‘I Counted Calories And Stuck To The 80-20 Rule To Lose Weight—And I’ve Lost Over 150 Pounds’

My name is Amber Clemens (@amber_clemens). I am 29, born and raised in Wisconsin. I currently live in Green Bay and work for a local construction company as an administrative assistant. I lost 150 pounds without fad diets or any gimmicks.

I can't remember a time in my life (until now!) when my weight wasn’t an issue for me. The first time I remember actively trying to lose weight was in middle school. I was diagnosed as borderline pre-diabetic, and my doctor told me to start keeping a food journal and to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. I think I stuck to that for maybe a week.

Being that young, I found it hard to make that kind of change while watching my friends eat whatever they wanted. After that, I tried to lose weight so many times throughout my life but I would always end up in a repetitive cycle of over-restricting my food intake, bingeing, and falling back into old habits. I was the *classic* yo-yo dieter.

My turning point came one night in May 2018, carrying groceries up the stairs.

I live in an upstairs apartment, so I often have to take multiple trips up and down the stairs to get everything. This particular night I had only taken two trips—and halfway up on my third trip I had to stop because I was so out of breath and tired. In that moment I realized I was done living that way. I was 27 years old, somewhere around 300 pounds, and I was having trouble doing basic life things all because of the way I was treating my body.

I made myself a promise that this time had to be different. I was tired of feeling trapped in my own body and I finally felt mentally ready to make this commitment to myself. I began my weight-loss journey two weeks later, on May 30, 2018.

I first cut out fast food and started incorporating more fruits, veggies, and lean proteins into my diet. Simple, yet effective.

I wasn’t focused on a specific caloric deficit and I was not following a specific weight-loss program. I lost 20 pounds in the first month.

After that, I started to do more research and reached out to the resources I had available in my life to make sure I was doing things in a healthy, sustainable way. That’s one thing I knew had to be different for me this time around in order for this to work; I had to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes that I could actually stick to long term.

Ultimately, this all led me to calorie counting, which is the simple tool to which I credit my weight loss. For me, counting my calories worked because I never had to completely cut out any certain foods if I didn’t want to. If I really wanted something, I could still have it, I just had to learn how to incorporate it into my daily caloric allowance.

Before, when I would try and lose weight, I always categorized food as “good” or “bad”—and now my outlook has totally changed.

I realize now that there are foods that are more nutritious and make my body feel better when I eat them, and there are foods that are less nutritious but just taste really good.

The 80/20 Meal Plan for Easy Weight Loss

I’ve found that what works best for me is focusing on fueling my body with foods that are nutritious and make me feel good when I eat them 80 percent of the time, and incorporating those other foods 20 percent of the time. Over-restricting never worked for me before, so I’m thankful I’ve found balance.

Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: A yogurt bowl with Greek yogurt, berries, chia seeds, powdered peanut butter, sugar-free jam, and cinnamon. I also enjoy an iced coffee with a scoop of protein powder.
  • Lunch: Typically I eat a huge salad with chicken, peas, cucumbers, spinach, kale, romaine, broccoli, croutons, cheese, and a low-calorie dressing, with a side of fruit.
  • Snacks: Quest protein bars are my favorite snacks. I also like veggies with some kind of healthy dip, rice cakes, fruit, or other protein treats.
  • Dinner: I love to cook and try new recipes, but there’s typically almost always some kind of lean protein and veggies incorporated somehow into my dinners.
  • Dessert: Any kind of low-calorie, high-protein ice cream does the trick for me. My favorites are Enlightened and Yasso.

I started going to the gym the very first night of my weight-loss journey.

My friend had a gym at her apartment complex and we went there together. I had no idea what I was doing—all I knew was that I was determined to move my body for at least an hour.

We did all cardio that first night. I walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I also tried the elliptical but couldn’t last longer than 30 seconds. I switched to the stationary bike and did that for 15 minutes, too. We finished with some bicep curls.

That night, I went home and looked up gym routines that incorporated cardio and strength training and I stuck to those routines I found online (e.g., workouts on PopSugar Fitness on Youtube), while making adjustments to push myself as I lost weight.

TBH, physically going to the gym five nights a week became unrealistic for me, which is how I developed a love for home workouts. I could still get three to five workouts in per week, and it was much more convenient.

Currently I work out three to five times a week at home but I am going back into the gym in the new year. I am going to start focusing more on strength training—and being in a gym with tons of equipment will allow me to accomplish that better than I can through my home workouts. I am seriously so excited to get back in the gym and challenge myself.

I went from never working out to running a 5k this past August. If you had told me that I would run a 5k before the start of this journey, I wouldn’t have believed you.

From May 2018 until now, I've lost 150 pounds. I’m *so* much happier and stronger today than I ever thought was possible.

I am not a nutritionist. I did not study exercise science in school. I am just a woman who had a poor relationship with food her entire life. I used to eat fast food every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I was a secret binge eater. I would sneak food into my room/car/pockets and eat alone so no one would see. I knew I was harming myself but I didn’t understand how and wasn’t ready to change. Until one day, I was.

I started slow, made simple changes, and things started to click. I am the epitome of, "If I can do it, anyone can do it." I changed for me and no one else. I embraced all the changes, both mental and physical, that this journey has brought me, and I’m healthier and happier than ever before.

There were times I wanted to quit and go back to my old lifestyle. But on my worst days I would remind myself of why I started and how miserable I felt that night on the stairs bringing in groceries.


Post a Comment