5 Years After Weight Loss

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5 years ago this month I concluded a big weight loss. I thought it was time to do a follow up post of how the past 5 years have faired. I’ve got lots of thoughts I want to share, hoping this can help people out there in some way or another. Weight is something so many people struggle with, always trying to figure out that magic solution, when really what works for one person may not work for another. Our individual determination level is also factored into the equation. I’m quite resolute that it isn’t HOW you lose the weight, but how you’ve changed your lifestyle after the fact. There are 100+ different ways to lose, and to maintain, this is what I’ve done.

{I’m also very sensitive to the fact that I have teenage friends who often read what I write, and I want to emphasize that what I did at 33 is not what I recommend to teens out there. My daughter is almost 12, and I’m terrified of sending the wrong message in conversation or my actions, but as of now, she doesn’t read my blog. When the time comes, I’m happy to share with her what I did, I don’t regret it, it worked for me. I feel grateful that I’ve always felt a healthy dose of understanding when it comes to my body and weight. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I haven’t let it rule my life, and have not struggled with any of the mental illnesses associated with diet. BUT, it’s a real thing, and I caution any youth out there to advise with your parents before doing anything extreme.}

5 Years After Quick Weight Loss striving to maintain healthy lifestyle

My Journey to Healthy Living

I’d never officially dieted before February 2012. I’d had 4 babies, and did my best to exercise well after them, but I never really changed my eating habits. They were ok, but not great. I knew to not eat TOO many sweets, but I didn’t really limit myself much. I figured I would exercise and lose weight well enough. I didn’t care too much that I wasn’t in tip top shape, I’d been a size 8-10 before I was married, I was just a size 12 after 4 kids, so no big deal!

I had my last baby in 2009, and after a year of nursing, I was just a bit heavier than I was after a year of nursing #3. With each child, I held onto a little bit more.

Just for fun, here is a picture of me at my heaviest (without a human inside of me), right after I had my youngest, April 2009.

quick weight loss journey

From the few times I “took a break” from chocolate or chips back in my single days, I knew I needed to do a major restriction for a time to kickstart my journey. I tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality, which I’m trying to alter my views in some ways.

Below, my baby is 2, April 2011, who knows how much I weighed then..I didn’t even have a scale, I didn’t care!  But I look back at this and embrace it. I didn’t care, I was happy, I don’t feel I look awful here. I sure fell in love with maxi dresses during my last pregnancy and continued wearing them for years. The best invention.

weight loss with my two year old

WHY does my baby have such a sad face here? Her outfit is SO cute! {One of my fave’s}

At some point…I began caring. Due to unfortunate circumstances that I had resigned myself to, I knew it was my last baby, and I knew it was time for a major overhaul.

I look at this trip we took to Disneyland in the summer of 2011, and….well, I look different. And I didn’t have 100 pounds to lose, or even 50, but 25 was about the total I was going for.

Disneyland family trip

I’m grateful that despite it all, I still loved life, danced with my kids, and asked my husband to document it (it’s something that’s really important to me!) because I wanted to be present in their lives (and have a record that I was).

I ran a half marathon around this same time, thinking that all that running would just melt off the pounds. Nope…it took me a while to fully realize that what I ate was the true detector of weight loss. I was frustrated, and not really sure what to do with myself. I remember writing a post in January 2012 titled: I really don’t like exercising and I want to eat whatever I want. Now there is a doozie of a headline!

running to lose the weight

I felt very accomplished running that 13.1 miles, it was HARD, and something I never even considered doing before, so I still look at it, and pat myself on the back. I thought I’d do one a year after that, but my knee’s have started to slowly bother me more and more, which has limited what I’ve been able to do. Had to give up my step aerobics that I loved.

All of a sudden, when my baby was almost 3, I started to get serious. I took drastic measures.

My Quick Weight Loss

I had done some research and decided to do a low calorie diet for 21 days. No sugar. No carbs. All protein and veggies with a little fruit. No exercise either, too few calories for that. I was determined and did not cheat ONE BIT of anything off “the list,” even while traveling to New York City. That first 21 days of lower calorie is followed by 21 more days of a medium sized calorie allowance, with a 6 week total of no sugar/no bread, carbs.

I love this side-by-side before and after of me wearing the exact same outfit, and really noticing the difference in my face and waist.

Quick-weight-loss before and after

Seriously I look at that and think…WOW, WHAT A DIFFERENCE 20 POUNDS MAKES!

Read all about my weight loss story if you’ve missed it, but really it’s what happens AFTER the loss that counts. Which is what I’m getting to!

It was enough time to really transform my way of thinking, and make calculated decisions about what I was putting in my mouth, losing 21 pounds total.

Just a month later, in April 2012, I went to my first blogging conference. It was this new world I’d been in for almost 2 years, friends I’d met online, that I got to meet in person, and I felt on top of the world good about myself. People were calling me “skinny” and I was like…”whaaaa???”  I had never ever in my life had that word associated with me. It felt a little uncomfortable, but nice at the same time.

weight loss journey kristen duke

{April 2012}

I was very, very selective with my food that entire year after, and when I found I could be selective and still remain the same weight, I gave myself more allowance on treats.

I was working out 5-6 days each week, generally 1 hour of some type of cardio. I became a cardio junkie.

weight loss

{July 2012: I wish these mint jeans looked like this on my now. Though my weight is about the same, I don’t fill them out the same.}

I made up this formula in my head that as long as I sweat for an hour each day, I could have a treat each day. I still feel pretty firm that if I do that, I can MAINTAIN pretty well what I’ve got going on.

weight loss quote

Learning to not Hate Exercise

Right now in my life (2017) I have just under 6 hours of TIME from the moment I drop off my high schooler in the morning to the moment I pick up my elementary schooler in the afternoon. I’ve got LOTS to do in that time, but I aim for 1 solid hour of exercise, which often trickles to 2 hours depending on if I go to the gym/driving, shower, the changing clothes, etc. That only leaves me with 4 hours to do everything else I need to (this blog is a JOB I’ve got to maintain along with all of the other “stuff” like grocery shopping, occasional friend lunch, eating bonbons while watching Netflix, etc.)

Back in 2012, working out with my toddler a few years ago was an integral part of our day, it was an activity, an event. We went to the gym a few days a week, walked or jogged other days. I wouldn’t say I ever grew to LOVE working out, but I didn’t hate it, it was my routine, I hated when I didn’t do it.  After that first year, I continued to feel great, and at some point I realized I wanted to be STRONG!  My cardio workouts did little to grow muscles, and I’ve spent the last few years spinning my wheels trying to figure out that secret formula to strength training, and I’ll admit, I haven’t quite figured out how to do it yet. I’ve hit a bit of a road block.

Here’s what I’ve tried:

  • 3x a week step aerobics/body pump/body combat Les Mills at gym
  • personal trainer at YMCA (3 months, then she had to quit)
  • CrossFit training schedule (PDF’s included) collab with my friend Sadie
  • Running, Biking, speed walking with weights
  • Barre classes
  • Hi Fitness Classes
  • Begging my husband to write me a program (he seems to not like me as a client–go figure)
  • Trying to figure out lifting weights on my own at gym (see below)
  • Beach Body on demand streaming subscription
  • Ashley Borden fitness streaming
  • Marci Barker Fitness (Loved this, but wanted more direction after initial)


{January 2015}

For each of these, I’d do them for 3-6 months and not see a whole lot of difference and feel deflated.

But I never really knew if I was being patient enough…not pushing myself enough…not doing it often enough…or just not doing it right.

With all of this, my big trouble has been my knee’s. As a former dancer who thought nothing about slamming my knees to the ground as a teen, it’s come back to haunt me. My husband has given me tips to re-hab my knees, but it’s a lifetime process that I need to keep up with, and can’t do a lot of deep knee stuff when I don’t.

I REALLY want to have a personal trainer yell at me 3 times a week in my face while I work out, like they do on TV, but that’s SOO much money I just don’t want to spend. I know from the brief stint that I had an instructor at the YMCA (it was cheap like $60 a month–but I quit YMCA) and felt I could be pushed more. But really, I felt she could have pushed me more and I felt frustrated then, too.

personal trainer quoteSo here’s the deal. Until the summer/fall of 2015, I did FABULOUSLY on keeping up my cardio! I fluctuated in pounds after vacations and such, but my way of thinking was that if I can stay in the 130’s, preferably 135, I didn’t care.

The problem with that is that my weight was fairly maintained, but I wasn’t fitting comfortably in those jeans that fit so well right after my weight loss. I was trying to get away with things, and thinking that I WAS, but I really wasn’t 100%. I couldn’t trick my body.

When Life throws you curves

Then crazy happened in my life.

All of that happened in 4 months, I was Tiiiiirrrred from the daily early teaching, and when my mom died, all of my gusto turned to pot. I ate whatever I darn well wanted, and it felt good. Oh yes, it tasted good, too. I didn’t put parameters on myself…for a few months. I was eating whatever I wanted, and barely exercised. Then, at one point, I forced myself to a walk 20 minutes a day for 3 days a week. I had to really WILL myself back on track. So much in all of this is your will power. Being in control of your natural urges to eat all the bad stuff!

New Orleans Library mural

{Spring 2016}

Then I had to pick myself up off the floor, and shed the 10 pounds that I gained. That was last spring, just after this picture above, when I did Whole 30 to cleanse myself and re-set my eating patterns. I was not going to go back to how it was before. No siree, too much effort to go back. It helped…then it was summer and travel, and I don’t do so great with healthy living on vacation!

In September 2016 I was in major stress mode preparing everything for the launch of The Camera Academy for Moms. I was literally working non-stop while my kids were at school (and many days all afternoon/evening), had to set timers to remind myself to eat, and figured if I couldn’t squeeze in exercise time, I was going to be very diligent about what I ate. That really helped in the slimming process.

I’ve decided that if you want to see results QUICK, be very very strict about what you eat for 14-21 days, and take light strolls to keep your heart strong, no real exercise. Whole 30 is a good place to start, I’ve incorporated a lot of that plan into my daily eating habits. I’d say my diet is 80% paleo/whole 30. I just don’t eat a lot of grains, breads, pasta these days. Really, the past 5 years it’s been that way.

But I do love those Chic-Fil-A fries…dipped in the Chic-Fil-A sauce every once in a while. MMmmmmm, delicious!

Kristen Duke in flowers

{Summer 2016}

Back on the Wagon

Here is just a little snippet into what my days/weeks look like.

My daily eating tends to be something like this (and I don’t divert a whole lot because I don’t like to THINK too much):

  • 5:15 fruit: apple, orange, or banana
  • 7:30 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup almond milk, heat 1 minute, add in honey, walnuts, raspberries
  • 11:30 lunch: scrambled eggs and avocado at home or a salad out (favorites are Salatta, Chic Fil A, McDonalds, Mad Greens)
  • 3:00 snack: handful of mixed nuts, cave man bar (my current favorite), protein shake or my husband usually makes a batch of these chewy protein bites each Sunday and they last most of the week.
  • 5:30 dinner: meat and veggies on a small plate with a small serving so I can get seconds!  A few nights a week we have a spinach/fruit smoothie with dinner. (Love this Goji berry smoothie)
  • 7:30 I have trained myself and my stomach to not eat much after dinner. I rarely am HUNGRY but will eat fruit, carrots, a piece of gum to curb the need for sweet, or more mixed nuts.

Now of course I’m not perfect every day, but I tend to save my treats for outings and weekends. And I’m intentional about them, I plan for them, I bake something good like my favorite chocolate chip cookies or mint cookies. And I will sometimes get a hankering for delicious cereal (Raisin Nut Bran, Apple Jacks) and will eat that instead of morning oatmeal, sometimes for lunch.

My weekly exercise has to be somewhat scheduled, it helps me DO IT. I also prefer to do it before 10am and be done for the day, but it doesn’t always happen. I’ll take a 20 minute evening speed walk with weights if not. My girls like to join me for this or a neighbor.

  • Monday: 45 minutes weights, 20 min cardio,
  • Tuesday: 45 min speed walk/run (on my toes)/bike ride
  • Wednesday: 45 minutes weights, 20 min cardio
  • Thursday: 45 min speed walk/run (on my toes)/bike ride
  • Friday: 45 minutes weights, 20 min cardio
  • Saturday: 45 min speed walk/run (on my toes)/bike ride
  • Sunday: rest day! Sometimes an evening stroll with the family

With each day, I’m trying to incorporate some knee strengthening exercises, but it’s hard to remember or want to do them. 1 minute plank, foam roll both legs 5 minutes, leg exercises for strength.

Setting Goals

My ideal is to be in the 130’s on the scale, and for a while, I used the scale to “keep me in check”. I think the highest I’ve hit in the last 5 years is 145, but the majority of the time I’ve been around 138, which I am right now. Still unable to fit well into those mint jeans though. BUT, I’ve decided while I’m trying to work on my muscles, I’ve kicked the scale and just keeping myself in check with my choices, and often (the app) My Fitness Pal helps to track what I eat throughout the day.

I’m trying something new to get stronger, and I’ll share with you after I try it for a bit. I’m cautiously excited about it, we shall see.

I turn 39 in July, and my BIG BIG goal is to be super strong by my 40th birthday. I’ve had this goal for at least a year or so, and I decided if I don’t see a major difference in 6 months with what I’m doing, I’m going to splurge for that personal trainer. I need to be taught how to do the weights thing.

5 Years after extreme weight loss journey

Really the hardest thing for me, is that I’m WILLING to work hard, I just don’t really understand how to best push myself. I didn’t realize until recently that when I do weights at the gym, I’m supposed to steadily increase the reps or the weights or I get stagnant, and I’m like….”really?!?”

That’s a lot of brain power to remember how much weight I had on this machine last time, enough to do more this time, and I have to take notes at the gym, etc. etc. and that’s just annoying!!

So yeah…need that personal trainer to tell me what to do!  I do really well at being TOLD what to do, but figuring it out anew each time seems like an insurmountable task.


I’m happy with myself. Though I’ve fluctuated up and down and back and forth over the past 5 years, I feel I’ve maintained fairly well with life’s ebbing and flowing. I’ve fallen off the horse, but eventually I’d get back up. I’ll be disciplined at times, and let go at others. I stress myself out about it, then I deal with it.

I’ve got a healthy body, I rarely get sick, and besides my knee issues, I don’t have limitations when it comes to my health. I may always have that extra skin on my stomach, and dimples in places I don’t love, but I’m ok with that. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable in a swimsuit without a skirt on it, but I don’t let it consume me. It is what it is. I’d like to be stronger, have more definition, but I haven’t quite taken the right steps to get there, so we’ll see where the next year takes me.

I think it’s also important to note that it’s not necessarily easy for me to make healthy choices, but the more I do it, the more natural it becomes.

If you got all the way to the end…BLESS YOU! Thanks for “listening” and I’m hoping what I share can help someone out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts, your journey, your favorite “healthy living” tips!

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