine now. But I still feel like I have a ways to go as far as how I want to look and feel. I can sympathize with the ups and downs that you’ve had. If I’m not careful about eating enough then I can drop 5-10 lbs so easily. I think that’s the hardest part for me is keeping my diet in check. It’s nice to see that you’ve had positive results without sticking to a crazy diet. I’m still trying to find the right balance of eating well/enough, while also enjoying my food.

    1. Thanks Laura. πŸ™‚ It sounds like you’re making great progress! If you haven’t already, you might want to look into some calorie dense foods that will help you maintain a healthy weight without feeling like you’re shoving your face full of food. I think nuts are pretty good for this! (Some people who are in the same place as you like to just have a few spoonfuls of peanut butter!)

  12. Because you’re a badassss *bows to the Lifting Queen* πŸ˜‰ <3 Very, very proud of you! Good job!

  13. Way to go Ashley. You did it your way and on your terms. I’m not going to debate anything, but just give you good science. I went to Kansas State and did their Dietitian degree. It’s 4 years + an internship. The one thing you do not want to ever do is to put your body into ketosis. It is something we constantly check when we have feeding disorders and the likes in the clinical setting. Adkins made this famous, but it winds up damaging your brain, not fat. That is why you had dizziness and it lasted for some time. With that said, you do you. That was the only cautionary I have to add. You look great!

    1. I appreciate your insight Kim, but I think we’ll have to agree to disagree here. πŸ™‚ There are many medical professionals who are fine with keto, do it themselves, and even recommend it to others. My aunt is a nurse and loves it. And there are thousands of people on /r/Keto and /r/xxketo who do keto successfully under the watchful eye of doctors and regular blood tests. Some of those people were recommended to do keto by those doctors to help improve health and deal with weight loss, while others just get regular blood tests done to see how keto affects their health (just out of curiosity).

      I’m not personally in a position to state any claims, given that I’m not a medical professional. But there are definitely plenty out there who don’t think keto is at all bad for you. πŸ™‚

  14. Hi Ashley, thanks for sharing this!! I’m finding it super inspiring while I am beginning to eat better and start strength training.

    1. You’re so welcome Kimmy! I’m glad you liked the post. πŸ™‚ Good luck with your journey!

  15. Awesome post Ashley! So glad that you’ve found what works for you. Sometimes that can be the biggest struggle.

    I pretty much started this process this morning. Last night I had my first group session with a group that is going to focus on weight loss and fitness health the way that you have. The food part I don’t think I’ll have too much of a struggle with but I know the fitness part is where I’m going to need motivation!

    Your list has totally helped with the motivation. I need to find something I enjoy as well as understanding this isn’t an overnight process. Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Good luck Stephanie!! πŸ™‚ Definitely try to find something you enjoy—even if it’s just taking long walks.

  16. Last year I made it a goal to lose 20 pounds. I focused on my meals, started tracking my food and trying to eat healthier. It was amazing when I discovered that I could eat more food because I was also working out and almost “earning” myself more calories. It worked. I lost 15 pounds and was happier with my body than I had been in a long time. This year I feel like I’ve backslid a bit. I’m not eating as healthy anymore. I still work out 4-5 days a week, but I’m eating out a lot more than I was last year. I just made a pact with myself though to correct it. Because it wasn’t just that I looked fantastic. I truly felt great. I feel like my overall health was better. And of course, it’s such a satisfying feeling to look in the mirror and like what you see.

    You look fantastic girl! You’re awesome. Thanks for putting up this inspirational post!

  17. Great post! I was my most fit when I was doing weights–of course this was also 10 years ago before I was married with kids and had all the free time in the world. These days it seems easier to go for a quick run, but I KNOW that I need to get back to the weights. I’m currently skinny fat and while I like my shape, I don’t like the flub on my shape. One thing that I steer clear of when I’m trying to shape up is getting on the scale. Like you mention, for me it will fluctuate 3-5 pounds in a day. Kills me when someone says they’re on a diet and they’ve lost 3 pounds on day 1. Or that they’ve gained 2 of those pounds back in a few hours. STOP GETTING ON THE SCALE. Instead I go by measurements.

    Looking into StrongLifts!

    Trish recently posted: Bullet Journal Show and Tell
  18. This is such an inspiring post! Most of my exercise is “walk everywhere and carry everything there and back because I don’t own a car,” but I kind of have dreams of being someone who legitimately likes to exercise. So far, though, I find I mostly like group sports. I can’t stand running either. Or either anything that doesn’t seem to have an end goal. I guess I need to feel as if I have a game to win or something. :p

  19. UGH, here it goes again. Stupid computer -___- (And OMG, it did it again! Thank goodness I copy/pasted this time!)

    GIRL, you look amazing!! This post is such an inspiration to me! I was up to nearly 185 last January, which is the biggest I’ve ever been in my whole life. And I was miserable. I hated the way I looked, I felt disgusting all the time, and none of my clothes fit anymore. I downloaded My Fitness Pal, set my calorie limit to 1500 per day, and replaced one meal almost every day with a green/protein shake (1 cup berries, 1 banana, 1 cup spinach, 1 scoop protein powder, peanut butter & honey for flavor, and some unsweetened almond milk), and I lost 30 pounds. It proved how important your diet really is, because I wasn’t doing much along the lines of exercise. I went to the gym maybe once or twice a week. But 1500 calories SUCKS. I felt guilty for eating things like pizza, or cake, because 2 slices of medium pizza is 600 calories and that’s a giant chunk of my calorie allotment. Forget a slice of cake. And alcohol.
    I’ve lapsed pretty badly now – I’ve gained 10 lbs back sadly. I’m back on my shakes and I’ve been trying harder to stick to 1500 calories lately. But it’s so HARD. I hate not eating the things I want to eat. I also haven’t made the time (or had much motivation) to exercise. This post gives me SO much hope!! I love that you eat around 2,000 calories and still make room for the foods you love. You can lose weight and feel better and fitter without feeling like you’re actually losing. I love that!! It’s very inspiring, thank you so much for sharing this! I’m going to follow that beginner body weight workout for the days I don’t feel like going to the gym (which is most days, haha) πŸ˜€

  20. Love your candid post! I will look into that 5 x 5 with the trainers at my gym. I do these exercises but not like that in the regimented way. All this is good for bone density and you are smart getting a head start! Woot woot ! πŸ™‚ Thanks for supporting us girls, thanks.

  21. What an amazing post. Love your honesty about the steps that you went through to find what works for you. What I’m taking away from this is reaffirmation that 1. it’s mostly about the calories 2. Even that won’t matter if you don’t find a way to feel healthy and strong (running on a treadmill is just soooo boring).

    I have yet to find something that really works for me. I’ve been “plump” about 25-35 lbs overweight (depending upon who you listen to) my whole life but I’ve gone through a few stages where I lost most of it for 6 mo-2 years and really felt great. I think that is the key motivation…not just feeling like I looked better in clothes and could wear shorts or skirts etc…but more importantly feeling healthier, having more energy etc.

    It does get a lot harder as we age though…now that I’m old ;-p ….I feel like it’s just so much harder to get my head to that place where I can get there again. I did lose about 15 lbs last year watching my intake and doing Rush Fit but I gained 10 back since Thanksgiving…despite joining a gym and doing light cardio and weight training 1-3 x a week.

    I can find plenty of things to blame – crazy long work hours, stress, family obligations, having a husband who doesn’t eat on the same schedule that I do or eat the same things (it’s pretty much every man for himself when it comes to food at our house as he eats pretty much nothing but meat and I’m a vegetarian)…but obviously the bottom line is that I need to want it and make it a priority.

    Thanks for the honest post and informative post. Every little bit of positive reinforcement helps:)

    1. “I need to want it and make it a priority.”

      YES!! That’s the most important thing.

      I think as long as you’re objectively healthy, then everything is up to you. Some people may think, “Oh she’d look better if she dropped 20 pounds”, but if dropping those 20 pounds would make you miserable, then it’s not worth it. Screw them.

      It’s important that you’re in a place that you’re comfortable with and that makes you happy. If that means being a little bit heavier than some people think “looks best”, then so be it. They can keep their opinions to themselves.

      But dropping those 20lbs is only going to happen (and in a way that you can live with) if YOU really want to lose them and, as you said, make it a priority. Maybe one day you’ll be ready for it and really want to make it happen. If so, awesome! If not, that’s fine too. Just be happy with yourself. πŸ™‚

  22. That is the best post that I ever read on dieting, exercise etc. And it came at the right moment for me. I’ve always been quite lucky with being able to eat pretty much what I want and not get too much weight but with the years, this is not as easy.
    Three weeks ago, I started exercising much more (going from once a week to 5 to 6 times a week) and I love the feeling that it gives me (it really clears my mind). But what you say here really was like a ligthing bulb. I particularly like those following points
    – you don’t have to have a deadline, you can take the time you want
    – exercising alone won’t make you loose fat
    – you have to build a lifestyle that suits you
    – you have to find the exercise that you enjoy

    So thanks so much for giving me the motivation to continue but more importantly a sense of relief that it is achievable!

    1. I’m so glad you liked the post StΓ©phanie! πŸ™‚ It sounds like you’re on a great path! I actually only just recently increased from 3 times a week to 5-6 times a week. It feels great to be at the gym so often!

      I totally agree that it really clears my mind. I typically go around 3:30 or 4pm so it’s a great mid-day break. That’s typically when my mind starts to cloud over from all the work I’ve been doing, then the gym allows me to refresh.

  23. First of all, congrats to your new weight – you look amazing. But please, donΒ΄t lose any more weight, too skinny isnΒ΄t good either and you are a tall person obviously. Thanks for sharing all those wonderful pictures. Nice to know how you look, Ashley πŸ™‚

    Your post is really one piece of work to read. I like that you put in what youΒ΄ve learned along the way and that you found something that makes you feel comfortable doing it. And feel happy that your husband was doing it with you. Not everyone does πŸ™‚

    best wishes

  24. I at one point lost 70 – 75 pds. Took me about 2 – 3 years. I did a lot of cardio and weights, both free weights and machines. But I was having health problems and my doctor put me on this stupid exercise plan that only had me doing 1/4 of what I was doing. It was boring and I hated it to the point that I gave up everything. I gave in to the health problem and just didn’t do anything when I probably should have just found a middle of the road. Now, over the past 2 – 3 yrs, I’ve gained back about 90 – 100. My health problems are 10 times worse, and my doctor wants me to get my diet in check before starting some low cardio. I track with My Plate, and at the sedentary level it gives me 1800 calories/day. I find it hard and my doctor says it is because I’m still drinking most of my calories (damn you iced caramel macchiatos). I don’t eat breakfast and don’t snack until about 10:30 where I have berries measured out in containers for me every day. My daughter lost a ton of weight with exercise and major diet changes. I think she’s doing the 5×5, but I have pictures of her doing exactly the same pose as you showing her bicep. I also get updates on the pull up progress. I need to get motivated and your post is definitely encouraging, thank you for writing it!

    1. Thank you for sharing Tanya! I know what you mean about drinking calories. I’m a big fan of Starbucks frappuccinos (Java Chip!). But one of those is easily 300-500 calories, depending on the size.

      I’m sorry the doctor put you off your exercise plan. That can definitely hurt your motivation. I hurt my wrist at BookExpo America which took me out of the gym for about a month (and I still can’t bench press yet!). I had visions of me losing all my strength/muscles and eating everything lol. I’m back in the gym now, but that month was terrible for me because I felt really powerless. I was angry at the world because I finally found a fitness routine that I loved and was healthy for me, then suddenly I couldn’t do it.

      Good luck with your goals! πŸ™‚ You did it once and I bet you can do it again. πŸ™‚

  25. You look amazing!

    I love reading about your journey to a healthy lifestyle, a happy body, and a positive mind – because ultimately that’s what happened right?

    I only started my own journey to all of those things in December last year, and it’s only now that I’m seeing results that I want with my body (It’s taken six months of changing my lifestyle) – measurements, confidence, positivity around exercising and eating. Before I started I wasn’t overweight or heavy, I was just a size bigger than I’ve ever been in my life and I wasn’t happy with how I looked in clothes or naked to be honest. So I decided to do something about it before I gained even more weight.

    I agree that it’s more than just about the exercise and it’s about the healthy eating! I have a personal trainer (Because I’m lazy at the gym and never follow any exercise plan for very long on my own – So I need one to show me what to do and push me harder than I push myself), and he’s continuously tells me abs are 80% diet and 20% exercise. So I’ve completely changed the way I eat, and what I eat. I make sure to balance it out and not deprive myself nor binge) And I now love the way I feel!

    Awesome work! You’re looking really good, definitely keep it up!

    Jordon @ Simply Adrift recently posted: Hyped up books everyone loves – but me
  26. oh I just love this post so much Ashley!!! I love seeing your progress here and your fitness journey!! I love exercising though. I have a more difficult time with the diet though. I just started a new regimen about a month ago, with weight watchers (which I really like, since I can still eat what I like, its more about watching the levels of how much you eat of certain products) and then doing the Kayla Itsines fitness program which I am enjoying so much. I love how much stronger I feel and the boosts of energy. It is pretty fantastic. I agree with what you see about how you feel after a workout–its that “on top of the world” feeling and its quite addicting. πŸ™‚

    Renee (Addicted To Romance) recently posted: ARC Book Review-Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis
  27. This is one of the most helpful, amazing, real posts I have ever read! Thank YOU for posting your journey! I’m so happy you figured out what worked and didn’t work for you over time, I truly think that’s a huge key in continuing this type of lifestyle.

    I’ve slowly changed my diet over time and cut out lots of processed foods and make a lot of it from scratch now. I love sweets, so I still make brownies, cookies etc (cause I love to bake) but on those days I just exercise longer or ask one of my best friends to go speed walking with me so I get in exercise 2xs. My hugest downfall is when my kiddos get sick from school….. it’s like a week and a half of being up with them all night long and then not having any energy to exercise during those days. Then it feels like I’m going backwards and lose progress with my body. That can happen sometimes 2xs a month and I just need to overcome that somehow. But I love your motivation, determination and I’m sure I can find it too!

  28. Congratulations, Ashley. Definitely something to be absolutely proud of. I really enjoyed reading this post because you had some of the same insecurities as I have. I hate the gym or the thought of what people will think of me when I go. I think it is extremely hard for me because I used to be 100 pounds when I was a freshman in HS. When I was a senior I went to 120 but that was with sports and all that jazz so a healthy weight gain. After graduating I have gained 60+ pounds and feel terrible, yet I don’t do anything to change. Reading this has made me want to kick ass and start getting into gear. I like the tips of just taking things slow, baby steps are better than no steps. Also, the fact that I can still have a guilty pleasure every once in a while if I know how to fit it in. My Dunkin Donuts coffee is a must. Thank you for sharing this. It definitely will be my go to post for when I’m unsure or need and extra boost of confidence. Seriously, thank you for writing this post.

  29. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ashley! Loved all of it, and am inspired! I like lifting as well, and finally got to my goal weight after working with a personal trainer and dieting. Then my back started getting bad, and two surgeries later and I am not where I want to be. My biggest goal in 2017 is to lose some weight & get strong – although I know it will be harder with physical limitations. Anyway, congrats on your transformation!

  30. Great post! Very inspiring and not like most weight loss articles you read. I am just starting my weightloss journey at 160 pounds (5’6″), so this article could not have found me in more perfect time. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  31. This was the most helpful fitness and weight loss blog I think i’ve ever read. I am newly motivated and starting from right about where you were with a goal of where you are. 25 pounds have to come off, and seeing someone have that success and still drink coffee and have sweets and pizza is a fantastic motivator. Thank you for sharing, really. This is my favorite thing.

  32. I’m happy for you! I am 60 years old and now weigh 150 lbs. I have always weighed around 120. I have tried every kind of diet, exercise religiously and over 4 months haven’t lost even 1 lb. Or even 1 inch. I am very discouraged and am not a happy person anymore. I do take some meds for depression etc. But it never stopped me before. I am so lost and don’t know what will work for me. I’m beginning to feel like nothing will work for me.

    I’m very frustrated

    1. Hi Shirley,
      I am 52 and was always around 120 until l had an accident that left me unable to move for a few months. My weight went up to 150 and now that I am recovered my weight wants to stay at 150 and has for several years now. It is frustrating for sure, but it helps to focus on being as healthy as I can. It’s not the end of the world. As we get older I think it’s just time to focus more and more on other things. Cheer up, you are great no matter your weight!

  33. I love your post. This is definitely one I’ll save to read again to get me motivated! Did you ever try the chicken crusted pizza, it’s insanely good!! ❀️ Take care and keep going girl!

  34. This was the most inspiring post I’ve ever read. You and I have the exact same logic. I haven’t weighed myself in years but just found that I’m 165 lbs and 5’5, which I’ve never been before! I was worried where to start, or feeling like an idiot trying to work out in front of people when I’m not very accustomed. But I think after reading this, I may try to take a baby step. You’re proof that’s it’s doable! Thank you for your encouraging post!

  35. You are amazing and inspiring and this is just what I needed to read today. I have just hit an all time high of 172 at 5’11”. Last May I was 144. Discouraged and feeling depressed, I know need to start moving again and stop wallowing. Once I get going, I always forget about the number on the scale because I feel so GOOD! Thanks for sharing your journey and your positive energy!

  36. Just a thought on your attempt at KETO, dizziness can be a side effect of too much water or not enough minerals, on keto we tend to flush water pretty quickly which can deplete electrolytes, since I’ve chosen keto as my lifestyle to stave off eventual hereditary diabetes i had to learn in a real hurry about electrolyte headaches and dizziness! (And having lost 30 lbs SO FAR doesn’t hurt either πŸ˜‰

  37. Thanks for sharing this. It was really helpful and felt realistic. It’s dumb but I put off weight loss because I think I have to do lots of cardio and I don’t care for it..what you shared made me hopeful and gonna go to my gym and use free personal trainer to do learn strength/weight lifting. Thanks for the insights

  38. I love this post. Mainly bc I am your same height, and weigh 167 right now. So to see what weight looks like on someone my size is reassuring. I gained 25lbs in 4 months from having a hysterectomy, and now I am trying to lose it. Thanks for the motivation:)

  39. Thanks for the article, but would love to know what your diet was in the before picture!

    1. Sadly I never really logged it. But my biggest issue was probably portion control. My diet wasn’t *super* unhealthy – I was mostly just eating too much.

      I also had a bad habit of eating a pack of Oreos a few nights a week. Those were something like 600 or 700 calories per pack.

      1. Yes, portion control is important for sure. So another question is what do you think the three most important exercises are for building your arms? Yours look fantastic!!

        1. Thank you. πŸ™‚

          Probably these three:

          Overhead press (shoulders)
          Lateral raise (shoulders)
          Bicep curls (biceps)

  40. I’m at 169 it’s the biggest I been in my life but I don’t have the money to join a gym at this time in my life I work for my family and they pay me when they can afford you have any idea for sub and I need to get my arms back toned my meds made me gain a good amount of weight

    1. Weight loss is mostly about diet so you don’t need a gym to lose pounds. You do need exercise for gaining muscle, but you still don’t necessarily need a gym. Search Google/YouTube for body weight exercises.

  41. This is singlehandedly the MOST motivating article I have ever read on weight loss. I love how you broke down your baby steps, included photos and stressed the importance of freeing yourself from a quick deadline. I just started day 1 of C25K and I’m so happy to hear that your amazing progress started from this same program. Thank you so much. I’m pinning this page to my home screen for motivation.

    1. I’m so glad you found this helpful! πŸ™‚ Best of luck with your journey!

  42. The main thing that struck me in your story is that you went to the gym and were surprised that no one “looked at you funny,” and no one judged you. Well for heaven’s sakes, you weighed 145 pounds, no 245 pounds! Most of us would feel pretty buff even at that weight, and for sure wouldn’t expect to be sneered at when going to the gym. Guess we live in different worlds… lol

    1. The “look at me funny” comment had nothing to do with my weight. It had to do with my insecurities about not knowing how to use equipment or if I was doing it right. People can have those insecurities regardless of their weight.

  43. Thank you for this article. You’re so real and it’s awesome that you took strength training by the ball’s even though you were scared. Thanks for the motivation! I’m currently 165 and strength training but am gaining trouble cutting treats out of my otherwise healthy diet. I feel like I’ll get there though and this just made me feel even better.

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