My name is Irina, I am 38 years old and I weigh 224 lbs. This number may seem like a lot if you don’t take one thing into account: a year ago I weighed 266 lbs. I can’t say it was that bad, but once a 5-year-old boy came up to me and asked, “Irina, why do you have such a big belly?” That’s when I realized: I can’t live like this for much longer, I need to lose weight.

I’m telling my story of how I lost weight. I still have a long way to go, but the changes I already see in the photos keep me motivated.

My body’s story is similar to that of most overweight people, including a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet. Because of my job (I’m self-employed) and my tendency to eat when I’m feeling bad, at 37 I weighed 264 pounds.

I have no family and I haven’t been out of the house very often in recent years. That’s why other people’s opinions wouldn’t really sway me. Or so I thought.

What’s More Important: Exercise or Diet?

Part 1: Exercise

After my first workout with a fitness trainer at the gym, I threw away my cigarettes because 20 years of smoking had a huge impact on how well I could breathe.

That was also the time when I stopped drinking every Saturday. By the way, I haven’t smoked since and I don’t drink alcohol more than once every 6 months.

It was very difficult to exercise with a coach, although I did not do much. But just 90 minutes of physical activity would make me sweat through my clothes and I could barely move. When I was young, I loved skiing and martial arts, but I gave up those things for 20 years.

Diet or Exercise? I Tried Both Ways to Lose Weight During One Year and Here Are the Results
My food before and after visiting the gym

Before and after the gym, I ate very fatty foods, like homemade pizza or lasagna with something salty. I thought I could do this because I had burned a lot of calories in the gym.

This was my mistake: the number of calories I burned was much less than I ate before and after. My muscles became very strong and my breathing improved, but my weight did not drop.

So basically I now had muscle under all the fat, which didn’t make me any more attractive. As a result, 6 months in the gym (3 times a week, 90 minutes each) allowed me to lose only 7 pounds and at that time I weighed 256 lbs.

After 6 months, the gym membership ended and I decided not to continue, not because it was expensive without the discount, but because I had not seen any results. The best thing that happened was that I was able to breathe so much better and I felt so much more self-assured.

In 2018 I bought a bike, but since it was very heavy and had knee problems, I couldn’t use it.

Part 2: Food

Diet or Exercise? I Tried Both Ways to Lose Weight During One Year and Here Are the Results
My food when I started counting calories

The 5-year-old’s words were what made me lose weight again. It took me a long time to decide which path to choose and I decided to start counting calories.

I downloaded an app that calculated that my basic metabolism requires 1800 calories a day; So to lose weight without physical activity, I needed to eat 1,785 calories.

I started on October 10th. The only thing I completely gave up on was the sausage and other processed meats. And the reason is that a sandwich can be “worth” 200 calories. And there is almost 200g of chicken breast, which I love too.

Despite all the information I found on the internet, I did not stop eating bread, sugar, or cereal, but I had a trick: I started buying noodles and whole wheat bread, I reduced the amount of food I ate and I cut down on sweet foods and replaced them with dark chocolate and gum. I didn’t exercise any more than ice skating about 10 times during the winter.

I noticed the first results after a month – I went from 266 lbs to 257 lbs, which was a perfect chance. I wasn’t hungry the entire month because I ate a little every 3 hours, but never more than 1,700 cal.

Sometimes I would buy (and still buy) a cake or brownie with a filling, divided in 2: it was 135 lime and it allowed me to control the sweets I ate. I spent another 2 months like this.

Diet or Exercise? I Tried Both Ways to Lose Weight During One Year and Here Are the Results
6 months of exercise and 5 months of diet

On January 10, 2021, the scale was showing 238 pounds. I decided to try a new plan: eat only 15 to 23 and no more than 1,500 calories. Some people may think this type of diet is wrong, but my schedule is perfect and my body doesn’t need a lot of food anymore.

The main food that I eat is meat, grilled, cooked, or roasted. I eat pasta, rice, and other side dishes separately, sometimes with a cucumber and tomato salad, as a snack. Anyway, in order to control me and maintain my diet, I did not stop eating things that I would feel terrible without. My daily meal schedule looks like this:

  • 3 pm. A piece of boiled or baked chicken breast / meat / fish, tea, a piece of bread with cheese, and half of a cookie. 440 cal.
  • 5 pm. Toast with cheese, tea, gummy bears. No more than 150 cal.
  • 7 pm. Pasta / baked potatoes / rice (just 150 g), with butter, a salad made of cucumbers and tomatoes. No more than 200-250 cal.
  • 9pm. Tea with half of a cookie. 70 cal.
  • 11 pm. A piece of boiled or baked chicken breast / meat / fish (about 150 g), tea, apple. About 400 cal.

And What If You Do Both?

Diet or Exercise? I Tried Both Ways to Lose Weight During One Year and Here Are the Results
This is my face before and after, it has changed more than anything else.

So at the end of February 2021, my weight was 224 lbs. My goal is to reach 176 lbs and only then hit the gym to gain muscle weight. I still eat according to my schedule, but most of the time it’s hard to eat 1,500 cal, and I end up eating only about 1,200-1,300 cal.

What has changed since I started losing weight and counting calories? I can wear jeans that I couldn’t wear before, and when I go upstairs, I don’t feel like I’m going to suffocate. Now I even take selfies, which I avoided before, and found out that I actually have cheekbones!

Of course, there are also some unpleasant things that go along with losing weight. For example, I freeze all the time and my digestion is not working as well as it used to. But I know that once my body gets used to the new weight, those effects will wear off.

And when it comes to money, now I spend less because meat costs less than sausage. And cabbage, no matter the quality, is very cheap.

What do you think of Irina’s story? Do you know someone else who also decided to change his life?