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‘I Was Overweight My Entire Life Until I Started Doing Keto And Low-Impact HIIT Workouts'

Women's Health logo Women's Health 1/27/2020 Justine Van Drunen, as told to Lauren Krouse

a woman posing for a picture: Justine Van Drunen started her weight loss journey at 300 pounds, and used low-impact HIIT workouts, a keto diet and macro-tracking to lose 141 pounds. © Courtesy Justine Van Drunen started her weight loss journey at 300 pounds, and used low-impact HIIT workouts, a keto diet and macro-tracking to lose 141 pounds. My name is Justine Van Drunen (@lean.justine), and I’m a 33-year-old graphic designer in Ontario, Canada. After falling in love and solidifying my career, I decided it was time to turn my focus to weight loss (for myself!). I started working out six days a week, discovered the keto diet, and lost 141 pounds.

I grew up on a dairy farm outside of a small town called Seaforth in Ontario, Canada. Despite physically working hard since I was little on the farm, I was overweight my entire life. While I did plenty of labor feeding animals and helping in the fields, I never played sports—or watched what I ate.

As I got older, my weight continued to climb. Most of my life I stayed away from the scale. The heavier I got, the harder and more distant any weight-loss goal seemed. When I went away to college, I was scared, nervous, and really missing home. As I made friends in my program, life became easier. But we routinely went out for drinks, food, and partied—all pretty standard ingredients for weight gain.

One time when I was back at home for a holiday break, I snuck away to weigh myself. I remember stepping on the scale and seeing 300 pounds. I felt so hopeless and lost. I wasn’t sure of how to even tackle that amount of weight. I’d tried many times throughout my life to diet and exercise, but it never stuck.

Family picture!

A post shared by Justine Van Drunen🇨🇦 (@lean.justine) on Jul 6, 2014 at 12:29pm PDT

Things changed for me when I met my amazing boyfriend (now my fiancé!) in April 2013.

I was at my heaviest weight, but he loved me for me. Three years later, in August 2016, we finally decided to sign up for a gym membership together.

At first, I was clueless as to where to begin. I had been living the opposite of a healthy life, so this was uncharted territory. I started working out with cardio machines like the stair stepper because I didn’t know the gym very well. And I started eating lots of whole foods.

Initially, I was doing great. By December 2016, I’d lost about 40 pounds. But then we decided to make Fridays our cheat day. Friday turned into Saturday, and Sunday, and then I was back at square one by Monday. This unhealthy roller coaster made me want to give up. I put the weight back on.

In March 2017, I decided to start fresh. This time felt different. I was ready to commit to a healthy body, mind, and soul.

While I had many moments over the years in which I felt I would change my lifestyle, I truly believed that this time was the real deal—because I wanted it for myself. I was ready to put my everything into a healthier future, and I wasn’t going to rely on someone else to do it for me. At this point in my life, I had my career set, and I was in love and had my fiancé beside me, so I was ready for a change that was solely focused on me.

I set a goal to lose 100 pounds by my birthday on January 8, 2018.

I also got serious about fitness and started working out six days a week.

Like with any lifestyle change, I knew I had a lot to learn, but I stuck with it. For every workout, I did about one hour of cardio plus a few exercises on weight machines. I spent a lot of time watching and absorbing as much as I could from online videos and other gym-goers.

As I learned more and gained more confidence in the gym, I started using free weights. But eventually my knee began to bother me, so I turned to low-impact HIIT workouts so I could continue on my journey to a healthier life.

I also learned about nutrition. For me, understanding macros was a game-changer.

When I learned about macros, aka macronutrients, I decided to start tracking the ratio of proteins, carbs, and fats I was taking in. I found a macro calculator online and set my starting point.

When I wasn’t seeing results, I tried lowering my carb intake. Ultimately, I started losing weight with a low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet—keto.

Here’s what I eat on a typical day:

  • Breakfast: One egg, a ½ cup of egg whites, an avocado, green tea, and coffee with cream
  • Lunch: Tuna salad (a can of tuna, pickles, mayo, and parmesan cheese) and a side Caesar salad
  • Snacks: Hard-boiled egg with turkey bacon, a protein bar, or parmesan crisps with guacamole
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon and a mixed greens salad with avocado

By October 2017, I’d lost 100 pounds. I’d reached my weight-loss goal three months earlier than I’d expected.

I felt unstoppable. By January 2018, I’d lost another 27 pounds. By April, I’d lost a total of 138 pounds. At this point, I’ve lost 141 pounds, and now I just want to maintain my current weight and gain muscle.

These days, I’m still going strong with regular workouts and a healthy diet. I love low-impact HIIT workouts, with weight lifting mixed in. I feel like I finally took control of something I’ve struggled with for so many years. I am strong, unstoppable, and most importantly, happy and healthy.

I’ve learned that weight-loss is never linear.

When I struggled to lose weight, I tried to look at it as a learning opportunity and ask myself why. It’s important to be ready to roll with the punches and make changes when things aren’t working.

Early on, I found the thought of wanting to lose over 100 pounds daunting, so I made it a point to shift my focus to the day in front of me. I’d do my best that day, and if I didn’t track everything perfectly or eat perfectly, I would take that in stride and commit to doing better the next day.

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