How I lost 40 pounds and kept it off from A Duck's Oven

Over the course of 2 and a half years, I lost about 40 pounds. And I’ve kept it off for almost 2 years (give or take a few pounds – nobody’s perfect). This is by no means a ton of weight, but it’s substantial. And it was hard. Here are the most common reactions I get when I tell people this (and they come from very different types of people):

  1. That’s awesome! Good for you. (<<< people who have never tried to lose more than 5 pounds)
  2. But that’s … such a long time ? (<<< people who are thinking about trying to lose weight)
  3. But how?!?! (<<< people in the midst of trying to lose weight)

So here’s what my “journey” (ew ew ew I hate that word) to feel a little better in my own skin looked like.

In college, I started teaching myself how to cook, and that’s how this blog began! I totally fell in love with cooking and found my time in the kitchen and my time working on this blog to be such a wonderful escape from school + work. BUT. A lot of that cooking was indulgent, not so healthy food.

I also grew up as a relatively picky eater. There is a story about me going through a phase where I wouldn’t eat chicken. One night at dinner, I just kept throwing pieces of chicken under the table in the hopes my parents would think I was eating it. Obviously this only worked until they stood up from their chairs and saw these chunks of chicken under the table, and they made me eat every piece. Off the floor. Thx mom and dad.

These things combined were a perfect recipe for weight gain. How predictable, I gained weight in college. Believe me, I know. This kicked off years of yoyo dieting and feeling really bad about myself. I bet ya’ve heard that one before, too.

To make matters worse, shortly after graduating college, I moved back to Portland and started a 50 hour a week job managing a PASTA restaurant. PASTA. Where managers could eat as much as they wanted for free. Common reaction to this: “Well, they have salad on the menu, too, don’t they?” You’re telling me you’re really going to order a salad when you’ve been hungry for 3 hours but you’ve been running around like a mad person through a dinner rush when warm, comforting pasta is also an option? Yeah, right.

And so it continued.

Then, in 2014, we decided to move to South Africa! Husband was getting his masters and I was going to work on my blog full time. It was an amazing year. And a year that really jump started my weight loss.

We weren’t eating perfectly (we had “meaty fusilli” as we dubbed it about a thousand times), but we ate better. I joined a gym across the street and started working out at least 4 times a week. This was a game changer for me. I’ve never been particularly athletic or in good shape by any means. The confidence boost that comes with exercising is AMAZING. I used to be afraid of so many things because I didn’t think I could do it. Hiking: not an option. Exploring a new city? But what if I get tired/hot/hungry/thirsty?

How I lost 40 pounds and kept it off from A Duck's Oven

Our hike to Elephant’s Eye Cave near Cape Town

I would usually do 30-45 minutes of cardio and weight lift. This was hilarious because I was teaching myself and the world’s most uninformed people staffed this gym. I would use a few machines, and none of the plates on the machines were labeled, so I had no idea how much I was lifting. Once, I just asked how much each plate weighs. No one knew. Seriously, no one. (face palm)

The important take away from this year: I learned that I could be athletic. This wasn’t something reserved for other people. I could push my body, and nothing that scary would happen.

I lost 20 pounds in 2014.

We came home from South Africa. We joined a gym. This was great, because Husband wasn’t a member of my gym in South Africa and he knows a lot more about weight lifting than me thanks to a former gymnast dad and a mini-gym in their garage growing up. So he taught me what he knew, and with a spotter, I could push myself even more. I got stronger. But I still wasn’t eating all that well. I had started back up as a manager for the pasta restaurant and was working a lot with a sporadic schedule. Not a recipe for success. We were getting married that year so I was hoping to drop another 10 pounds, but only lost about 2. Honestly, I’m just happy I didn’t gain it all back.

So, another 2 pounds down in 2015.

In 2016, I started a new job with a more consistent schedule. Husband also launched a big commitment to weight loss at the start of this year. Truth bomb: it is way easier to lose weight when your partner is on board, too. Even better when they’re way more committed than you are, which quickly became our case.

We were working out consistently, eating well, and doin’ all the things. This was the year we found our system. I would plan out our dinners each week and we would schedule a cheat night, almost always reserved for pizza. Knowing a cheat night was coming made it way easier to stick to our guns all week. More on this system to come.

And another 18 pounds down in 2016.

I was back down to the same weight as my senior year of high school! There is nothing more exciting than this. Seriously. You’re walkin’ on a cloud for weeks when this happens.

I had plans to continue to lose weight, get even stronger, and do ALL THE THINGS. That hasn’t happened.

What’s happened? I’ve gained a couple pounds back but generally float around in this area. I’ve kept a fairly consistent workout schedule (although I’d love to be better). I’ve experimented with different kinds of cardio to find something I love: running, walking, step aerobics, spinning. The verdict? I actually like running in the summer, but I’m afraid of what this will do with my knees. Husband LOVES walking – he clocks probably 14,000 steps every day. I like it, too, but wish I had more time for it. Spinning sucks. Step aerobics is a blast but I need someone to make new videos.

I definitely have not stopped menu planning. This is the best thing I’ve ever done for us. It helps me stay sane and get a healthy dinner on the table every night because I don’t have to think about what I’m making. I dive deeper into meal planning in this post. Check it out.

Can’t wait? Get a taste of my method and get my meal planning template. Get it here!

We still have a scheduled cheat night. I ? cheat night.

I don’t drink as much as I used to. Not that I’m anti-booze, but I find that I feel better if I limit the alcohol to 2-3 nights a week. Husband still enjoys his nightly beer.

Overall, I feel good about myself and comfortable in my body. I know what foods make me feel good and what makes me feel bad (sugar and me are not friends. It’s sad.). I can go on a hike and I know I’ll be fine (although I still don’t totally love this activity). In fact, I’m more comfortable in the outdoors as a whole and I attribute this to weight loss and ramping up my exercise. We camp now. If you told me 5 years ago that I would eventually be camping regularly, I’d have slapped you. And cried.

All in all: it was a slow process, but I’m happy with where I’ve landed.

How I lost 40 pounds and kept it off from A Duck's Oven