HuffPost Canada's Lost It series chronicles the stories of everyday Canadians who have struggled with their weight — and won. We talk to people about what they eat, how they exercise and generally, what their healthy lifestyle is to maintain their weight now that they've lost it.
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Name: Julia Roumani
Occupation: Technical manager
The first time I really took notice of my weight creeping up was in my first year of university. I was taking a technical degree so there were a lot of late nights and sitting around coding. My "freshman 15" quickly became more like 50+ pounds due mostly to inactivity and eating a really bad diet of fast food and snacks.
After second and into third-year university I tried a variety of ways to lose the weight — dieting with Weight Watchers, eliminating carbs, working out, etc. I don't think I really took the time to understand what I was doing in the early days though and constantly struggled with the same yo-yo diet — I would lose the weight only to gain it back again.
Until about two years ago my general weight trend was upwards — even if I would lose a pound here and there I would always gain it back plus more.
The final straw:
We usually have a moment in our lives where we pinpoint a turning point. For me, that moment came in 2016 when my first pregnancy was determined to be ectopic — getting pregnant took a little while, and to lose it within what felt like such a short time frame was a breaking moment.
I know my weight did not cause this, but I was around 165 pounds at that point and I knew I was not healthy. It was time to make a change.
[Editor's note: An ectopic pregnancy is when "the fertilized egg attaches (or implants) someplace other than the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube," according to the Alberta government's health website. When this happens, the pregnancy can't continue, and it can cause the woman health problems, such as heavy bleeding, which can be fatal.
Possible causes of ectopic pregnancy include smoking, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometriosis, sexually transmitted diseases, scarring from previous pelvic surgeries, and infertility treatments such as IVF. Weight is not a risk factor for ectopic pregnancies.]
The plan of attack:
I had already been going to the gym and eating what I thought was "healthy" so I decided to sign up with a personal trainer, Arjnlou (Lou) Chanco at GoodLife York Mills, thinking the answer must be with what I was doing in the gym.
The first few months were grueling and exhausting as I was recovering from the pregnancy and all the hormones associated with that, but he helped me learn that it really wasn't all about workouts but I had to look at my larger life picture and ensure not only that my workouts were good, but that my diet and sleep/stress management were in line as well.
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In that first year I lost 25 pounds and ended up around 140 pounds. There were periods of time where the number on the scale did not change and I got frustrated. I have learned that the number on the scale can be so deceptive though, once you get stronger and build more muscle — things that were hard for me were now easy and definition in my muscles was starting to show even if the number was not changing.
More recently I have decided not to focus as much on the numbers and let them dictate my mood as looking at my progress photos and seeing the changes happening there.
Were you inspired by any fitness bloggers?
The bloggers I find most inspirational are women who are unapologetically strong — they do not focus on body image, but rather health and strength. I also really respect those who share more scientific information.
Some of my favorites include: Kaisa Keranen, Girls Gone Strong (Molly Galbraith), Jen Comas, Meg Squats, Stephanie Buttermore, and Sohee Lee.
What was the hardest adjustment?
Learning to balance training hard, recovery and diet was hard — what you are doing outside the gym matters just as much (if not more) than what you do in the gym.
The food element:
I started paying more attention to the quality of foods I was eating. Before I started this journey both my husband and I would eat whatever was easy and quick — a lot of prepackaged foods that were marked as healthy.
Often I would skip breakfast or grab Tim Hortons, lunch would be a small lean cuisine and then dinner would be some frozen meat and vegetables. I focused on being honest and documenting what I was eating and then tweaking and improving it from there. Planning ahead and bringing food to work really made the biggest difference for me.
I also don't believe in cutting out foods completely. Everything should be acceptable in balance and moderation and if it fits in your larger calorie picture. If I want chocolate, I can fit it in my calories and I have come to really enjoy that square of dark chocolate. Just like one "bad" meal didn't make you fat overnight, one meal off-plan will not derail your progress.
The exercise factor:
Before I started I was a little bit of a cardio junkie. I would do every gym class offered ranging from body combat and body attack to spin class. While I am sure this helped me maintain my cardiovascular health, it did not help me progress.
I have built up and changed my fitness quite a bit since starting — I choose to see my trainer four times per week for strength-focused workouts and we change the programming every few months to keep it interesting.
Do not get discouraged if you hit a plateau. Find what can make training or dieting fun again — is it a new exercise or new recipe? Go for it, sometimes just a little variety can keep things interesting and carry you through plateaus.
How I stay motivated:
I would lie if I said I was motivated to continue every day, but I have learned that discipline and habit is what carries me through. I often feel better after I work out versus if I skip a workout.
On days I feel like skipping I will tell myself to go for five minutes and if I still don't feel well I can stop, but often momentum from the five minutes will carry me through and I will get a full workout in. I also have a supportive husband who encourages me to continue going as he can see the difference it makes in my happiness and energy levels.
Routine is what helps me stick to it. In the evenings, I will pack my breakfast, lunch, snacks, and gym bag for the next day. In the morning when I get up early to do cardio I can be out the door in under 15 minutes. Following cardio I go to work and it is helpful having my food all pre-planned. Following work I will typically go do my strength training and then relax in the evenings with my husband.
What I'm most proud of:
There have been so many moments to be proud of. Competing in a Tough Mudder with my sister was so rewarding as I never thought I would be able to finish. Being chosen as a finalist in the GoodLife Transformation Challenge was amazing as well. Even the simple day-to-day things when someone in the gym comments that I am strong or impressive really are amazing, too.
My number 1 regret is not starting to lift weights sooner! Before I started with my trainer I didn't pick up much heavier than 8-pound dumbbells and even told him when we started that I didn't want to get too bulky.
I think there is a constant message to women that lifting weights may make us "bulky" like men, but this just doesn't happen. Instead what will happen is definition and firmness — I have enjoyed lifting and getting stronger and I am so excited to continue my strength journey.
My key advice comes down to three points:
- Start small and set small goals. Instead of focusing on the 10 pounds you have to lose, just focus on losing the first one, then the next and so on. Soon enough you will reach your target.
- Be patient — despite what everyone says, change like this does not happen overnight.
- Find something to make it fun! Keeping it fun will help you stay motivated. When I first started I used to use a sticker and reward system for working out or eating well in a day.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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