I really packed on the pounds during those strange, early parts of the pandemic. I have a pretty stressful job, so with the stress of the pandemic on top of that, it’s kind of not surprising I gained weight. It made me feel lethargic, and the only clothes that really fit me were my sweatpants. I looked ahead and saw I was creeping up on age 40, which became a big motivator. I joked to my friends that I wanted to see if I could get abs before I turned 40.
While it was kind of a joke, I really did want to see how fit I could get if I pushed myself and took exercise and nutrition seriously. So I signed up with Ultimate Performance in Washington DC.
Meal prep laid the groundwork
I feel like my transformation was fueled by the souls of 1,000 chickens. (Thanks, little buddies!) Every Sunday, I would meal prep by oven-roasting some veggies and making five pounds of shredded chicken in an Instant Pot with some butter, hot sauce, and spices. I’d switch up the spices week-to-week and add different vegetables, so it never got too boring.
That was my lunch. For breakfast I’d have a high-protein yogurt, followed by a mid-morning protein shake. Dinner would be roasted salmon with more veggies. Snack-wise, I had salt-and-vinegar almonds, though I was careful not to eat too many. Before, I’d been eating $15 sandwiches for lunch at work, plus pizza, ice cream, cocktails, and junk food. I cut out alcohol, which was, well, not easy. But tracking macros in the Ultimate Performance app really gave me a sense of control and mindfulness.
The thought counts
I remember that children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want milk; if you give him a glass of milk, he’ll want a straw, and so on. It’s a slippery slope. I thought about that when it came to cheating on my meal plan. I knew if I cheated with a small treat, like a handful of Cheez-It crackers, I’d end up eating half the box. So getting all of that stuff out of my cupboards and out of my sight really helped. And on the positive side, seeing even small changes in my body gave me the fuel to keep going.
Showing up for yourself at workouts
I’d worked with a trainer before and done some strength training on my own, but never with this degree of seriousness. I was excited to go in there on day one and see what I could accomplish. I started out with three days of training a week, plus getting in a lot of steps every day. Toward the end, I dialed that down to twice a week with my trainer, plus working out on my own.
Over ten months I lost about 45 pounds, dropping from 228 to 183 pounds. My muscle mass increased by around five to eight pounds over that time. Obviously, it’s been a real confidence boost, not just because I’m looking pretty good, but because I’m proud of the work I put into it. In the beginning, I had borderline high blood pressure, but that’s come down. My sleep apnea has cleared up and I’m sleeping much more restfully.
And people around me definitely noticed a change. I got a lot of questions about what I was doing to get such good results.
Ultimately, you have to go in with a plan. Personal trainers are great because they basically figure out the plan for you. I had a perfectly tailored workout routine, plus nutrition planning that got me where I needed to be. If you can’t get that sort of guidance, you can still find a lot of resources online so you’re not just flying blind.
No matter how you do it, I think consistency is so important. You stick with it, and day after day you see little improvements, and those advances really stack up. You can get somewhere amazing, even if it’s one step at a time.