When Chicago lawyer Liz Ash received an invitation to her high school reunion in 2016, she began to ruminate on everything she had achieved in life — a law degree, a successful career, a happy home life.
“I was happily married and had this ideal life, but my weight was something that I hadn’t conquered,” said Ash, who at the time was more than 100 pounds overweight.
Ash, 40, founder of the personal weight loss blog Lawyer at Lunch, decided she wanted to lose weight before her high school reunion that July. But she also wanted to improve her overall health and work-life balance.
“When you’re talking about type-A high performers, in general, we just tend to think that we’re indispensable, and I was like that for a long time until I realized I’m no good to anybody if they have to carry me out of the office on a stretcher,” Ash tells NBC News BETTER.
Ash decided it was time to “put boundaries around myself and my health.”
Here’s how she lost the weight:
She started with a goal
Ash opened a Word document on her laptop and typed “Lose 50 lbs by July.”
She typed a second goal to reduce her blood pressure so she wouldn’t have to go on medication.
But Ash, who works more than 40 hours a week and has a busy home life, says she needed more than just goals to conquer her weight loss.
“I had to figure out a system that would work within my daily life,” she says.
... at some point you just have to draw a line in the sand and say ‘I’m going to do this now, I’m going to do this for me, I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,’ and you just start.
She put her project management skills to use
Ash says she developed a system to “project manage” herself.
On the same document where she had typed her goals, she began to outline rules for how she planned to achieve the weight loss.
The rules would allow her to stick to her plan and still be flexible with her schedule:
- No more than two meals out per week
- Physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes at least four days per week
- Drink at least 60 ounces of water each day
She set a calorie budget of 1,600 calories daily, and signed up for Lose It!, a weight loss app that helped her document how many calories she was eating.
She says she also taped a dry erase calendar to her wall. On days where she went for a walk or spent time at the gym, she’d draw a plus sign, and she put a circle around days when she ate out.
“That little wall calendar was a big picture of what I was doing while Lose It! was showing me on a daily basis what the finer details were,” she says.
She allowed herself two single serving snacks each day
Ash developed a system to help her manage her hunger throughout the day. She banned unhealthy foods in large quantities (like big bags of Doritos) and bought healthy single-serving snacks that were no more than 150 calories, like popcorn, roasted chickpeas, turkey jerky, and small servings of fruit. She says she generally ate no more than two per day.
Before bed, she allowed herself to have a frozen Greek yogurt bar to “satisfy that little sweet tooth.”
Weight loss happens in the mind and the body
Ash lost 43 pounds by her reunion, seven months after she began the process. By February 2018, she’d lost about 110 pounds.
She says the change in her weight has been slow and steady, but worth it.
“It’s kind of miraculous to me that it’s just gone,” she says, explaining that for the first time in her life she can fit in clothes in single-digit sizes.
But she says the most profound change has been mental.
“I think especially for somebody who’s a working professional, it’s really hard to find that balance, and it’s not about finding time or managing your time, it’s about building a process into your life that you can stick with,” she says. “And at some point you just have to draw a line in the sand and say ‘I’m going to do this now, I’m going to do this for me, I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,’ and you just start.”
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