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I'm Mylah, a luxury wedding photographer based in Austin, Texas, capturing timeless and tangible memories that celebrate marriage.
I lost 40 pounds in 2018. Naturally, a lot of people have been asking me how I did it. It wasn’t a magic pill or crazy strict diet. I ate less and worked out more (well, started working out, because it was non-existent before then). It’s basically as simple as that, but here are the specifics, if you’re interested.
I downloaded My Fitness Pal app on my phone to track what I was eating. Every single thing I ate was tracked on the phone. If I added mustard to a turkey roll, it got added. When I put cinnamon on my coffee, it got added. Every little thing adds up quickly in daily calories consumed and I wanted to make sure I was being honest with myself. This app helped me do that. It even has a bar code reader, so all you have to do is scan what you’re about to eat and it will tell you the calories and macro info.
The app suggests that for me to lose two pounds a week, I ate no more than 1200 calories a day. If I ate 1500 calories, it was ok as long as I worked out to burn the extra 300 calories. To see how many calories I was burning in a work out, I started using a heart rate monitor. Mine is the Garmin Vivo Smart 3. I tell it when I start working out and it tells me how many calories I burn based on my heart rate.
Honestly, I’ve never been great about working out. In 2018, I committed to start running. My goal was to run 100 miles before the end of the summer and I started on January 8th. I started with the couch to 5k program that tells you to run for 30 seconds and walk for a minute (or something like that) and slowly gets you to run for longer periods over time. Eventually, I got to where 3 miles a day was normal. I averaged 30-40 miles a month. My goal was to run 3-5 times a week and run 10 miles a week. By the end of October, I had run 300 miles, which was triple what my goal was. (That just goes to show that you should always aim higher, but that is another story.)
I kept a piece of paper on the fridge with 100 boxes and marked off the miles I ran that day by penciling in the date I ran them. This helped me keep track of the number, but also helped push me to run farther. If I put in my miles for the day and saw that I was one away from a milestone (increments of 10 or 25), I’d be a lot more motivated to get in that one more mile to reach that new milestone.
There were days when I didn’t want to run. On those days, it was great to have a buddy. Dylan and I would run together after work. Although, it was a MUCH slower pace than what he would run without me, he was kind enough to be my running buddy. That way, he could encourage me to keep going when I wanted to stop and encourage me to just start running on days I didn’t want to put my shoes on.
The hardest part to exercise is putting on your shoes. The likelihood of you going to work out once you’re dressed increases. Baby steps. You don’t have to commit to go to the gym for three hours when you’re starting. Just commit to putting your shoes on and stepping on the treadmill or sidewalk. Once you get that far, you’ll likely follow the course you’ve set for yourself and get running.
On the days where I hit a wall with running and just could not bring myself to run, I found other ways to still get exercise in. I’d put in the Jillian Michaels 30-day shred DVD and workout that way. My dad and I started playing racquetball over the summer. On average, I burn about 350 calories per hour of game time. However, running was my go-to. I’d put on a business podcast (Marie Forleo or Dave Ramsey would be a great place if you’re looking) or health talk (keep me motivated) on the iPad and get going. It made me feel better about leaving work to exercise if I could multi-task.
I made TIME for exercising! Just like you make time to pick up your kids from school, for date night with your spouse, or for your favorite TV show, you gotta pencil out the time to get active.
For me, running helped me set office hours, too. After my to-do list for the day was complete, I’d put my shoes on and go run. This helped me end my day and was a mental break from work. When you work from home, you really need something to tell your brain “work is done for the day” and “now it’s time to start home life.”
Other bonuses that running has had in my life that I’ve recognized and am SO thankful for:
I cope better with stress.
I eat less.
I eat healthier options (because running after eating a greasy burger sucks).
I sleep better at night and fall asleep faster.
(TMI for guys) My body doesn’t try to kill me during my period.
I have more energy throughout the day and get more done.
I don’t feel dead to the world the day after a wedding (industry pros call it the wedding day hang-over).
I can hike around fun locations with my clients at engagement sessions.
I’m all-around more confident in myself.
There may be more bonuses that I may not be able to see now, too! I read Spark by John Ratey at the beginning of 2018 and it really was a motivating factor for me to start exercising and continue to do so. If there is only one take away from this post: go buy that book and let it sink in!
Most of my food came from plants. I love veggies, so this wasn’t a bad thing for me. To be clear, I just LOVE food in general, so it wasn’t easy, either. Breakfast was typically a piece of fruit and a nut (Apple and Pecans; Pear and Walnuts; Banana and Almond Butter). If I was feeling fancy, I’d bake an egg in an avocado. Lunch was usually fish or turkey with a veggie (Salmon and broccoli; Turkey rolled with spinach inside; Tuna and plantain chips). Dinner could be anything, really, but the key was to mostly opt for veggies. Again, I maxed out what I ate at 1200 calories per day. My goal was actually closer to 1000 per day until the end of May. After that, I went up to about 1500 consumed calories a day with a daily workout.
There was always a party or excuse to eat something that isn’t healthy (sugar) for your body. ALWAYS! The very first weekend, my niece’s birthday party was a pancake feast. The next weekend, we had a friend’s birthday party where pasta was the only option on the menu. I was the weirdo who took apple slices and a boiled egg to my niece’s party and opted to skip dinner at the friend’s birthday (and ate promptly when we got home). The big thing with trying to eat healthy is STARTING NOW and sticking to it! If you want to lose the weight, you have to lose the wait (or excuse why you’ll start Monday, instead of right now). You may not control what’s being served at an event, but you can control what you put on your fork.
On that same note, I did make exceptions to when I was allowed to eat absolutely WHATEVER I wanted without guilting myself about it. Those times were: my own birthday or Dylan’s, while we were on vacation, and if we were celebrating our anniversary. You gotta still live your life and enjoy the treats, but the treats can’t be daily. If they’re daily, they’re no longer a treat, but a drain on your life (your wallet, your body, your energy level, and your time).
Also, on wedding days, I ate pretty much whatever the guests were having for dinner. I have to eat something and running around for 8 hours without stopping gives you a little more wiggle room than when you’re behind a screen all day. I just opted to fill up with mostly veggies when I could, a little protein, and skipped the bread and sweets altogether. My bars are now plant based bars (Skout or Thunderbird) instead of chocolate granola bars and I eat a salad from Panera instead of the sandwich or mac n cheese before weddings. It’s the small, daily changes that can have a big impact on the weight loss journey.
My snacks turned into whatever fruit we had at the house, a peach, blueberry, and spinach smoothie, or a protein smoothie (we have a peanut butter and chocolate one). I also love carrot chips with smashed avocado with salt and pepper. Sliced bell peppers, broccoli, or plantain chips with hummus is a favorite, too. The bars I mentioned above were great to have in my camera bags for sessions that were a little farther away from home. Boiled egg, a handful of almonds/pecans/walnuts/cashews/pistachios/pumpkin or sunflower seeds were a go-to snack. We enjoy snacks in my house, so we just made sure they were easy (already prepped) and real foods. On days I was feeling indulgent, I’d have some Boom Chicka Popcorn.
Obviously, clothes started to look baggy and needed to be replaced. The stuff that was too big has got to get out of your closet. You don’t need to hang on to those, as it will just give you a safety net in clothing if you stop working out or eating right. So, I gave a lot of my stuff away. I wore it until my husband told me that I wasn’t that girl anymore. That’s when I knew it was time to update. Size 14 to a size 6/8 is very different. So, at 20 pounds lost, I bought some shorts with an elastic waist band. This way, when I lost more weight, they would still stay on. I didn’t want to invest in a whole new wardrobe when I knew it would probably be too big in a few weeks. I bought two new dresses to wear to weddings and belted the smallest of what I did already have.
I have kept one pair of jeans that are a size 14 from Torrid. When I did wear them and they fit, I thought they were the BEST jeans. I’m going to keep them as a reminder for how far I’ve come. Maybe in June/July, I’ll post a before/after photo of me now in those jeans. That’s why I’m hanging on to them. Everything else is gone.
If you’re living in a home with someone struggling to lose weight, you are a key to their success. I could NOT have done this if Dylan brought cookies into the house weekly or wanted to stop for ice cream on the way home from small group. He had to be onboard with the new menu at home or it would not have been possible. Had he been ordering pizza once a week, I would have been eating pizza once a week.
Side note: I’ve had some of my brides share with me that they started incorporating a type of fasting into their life and that really helped them. They only eat their meals between 8AM and 8PM, giving their body a reset and time to process what it had consumed during the day. If you’re interested in learning more about fasting, you may want to research Intermittent Fasting with Jason Fung.
Well, you’ve been asking how I did it, so I wanted to answer those for you. Also, I gained 10 pounds back over Christmas (when I took two full months off of eating healthy and running), so I need a refresher to get back on track. This post will serve as a reminder to me why it’s worth it and that I CAN do it!
I went from a size 14 to a size 6/8. I had to shop at plus size stores (like Torrid, which has CUTE stuff) to now shopping almost anywhere.
Left is 2018. Right is 2017.
Left is 2018. Right is 2017.
Left is anniversary date 2018. Right is anniversary date 2017.
New Year’s Eve 2018 is on the left. New Year’s Eve 2017 is on the right.
If you’re trying to lose weight, I just want to encourage you! You CAN do it! If I can, you can! I didn’t take any magic supplement or have surgery. I simply ate less calories and made sure most of them came from REAL food and started making running a priority in my daily schedule. I lost my excuses. Losing the wait will help you lose the weight. Start now.
– Mylah Renae
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Mylah Renae is a luxury wedding photographer based in Austin, Texas, capturing timeless and tangible memories that celebrate marriage.