How to Get in Shape // 5 Step Plan

I’ve been ruminating on this post for awhile.  Now that I have the experience of training for and competing in an NPC bikini contest behind me, I’ve been on my own to try to maintain the body I built in those six months.  I made significant progress, going from about 25% body fat and 115 pounds to probably 15% body fat (I’m not 100% sure on that number because we stopped measuring at 17 or 19%.  I was supposed to get my body fat tested at the Bod Pod, but they cancelled because the machine wasn’t working), and I competed at 100 pounds.
Although I wasn’t grossly out of shape at the beginning of my competition prep, I was surprised at just how hard I had to work and for how long.  The changes don’t come easy, but they do come.  You can count on that if you’re doing the exercise and eating properly.  So, I’ve been reflecting on exactly HOW I made those changes and how I stuck to it for so long and I realized five key things about how to get in shape. 
1.  Decide that you are going to make a change.  First and foremost, you have to commit to not only wanting to make a change, but that you are actually going to make that change.  For me, a big motivator was knowing I did not want to end up in July 2014, where I was in July 2013.  I wanted to be in great shape and not feeling bad about myself.  So, the new year of 2014 marked the beginning of implementing those changes.  I knew if I started in January, I’d have significant results by July.  If you set a goal (a family or high school reunion, a birthday, anniversary, vacation, or bikini contest) and back the time out so you can work towards it, keeping that goal in mind will help keep you committed and focused.  Our minds and spirit are very powerful.  When my body would tell me it didn’t want to work out or eat another piece of fish, I just treated it like a child that doesn’t get to tell me what to do. It didn’t know best since I had already decided months ago what I wanted to achieve. Instead, I did what I knew I needed to do to get me to the goal I set.  In those “weak” moments, listen to your “higher self”, the one that already made the decision to get in shape and create a new life. 
2.  Fit your day around your workout instead of trying to fit your workout into your day.   The last couple of weeks I have fallen off of the workout train and I just couldn’t seem to get it to fit into my day.  I’m home with my son for the summer and I wanted to spend those days with him, so he’s not going to camp.  I used to workout first thing in the morning, but now, our mornings are lazy, and we’re chilling out in pj’s watching cartoons (him) and drinking coffee (me) well past 10:00 a.m.  And then I need to be fueled up for a strong workout, so I figure, we need to wait until after lunch to head to the gym.  But, after lunch finds us heading to swim class or running errands or just not feeling like breaking up the day with a workout, so I tell myself, “I’ll go when my husband gets home.” But, then it’s time to make dinner and eat, and then get my son ready for bed and it gets late, so I say, “I’ll just go tomorrow. . . . ”  Sound familiar?? 
If you continue like that, you’ll never make it to the gym, or you will, but your efforts will be sporadic and you won’t get the results you want.  You must decide in advance when you will workout (whether it’s at 5:30 a.m. to Insanity home videos like my friend Angela) or at lunch, or after work, or after the kids are in bed.  Then, you decide how to fit your day around your workout.  Yes, it requires planning.   Yes, some other things you might have to say no to.  But, once you get into your routine, it just becomes part of your day.  I did best to actually schedule my entire day on paper so I could visually see how my day would fit around my workout and meal plan since I ate five meals a day.  The RED indicates cardio and training sessions and the pencil circle marks indicate when I needed to eat.  I had to prep meals in advance and often eat in the car or at my son’s swim lessons, etc. 
3.  Consider hiring a trainer or finding a workout partner.  A trainer isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you need that person to keep you accountable to your workouts, it’s worth it.  You could have a friend as your accountability partner, just make sure she is reliable and won’t flake on you.  You need someone tough who will keep their appointments and also, not just chat with you during the workout.  You should be making the most of your time in the gym,  working those muscles, huffing and puffing, and sweating!  
If you aren’t familiar with the machines, or a beginner when it comes to lifting weights, it is a good idea to use an experienced trainer so you don’t get hurt.  I’ve had good and not-so-good trainers in the past, but John Sherman and Monica Isles were the best.  I saw the best results with John though, because I worked out more often with him and because I followed his meal plan.  Which leads me to the next point. 
4.  Working out consistently will cause you to eat better.  Working out will only get you so far in changing your physique.  You have to eat better too.  Something about having physically worked out so hard and sweating and hurting will make you say, “That piece of cake or pizza just isn’t worth it.”  You start to understand how eating those extra calories and fat will translate into that much more work to get it off and you don’t want it!  That is why I kept finding myself saying, “The diet isn’t that hard.”  Or at least not as hard as I thought it would be.  You’ll look forward to (and enjoy more) the “cheat” meals on the weekend.  You can go HERE to see my bikini contest meal plan
5.  Once you start, small changes will keep you motivated, just stick with it!  My trainer casually remarked to me when we first started working out together, “You’re gonna like your body way before the competition.”  I didn’t give it too much thought at the time, but man was he right!  Although, it took a long time to get to “bikini contest” ready, I felt great in my skin long before that.  Your clothes will start fitting better, your face will change, you skin will be brighter, your energy will be higher, you will have more confidence and inner strength and that feels so good.  I started noticing changes in my body within just two weeks of working out and eating better, but the changes kept coming as long as I stuck with it.   In time, you WILL reach your goal.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I may use them in a future post.  Have a great weekend!

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Meet Megan

Hi! I’m Megan, mom to a thoughtful teenager and spunky young girl. We call Houston home and recently moved into our dream home. I traded my lawyer hat to become a full-time blogger in 2010. I love sharing my passion for affordable fashion, home decor, organization, & fitness to help inspire you to take care of you!


  1. This post couldn't have come at a better time. As a mother of two little ones (3 and 1) you've inspired me to get back into shape. However, it's definitely not easy. I've looked into a trainer but it seems most only train and not necessarily help with a meal plan. Others seem to sale nothing more than just add this supplement(s) but not help with meals. I'm at my target weight but would love to be toned before we plan for baby number 3. Any tips on meal planning would be wonderful! I'm a planner, just not sure what all I outta to be eating.

  2. Great tips Megan. These all seem like a no-brainer, but I would have to say that for me, the hardest for me to trying to find time. With having a little one, I feel like no 2 days are ever the same so I always have to squeeze in a little time here and there for my home workouts. I've been wanting to hit the gym more just so I can use the machines. BUT, you are so right – you should plan your day around your workout (not the other way around). I would LOVE to find a great workout partner who's there to actually workout. Sadly, none of my gfs are as dedicated and when we do workout, it's more chit-chat which is a bummer. Hope you're having an amazing weekend 🙂

  3. Great post Megan! I have had the hardest time scheduling and sticking to my workouts this summer. It's time to get started again. Thanks of the motivation.

  4. #1 is spot on and the most important for 2 reasons. Most importantly it'll get you started-after I had my first child, an acquaintance gave me the best advice, and it even resonates into many more parts of life besides just working out, although we happened to be talking about losing weight. She said to me, "you'll know when you're ready." I've had multiple times where I've had to commit to losing weight, or changing my exercise and eating habits and I remind myself of that little piece of advice. There's no sense in stressing about what needs to be done-when I'm ready, it won't be stressful. Also, it makes me sad when I see people I know, and people I don't know, fall for gimmicks and what they think will be quick fixes. You don't need those-you just need to commit!!!
    I've completed 4 weeks of the Stronglifts 5×5 program and I love it and the results happen so quickly-obviously I'm not where I want to be, but the progress so far drives me!
    I'm curious, have you looked into IIFYM at all? I think you would really enjoy it and there are TONS of people (over 16k) on the FB group with admins who are there to answer your questions (I've actually been in contact with them, so I can testify that they are legit)

  5. After 2 years of not working out during pregnancy and then a year of nursing, I just now started going back to barre class, but I am really struggling with fitting it into my week. I work FT, so going after work is not an option as that's the only time I have with my daughter. By the time she's asleep, all of the classes are over. On weekends, I want to spend as much time as I can with her, so again I try to only work out if classes are during nap times…and we try to cram so much into our weekends as well. I hope to figure out a better balance soon…

  6. This was just what I needed!!!!!!!!! Scheduling your day around your workout instead of the other way around makes so much sense, and I love the little details of changes you pointed out that you'll notice after working out for a bit, like your face changing and your skin being brighter. For some reason that is even more encouraging than thinking of a perfectly toned body.

  7. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey. You look great. Congratulations! I am probably an inch or 2 taller than you, about 117 lbs. I've always worked out, but I seem to maintain. I do enjoy my weekend food and drinks, so I know that doesn't help my losing weight, but I am really determined to lose approx 8 lbs or so, I think it will help with my clothes and the way I feel about myself. Questions: what did you eat when you went out to dinner? Did you order alcoholic drinks? Is it important to weigh food? And did you ever feel hungry on your diet?
    Thanks for any feedback you can offer. 🙂

    1. Great questions Jill! I was not hungry on my competition diet because I was always eating, and it was a lot of food. If I was going to dinner to my family (parents or sis-n-law) I actually brought my own food- usually a grilled chicken salad. Dinners out at a restaurant, I'd order grilled chicken (no butter or oil) and steamed veggies. Most restaurants can make that. I did weigh my chicken and fish and potatoes, and measured 1 cup of veggies. You can do it! And you'll feel so good! Thanks for reading Jill!

  8. Great tips! It's like you know what to do but putting that know into motion is the hardest part!
    I really liked in your first tip about your higher self – often I feel really motivated but then something will throw me off and I think "Screw it, I love myself I can eat this(whole!) pizza!" and forget my goals all together – until the next morning when my higher self is like, "Self. Not cool. We have goals!" That really struck home to me.

  9. Oh my goodness . . . your tips and your recipes are wonderful. It is so hard to find light ideas for interesting meals. I am probably not your average follower but I want to make some changes in my life style and live a healthier life. This spring my husband and I bought a place in the country, after living in our home in the suburbs for 33 years. We now are raising a garden and it is going crazy with fresh and wonderful produce. My new neighbor and I have been meeting at her house for a weekly weigh-in and we are encouraging one another to exercise and eat and live healthier lives. We are both senior citizens with husbands that we want to grow old with and to get out and enjoy life with. Your blog is going to be a blessing. Thank you.
    I would love to invite you over to follow me back, not that my blog is anything like yours, but seeing your smiling face in my comments now and then will be a great encouragement. Life is a gift and we need to honor it by taking the best care of ourselves are we can 🙂
    Have a sweet and happy weekend.
    Connie 🙂

  10. I just stumbled across your blog from Pinterest and wow! You are such an inspiration! I have a questions.:. My husband's and my family are big social eaters! Anytime we get together we go out to eat. How do you stay on track when friends and family constantly want to eat out??

    1. Great question Allie! If I wanted to go out to eat with family, I either planned on that meal for my "cheat" meal for the week, or I just order grilled chicken (no oil or butter) and a side of steamed veggies. It's not really the food we bond over, but the company. So just being there is the important part.

  11. Megan,

    I'm 52 years old and as a young woman always worked out. Although it wasn't always easy to "fit it in" I always loved it. I completely agree that when you are in a solid exercise routine, healthy food is what your body craves and fat and sugar based food simply don't have the appeal they might otherwise. At about 35-36 years old I let my routine slide a bit at a time until I was not working out at all. I am of the belief, with hindsight, that this a major reason I developed Fibromyalgia. After years of suffering greatly with this diagnoses and all of its ups and downs I think I'm finally in a place where I'm physically ready to get back to a solid exercise routine. It will not be easy but my body is read, my mental state is another story, as it is for many people. I found your site through Pintrest and your "Honey we're Home". Great site and pins by the way.
    I've been reading your fitness posts and you are so very inspirational. These posts have really been helping me think through some of the mental blocks I've been fighting. I plan to continue to follow your posts as part of my continuing mental/emotional support to my routine.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and know that it is helping others motivate to be their best selves.

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