What did you do to lose the weight?
The short answer is that I ate less and moved more. I'm sure that comes as a total surprise :)
The long answer is that, in the beginning, I ate less and started walking. I tried to walk for an hour at least 4-5 days a week at whatever pace I could do. I used the elliptical a couple times a week and felt like I was going to die by the 5 minute mark, sometimes I only made it 3 minutes. I parked further from the store and walked, I took the stairs, I learned to fidget more. After about 4-5 months I joined a Zumba class once a week and started hiking 4 miles once a week in addition to the walking. Then Zumba became twice a week, the hikes moved to twice a week, and I started using my elliptical 20-25 minutes a few times a week. I still took a 20 minute walk every day. Some weeks I'd hike twice, sometimes 4 or 5 times depending on how much time I had. I tried to add in some running but I still am not a fan of that yet. I'm sure I'll try again, though.
What do you wish you had known when you started?
I wish I had understood how sodium and water weight work in our bodies. I would be really good for an entire week and watch my weight go down and then have a single meal at Denny's and my weight would shoot back up. I thought that you couldn't step a single toe out of line in a diet or you would undo everything. Now I know that I can't ruin an entire week or two of work with a single meal but back then it would frustrate me and make me want to just give up. What was actually happening was that the meal at Denny's had a ton of sodium in it and would cause my body to grab on to extra water weight. It's "weight" that would have naturally gone away in a couple of days if I drank enough water and kept my sodium to 1500 mg. Also, hand in hand with that, I wish I had known just how important it is to drink enough water. I never drank enough when I started out and I know now that it really does help so much.
How much do you eat?
My calories have been 1400-1500 most of the time. Sometimes a little more if I've been exercising and I'm starving.
What do you eat?
A lot of chicken, veggies, low fat dairy, whole grains. Breakfast is usually instant oatmeal. I also eat a small piece of chocolate most days (think mini/fun size candy bar). I drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day (with cream and sugar) and then a lot of water and plain ice tea. I've recently started drinking a lot of hot tea, too, but I don't sweeten that. I try to eat more 'whole foods' but I don't limit myself to only those and really I eat whatever I want, just in moderation.
Do you cheat?
I don't limit what I can eat, I limit how much. If I want a chocolate bar, I grab a mini for about 50 calories and really savor it. If I want a piece of my kids' birthday cakes then I eat it but I eat less calories for dinner and just fill up on veggies. It's certainly best to get as many of your calories from whole good foods as possible but I don't want to spend my entire life stressing about what I'm not allowed to have so I just don't. What I eat has changed and a lot more of my food is lean meats and extra veggies but I don't consider any food to be off limits so I don't consider it "cheating".
Are you done now?
My goal is 155 pounds and between 18-21% body fat. I'm very close to that right now (upper 150s and 23%-ish) but I'm not done. If you go out to run a marathon it's 26.2 miles. Would you run 26 miles and call it close enough or do you finish what you started? I get a lot of flack for still trying to lose weight but I want to finish what I set out to do, reach the completely healthy goal I set for myself so, well, I'm going to ignore those people as best I can.
Is this the first time you've tried to lose weight?
Not by a long shot. I was always pretty skinny in high school and took it for granted I could eat however much I felt like. Moving out of my mom's house I gained 40 pounds the first year. The first time I saw a stretch mark on my ass I cried for 2 hours. I joined a gym and lost a lot of it. In 2000 I became pregnant with my first child and gained to 210. I lost weight, down to 160, and got pregnant again. I gained to 220. I lost weight to 180 without really trying that time (two young boys to chase around will burn a lot of calories) and then I became pregnant with my 3rd child and gained to 240. I dropped 75 pounds in really unhealthy ways that year but, because of how I did it, I ended up just putting about 50 of that back on. Christmas of 2011 I was 210 pounds and decided to get serious about losing weight the right way so I could learn how to keep it off this time.