Diet or Exercise? I Tried Both Ways to Lose Weight During One Year and Here Are the Results
My name is Irina, I am 38 years old, and I weigh 224 lbs. This number might seem like a lot if you don’t take one thing into account: a year ago I weighed 266 lbs. I can’t say it was all that bad, but once a 5-year-old kid came up to me and asked, “Irina, why do you have such a big belly?” This was the moment when I realized: I can’t live like this much longer, I need to lose weight.
Especially for Bright Side, I’m telling my story of how I lost the weight. I still have a long way to go, but the changes that I can already see in photos keep me motivated.
The story of my body is similar to those that most overweight people have, which includes a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy food. Because of my work (I am a freelancer) and my tendency to eat when I feel bad, by the time I was 37 years old I weighed 264 lbs. I don’t have a family and I haven’t left my house often in the past several years. This is why the opinion of other people wouldn’t really have an influence on me. Or so I thought.
At the end of 2017, I saw a commercial for a fitness center with an 80% off discount and I decided to go. This was how my story started.
Part 1: Exercise
After my very first workout with a physical trainer at the gym, I threw away my cigarettes because 20 years of smoking made a huge impact on how I could breathe. This was also the time when I gave up drinking every Saturday. By the way, I have not smoked since then and I don’t drink alcohol more than maybe once every 6 months.
It was really hard to do exercises with a trainer, even though I didn’t do a lot. But just 90 minutes of physical activity would make me completely sweat through my clothes and I could barely move. When I was young, I loved skiing and martial arts, but I had given these things up for 20 years.
My food before and after visiting the gym
Before and after the gym, I ate very fatty foods, like for example, homemade pizza or lasagna with something salty. I thought I could do this because I had burned a lot of calories in the gym.
This was my mistake: the number of calories I burned was way lower than what I ate before and after. My muscles became much stronger and my breathing became better, but my weight did not decrease. So, basically, now I had muscles under all the fat, which didn’t make me any more attractive. As a result, 6 months at the gym (3 times a week, 90 minute each) allowed me to only lose 7 lbs and at that point I weighed 256 lbs.
After 6 months, the gym membership stopped and I decided to not continue it, not because it was expensive without the discount, but because I hadn’t seen any results. The best thing that happened was that I could breathe much better and I felt way more self-confident.
In 2018, I bought a bicycle but, because I was too heavy and had knee problems, I could not really use it.
Part 2: Food
My food when I started counting calories
The words of the 5-year-old boy were the thing that made me go back to losing weight. It took me a long time to decide which path to choose and I decided to start by counting calories. I downloaded an app that calculated that my basic metabolism requires 1,800 cal per day; so in order to lose weight without physical activity, I needed to eat 1,785 cal.
I started on October 10. The only thing I gave up on completely is sausage and other processed meat. And the reason is that one sandwich could be “worth” 200 calories. And that is almost 200 g of chicken breast, which I also love.
Despite all the information that I found on the internet, I didn’t stop eating bread, sugar, or cereal, but I had a trick: I started buying whole grain pasta and bread, I decreased the amount of food I was eating, and I cut down on sweet foods and replaced them with dark chocolate and gummy bears. I didn’t do any exercise, aside from ice skating like 10 times during the winter.
I noticed the first results after one month — I went from 266 lbs to 257 lbs which was a perfect change. I didn’t feel hungry during the entire month because I ate a little bit every 3 hours, but never more than 1,700 cal. Sometimes, I bought (and I still do) a cake or brownie with filling, split into 2 — this was 135 cal and allowed me to control the sweets I was eating. I spent another 2 months like this.
6 months of exercise and 5 months of diet
On January 10, 2019, the scale showed 238 lbs. I decided to try a new plan: only eat from 3 pm to 11 pm and no more than 1,500 cal. Some people might think this type of regimen is wrong, but my schedule is perfect for it and my body didn’t require a lot of food anymore.
The main food that I eat is meat — grilled, boiled, or baked. I eat pasta, rice, and other side dishes separately, sometimes with a salad made of cucumbers and tomatoes — as a snack. Anyway, so I could control myself and stay on my diet, I didn’t stop eating things that I would feel miserable without. My daily food schedule looks like this:
- 3 pm. A piece of boiled or baked chicken breast / meat / fish, tea, a piece of bread with cheese, and half of a cookie. 440 cal.
- 5 pm. Toast with cheese, tea, gummy bears. No more than 150 cal.
- 7 pm. Pasta / baked potatoes / rice (just 150 g), with butter, a salad made of cucumbers and tomatoes. No more than 200-250 cal.
- 9pm. Tea with half of a cookie. 70 cal.
- 11 pm. A piece of boiled or baked chicken breast / meat / fish (about 150 g), tea, apple. About 400 cal.
And what if you do both?
This is my face before and after, it has changed more than anything else.
So, at the end of February 2019, my weight is 224 lbs. My goal is to get to 176 lbs and only after that, go to the gym to build my muscle weight. I still eat according to my schedule but most of the time it is hard to eat 1,500 cal, and I end up eating only about 1,200-1,300 cal.
What has changed since the moment I started losing weight and counting calories? I can wear jeans that I couldn’t wear before, and when I go upstairs I don’t feel like I’m going to suffocate. Now, I even take selfies, which I used to avoid before and I found out that I actually have cheekbones!
Of course, there are also some unpleasant things that come along with losing weight. For example, I’m freezing all the time now and my digestion doesn’t work as well as it used to. But I know that once my body gets accustomed to the new weight, these effects will disappear. And when it comes to the money, I spend less now because meat costs less than sausage. And cabbage, no matter the quality, is really cheap.
In lieu of a conclusion
It seems that 41 lbs is not a lot of weight, especially when you weigh more than 220 lbs. But in fact, it is so much, especially for someone who doesn’t have a lot of willpower. I still have a long way to go — 176 lbs is my goal, but I am absolutely sure I can make it. Why? Look at the before and after photos and you will see why.
Someone might think that I’m making very slow progress and that I have to exercise too, but my current slow progression will allow me to lose the weight and keep it off. And I will start exercising in the summer, when my weight is around 198 lbs. I will also be able to ride a bicycle again.
What do you think of Irina’s story? Do you know anyone else who also decided to change their lives?