If you’ve been exploring ways to get in shape, you’ve probably heard about OrangeTheory Fitness. Without a doubt, it’s the best membership I’ve ever had! The studios are clean, you’re treated like family and you leave feeling like you’ve given it everything you’ve got (and more).
I joined during the holiday season so I didn’t focus on changing my eating habits. Instead, my goal was to get stronger. After welcoming twins (my 5th and 6th children — and my last!) a year earlier, my body was a mess. I knew it was going to be tough, but I was ready!
When they announced the Transformation Challenge in the new year, I knew I had to sign up. After a couple months of conditioning, I was ready to make some changes to my diet. Just eight weeks later, I was named the winner after dropping 28.2 pounds, or 12.26%, of my body weight. Here’s how I made it happen.
Before I get into this, let’s all acknowledge that any eating regimen comes with criticism. No matter what you do, people will have something to say. If you plan to change your diet in any way, expect at least one person to question your judgment.
With that being said, I chose a low-carb, high-fat “ketogenic” diet for a variety of reasons. Although, I’m not particularly sold on the idea of giving up an entire type of food forever, I do believe that temporarily eliminating or reducing certain things can be helpful. This is a personal journey and what works for you may not work for someone else. Do what makes you feel good and gives you good results.
While it’s a bit of a fad diet at the moment, keto eating has been around for a long time and has been used to help people suffering from various disorders, including diabetes and epilepsy. Even Halle Berry, a diabetic, says she’s been eating a high-fat, low-carb diet for a decade and credits it with helping her manage her blood sugar levels.
At the beginning of the challenge, I was pretty strict and kept my carbohydrate intake to fewer than 20 grams a day. I ate bacon and eggs for breakfast every single day for weeks, had sausages and cucumbers for lunch and then paired a salad with a fatty protein such as steak or chicken wings for dinner.
My body really loves eating this way. I’m not bloated, I never feel hangry and, after a couple weeks, I felt like I had a lot more energy. I’ve since increased my daily carb allowance to up to 100 grams every day and I’m still seeing progress. Keto works for me and helped me win the challenge but also allowed me to make changes that I can live with for the rest of my life.
In addition to being a mom of six, I also turned 40 during the last week of the challenge. Not only was I out of shape in general but back-to-back pregnancies had really taken a toll on me. I knew I would have to find a way to be successful while also respecting my limits. Fortunately, OTF’s structure helped me do just that.
Although, it’s a group class, the experience feels more like a personal training session. This is because everyone wears a heart rate monitor that provides real-time results on a screen. This makes it easy to see whether you’re working out in the optimal “orange” zone where you can accumulate “splat points” for every minute spent exercising at this level. Based on scientific theory of Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (or EPOC), OTF claims that racking up 12 splat points or more can help you burn extra calories for up to 36 hours after the class has ended.
It wasn’t easy, at first. Then, I realized that I had to just focus on myself. Instead of being discouraged by my uphill battle, I was able to look at the board and see that I was truly working hard. I stopped caring about what anyone else was doing and just started competing with myself. It made a huge difference.
While multiple pregnancies didn’t help, there are many factors that contributed to my obesity. Like many, my relationship with food wasn’t exactly healthy. Loading up your shopping cart with fruits and vegetables is going to cost a lot more than hitting a drive-thru. Putting the time, money and effort into preparing meals every day takes a lot of planning and commitment.
After many failed attempts at losing weight, I was determined to do whatever it took to be successful. As I mentioned, anytime you make a change, you will meet resistance. I’d have people say “oh, I could never give up bread” or “is three workouts a week really enough?” and I’d be second-guessing myself for hours (or days).
Over time, my mental toughness improved. The comments and questions began to roll off my back. I was seeing results and, by sharing my journey on social media, I kept myself accountable. Slowly, but surely, I noticed that I wasn’t obsessing over what I was going to eat or whether I was sweating enough. My clothes were getting looser, my confidence was growing and I knew that I was making progress, whether I won the challenge or not.
There were days when I’d step on the scale and discover I’d lost three pounds overnight, while, on other days, I gained weight. I kept a journal of what I ate and, sometimes, I’d be really hard on myself if I thought I hadn’t been strict enough. During the eight-week period of the challenge, I also had three full-on cheat meals and, all three times, it took days for the scale to get back to where it had been.
At times, the guilt was overwhelming. OrangeTheory isn’t cheap, but it was a sacrifice my family was willing to make to support my efforts to get in shape. It also required my older kids to step up and watch three toddlers so my partner and I could escape for an hour several times a week. As a result, I never wanted them to feel like I wasn’t taking it seriously.
Eventually, I realized that, while accountability is important, I was being unrealistic. There might be people out there who can be fully committed for two months without wavering but I wasn’t one of them. I had to start forgiving myself for having human moments and, instead, started celebrating my successes. That shift in thinking made things so much easier.
OrangeTheory’s workouts are split between the treadmill, rowing machine and weight floor with days focused on endurance, strength or power (or a combination of all three). I hated endurance workouts with the fire of a million suns, especially if it meant any significant amount of time on the rower.
My legs would be jelly, one of my achilles tendons ached and there were moves that I simply couldn’t do — at first. During those moments, I wasn’t sure I could even go on, but then I found a mantra to get me through it. I’d say things like, “I can do anything for 30 seconds” or think back to how terrifying the twins’ birth was and remind myself that, if I could live through that, I could make it through a rough part of my workout. Incredibly, it worked.
On the treadmill and the weight floor, I’d look straight into my own eyes on the mirrored walls and have a silent conversation. I’d think of all the ways that I was strong and I’d use that to get through whatever was making me feel weak. I also gave myself permission to go down to a lighter weight, slower speed or fewer reps if I had to. In the end, I did everything I could to avoid just giving up.
Most of All, I Had Fun
The music at OrangeTheory is fantastic. It’s pretty easy, therefore, to let yourself get lost in the rhythm. I didn’t care who might have been glaring at me — I danced my way through my classes. If I wasn’t too out of breath, I’d also sing along (and if I could sing, it meant I had to step up my efforts!). Most of all, though, I just let myself have fun.
The camaraderie and kinship that develops among the members at OTF almost make it feel like one big, sweaty party. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. We cheer each other on, dish out high-fives and celebrate everyone’s success.
It’s okay to laugh at yourself if you step down from the treadmill and your legs are wobbly. I made the choice to giggle at my hatred of the rower instead of hating every minute of it. It’s all about perception so, if you keep it light, you’ll look forward to your workouts instead of dreading them.
In the end, the most important key to my success was that I put myself first. After years of caring for others, I took center stage and shook off any feelings of guilt. I had to tell myself that taking the time to make my own health and well-being a priority isn’t something I should feel bad about. Fortunately, I had great coaches and friends at OrangeTheory encouraging me every step of the way!