Since I’m frequently asked about my health journey and it’s been over a year since I shared an update (my last post about plateauing and contentment was in May 2015), I figured today would be a great day to check in with all of you and share more of my story.
Plus, I didn’t film a video in time for today’s post, so… this is Plan B!
If you missed my other posts about my health journey that started truly in 2014, you can read those posts here:
- My weight loss journey: losing 25 pounds and counting,
- Reaching my goal weight, and
- Finding my happiest self, plateauing and toning up.
I’ve enjoyed sharing about this journey – and I call it a journey, because it truly is a journey – because I’ve loved hearing your similar stories and hearing that my struggles and accomplishments have inspired you in some way. It has inspired me so much over these past couple of years, and I’m so thankful to have all of you as a community.
So, to quickly recap (for those of you who don’t have the time/want to read through my previous three posts). When I first started to watch my diet, it was in January 2014, when I was consistently tipping the scale in the 168 – 175 range. In June of 2014, I looked at myself and said, “You have a cookbook photoshoot coming up – it’s about time you took control of your lifestyle and committed to making it healthier and more sustainable. It’s time you practice what you preach and find that healthy stride.”
Through eating healthy, exercising (HIIT workouts were key!), and a positive mindset, I was able to drop 30 pounds to reach my then goal weight of 140 pounds. This goal weight of mine helped me realize that there are no “end goals,” only goals along the way, along the journey. I’ve had to re-train myself to accept that notion, since I used to be all about the “by this time, I’ll fit into this size” and “by my friend’s wedding, I’ll be this weight.” Once I was at a healthy weight, I started embracing these “goals along the way.”
This mindset is called a lifestyle. The eternal pursuit/embrace of your healthiest self.
My next “goal phase” was the wedding – I wanted to be toned for my wedding dress (hello FLOTUS biceps) and look good in my honeymoon bikinis. Normal stuff. And that was my last check-in: three weeks before my wedding, trying to incorporate more lifting and HIIT to keep toning up. I accomplished my goals and felt incredible during my wedding and honeymoon.
So what have I been up to in the past year and a half? What have I learned? What have my struggles been?
AH. Where do I begin?
A few months after getting married, I noticed my pants getting a little tighter and my face feeling fuller. It was the honeymoon phase – we were so happy to go out and celebrate being married! Unfortunately, that included a lot of indulging and I started getting uncomfortable when dressing to go out at night – I didn’t feel as sexy or good as I did the months prior leading up to my wedding. I hopped on the scale and realized that I had gained weight that put me back in the 150s, a place I vowed never to return to (unless pregnant or extremely jacked, haha!)
I was definitely dejected, but I vowed to get back on track, using the same principles I had used to get on track in the first place – eating cleanly. It’s mostly diet, anyway- you can’t outrun a bad diet, but you can make up for a missed workout by eating a bit more cleanly or consuming less.
This past year was spent finding my healthy stride: finding how many days I can go “off track” before my body changes too much to recover quickly, the foods that keep me sustained for a day, pre and post workout fuel, the times I need to eat throughout the day to keep from crashing and getting cravings, how to survive travel, and how to combat those late-night munchies (my biggest weakness).
I encourage everyone to figure out their “healthy stride” – at what pace of lifestyle are you able to maintain a healthy you?
Now this “healthy you” may not be the HEALTHIEST you, it is just a HEALTHY you. Sure, I could abstain from all alcohol, eat 100% clean, and workout 6 days a week, but I wouldn’t be a healthy me, because I would be unhappy – for me, too much restriction makes me anxious and it backfires: I binge, I get discouraged, and I’m not healthy. So, healthy Ali = balanced Ali.
For me, I realized that if I indulge on a Friday and Saturday, I have to pull the reigns back in on Sundays. So, if I want to have a Sunday funday, I will commit to keeping it low-key on Friday night, or I’ll make sure to keep extra active that week and commit to eating extra clean on Monday and Tuesday to balance out that extra day. This is called balance – you just need to listen to your body and find what works best for you. What I will say is that you can’t let go Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and expect to see changes in your body. You’ll be spending Monday and part of Tuesday recovering, that by the time Wednesday comes, you only have two days to work on your body – that’s not enough to see change.
I learned this from training for the half marathon that I ran this past Saturday (October 8th – you can see my full recap on inspiralizedali.com.) Lu and I ran it together and we didn’t drink or over-indulge on Friday nights for about two months, because we committed to waking up early and refreshed to run our long training runs. It definitely helped having Lu there with me, but I noticed within two weeks that my body was changing quicker than normally and that was because I was fitting in an extra day into my week of healthy eating.
A couple of weeks before the half marathon, I was feeling phenomenal – my clothes were fitting better than ever, my face shined a bit brighter, and my arms looked sleeker in my workout tanks. So, I decided to weigh myself – I was back down to 139, my wedding weight. I was shocked, because I wasn’t even trying to lose weight at the time!
How losing a few pounds during half marathon training has helped me accept my journey even more
Seeing that number on the scale got me excited about the journey for the first time in a long time. It made me believe in the “lifestyle” that much more. It reaffirmed my belief that there is no use in pursing a perfect body. Our bodies will change every single day and embracing that notion makes committing to a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight so much easier – and enjoyable. Yes, enjoyable. It’s exciting to know that just within a couple of months, your body can change depending on how you want it to.
I think first, you need to find a weight at which you can sustain and feel healthy at. A weight that isn’t impossible to maintain but a weight that you’re not selling yourself short at. Sure, I could maintain 150 with ease, but I know that my body looks, feels, and performs better near 140-145. I have to put in a bit more effort, but it’s a weight that I can have a bad week (or two) with and not be back to square one. There’s some wiggle room – and I work hard to get that wiggle room!
From that number, you can enjoy the health journey – the ebbs and flows. While you maintain that general weight, your body changes in definition: sleeker, stronger, more flexible, etc. From this weight, you can set goals and have fun with your body – challenge your body to do things you never thought it could do (like running long distances!)
There will be times in my life when I’m fitter, stronger, sleeker, leaner, etc — and that’s okay, as long as I’m maintaining a body that I feel confident in, that’s all that matters.
The next chapter
The race was on Saturday. I’ve spent the past 8-10 weeks doing nothing but running. I’ve probably done a total of 5 strength workouts in these past two months. Compared to my body at this time last year, I’m definitely not toned. I don’t have much definition left in my shoulders, my arms feel softer, and my booty doesn’t look as round (actually, smaller and flatter). However, my legs are leaner and stronger – particularly my calves, they’ve never looked so good!
So, while I’m enjoying showing off my leaner legs, I’m not where I want to be with the rest of my body. And, to all of my points above, that’s okay. Life happens, circumstances change, and priorities change. What’s most important is to never get down on yourself – you should never hate your body, only look at it and say, “Come on, let’s do better!”
While my body got me across that 13.1 mile finish line, I’m ready for the next chapter in my fit journey. This time, it’s all about muscle definition and toning. I want to work really hard to have abs for the first time in my life. I need to make the abs in the gym so all of my hard work in the kitchen reveals them! I’m excited to start a training program towards that goal. I’m setting this goal just for the rest of the year – no end date, I just want to start the New Year in a stronger place!
I asked you all on Snapchat (username Inspiralized) to submit any questions you have about my healthy journey, so I’m answering them today! Thanks to everyone who asked a question. And for those of you who may have questions, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can!
How do you find the motivation to workout after a long work day (aka sitting for 8 hours)?
If it’s been a super strenuous work day, usually, I skip the workout. Instead, I eat a light dinner and drink a lot of water (like, refill a water bottle at least four times that evening.) This keeps me hydrated, feeling light, and then, almost always, I wake up and workout early, before work. It’s all about waking up with intention and purpose – and when I’m hydrated and my body’s performing well, I’m more likely to jump out of bed (sugar and sodium comas are REAL.) The worst thing you can do is be hard on yourself for missing a workout and overeat or say “eff it” and fall off the wagon. And at the end of the day, if you’re working out at 6am instead of 6pm, it’s only a 12 hour difference, you’re still making the workout happen!
As for sitting for 8 hours straight, I’ve had those days and they stink, but here’s a trick: start the mental motivation at 4pm. Start stretching. Start listening to pump-up jams. Start thinking about your specific workout, think about what healthy meal you’re going to have for dinner afterwards. If all this doesn’t work, just resolve to get to the gym and at least walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes to get your muscles and blood flowing – and then start working in some uphill intervals. That’s better than nothing – and I guarantee you’ll end up working out harder once you’re there. I used to have the mentality “If I can’t go to the gym for 1 hour, what’s the point?” which is the total wrong attitude to have. Literally anything is better than nothing!
How do you motivate yourself to get up in the morning to workout?
A couple things! First, get out of the mindset of “I’ll wakeup at 6am and be out the door by 6:15am.” Your body needs to adjust, wake up, and get amped up! Give yourself at least 30 minutes. I set my coffee on auto-brew, so it goes off at 6:00am and by the time my real alarm goes off (6:15am), a cup of coffee is already brewed. I also leave my phone in the living room so that I have to get up and out of bed to grab it. Once I grab it, I go straight to the coffee machine, pour a cup of coffee, and drink it while I get into my gym clothes. By 6:30am, I’m fully awake, and I get to the gym and am back by 7:30am. I’m also extremely lucky, as there’s a gym in my apartment building, so it’s just a short elevator ride away.
Second, Recently, I’ve been thinking this when I wake up: I think about if I had a flight to make. One day, I had a 5am wakeup call for a flight and I popped right out of bed, started getting ready, and I didn’t waste a minute snoozing. On the car ride to the airport, I looked at Lu and said, “Why is it that I have no problem waking up for a flight but I can’t do it for the gym?” Then I realized: it’s all about urgency! How badly do you want to be in shape? How badly do you want to look and feel your best? If it’s that important to you, it’s urgent – so, get up! Literally force yourself to think about it that way. It’s all about the mindset!
I have a hard time with being in the grey, meaning I either eat super healthy for 4 or 5 days and then go nuts for 4 or 5 days. How do you balance it all out?
Well, first off, let me say: I’ve been there. That used to be me, all the time. Then, I decided to make healthy eating a priority and a lifestyle, and I haven’t looked back since. When committing to the lifestyle, I found certain “tricks” that work for me. I have a strict 3-day rule for myself, that I’ve found gives me lenience when I need it, but doesn’t sacrifice my overall fit goals. I don’t let myself fall off track for more than 3 days. For example, if I’m having a bad start to the week and don’t eat well Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, that next day (Wednesday), I commit to having 5 clean days. I never waver from this rule and it has helped me indulge when I need some comfort time, while maintaining my overall weight. I pull the 3-day card probably once a month and that’s it. It’s just a personal rule that I stick to, because I’ve found it works for me. Experiment and find what works for you.
I’m curious to know if you count macros as part of your ongoing health journey?
No, I don’t do any macro counting. None of it. The only time I think about macros/nutritional calculating, it’s for when I’m putting it together for this blog, because I know many of you use those metrics to help your goals. However, I do not. At all.
What do you do on days where you’re struggling to feel motivated?
I answered this question above (re: how do you stay motivated on a long 8-hour work day), but I wanted to add a little something else. Having my @GetInspiralized fitness account has helped me tremendously in my journey. When I’m not motivated to get to the gym, I look at some of my before and after photos or progress photos. Using myself as my own inspiration is more attainable and realistic than scrolling through a fitness star’s Instagram, because, hey, their entire existence is based on exercise and to look their best! I really recommend taking photos of yourself – and you don’t need to make your account public, just have it for yourself, as a way to catalog your journey. Trust me, it’s motivating, especially on those days that you don’t want to work out. Once you see progress, you don’t want to stop and it truly becomes a lifelong commitment!
Favorite healthy snacks and on-the-go breakfasts?
For on-the-go breakfasts, it’s usually a KIND breakfast bar (I’m obsessed with this flavor) with some fruit like an apple or a banana. My other go-to is packing a banana and a single serving pack of Justin’s Almond Butter – that’s actually what I had right before the half marathon, because I didn’t have time to make breakfast before the race – it was a pack and go situation. As for healthy snacks, I love turmeric lattes (really into this right now), lightly salted popcorn, rice cakes, fruit, roasted veggies (I meal prep roasted veggies so I have them on hand!), good ‘ole hummus and celery, my daily Kombucha (I love GT’s) 100 calorie packs of almonds (because I suck at portion control) or just leftovers – honestly, having healthy leftovers in the fridge is my favorite way to satisfy a craving, even if it’s a leftover spiralized dish – just a few forkfuls and I’m satisfied.
Wondering how or if you drink alcohol or limit yourself to certain days of the week only?
Yes, I drink alcohol. I love vodka and sugar-free grapefruit juice with club soda, and I love wine. I don’t drink that much beer unless I’m at a place where it’s kind of the point (like a German beer garden or a place where craft brews are the thing), because I don’t like the way it makes me feel anymore. But yes, I drink. I try consciously not to drink Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, but usually there’s some social event that’s happening and I’ll drink for the occasion, but I rarely have a drink just to have a drink (ie with dinner.) I try to keep my drinking down to the weekends only (and the occasional Wednesday or Thursday), but life does happen. For example, tonight I’m going out on a date with Lu, and there will definitely be wine had with dinner. If I had to guess the amount of drinks I have while out for a night, it varies, but when Lu and I go out, we always order a bottle of wine together, so. I don’t count alcohol into my overall healthy lifestyle, because it’s something I do socially — and to me, spending time with my friends and loved ones is more important than a waist size.
Curious how many hours a week you spend working out!
It definitely varies! For instance, when I was training for the half marathon, I was running for 45 minutes each day at the very least (some days were 1+ hours running.) However, when I’m not training for anything specific and it’s just day-to-day normal working out, I’d say I try to always do 45 minutes at the gym, 5 days a week. That’s my minimum, but I usually squeeze in a Saturday or Sunday workout, so it ends up being 6. So, 3-4 hours a week?
Did you have to change your eating at all to train [for your half marathon]?
Aside from eating more carbs than normal on the night before a long run, not by much. I definitely made sure to have a fueling snack before a run, whether that was a banana with almond butter or a handful of nuts and raisins, which I wasn’t having before. But overall, nope!
What’s your go-to healthy dish when you’re in a rush?
For dinner? Probably spaghetti and meatballs, haha! I always have healthy vegetarian and turkey meatballs in the freezer, so I’ll pour some sauce (my favorite is Victoria Fine Foods – clean ingredient friendly) into a skillet with the meatballs and let them heat up while I spiralize and cook some veggies, like sweet potatoes or zucchini. Serve it up with some crusty whole grain bread and voila – dinner in 15 minutes! Otherwise, I usually have pre-cooked lentils and roasted veggies in the fridge (part of my meal prep), and I’ll heat them up while I fry up an egg and then I’ll just drop the veggies and lentils with the egg!