7 Steps I Took to Lose 20 Pounds in 3 Months

Note: At 5″2, I am a tiny person. For me, 20 pounds is A LOT. If you try the strategies below, you will probably experience even more drastic results.

Before & After Photos

I just want to start off by saying, I freaking LOVE food. Don’t you? Eating is awesome! I am NOT ready to star in a Lifetime movie about some chick who thinks thinspo starvation is the road to beauty and confidence.

My attempt was the opposite: lose 20 pounds, in 3 months while eating as much delicious food as possible. I wanted to get in shape to become a more lean and agile aerial fabric performer, and be more kick-ass in general, not to fit in to some weird and impossible standard of beauty.

Gaining weight is sneaky and happens slowly. I’d convinced myself my pants must have shrunk in the dryer, or every photo was just taken at a bad angle.

But as the scaled tipped to the heaviest I’d ever been in my life, my denial bubble finally popped. I needed to do something DRASTIC that would last. A massive lifestyle overhaul and NO crash dieting or weird fads.

For 28 Days, I did a habit overhaul. And then, for 90 days, I rebuilt myself.

Here was my strategy. And it worked.

1.) I Brainwashed Myself

It’s like Henry Ford said: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

The most powerful fitness tool you have is your mind. Failure or success comes down to mental motivation. The key is to believe that you can make it happen, and then start taking massive action (no procrastination).

DECIDE exactly what you want, and set exact goals. I wrote down my body measurements, took photos, and set numerical benchmarks with a specific deadline (lose 20 pounds in 90 days).

To add coal to my burning flame of determination, I promised to write THIS VERY BLOG POST about it. Let me tell you, nothing will get you going faster than the thought posting before and after photos in your underwear.

2.) I Ate Real Food, and Started Cooking

I followed a special grocery list and weekly recipes based on the ‘healthiest foods in the world’, famous for their ability control blood sugar, reduce inflammation, boost your metabolism, lose fat, and reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.

If you would like the master grocery shopping list of healthy ingredients I used, plus recipes and the diet plan, you can check it out here.

3. I did less than 10 minutes of cardio a day, training with the 9-Minute Workout.

A lot of people think cardio exercise has to be an intensive time investment, money, and equipment.

Think about it:  burning an extra 100 calories a day adds up to 20 pounds a year.

So while I did lift weights for a few hours a week, my big exercise goal was to break a sweat every day. I would clean my apartment, take the stairs, or do 9 Minutes of HIIT.

You can find some of the routines I used here.

WORKOUT (1)

 

 

4.) I cut out processed foods, especially sugar & alcohol.

Examples of common processed foods I avoid include breakfast cereals, cheese, bread, potato chips, microwave dinners, milk, and soft drinks. All of those had to go.

Basically, if you can buy it at 7-11, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Quitting alcohol is my dirty little secret of weight loss because it is SO effective. Alcohol is metabolized by your liver in a similar mechanism to fructose.  I quit drinking for the first 30 days, and the weight just melted off.

When I had to drink, I only drank red wine because of it’s lower sugar content. I didn’t quit sugar completely, but devised tasty dessert strategy based around fruit, oats, and sugar-free chocolate.

5. I lowered my carb intake.

These days, it seems like everyone and their dog is ‘doing Paleo‘. I can’t quit carbs, because when I do, I look like this:

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So I took a different approach- incorporating barley, couscous, quinoa, lentils, and other complex carbs into my diet.

I lowered my carb intake between 50-150 grams and increased my portions of healthy protein (chicken, lean beef, beans) and good fatty foods (nuts, avocados).

If you want to try this experiment, a calculator like MyFitnessPal or IIFYM Calculator makes it easy to identify the optimal distribution of macronutrients.

6.) I ate at a calorie deficit

In the past, I’ve lost 15 pounds following the 20 Pounds in 90 Days grocery list. I’ve also lost 15 pounds counting calories.

Both strategies work, EVENTUALLY. BUT I didn’t have a ton of time to reach my crazy deadline.

I knew I needed to set back up plan for myself, in case I accidentally succumbed to the siren call of the cupcake (which i’ll admit might have happened once. . .or twice).

Eating at a 300-500 calorie deficit helped out big time, on those days when I just HAD to have a potato chip. I used MyFitnessPal to track both macronutrients and calories.

That which gets measured, gets managed.

Turns out in my former life, I was probably eating enough calories to feed a 6 foot tall man and his cat.

Food journaling caused me to seriously reflect on my eating habits and make pro-active decisions.

I could have a glass of wine, so long as I did my exercise routine. Or I could splurge on brunch, if I planned for a lighter dinner. It was also a huge motivator to hit the gym, just so I could eat more that day.

 

7. I started lifting heavy weights twice a week.

This was a REAL game changer and learning experience for me. With only 30 days left, I was close to my goal, but not close enough. I needed to do something drastic after hitting a plateau.

Luckily, I signed up for a boot camp which trained me to lift heavy weights and kettle bells. It not only meant I could spend less time at the gym, the results I experienced were INSANE.

For years, I thought tons of cardio + lifting light weights will ‘tone’ your body. SO WRONG.

The truth is, building muscle = an increased metabolism = more calories burned when at rest = greater fat loss.

Basically, lifting heavy weights is an AMAZING exercise shortcut. Instead of spending hours on the treadmill, just lifting kettle bells for 45 minutes a few times a week completely transformed my body.

And no, I did not bulk up like a she-woman. Although I did gain some serious super hero strength.

So there it is- the 7 major lifestyle changes I made to lose 20 pounds in 3 months. Here are the results:

Before & After Photos- Side

28 Day Body- Before & After Photos

DISCLAIMER (SORT OF): If you are reading this and think to yourself “Hot damn, this sounds like a lot of work!” my response is…YES it was, but yes, it is WORTH IT.

If you want to find out exactly what I did (HIIT workout routines, healthy recipes, daily rituals and goals) here is the ebook to walk you through the first 28 days of habit building, step by step.

You can kickstart your own journey to losing weight and getting in great shape with your own 90-Day Challenge.

What I Learned:

Sure, it’s awesome when your pants fit again. It is double awesome when your friends exclaim with surprise ‘You look great! Have you lost weight?’.

But the BEST part is feeling strong, healthy, capable, and in control of your own health and destiny.

This journey helped me learn how to love cooking, and how to love healthy food. It also taught me so much about the importance of exercise and how it’s not just about ‘looking hot’. It’s about feeling healthy, energetic, alert, and more confident.

While the outer-transformation was great, eating healthier and physical exercise made me a happier, more productive, more powerful person.

What will it do for you?

Let me know in the comments how this type of life style change has effected you.