Recently I chatted with a talented young writer named Shauna Reid, better known as Dietgirl. Seven years ago, Shauna was living in her native Australia and chowing down on family-size bricks of chocolate most afternoons. She weighed 351 pounds, battled depression and didn't exercise. Inspired to change her fate, the website creator and journalism school graduate started a blog called "The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl." Now Shauna is 175 pounds lighter and that blog has become a book of the same name. She's happy, healthy, and motivated. (See the before and after photos here.)
Her book is amazingly honest and heartfelt. I read an advance copy in just five days--and it's a hefty 405 pages. If you've never struggled with your weight, you will feel true compassion for anyone who has, and you'll come to respect the hardships that obese people endure. If you know what it's like to battle your weight, you'll recognize parts of yourself in Shauna's tale. This story is both witty and profound and has a definite lack of self-pity.
Shauna started losing weight through Weight Watchers and even tried a pricey low-calorie diet program. They didn't work. She hit several plateaus and gained some weight back several times.
Eventually she settled on a self-made program of sensible eating, exercise and moderation. (Sound familiar?) Today, she maintains a healthy 175-pound frame and is training for her green belt in kickboxing.
Read on to find out how Shauna--who says she's a big fan of SparkPeople--stays motivated.
Q: How do you stay motivated?
A: "Especially this time of year, the key is that I don't do anything I don't enjoy. For me, exercise is the biggest thing that keeps me on track. You only stick to it if you enjoy it.
"I tried swimming, spinning, yoga… I really love kickboxing and go twice a week.
"We do a lot of grading to get the different colored belts. When you're losing weight, you have the goals to tick off. (Now that I've lost the weight), it helps to have something to aim for. I've got orange and yellow; next is green. It's incentive not to miss classes and is the best stress relief in the world. It's really addictive--I get such a rush from it."
On cold, dark Scotland days (the sun is setting around 3:30 p.m. these days), Shauna turns to her collection of DVDs and heads to a "little patch of carpet in her husband's office." She does Pilates DVDs twice a week, along with weight-training DVDs.
"I make it hard for myself to make excuses" not to exercise.
Q: What is your diet and exercise regimen now?
A: When it comes to eating, Shauna says planning is crucial for her. She has groceries delivered and orders them online, so she can't be "dazzled" by aisle upon aisle of unhealthy foods at the grocery.
"Cupboards are all stocked, I'm all set. I can't get that panic" of being hungry and tempted by junk food. "I outwit myself."
"Aside from planning, I pretty much eat what I want." Shauna follows the 80-20 rule, meaning she eats healthfully 80% of the time and splurges the other 20% of the time. She eats plenty of vegetables (her husband is a vegetarian), far surpassing the 5-a-day serving minimum.
Q: What was the biggest misconception you had about losing weight?
A: "My biggest misconception was that it would be easy. I thought it would be straightforward. I thought, 'I have 175 pounds to lose. I'm just going to go to Weight Watchers every single week, play by the rules, I'll be done, and that's it.'"
She mapped out her weight loss in a very linear way. She thought it would take her 18 months to lose 175 pounds. It took 5 1/2 years.
"Life got in the way. I thought my life would be on hold while I got on with Operation Weight Loss."
During those 5 1/2 years, Shauna moved from Australia to Scotland with her sister, met her husband, and traveled much of Europe. At the time, she thought, "I keep doing all this traveling, I'm not doing as well as I could be."
"This (life) is going to keep happening. You have to realize that it's not going to be easy. You're not meant to put your life on hold for a diet," she realized in hindsight.
"I still struggle every day. That's why I keep up with the blog. Life still goes on."
Q: What advice would you offer to someone in your place?
A: "I wish I could tell myself back then, 'Don't panic. It's not insurmountable.' I thought my weight was everything, it defined me. I hated being in my own skin.
"I think the first step to being more successful in trying to lose weight is to forgive yourself. Don't have to bulldoze your life and start again.
"Make the little changes. It's the easiest thing to do…because you can get that little 'Spark' from the little change you've made."
Q: What's your biggest temptation?
A: "Every day about 3:00, my motivation is nose diving." She wards off trips to the vending machine by keeping healthy snacks on hand and remembering that she likes to savor her sweets--especially the reasonable portions dark chocolate she indulges in regularly. "If I go to the vending machine, I'm really not going to be able to savor it." She eats something healthy, makes a cup of tea or occupies herself and finds that the feeling passes.
Shauna's first book, "The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl," is available in North America today (Dec. 30). Read her blog and get a copy of her book here.
Were you inspired by Shauna's story?
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