How I Uncovered My Secret to Weightloss

The last time you heard from me, I told you a little bit about my background with obesity and the psychological, emotional and physical struggles that being overweight has brought into my life.

Today, I’m going to tell you how I’ve been fighting that fight, and how I’m winning it a little more every day. This is just what worked for me, and the small steps I took. What works for you may be different, but remember that every success story starts with a lot of failures. No one is immediately successful at anything. Even Michael Phelps had to take swimming lessons at one point.

I have been trying to figure out exactly what a “healthy lifestyle” means for me over the last five years. I have tried, and failed and tried again. Through this process of trial and error I have found a balance between clean eating and indulging in my favorite treats (moderation truly is the key to everything). I combine this with a newly developed passion for heavy weightlifting to achieve the goals I have set for myself.


Dani before she began lifting weights, and Dani one year later.

Unfortunately, the lessons I learned and the goals I reached while I was first venturing into the world of proper nutrition and exercise were only temporary. I would give up after a few weeks, or months, and the weight slowly crept back up. But with every trial I achieved, I held on to something I could never lose…the knowledge that I was capable of change. If I did it once, there was no reason I couldn’t do it again. Every error, every failure, just taught me how to improve in the future.

I started joining online weight-loss communities and began a weight-loss blog. I poured over forums and read hundreds of accounts from people of all ages and backgrounds who had already conquered the challenges I now faced. I made my struggles “public” and reached out for support. The response I received from other men and women who shared my frustrations and struggles was overwhelming, and humbling. The accountability and support I found through these venues was truly irreplaceable.

That support gave me the courage to really pursue weightlifting. If my experience with multiple at-home workout DVDs had taught me anything it was that I loved resistance training and weights. I was dying to know what my body would be capable of if I really dedicated myself to it, but terrified of trying to weight lift in an actual, public gym. At first, it was intimidating. I walked into my gym, an out-of-shape woman in a sea of buff, sweaty, grunting men, and almost ran away. But I found a bench and diligently curled my five pound barbells in the middle of a crowd of men curling 50 pounds or more. The more frequently I showed up and fit myself right into the middle of the weight room, the less intimidating it became. I quickly realized that the only person looking at me and what I was doing, was me.

Weightlifting changed my life. It changed my body, it changed my mentality, and it gave me a confidence and an energy that nothing else did. I became smaller, more muscular, and even though the scale wasn’t reflecting any or much progress, my body certainly did. I learned to rely on other methods of tracking my progress – like pictures, measurements, how my clothes fit, and how I felt – instead of being ruled by the number on the scale, and that was the single most liberating lesson I have ever learned.

In the course of one year, I lost 35 pounds, three pants sizes, and can proudly squat and dead lift more than my body weight. I try to eat clean and stay within a healthy calorie range of 1,700 to 1,900 calories a day (I know that sounds like a lot, and it’s counter intuitive, but adding the extra 500-700 calories of healthy food per day to my diet jumpstarted my weight loss more than any 1,200 calorie “diet” ever did). But I’m not perfect. I love pizza and chocolate as much as the next person, and I’ve learned to not shame myself for enjoying food. One bad meal won’t undo your progress, just like one good meal won’t fix years of bad nutrition.

While heavy lifting may not be what works for or interests you, the universal lesson that I try to convey to anyone who asks me my “secret” is this: Over the years, I have learned that every tool I need to be successful, happy, and healthy I have always possessed. I just didn’t know how to uncover them. You are the only secret you need.


About Author

Dani Russell is a freelance health and fitness lifestyle writer living in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is currently working to complete a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and is a practicing student therapist. In her free time she can be found playing in the ocean, hiking and weightlifting. You can keep up with her daily quest to balance multiple jobs, fitness and graduate school via her tumblr.

Posts By Dani Russell
  • Mary Jane Lewis

    Where did you start when you wanted to start lifting weights? I’ve never done it in my life and I have no idea what to do!

  • Rebecca Brummett Coslow

    Mary – you should see if your local gym has the Les Mills Body Pump class. That Is what i started with and it has really helped my lifting. It is a fun and rewarding workout class and will definitely get you on the right track to lifting.

  • dan

    your blog is awesome 🙂

  • Alison McKinney

    What a inspiration you are. I have over 100lbs to lose and I just can’t get myself started. I find every reason not to. I REALLY want to run. I don’t know why, but I do. I have Lupus, but doing great. I always give up. Any ideas on how I can kick myself in the butt and get going????? Please help!!Q

  • Dani R.

    Hi Mary Jane!
    I actually just wrote a piece on where and how I initially got into weights, after reading your comment! Be sure to look for it soon!

    – Dani

  • Dani R.

    Hi Alison,

    Thank you, so much. I am always humbled by hearing that I have inspired anyone. Starting a journey into fitness and weight loss when you feel like you have such a long road ahead of you can be overwhelming and discouraging, but I have total faith in you! Try focusing on some small goals, and highlighting your small victories as you initially set out.

    I wrote another article for a different website on a similar topic, and if you’re interested on reading my thoughts on getting motivated again after you’ve been out of the health and fitness habit for a while, you can read it here:

    You’ve already conquered the hardest part! You’re ready and willing to change. You’ve got your mind set on your goals, and you’ve even decided that running is going to be how you pursue them!! You’ve already made so much progress. The behaviors will happen with time, but keep up that phenomenal mental attitude!

    – Dani

  • Brittany

    Hi Allison! I read your comment and wanted to share my story a little bit. I was diagnosed with rhuematoid arthitis when I was 11 and had been on steriods for 11 years. I ran out of insurance when I got married and couldnt get on a plan so I decided to trust in God’s promise of healing. I have been off of meds for my RA for 3 years now and though I thought I would lose weight quickly, it has been 4 years that I have wanted to lose the weight. Recently my husband and I have decided to get healthy. I have 150lbs to lose and my hubby has 230lbs to lose and we have started out by eating healthy and calorie counting but also we have been devoting an hour 3-4 times a week to swimming and it has been awesome. I have noticed a big difference in my performance at work and how alert and great I feel throughout the day. We wake up and eat breakfast that has protein and fiber and then we go to the gym and hit the pool and 30mins after working out I usually eat a snack with protein in it. Also it is great to eat fruit in the morning because they are packed with antioxidants. For lunch I usually eat a “Snart Ones” meal and an extra veggie and for dinner I do a no carb and no sugar dinner, so no fruits and no breads. Mostly like a protein and some veggies.
    Going back to swimming, it helps you to lose the impact on your joints and the resistance helps mucle strength, stability, weight loss, ect. This website has a good article on water exercise. I wish you the best and I know you can do it!