When I began dating my husband, Craig, three years ago, I started eating just the way he does — lots of meat and potatoes. The only problem was, he's a foot taller than I am. Naturally, I packed on 10 pounds just like that, and he never gained an ounce. Meanwhile my job in marketing research kept me so busy that I would often forget to eat a real meal until 3 p.m., but by then I'd had three cans of sugary soda and a cupcake. When Craig popped the question, I was overjoyed. But when I was forced to buy my dream wedding dress in a size 16, I went into shock. I tried cardio classes at my gym, but the weight wouldn't budge and I continued to gain. Plus, I had no idea how to use any of the machines! With my wedding a few months away, I vowed I wouldn't walk down the aisle as a size 16 and asked FITNESS for help.
My Moment of Success
Once FITNESS set me up with a nutritionist and trainer, I learned that my body fat was a whopping 38 percent. That scared me into getting serious about my weight. I kept a food diary, cut my portions in half, and hit the gym five times a week. My clothes felt looser pretty quickly, which made it easy to stay on track. After 10 weeks of my new fitness regimen, my tailor hated me because she had to alter my dress to a size 6!
Darcy, by the Numbers
Start Now Weight 143 lb 122 lb Height 5'2" 5'2" Chest 39" 36" Waist 34" 30" Hips 41" 36" Body Fat 38% 29%
What Worked for Me
Stock up for success.
I used to skip breakfast or lunch or both and then, because I was starving, grab the closest bag of chips. My dietitian, Marjorie, taught me to make Sunday my prep day: Write out a meal plan, shop for my weekly produce, hard-boil eggs for grab-and-go breakfasts and snacks, and prepare whole wheat pasta for heat-and-eat dinners.
Grab some weights.
Dance and cardio classes are great, but to get faster results, my trainer, Julie, did an hour of circuit training with me three times a week. On other days I would do moves she chose from FITNESS Fast Track to a Better Body ($20, amazon.com).
- Sit on floor with knees bent and feet flat, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend elbows by sides, bringing dumbbells in front of shoulders, palms facing in.
- Lean back slightly and extend arms overhead as you lift feet a few inches off floor, bringing knees toward chest.
- Hold position for 1 to 3 counts; lower dumbbells to shoulder and heels to floor to complete 1 rep. Do 15 reps.
Pike and Extend
- Lie faceup on floor with legs together, arms extended toward ceiling. Lift legs directly over hips, then crunch up, reaching hands toward feet.
- Keeping legs straight, lower arms behind head as you lower upper back and left leg toward floor.
- Crunch up, lifting left leg back over hips and reaching hands to toes. Switch legs and repeat to complete 1 rep. Do 10 reps.
Chest Flye Bicycle
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie faceup on floor with knees bent 90 degrees over hips, arms extended directly above chest, palms in.
- Keeping right knee bent, straighten left leg toward floor.
- Lower arms out to sides with elbows slightly bent. Hold, then return to start. Do 10 reps; switch legs and repeat.
Switch off and sweat it out.
I looked forward to my workouts as the "me" time that I was missing. Being forced to leave my cell phone in my locker and disconnect from wedding planning and work made going to the gym a relief rather than a chore.
Candy, cookies, cakes — you name it, and my office has it on hand nearly every day thanks to client gifts and catered lunches. To avoid temptation and my tendency to skip "real" food until dinner, I now keep a drawer full of healthy snacks to have every two hours. When I don't order in a lunch, I combine a few of these, like oatmeal with cashews or tuna with a piece of fruit, to create a meal.
4-ounce Mott's Healthy Harvest unsweetened applesauce (50 calories)
Bumble Bee Chunk White Albacore in Water (70 calories)
Apple (77 calories)
Banana (105 calories)
Cut liquid calories.
I was drinking two cans of cola at work in addition to the juice and two cans of soda I would sip at home. I learned that I could cut hundreds of calories without feeling any hungrier by switching to water with lemon.
Have a cardio contingency plan.
Julie told me to do 30 minutes of cardio three times a week in addition to our sessions together, so I would often go to the gym on my lunch break. But in case a last-minute meeting popped up, I posted the gym schedule above my desk so I could quickly shift to another class and would never have an excuse to skip a workout.
More Tips from Our Experts
"Look beyond chicken for lean protein. Try nuts, hummus, egg whites, or nonfat Greek yogurt to keep from getting bored," says Marjorie Nolan, RD, a nutrition counselor in New York City.
"Ask for a weight-machine tour from a gym staffer so you'll feel more comfortable using them," says Julie Bobek, a personal trainer for Equinox Fitness Clubs at Rockefeller Center in New York City. "I had Darcy take pictures of the machines, and then I wrote down how much weight to use and how many reps to complete."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2012.