Two months ago, I was the heaviest I’d ever been at 171 pounds.

I knew something had to change when I saw photos of myself that my mom posted on Facebook.

My mom takes pictures of us together almost every time I see her, but this time I was sort of shocked to see how much I’d physically changed over the past few years.

While yes, the photos partly were what spurred me to make some changes, I took stock of how my lifestyle was affecting me. I was getting antsy from sitting on my butt all day working and staying at home, I’d get winded going up a tall flight of stairs, and some of my favorite clothes didn’t fit anymore. While my teenage metabolism used to allow me to chow down on 20-piece McNuggets on the regular, and walking across campus every day in college helped stave off major weight gain, that’s certainly not the case anymore.

I want to say I know my self worth now will be the same after losing weight. At the risk of sounding a little vain, I love myself and what I can do, but I also want to improve my health.

I’ve lost about 13 to 14 pounds over the last nine weeks, which maybe doesn’t sound like a lot yet, but I’m proud of myself so far.

Intentional and gradual efforts have been key for me. When I used to exercise and not see results soon enough, I’d easily get discouraged and quit. I decided that I wouldn’t try to overhaul my diet and work out six days a week right off the bat. I’ve tried that before, and it was never sustainable because it was too much for me to handle all at once.

This time, I started with dietary changes and switches. I’m not keeping to a trendy diet that I’d only follow temporarily. At its most basic level, weight loss is being in a calorie deficit — expending more calories than you’re taking in — so I downloaded an app to help track what and how much I eat. Counting calories is not for everyone, as I can see how becoming overly obsessed with numbers can be harmful for someone’s physical and mental health. But it helped me become more conscious of the kinds of food I was putting in my body (cutting back on fried fast foods and switching to more whole food and home-cooked meals) and served as a reminder I don’t need to mindlessly snack all the time just because I’m bored.

I think I can attribute most of my progress so far to diet alone since I didn’t even start working out until about three weeks in. I’m still keeping away from gyms at the moment even though I think I’d see faster progress if I did join one. One good thing about at-home workouts is the plethora of videos and online content I can follow, which has helped me find workouts that I — gasp! — actually find fun.

I’m not sure you could easily tell that I’ve lost weight just by looking at me at this point, but that’s OK. I’ve noticed progress in other ways, too. I can get through a set of reps or follow a YouTube workout video without taking several breaks, I can properly keep my knees up during ab exercises, and I can do deeper stretches. Those are all valid and real things for me to celebrate because it means I’m getting stronger.

This time feels different than past weight loss attempts. I’m not doing this because someone told me or I’m forcing myself to lose x amount of pounds by a certain date. I’m doing this for myself, and I want to make changes I can maintain for the rest of my life, which is how it should be.

I guess now that I’ve written this and put it out there for the world to see, I have to keep at it and really hold myself accountable, which is a good thing.

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