After a traumatic breakup from a long-term partner, Kaitlyn turned to food as a comfort and eventually hit her highest weight at 102 kilos. But things took a turn when she used exercise as a solace for depression. The Arizona-based engineer picked up weightlifting and almost immediately noticed the results on her body, but also on her mood and her brain. Her tips are practical and positive, and show just how much we can be capable of when we keep working hard and set goals.
POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?
Kaitlyn van Brunschot: I was fresh out of a six-and-a-half-year relationship and felt completely lost. I initially started my journey with weightlifting just to fill my time. Very quickly I began to realize that lifting weights made me feel great! It gave me so much confidence, so I just kept doing it. It's funny how quickly you can change, because it's been almost a year now and I have such a passion for fitness. I never thought I'd be the person that I am today!
I gained a lot of weight when my partner cheated on me. I turned to food to feel better about myself. I used food as a means of reward to feel better. Couple that with a relatively sedentary lifestyle and you've got a perfect recipe for weight gain!
PS: What drew you to weightlifting specifically?
KV: I started lifting weights because cardio always left me feeling drained. So I tried weightlifting! I was fortunate enough to have a good friend show me how to do deadlifts and squats, and that's all I did for months. Slowly I started branching out and trying new things.
"Once you trust yourself and have faith in your own abilities, then everything will fall into place!"
I have had this idea that I needed to diet or work out since I was 12 years old. That's more than half of my life! I kept thinking to myself that I'll dedicate my time to it later. After next semester. After the Summer. After I get my bachelor's degree. Little did I realize that I was just putting off my efforts for years. I've tried swimming, DVD programs, and plain old cardio. None of them worked because I wasn't ready for the lifestyle change, nor did I believe in myself. I've learned that just having the belief that you can change is oftentimes the biggest barrier to achieving your goals. Once you trust yourself and have faith in your own abilities, then everything will fall into place!
I think another huge thing is that I always got so stressed about making immediate lifestyle changes. I wouldn't just start working out; I would try to go vegan and start home-cooking and meal prepping and start working out all at the same time. I know now that those extreme changes are not helpful. It really does take baby steps when it comes to making lifestyle changes!
PS: What's your favourite way to work out?
KV: I am beyond passionate about lifting weights! It's such a fun and challenging way to achieve your fitness goals! Lifting has boosted my confidence more than I thought possible. I really love when I can work out with friends who help push me to try harder and lift heavier. Oftentimes that's enough for me to beat a personal record!
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
KV: When I first started, I was working out once a week for about a month or two. Then I started feeling so good every time after I worked out. So I started going two to three times a week for a few more months. After that, I really started noticing my progress and was feeling so good about myself so I started going almost every day. For the last five months, I literally go six times a week. It's not a chore or a punishment for me; it is my passion. I feel so blessed to have discovered weightlifting! It makes you feel so capable and strong and those feelings fuel my passion!
It took me just under a year, but I went from just doing a 10-minute cardio warmup followed by deadlifts and squats every day to hitting every muscle group each week!
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
KV: Work out with friends! Take lots of before and after photos and enjoy your progress! Listen to your new favourite song only when you're working out (my mum told me this one and trust me, it works!). I have made so many friends at my gym, and being naturally outgoing, it helps when I get to work out with them.
PS: How much weight have you lost?
KV: I've lost 35 kilos! The first 11 kilos I lost were just from getting off of birth control, but the rest was all from weightlifting! I went from 225 at my heaviest recorded weight (but I can almost guarantee I was heavier; I just avoided the scale!) to 67 kilos right now.
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
KV: Being able to fit into clothes that I never thought I'd fit into again. It's a surreal feeling. I vividly recall trying on a dress again that hadn't fit in years and finding that it was way too big. I was drowning in it. And I just looked at myself in the mirror and broke down in tears. I was so damn proud of myself; never did I imagine I would ever lose weight and get healthier. I never believed in myself until that moment. That was a very cathartic moment for me!
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
KV: I used MyFitnessPal to track my food and my weight. Although, when I started working out, I didn't adjust my diet at all and was still eating out a lot, so I didn't always track my food because I felt guilty. And weirdly enough I use Instagram a LOT to track my progress. I post a lot of before and after photos and the support I receive on there is a phenomenal source of extra motivation for me!
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
KV: I have been eating Oats Overnight, which is a pre-packaged high-protein oatmeal, every morning for breakfast (I found them through Instagram!), and I usually eat chicken breast and frozen veggies for lunch. I don't always have time to grill up the chicken myself, so I get the rotisserie chickens or roast turkey breast! Then I'll have Chipotle or a homemade acai bowl for dinner after a good workout session!
I snack on corn thins and rice cakes a lot at work. I like to mindlessly snack when I'm writing code and working on software and they're pretty guilt-free and super filling! I also like to snack on protein granola from Sprouts or fresh blueberries.
PS: Do you count calories?
KV: I do on occasion. I used to do it religiously, but after six to seven months of tracking, I've gotten a pretty good idea about what I'm putting in my body. I eat intuitively now and don't feel as stressed when it comes to tracking my calories. It's easy to get caught up in trying to eat as little as possible, but it's just not worth it. I'm probably sitting at around 1,800 calories a day, but I eat pretty clean, so it's a lot of protein!
Kaitlyn: Before and After
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
KV: Almond milk and blueberries! As far as non-fridge items go, I always have frozen acai purée in my freezer and bananas and granola on my counter. Also, I don't think I could survive without my peanut butter powder at this point. I put it in every shake I make!
PS: How do you strategise for meals out?
KV: I don't anymore! I don't crave fast food, so when I do go out I just listen to my body. I used to eat until I was so full that I felt ill and bloated. I don't do that anymore; instead I like to actually enjoy the food I'm eating! The nice thing about weightlifting is that if you eat more food, it just means you're fuelling your body more!
"I just looked at myself in the mirror and broke down in tears. I was so damn proud of myself."
PS: Do you use a fitness tracker?
KV: I use a Fitbit Charge HR 2. It helps me keep track of my heart rate, which I love when I'm working out!
PS: What role did weightlifting play in your journey? Would you recommend it?
KV: I literally recommend weightlifting to all my friends! Just for the fact that it makes you feel so great about yourself!
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
KV: Please let yourself celebrate the little victories, like ordering a medium instead of a large meal at a fast-food restaurant! It's such a slow process, but it is absolutely worth it! Find something physical that you love and let yourself develop a passion for it. Let it become more than a temporary thing to lose weight. If you can find something that can be a lifelong hobby, then you're going to go so far!