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I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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How I Lost 25 Pounds and 7% Body Fat

February 8, 2019

How I lost 25 pounds and 7% body fat

I had only ever been at this high of a weight after my freshman year of college.

I was not happy with how I looked or how I felt. I knew I needed to do something about it but let’s be honest…sports were always the way that I stayed fit when I was younger and then I transitioned to college where I walked miles every day to class.

Now I’m out of school, working on a laptop for hours on end every day, and going to the gym is just another chore on my list of things to do.

At least that’s how I felt until I met my trainer, Marissa. I had been through a few trainers trying to find one that would be right for me but none of them motivated me like Marissa OR had a program that fit exactly what I needed.

We’ve been working together for a little over a year and a half now and I can’t thank her enough for how much she’s transformed me –– at my fittest, I was down 25 pounds AND 7% body fat.

Weight loss for brides

Admittedly, I have slipped a little from that, all completely my own doing by not following what I know works and what Marissa has trained me to do. Super frustrating.

So I’m partially writing this post for you and partially for me…which means, if we follow these steps together, we will be posing in our beach bods by summer (or if you’re a bride, by your wedding!!!) 💪

Step 1: Take Measurements

I had very loose goals of what I wanted to achieve when I started. I knew I wanted to lose weight and be more toned but I didn’t really know what “numbers” would reflect that.

We started with measurements:

  • Weight
  • Body fat %
  • Inches around my bicep
  • Inches around the widest part of my hips
  • Inches around my thigh
  • Inches around my shoulders

I cannot stress enough the importance of taking measurements!!!

My biggest accomplishments actually didn’t come from seeing the number on the scale (slowly) drop –– it came from seeing the inches I’d lost!

We took measurements every once in awhile (about every 2 months or so) which was helpful for me because there was enough time that I could actually see some results and not feel discouraged. If you’re looking for faster results and higher accountability, take them more often.

Step 2: Consistency

I will be honest…when I started working with my first personal trainer, I was TERRIBLE at being consistent. When Marissa was assigned to me, she was actually warned that I would be hard to get a hold of because I was always working or getting sick and having to cancel (thank you unhealthy work environment).

She pushed me to stay on a strict schedule. I started working with her 2 times a week for 30 minutes. I would occasionally run on the other days of the week.

When I started to pick up speed and see a few results, she encouraged me to do more. So I started slow and only took on what I knew I would consistently do every single week.

It looked a little like this:

  • Monday – walk/run by myself (usually a few miles)
  • Tuesday – train with Marissa, walk/run for 30 minutes
  • Wednesday – walk/run for 30 minutes, yoga for an hour
  • Thursday – train with Marissa, walk/run for 30 minutes
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – Morning yoga, walk for 30 minutes (occasionally)
  • Sunday – rest

I probably shouldn’t have taken the whole weekend off but I was always so busy! (and tired lol) I did get into the habit of going to the morning yoga class and since I had already gotten up and dressed for the gym I would stay and walk/run after.

The best results I ever saw were when I was super dedicated to my schedule.

I’m reminding myself of this truth now because I really, really need to hear it!! This is definitely how I’ve fallen off my progress and gained a lot of the weight back.

It’s nice to know that the schedule that worked for me wasn’t some crazy, unrealistic thing. It was just simple –– but it was almost every day.

If you are looking to lose weight, being consistent is the only way to do it. If you are concerned that you can’t push yourself to do it, get a trainer (I highly recommend Marissa!!!!).

They will encourage you and keep you strict to a schedule you can’t move because it affects someone else. Not to mention nothing holds you accountable like paying money 🙂

Step 3: Have A Balance Of Strength And Cardio

Marissa can definitely speak better to the actual program she designed than me, but when I was feeling the best about the way I looked and felt, I was doing a mix of strength training and cardio.

I didn’t know anything about lifting weights. Cardio was actually the only thing I felt comfortable with in the gym.

But cardio alone won’t give you the butt you’ve always dreamed of 🍑

She worked with me to learn to be comfortable with the weights and taught me a lot about how to use just my body weight to tone specific areas. She also made sure that even in the strength training we were keeping my heart rate up.

This usually looked like doing weight training in the beginning of the session and then ending with some kind of circuit. I loved this structure because it allowed me to warm up, feel strong, and then finish with a good sweat. When I followed it with a fast-walking / light-jogging, it was a great balance to keep my heart rate in a fat burning zone while also building the muscle underneath.

Either way, you have to have both.

If you’re really into weight lifting, make sure that you’re adding cardio or doing some plyometrics in your super-sets.

If you’re really into cardio, add strength and toning too. If you’re uncomfortable getting started or don’t know what to do, get a trainer to teach you.

Step 4: Nutrition And Diet

I know Marissa will laugh when she reads this and you will probably roll your eyes (because you know it’s true)…your diet is a HUGE part of your weight loss goal.

It’s so annoying though. I’m a fan of cheeseburgers and french fries and popcorn for dinner, so this is the last piece of my health plan I put into action. It also had the biggest effect.

When I was working my butt off and seeing some results, Marissa let me know that that was great but I was going to hit a plateau –– I would only really start to see exponential progress once I put as much effort into my diet as I did my workouts. As much as I hate it (because I love fries), she was right.

Marissa was constantly asking me about what I was eating and drinking. I kept logs of what I was eating, mostly surprised about how little it actually was. I was super distracted by work and too tired to cook anything substantial when I got home.

I think it’s funny how typically people are trying to go on “diets” when in reality, it’s not that you’re eating too much…it’s that you’re not eating enough!

Marissa took me to the grocery store and taught me how to shop for things that would help. She gave me tips for finding things that would allow me to still eat like a normal person and enjoy life, but also reach my goals

Really what I found was that I loved the food she was recommending, I just needed to take the time to buy, cook, and actually eat it.

Side note: This is when I was introduced to greek yogurt and boyyyy did that change my life lol. I have a bowl of greek yogurt with a banana, strawberries or blueberries, and granola every morning. This starts my day off right and gives me a little extra protein and sweetness!

It took me awhile before I actually took this part seriously. I actually didn’t really do it until I left my job, had way less of an income, and was forced to stop eating out for every single meal. I call it the “unemployment diet” as a joke, but honestly that was the healthiest I’d ever eaten!!

I meal prepped for lunches and dinners, had my greek yogurt every morning, and tried new snack foods that Marissa put into my meal plan.

I’m no chef (though I’m trying to get better!), so the things she suggested were super easy for me to do. A few of my go-to meals were things like grilled shrimp with zucchini noodles and spaghetti sauce, chicken or beef kielbasa with rice and broccoli, or just baked veggies with grilled chicken. Then I made sure to have a good source of protein, usually a shake, right after workouts.

I still splurged on big bowls of spaghetti and chilli cheeseburgers on special occasions, but I was very intentional about buying food at the grocery store and then eating all of my meals at home.

You. Can. Not. Lose. Weight. Eating. Like. Crap.

End of story. Accept it. Do it.

This is another truth I’m trying to re-convince myself of!!! This is a constant process!!!

Step 5: Make Time For Taking Care Of Yourself

This may actually be the hardest one.

As I am writing this post, I have gained about 8-10 pounds back of what I worked so hard to lose.

Why? How?

Because I stopped making it a priority. I stopped pushing myself and being intentional about the time I was spending taking care of myself. I put work and being tired and Netflix and other lame excuses in front of doing the thing that made me feel so confident every day I woke up…which is just silly.

I really did get to a point where I loved the gym. I still do once I get there. Aside from being really proud every time I looked in a mirror, I loved the mental state it put me in.

When I train with Marissa, I can dump all of my drama and stress on her in the first 10 minutes and then focus on literally getting stronger every minute after that.

When I train by myself, I can clear my head from anything that is negative or distracting, listen to podcasts, or just pump myself up with music.

It sounds cheesy but I’m serious!!! All my people who regularly gym know what I’m talking about.

There are a million and one excuses about why you’re waking up every day, not going to the gym, eating the fastest take out, and coming home just to fall asleep and do it again. I’m not saying it’s easy to make time. Trust me, I know.

I started my fitness journey will running a million dollar agency with way too much to be done and way too little people to do it, keeping a side hustle alive, trying to be social, and having all of the unexpected things happen.

What I am saying is that it’s possible to be fierce about your health and treat it like a meeting you can’t miss –– and if you need to, actually make it a meeting you can’t miss by getting a trainer!!!

The Best Part: The Results

Okay, I’m going to be superrrrr transparent here…mostly because I’m really freakin’ proud of these numbers. I also think people don’t really believe the progress that I had until I show pictures and stats. All of these were tracked over the course of about a year, but I didn’t really start putting on the gas until about 6 months in.

Here we go.

What I’m most proud of:

  • 6 WHOLE INCHES lost in my hips!!!!
  • Being able to say “yeah, I think that’s too light” when I start with a weight set
  • Having legs that are toned enough that that’s what everyone notices when I post an instagram
  • Being down to the same weight I was when I graduated high school…but looking better
  • Feeling like a have a ton of energy and saving money by not eating out all of the time
  • Ordering and trying on bathing suits being a fun activity

Hopefully when you read the title of this post you weren’t expecting some fad diet or 15 minute workout routine that will get you the results you’re looking for, because it takes consistent, hard work.

But it’s so worth it!!!! And this is what I’m telling myself now that I’ve looked in the mirror and miss all of the accomplishments I listed above. There is no time like the present –– we can do this!!

Shameless but completely earned plug: If you are in Wilmington and you are 1) a bride looking to get in shape, 2) a fresh-out-of-college office desk sitter, 3) just a human who needs someone to push them to the next level, Marissa is YOUR GIRL. She is the best trainer I’ve ever worked with (I’ve had 4!) and I would recommend her to anyone.

If you have questions about the experience, I’m happy to answer anything! If you’d like to reach out to her, I know she’d love it! You can email her at marissa.iwanylofit@gmail.com  for training details and follow heron Instagram at @fitmedjournals for free tips and advice!

So I told you that I have definitely strayed from where I want to be physically, which is why I wrote this post –– for you and for ME! I am using this community to hold myself accountable because if you post about it on social, you have to do it right 😉

If you’re making any changes to your fitness routine –– we’re talking even just committing to an extra 30 minutes of walking or a greek yogurt bowl every morning –– comment what you’re doing below so we can do it together!


I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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