Hi Hayley,

I know it shouldn't have taken death to make me open my eyes but that's how it happened and made everything in my life shift focus. A forty-year-old uncle of mine had a stroke and I couldn't believe it, he seemed so young. His BMI was definitely lower than mine.

I went to my doctor and he told me that I can do any exercise I can handle and that I'm healthy as I can be for my weight (which isn't at all healthy). Currently, I do the elliptical at a medium intensity, five times a week for eighty minutes. I've been cutting out a carbs significantly and in three months I've lost maybe five or six pounds.

My BMI is near 60 and I'm about 160 pounds overweight. I'm twenty-three and I need to live a lot longer than that. How should I have started? Please Help!


The one and only thing that stuck with me from Psychology class back in University was the Stages of Change model, which has five phases. There is the precontemplation stage, where the thought of making a change has not even crossed your mind. Then comes the contemplation phase, where you are thinking about making a change but have not done anything yet to make the change. The preparation phase is when you are ready to make the change and you are taking the necessary steps to do so. In weight loss this may be signing up for a gym, buying workout clothes, shopping for healthy foods and setting goals. The action phase, which is next, is where you start doing what is necessary to make the change. This is where you are. Usually it is a health scare that jumps people from the preparation phase to the action phase, either in your life or someone else’s that you care about. For you this was your uncle dying. But this phase is like being on thin ice and it can break at any moment, sending you back to any one of the three phases before. The last phase is the maintenance phase, which is where you need to get to, but it takes time and you will relapse, maybe more than once, before finding yourself here.

So how do you keep moving forward and get to the maintenance phase? You need to focus on one step at a time, as you have a mountain to climb, and if you are focused on the top of the mountain rather than where to place your next step, you will not make it.

You have already created the exercise habit, and that is a great step. Now what you need to do is start changing what you are doing during the time you are exercising, because you need the weight to start coming off faster. Six pounds in 3 months is better than not losing weight, but you could be losing more.

How do you speed up your weight loss? You need to start strength training. You have to add muscle mass onto your body and get your metabolism going. The elliptical is a good start but it is time to ramp up your routine. You should be strength training 4 days a week and focusing on exercises that work your entire body. Squats, lunges, pushups and planks are a good place to start. And if at all possible, hire a professional to help you learn how to do the movements correctly because the last thing you need to do is injure yourself. I know it can be daunting and many people in your situation shy away from hiring a trainer because they fear being judged. I have been in this industry for 9 years and we as trainers do what we do to help people. Trust me, you will not be judged so invest in yourself and your health and if you can, hire a trainer, even just for a few sessions. 

Your workouts need to be hard and you need to push yourself. You need to progress and make them harder as you get more fit. Start adding in new activities, like hiking, yoga, spinning, boot camp classes, and walking programs. Pick a goal and work towards it. Why not set your heart on walking a 5km race?  Then walk a 10km race. Then walk a half marathon. Then run a 5km, then run 10 and then run a half.  Remember my story I wrote about Tam? She is the perfect example of what is possible.

You also have to change your diet, as it is not as simple as just cutting out carbohydrates. And it needs to be looked at as a lifestyle change forever, this is not temporary. You will need help doing this, as you need to be educated on what you should be putting into your body and held accountable to that. This website is an amazing, and free, resource that I suggest you take advantage of. 

Understand that this journey is going to be hard and it is going to be long. You are going to have to stay focused and determined. You will be tempted to take steps in the wrong direction all the time, but remember every time you do that, you are one step back from your goal. Small changes and one step at a time is what is going to get you there.

Be comfortable at being uncomfortable, in your workouts and in life. There are moments where giving in is going to feel better than pushing forward, but embrace the uncomfortable feelings as they mean you are being challenged and being challenged is a good thing.

But do not get down on yourself if you fail, because like I already said, you will and more than once.  What you need to do is not dwell on the failure and instead figure out why you failed and how you can prevent that from happening again. Remember, we learn from mistakes and if we do not make them we can’t grow as individuals.

There is no easy way about this, no magic pill or exercise. So rejoice in your daily, weekly and monthly accomplishments. And remove the word CAN’T from your vocabulary because you CAN, you just need to work hard.