After years of mindless eating and enjoying frequent drinks with coworkers, Jamie Lanigan realized her weight had ballooned and she carried almost 400 pounds on her 5-foot-9-inch frame. But thanks to a lunch club and an exercise routine, she’s lost 145 pounds and expects to shed more.
“My end goal is to be fit, whatever that looks like on the scale,” Lanigan, 33, told TODAY. “I am not looking at a number I want to hit. It’s overall fitness and it is a lifestyle.”
Lanigan, who lives in Toronto, has always been overweight, but a high-paced career in advertising contributed to a big gain. Crushing deadlines meant she noshed on what was fast and convenient, and often loaded with calories. After long days, she frequently joined her coworkers at the bar.
“I would eat a lot at my desk mindlessly and then I would go out a lot with colleagues and drink beers,” she said.
When her weight increased to more than 370 pounds, she considered weight loss surgery. But then she realized she had never even attempted to lose weight on her own. So she decided to see what would happen if she tried.
“I cleaned up my eating habits, started working out, and drank a ton of water,” she said.
Getting a new job five years ago helped in ways she never anticipated. Her new office hosted a lunch club: Each day, a different person brought in a homemade healthy meal for everyone in the club. Suddenly, Lanigan was scouring blogs and social media for healthy, tasty meals.
“Lunch club helps you expand your own cooking repertoire,” she said. “When I am cooking for lunch club, I garnish it, I make sure I plate it properly. It is fun. It shows that you care.”
Lanigan shared these tips on how she lost weight and has maintained a healthy lifestyle:
1. Cook for others
Because she wanted to make lunches her coworkers also enjoyed, Lanigan challenged herself.
“It has to look good and be healthy. It has to be tasty. I don’t want to feed people bad food. That’s what made me really start cooking.,” she said. “You kind of get stuck into a rut when you are cooking for one. When you start to expand it out for people you care about, you go the extra mile."
Her coworkers enjoy her zucchini noodle lasagna, bowls with brown rice and black beans, and lemony chicken soup. All of her recipes are low fat and loaded with vegetables and whole grains.
2. Cook with others
Lanigan and a coworker cook together weekly as they make the meals together. They portion out what they make and freeze it, creating lunches and dinners for the week. Having someone to cook with keeps Lanigan accountable and makes cooking fun.
3. Ask for help
After rapidly losing 50 pounds, Lanigan’s weight loss stalled. That’s when she turned to a trainer to jump start her workout routine. She felt she needed the guidance to fine-tune her form. Years of being overweight meant that her knees hyper-extended; a trainer helped her correct that.
The extra boost encouraged her to make exercise a part of her life. Now, she works out five to six times a week for an hour and a half, boxing, lifting weights, and doing yoga.
4. Give yourself a break
Last week, coworkers brought cookies into work and Lanigan ate one. She didn’t beat herself up for it because she knows it's OK to have one cookie. It's when she eats too many cookies that it becomes a problem. But she reminds herself overeating leads to weight gain and makes her feel bad.
“I switch back my mindset to think of nourishing myself with proper fuel,” she said.
5. Pay attention
When Lanigan eats, she takes her time, drinks plenty of water, and chats with friends. Paying attention means she knows when to stop eating.
“I learned the trigger of being full and that I never knew before,” she said.