New Year's is a time of reflection. Despite all the goal-setting going on for the future, it's only natural to look back at the previous year and assess.
I lived out 2011 quite publicly, and as many of you will recall, it had its share of ups and downs as I battled weight loss in my "fight to be fit" for Free Press readers.
Just to recap: The first half of the year, I lost 50 pounds with the help of a personal trainer. Then I took the entire summer off, which basically meant I hit the junk food, stayed away from the gym and kept myself out of the public eye for a while. With my retreat into Sugar Town came a gain of 12 pounds back. (Can you imagine realizing eight months into your public weight-loss battle that you are only down 38 pounds? Devastating.)
At the end of September, I came to my senses. I remembered all of the things my trainer Jackie Vroman taught me, and I got to work, vowing that this time the words "lifestyle change" would stick.
Well, it's the last week of December now, three months after my reawakening, and I'm happy to report that this time I feel like I've won the fight.
In 2011, I lost 74 pounds and 48.25 total inches from my body. And, folks, they're staying off.
The journeyAs I look back on this year, two major players stand out in my fitness journey: the Y, the facility where I lost the weight, and Jackie, whom I think of every single time I put on a cute outfit that I could never fit into before now.
I first asked John Kind, the CEO of the Y, to lunch in early December. I told him how grateful I was to the Y and his staff for helping me whenever I needed it this year and for answering all of my questions. I told him how much Jackie (a former trainer for the Y) had been a part of my success.
And I asked him what he thought it was about the Y that seemed to result in so many success stories. As you walk the halls, the stories of members are even framed on the walls.
"It's not uncommon to get an email every couple of weeks (that says) the Y changed my life," he said. "I think it's because you're not doing it alone."
The Y fosters a sense of community, he said. Families come together. Sitting areas are often full of people pre- and post-workout hanging out to socialize. Classes, many of them free, encourage a group fitness mentality, which makes people feel accountable.
All of this hit home for me, but he could have been speaking about me directly when he said this: Most people who come to the Y are "Health Seekers." They're not athletes. They're regular people who want to try and live a healthier life. At first, they're intimidated to work out in the Life Center, thinking only people in shape will be there, judging those who aren't. But then they become acquainted with the Y and realize that people of all fitness levels fit in.
I couldn't have summed up any better the reasons I found my success at the Y this year. For numerous reasons, memberships to gyms in the past didn't work out. The difference now is that I WANT to go to the Y, and I will continue wanting to go there because the experience is about much more than exercise.
"You've got to be inspired," John said.
Most cathartic of all was sitting down for coffee with Jackie before she left for a volunteer trip to an orphanage in Romania over Christmas. I was able to give her a big hug and remind her again how much she changed my life. And I was able to hear the words that mean more coming from her -- the person who stood next to me when I stepped on that scale a year ago, when we learned my starting weight -- than anyone else: "You look amazing."
The next chapterSo what's next? Staying the course is No. 1 on the agenda. I'm in a place now where I'm happy with how I feel, how I look, how my clothes fit, and my physical capabilities at the gym. So No. 1 with a bullet is keeping it that way.
Do I have more to lose? Yep. There are always those last begrudging pounds. But I'm not too worried about that. The last ones take the longest, so I'm not setting goals with deadlines. I'll just keep on keeping on with my new lifestyle, and eventually it'll come off.
But I don't feel like this is enough. Last year at exactly this time, this is what I wrote to all of you:
I turned 30 three weeks ago. Dear God, did I ever turn 30. ... Didn't take it well. I remember a time not so long ago when the idea of growing old was so far into the future that it wasn't even worth thinking about. I don't feel that way anymore, and it's making me seriously examine where I'm at in life, sort of letting it sink in that every day is precious and I'd better start making good use of my remaining youth.
Well folks, two weeks ago, I turned 31. Feels a lot like 30, so I'm not taking it too badly this year. But the rest of that statement is still true. Still feeling like my youth is precious, and that it's time to grasp it and keep tackling new challenges.
I can honestly say now that my first challenge is successfully tackled: I battled my weight, and I won.
So this got me thinking about what other challenges I could take on. When I return from vacation Tuesday I'll be the reporter in charge of education, which is new for me. And I started thinking, "In honor of my new beat, and in honor of having learned something new last year -- how to live healthy -- how about I make it my life's plan to learn something new every year?"
Sounds good to me, and it sounds like something that could equate to pretty funny blog entries, just like my "fight to be fit" last year.
So here it is, folks: In 2012 ... I'm going to learn ... to dance. A girl with no rhythm will soon be queen of da clubs.
At 31, I'm about a decade too old for Red Rocks at 1 a.m. (which also happens to be three hours past my bed time). But perhaps there are dance classes I can take at civilized hours in Mankato and then take my new moves to the Twin Cities club scene. Ow!
Ballroom sounds most appealing. A nice classy waltz, and when I'm feeling feisty, salsa, baby. But the tiger in me wants to go a little crazier. ... So I'm considering hip-hop, which is the absolute furthest from my comfort zone.
Do you have any idea how my attempt at the moonwalk would end? I do: a broken leg and a really funny column. (Are people still moonwalking?) I'll keep you posted.
Amanda's Health Tips
People on their own quests for fitness always ask me the same things: What are your secrets? How did you do it? Do you have any tips?
While I still very much maintain that weight-loss is a total mental game -- that we all have the information; it's just a matter of applying it -- I do have several tips that I employ almost every day that have been life changing for me.
Here they are:
1. Start an account at myfitnesspal.com. It's a free website where you log your fitness goals, as well as daily exercise and calories. The site keeps track of how much you should be eating and helps you realize how much you actually are eating. I log in several times per day, and I even have the app on my Smart phone.
2. Log in to Myfitnesspal BEFORE you go to the gym with the number of minutes you plan to exercise. You'd be amazed the effect of knowing you pledged to do 60 minutes on the elliptical. When you want to quit at the 45-minute mark, your recorded goal will be enough of a push to keep you on 15 minutes longer.
3. Whatever time of day you feel the most "snacky," distract yourself with something else. I'm a night eater, so every night that I'm home and watching TV, I put my pajamas on and watch the TV in my bedroom. Putting myself into the jammies is a mind trick that gets me thinking about bed time instead of snack time. By going upstairs, it takes me away from the kitchen.
4. Count calories or points. There are a million diets out there from low-carb to low-fat. But in the end, it's about calories in and calories out. If you do not have a calorie deficit, you will not lose weight. Find out how many calories you need to be eating to maintain your current weight -- based on your height, weight and activity level -- and then make sure, at the end of each day, you have consumed less than that amount. (Google BMR calculator.)
5. This tip isn't for everyone, but for me personally, I do not enter exercise into the equation of how many calories I can consume each day. I often hear people say, "I exercised today, so I can eat more than I normally would," or, "I exercised, so my metabolism is faster, and I can eat more." The average person burns 300 calories at the gym, and that amount can be made up in one bag of chips.
6. Leave it all at the gym. If you're leisurely strolling on the treadmill and reading the paper, you're not getting a good burn. Your heart rate needs to be elevated, you should be sweating and you should feel at least a little uncomfortable. I like to push myself the hardest toward the end of my workout when my muscles are warmed up. It helps me to have a song that I play at the end of every workout: No Doubt's "Sunday Morning." It's sort of become a little personal mantra.
Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks so much for reading this year!