For many people, the start of a new year brings resolutions and a clean slate. A new chance to reinvent, to try something new, to make a life change. In that spirit, I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences on one of the more popular New Year’s resolutions – losing weight and getting fit.
I mean, I want to be healthy and fit. But I also want a hearty cheese board. Or a bacon cheeseburger. Or a cheese enchilada plate. Never mind the fact that there’s a reasonably good chance I’m lactose intolerant. I’ve been known to say things to my friends like, “If I can’t eat cheese, life no longer holds meaning for me.” I wasn’t raised in an environment where working out regularly was a part of the daily regimen. That’s not to say that my family was particularly unhealthy, we just didn’t follow any sort of prescribed fitness plan. During high school I got my cardio through color guard and dance team, as well as with choir (you singers will know what I mean). After high school, I joined the Air Force and went through six weeks of basic training. It was hard but not impossible, seeing how I was 19 years old and had not yet experienced a significant slowing of my metabolism.
My weight fluctuated 20 or so pounds, up and down, throughout my twenties and thirties. I semi-committed to calorie counting, over-the-counter weight loss pills, drinking my dinner instead of eating it, you know – the standard young single person’s diet. I tried running but since there was nothing chasing me, I found it impossible to summon any real motivation.
I’m not the kind of person who is good at cutting bad foods from my diet. I eat what I want and I don’t regret doing it. That being said, I naturally enjoy drinking a ton of water over all other beverages (except coffee and beer), and I really like vegetables so they don’t seem like ‘health food’ to me. However, water and veggies were not enough to counter-balance everything else I was eating and the exercise I wasn’t getting. As the pounds slowly added up, I told myself that hey – for the amount of food I was consuming I should already weigh MUCH more than I did. (Whatever it takes to rationalize, right?)
The catalyst for my lifestyle change came after a trip to the Bahamas in 2015. A picture of me in a bikini showcased all the working out I hadn’t been doing, and it was enough to make me sit up and take notice. Upon my return from the trip, I decided to finally get serious about adjusting my weight and my health. I would be turning forty (yikes!) in just over a year from then and I wanted to be the best forty I could be. Well, better than thirty-nine, at the very least.
There were a few truths I had to come to terms with as I mapped out the types of changes I was going to make. First, I am not now, nor have I ever been, good at counting calories. That method does nothing to curtail the sheer volume I actually consume in a day. Second, I refuse to cut out anything that I enjoy from my diet. That includes beer, red meat, starches, CHEESE, etc. Those are the things I like to eat and I’m going to continue to eat them. Can I try smaller portions? Sure – let’s give it a go. Third, I get bored quickly so the shorter the workout, the higher the chance for long-term success.
Enter the Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred workout video. A friend of mine swore by its near otherworldly results. Obviously, I had questions. “How long are the work-outs?” “Do I have to change my eating habits?” “How quickly will I notice a change?” Each workout is under thirty minutes, for best results eating habits should be modified, and a physical change is noticeable within a week.
A week??? Ok, sign me up. The video was around $8 on Amazon so I ordered it and began to mentally prepare for this adjustment in my daily routine. I purchased 3-pound & 5-pound hand weights and started the video on the day it arrived. It includes three workouts, each containing strength/cardio/abs. I pressed play on level 1 and a mere 30 minutes later, day one of my transformation was complete. I felt a little bit like the incredible hulk and Jell-O at the same time, and I was sure that if I looked in the mirror, I would already be able to see a change. (There was a change alright – my face was beet red and I was a sweat ball. No visible muscles after that first day, sadly.) I knew I would be sore the next day and sure enough, I was right. But I did the workout again on day 2, and kept it up for 10 straight days. I would say around day 5 I began to notice that I had a bit more stamina – I found the exercises just the slightest bit easier to accomplish. I was still dying, but not quite as much as I had been those first few days.
My routine began to take shape. I would come home from work, do my work-out, and then go about my evening. On the 11th day, I made my move to level 2. OUCH. All those pains from day 1 came screaming back – this time from all new muscle groups I didn’t know I had. The moves were more intense, and there were plenty of plank exercises to make me extra miserable. Was I beginning to see a difference? Absolutely! My stamina was up, I could feel the beginnings of muscle tone in my arms and legs, and my stomach was getting flatter. Before I knew it I had reached day 21; the start of level 3. I will say, my first attempt at this, the most difficult level on the video, left me feeling nauseous by the end of the workout. There’s one move in particular that I felt like I’d never master. It involves plank and weights and serious muscle work. It’s the only move on the video that caused sweat to drip off my face. I think somewhere around the middle of my level 3 days was when even my husband commented on the change that the workouts were making to my body. Yes!! Someone else noticed besides me!
After the initial 30 days came to an end, I backed off of daily workouts and cut back to about 4 times a week, alternating between the 3 levels depending on my mood. This went on for just under a year. And then my 40th birthday rolled around. I would be spending it on a beach with friends & family, and the Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred had made sure that I would look and feel a million times better than I had the year before. I was toned, my stomach was flat, and most importantly – I felt GOOD! (And could still eat cheese and drink beer with no guilt, thank you very much.)
I fell off the workout wagon after my birthday trip and gained a few pounds back. However, now it’s a new year and another chance to recommit to getting fit and healthy. I purchased another Jillian Michaels workout video (Ripped in 30) which came out several years after the 30-day Shred. This video incorporates user feedback and revisions to the moves and format of the workouts from the original video. She’s tough, as ever, and I’m now in my 2nd full week of workouts. It’s not easy but the key is to find a system that works for YOU. Not for everyone else. Mine is knowing that I’m not changing my eating habits so the best thing for me is to burn more calories. In a 30-minute timeframe. Right before I eat a cheeseburger and wash it down with a nice cold beer.