Last night I was having a conversation with my significant other about my die-hardedness when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle and my concerns for wanting him to have a healthy lifestyle. I discussed with my boyfriend the health fears I have, as my family history isn’t necessarily the “cleanest”–consisting of cancer, MS, diabetes, and cardiac issues. And even with the 50lbs of weight loss, my genes have left me with two things I can’t fight no matter how hard I try: I’m big-boned/stocky-framed and my BMI will probably ALWAYS remain in the overweight category for as long as I live (if calculated from height and weight), which will result in a lifelong fight against incurring any serious medical issues.

Another thing that has caused me to be on high alert is my place of employment. I work at a hospital in a Kidney and Liver transplant unit. Weekly, I interact with people who are there because of diabetes/overweight related issues. Now, I know you’re supposed to have some level of placidness when you work in the medical field, but I can’t help but have some level of empathy for some patients and sometimes I take my work home with me (meaning, I think about them and pray for their healing) and I do a lot of thinking.

If you know me personally, you know that I watch a lot of shows on obesity issues: The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, Weight of the Nation, and shows like my 600 lb Life. I, also, have become an avid researcher on weight-related issues and am always looking for tips to improve my diet and exercise routines. I am not ashamed to admit that I have become obsessed (for good reason-in my opinion)… and have even considered working in nurition once I become a registered nurse or working in a weight-management facility.

But digressing from my main point: During this discussion with my boyfriend last night, I told him that one of the things that I regret doing was not listening to the advice that people (specifically my sister and father) suggested, which was to weight train. I am a little frustrated wtih myself in that I stubbornly brushed the advice off, and after 50lbs of weight loss, am unhappy with my body merely because of the fact that I’m not as TONED as I would like to be and probably am not at the weight I want to be because of that.

While in my weight-loss journey, I LOVED cardio and even developed a love for running, something I HATED growing up-I was a thrower on the track team in high school for that reason. The cardio aided in my weight-loss success, and for a good two years, I felt I was doing great without ever lifting a dumbbell. My strength-training consisted of a yoga class I took regularly at Gold’s Gym (around once or twice a week) and fooling around on the weight machines every now and then, but never developing a routine or a habit of it.

When I look in the mirror, I am proud of my slimmer figure, no doubt. I’m proud of the fact that I’m no longer 253lbs, but I am disappointed in the fact that I’m rather flabby for having lost so much weight, and that I don’t feel like I LOOK like the person who is able to accomplish all the things that I’m able to do… and I get a lot of side-eyes when I tell people I like to kick-box, or I can run 5 miles like it’s 1, or that I completed a half-marathon and ran 12 out of the 13 miles of it. There’s a sense of doubt in most people’s eyes… But rarely are people impressed. I KNOW I don’t have a runner’s body. I also am not bikini ready like I want to be… granted I AM wearing a bikini and decided last year I was going to AND be confident in it (realizing when I got to the beach that a lot of people weren’t really that toned either and that I actually fit in), but I always wished that I had nice toned legs and abs to show off in my swimsuit.

So after failing on my mission to be “swimsuit ready” in the way that I was defining swimsuit ready (and after months and months-leading to about a year and a half of not losing a pound), I decided that it was time for me to get on the strength-training bandwagon. I started 2012 off with doing Jillian’s 30 Day Shred, after one round of it, I felt like I was becoming slightly more toned, and attempted a second round of it with heavier weights-but became bored with doing the same routine every day. So, I moved on to something else, Turbo Fire, which is a kickboxing workout program, and while I did it for a month, there was still no weight-loss or physical changes to my body.

I became frustrated, even more so because my sister’s wedding was coming up and I wanted to look AMAZING in photos and for family and friends to see a major difference in my physique. So then I started posting my frustrations on Myfitnesspal, wishing that someone could relate. I quickly found out that I was not alone in the matter, which was comforting. Together, we researched for solutions for our lack of ability to drop even half-a-pound. My other sister came home for the wedding, so I discussed with her what I should do and I was suggested an extreme change of diet–which I tired, and couldn’t find myself sticking to with the type of busy lifestyle I had–working two jobs and after coming home from work & working out, was NOT in the mood to cook anything that required more than 10 minutes to make, let alone trying to cook meals for the whole week. I tried to keep up with it to the best of my ability. But I still didn’t feel like that was working for me. I felt a diet low in carb, high in protein and veggies was restricting and resulted in feeling guilty if I slipped off that in any shape or form. The change in diet was also frustrating because I didn’t feel like I ate that bad on a regular basis. I was eating a LOT cleaner than I have in the past and about 90% cleaner then when I started this weight loss journey. I wanted to ENJOY food, not eat the same thing OVER and OVER again. So, I spent long hours reasearching and contemplating seeing a nutritionist to discuss my diet and how to manage it with my busy lifestyle… but then the week after the wedding, my sister and her boyfriend were working out and invited me along. The workout consisted of sprints and then 40sec of an ab move (interval training). I found myself completely out of breath. I almost was on the verge of quitting-but pushed through it and finished it. I was surprised, because for someone who could run 9 miles-I felt COMPELTELY out of shape. The next day, I woke up, completely sore (something I hadn’t felt in a while) and SUDDENLY-IT CLICKED! My whole frustration and lack of ability to lose weight and tone was not so much because of my diet or work ethic, but because I wasn’t doing any strength training. The reason why I wasn’t toning was because I wasn’t pushing my body to levels of muscle fatigue…yes, I’d hurt sometimes the next day after a long run, but not in the kind of way that this workout had made me feel. So, from then on, I decided that it was time for me to make a habit out of this whole weight training thing–my body was NEVER going to tone, if I didn’t build up the muscle.

At the same time of my revelation, I was recommended Turn Up Your Fat Burn by an MFP friend. I looked at the book and noticed that in 4 weeks, I could change my body into a fat-burning machine! As I flipped through the book, I noticed that not only did it make suggestions for turning your cardio into a better fat-burning cardio, done through interval training, IT TOO suggested that I strength train twice a week, and inclucded a strength training routine for each week of the program. Adjusting my cardio to interval cardio was easy–I changed my Monday and Friday 30 minute runs to interval runs, and sometimes I will complete 30 minutes of a Turbo Fire video (I usually just pick a random DVD to change up the routine), and Wednesdays are still my long-run days (have to stay in training mode somewhat so I can continue to compete in 10K and Half-marathon races).

As far as strength training: It suggested 2 days of strength training per week, which I chose as my Tuesday/Thursday workouts-something I was attracted to and felt I could manage with my busy lifestyle. I started doing the routine for the first week, incorporating the ab workout that I did with my sister. BOY was I sore the next day! But IT FELT AMAZING! I was feeling something I hadn’t felt in a LONG time! I wanted to become comfortable with dumbbell training, so I repeated week 1 routine for two weeks, and started week 2 routine (and have successfully completed my 2 days this week). I am proud to say that I have stuck with it for 3 weeks now! :0) Week 2 also recommended adding in a high intense interval training workout to one of the strength training days. EASY for me, because I purchased Turbo Fire, so the interval training routines are already choreographed FOR me–I complete one of the HIIT videos and then proceed into my strength training routine. I will probably do the same as I did for week 1 and repeat week 2 over again and I change up the ab routine slightly with each new week as well.

This new found workout in my life has REALLY shown me A) how OUT OF SHAPE I actually really am and b) that I HONESTLY haven’t been pushing as hard as I really thought I was. I end a workout in complete exhaustion, dripping in sweat, and anxious to lay down. And while I’m DYING to quit during the workout, I keep reminding myself of the benefits that this will produce in the long run. In the 3 weeks, I have become MUCH more happier with my physique. I still have a long ways to go, but I’m noticing my biceps developing, my stomach has gotten flatter, and my back has toned up again (which prior to, was developing that back-boob again).

So, now I sit here thinking: Why was I so stubborn and resistent to this advice before?? It REALLY is one of those cases of “never learning until you experience it yourself” situations. My whole mentality has changed–and now when people ask me for weight-loss advice, I’m always suggesting it. I honestly feel a sense of regret (in myself) for not taking this advice before hand. Why didn’t I just listen? Then I’d BE bikini ready like I wanted to be by now I can see what 3 short weeks of weight training has done to my physique… I sit and imagine what kind of progress I would have made by this point had I started this sooner. And ANOTHER thing! Week 1 I started off doing most exercises using 10lbs dumbbells, but in 3 weeks, I’m now using 15s! IF I went to a gym, I wouldn’t look like a little wimpy girl using 5lbs (which is what I was using when I was doing Jillian’s 30 Day Shred).

So, my advice to anyone starting a weight loss journey of their own: don’t be stubborn like me: compliment the cardio with strength training. You’ll be better off in the long run vs what happened with me: yes, I lost the weight & got to the size that I wanted to be, but I’m not at the physique that I want to be! But I know now that with each arduous workout, I am more muscle toned then the day before & closer to my goal!

**Happy Lifting**