Six years ago, Jennifer Aube tipped the scale at 245 pounds. The 5'4" business owner fueled herself with sugary drinks and gas station snacks. She never exercised, and barely had enough energy to take her two dogs for a walk around the block. Something needed to change.
Her quest for a healthier, happier life began at age 30. Through three years of hard work and lifestyle changes—including learning to love running—she lost 120 pounds.
Now, at 36 years old, Jennifer runs five days a week, either on the treadmill or if the weather is nice, outside in the park. She's conquered a 10K, and together with her boyfriend, plans to do another race in 2017.
But perhaps the most inspiring part of Jennifer's weight loss journey is the fact that now, it's not about the weight at all. For the past year, in pursuit of a healthier body image to match her healthy body, Jennifer put the scale aside.
"You can talk about exercising and you can talk about healthy eating, but there is so much on the inside that changes. For me, that's where the huge wins come in."
Here are the nine things she did to take the weight off and begin to feel healthy and happy.
"I didn't become 245 pounds overnight and I sure as heck cannot expect magic fat-melting power to happen in super-human time either," says Jennifer.
Her journey involved lots of small steps. At first, exercise was simply a quarter-mile walk. She slowly but surely increased the distance by quarter-mile increments. Within six weeks, after reading about the cardiovascular benefits of running, she began incorporating jogging into her walks with 10-second intervals. She worked her way up from there, and ran her first full mile within nine months.
Set daily targets
Instead of fixating on her end goal, Jennifer stayed on track by setting small, realistically achievable goals on a daily basis. Goals like take the dogs for a 10-minute walk, eat a healthy breakfast, and don't buy a sugary drink at the gas station helped her maintain focus and stay positive throughout the long journey.
Be kind to yourself
"You will not have perfect eating days. You will not have perfect weeks," she says. "It's really OK. Learn how to balance the good and the bad." She followed (and still follows) a 90/10 philosophy, which allows her the occasional indulgence.
"I don't beat myself up if I have a cookie," she says. "And by allowing myself that treat, I'm also not as likely to then eat 10 cookies." For Jennifer, this self-kindness also involves rewarding herself for reaching certain fitness milestones, like buying a pair of bright purple workout pants when she looked in the mirror and realized she felt proud—and not ashamed—of her legs.
"When you're heavy, you only wear black," Jennifer explains. "For me, finally wearing those bright colors was a sign of great progress."
Eat protein, carbs and fat
Another thing Jennifer doesn't believe in? Restrictive diets. "There's so much more to weight loss and being healthy than restricting calories," she says. Pre-weight loss, Jennifer's eating habits were inconsistent. She'd consume a large breakfast sandwich and a sugary latte and go hours without eating, only to binge on snacks—cheese, chips, fruit, and pepperoni—followed by an oversize order of takeout.
When she began her quest for a healthier self, the focus shifted to mindful eating, balanced nutrition, and advance preparation. "Preparing your meals ahead of time can really set you up for success," says Jennifer. Today, a typical breakfast involves eggs, grain bread, and nut butter, while snacks include nuts, whole-wheat crackers, yogurt, grilled chicken, dark chocolate, and fruit smoothies. Dinner is often a homemade veggie and protein-packed soup or salad.
To see the rest of Jennifer's tips, click here for the original Women's Health article.