‘After My Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis, I Tried Counting Macros’
My name is Emily Pearsons (@emilykpeas), and I am 34. I am based out of Toronto, Ontario, and I am an executive assistant. After my inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis awoke me to my health issues, I started tracking calories with Lose It! and exercising to lose nearly 100 pounds.
Throughout my entire young life, I could eat whatever I wanted to (practically McDonald’s every day). I was not into sports or exercise. In my late 20s, the excessive drinking, partying, and eating whatever I wanted caught up with me, and I slowly began to gain the extra pounds.
On and off for several years I tried different fad diets that only lasted a week. But then I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2010, an autoimmune disease that affects the lower intestine and colon. I had a flare-up (inflammation and bleeding ulcers, super painful) that put me in the hospital over Christmas for 10 days, leaving me inactive and in pain and discomfort. That was the start of more gradual gaining, and the realization that my diet would impact my flare-ups and symptoms throughout my life if I didn’t think about what I put into my body.
Over the years after that hospital visit, I slowly kept gaining, and I knew that I had to make a change.
It was a struggle for me to even walk up the stairs without being out of breath, and I was constantly tired, lethargic and grumpy. At 33, I weighed 255 pounds.
Whenever I thought about my health issues, I had the internal dialogue of, “I need to make a serious change and stick to it.” In January 2020, after my all-inclusive honeymoon in Mexico, where I went all out on the menu and sugary drinks, I told myself, “When you get back to reality, this is gonna happen for you.” I was uncomfortable and I wasn’t as happy and confident as I thought I could be.
I began with simply making better food choices, which meant I stopped dining out at fast food restaurants and loaded up more on veggies and proteins.
At that time, I wasn’t tracking anything, just easing my way into the lifestyle change. Then I slowly began to introduce fitness. Twice a week I would go for walks or go to the gym to take some type of cardio class. I knew for me, starting slowly was the way to go so I would not feel so defeated with food or the gym. Let me tell you, it was not easy to stay determined or focused or have that grit to keep pushing on, but I had to keep telling myself I was in it for the long haul.
As I got better and better at managing my meals and fitness, I downloaded an app called Lose It!, which helped me track and enter all the calories I ate that day.
The Lose It! app has been a life changer for me personally and has kept me accountable by knowing what I’m putting in my body. Not just the calories, but also the macros.
Here’s what I eat in a day:
- Breakfast: 1/2 cup of 2 percent fat cottage cheese, 6 oz. of fruit (like berries), three pieces of turkey bacon, and a coffee made with almond milk or low-fat cream with a teaspoon of sugar-free vanilla syrup.
- Lunch: Roasted broccoli, BBQ chicken (5 oz.), 1/2 cup of basmati rice, and zero-calorie hot sauce for dipping.
- Snacks: Greek yogurt, turkey meat sticks, cheese sticks, or Built bars for more protein.
- Dinner: Pan-fried salmon (usually with some pre-mixed seasoning from the store), 1/2 cup of quinoa, spicy lime aioli, and asparagus.
- Dessert: Pre-portioned Thinsations (I love the cranberry lemon), and sometimes I’ll dip them in fat-free chocolate pudding.
Even though I slowly started exercising, stepping foot in the gym was hard for me.
To be able to walk into a gym and not know anyone and feel out of shape and vulnerable, was one of the hardest and scariest things. I had to tell myself, “I’m here to better myself, to do my best, and to get a good workout in. I can’t care what other people think of me. In the end, this will only hurt myself if I stop going.”
Now, a year and a half later, I am obsessed with the gym. I cannot tell you enough about how important it is to find the right gym for you. This comes down to not just the classes or equipment offered, but finding a community of like-minded people that are all there for the same reason. I found that in Urban Strength, the gym I now attend and also work at.
I started off with cycling classes because I felt being able to be stationary and have full control of how hard I’m actually working makes the most sense for me. I also love a good playlist. If the music isn’t good, I can’t vibe! I began attending basically four times a week strictly doing cycling, and about a year into it, I became a certified Spin instructor and fulfilled a huge dream. It was an out of body experience, to say the least. When the gym posted my “new instructor alert,” I literally burst into (happy) tears.
I now teach two to three times a week and take classes—a mix of strength training, cardio, and CrossFit.
These three changes made the biggest difference in my weight-loss results.
- I started tracking my meals. Using a food scale and measuring cups, I measure all of my food as a guide to know what I’m eating. I cannot simply guess what I am putting in my body and expect to get the results I want.
- I beefed up on my protein. This helped me get more creative with my eating habits, and I started looking at the ingredients on the sides of packaging to see what the protein content was. I now eat about 125 grams per day and make sure I fit it into all of my meals. It helps me stay full and I finally notice I’m gaining muscle and losing fat.
- I stopped eating out. I allow myself a “cheat” meal a week of whatever I want. But in general, I avoid eating out because even if it sounds healthy on the menu, the calories are way more than you actually think. There are a lot of added things you don’t see, condiments, fats, oils, sauces. When you do go out, sub out certain things, or ask for double protein. Ask for dressings and sauces on the sides.
I have lost 95 pounds. It took me about 1.5 years.
There is no quick fix! The journey to losing weight is a roller coaster that I need to ride out until the very end. One of my favorite inspirational weight-loss influencers on Instagram, Laura Micetich (@theirongiantess), talks about how if you’re not willing to spend three years, don’t waste three minutes—and I truly believe that.
This was not just a journey about my appearance, but it was also a true transformation of my mind. Once I got motivated and started making positive changes, positive things started happening to me. I got a new job, I made new friends at the gym, and I had an attitude of gratitude to my body for being able to transform how it has.
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