Take a quick scroll down Katie Dunlop’s Instagram page, and you’d probably assume that the super-toned personal trainer has always been #fitgoals. Dunlop, who has over 220,000 followers on the social platform, founded the YouTube channel Love Sweat Fitness and has authored multiple e-books about fitness, weight loss, and nutritious meal planning. But Dunlop told Health that her lifestyle wasn’t always so healthy: She used to yo-yo diet in an effort to shed pounds, and her hypothyroidism made her feel like she’d never achieve her health goals.
“I had been dealing with weight insecurities for years, probably since middle school,” Dunlop says. “I was always hyper-focused on size and my weight and what I was eating.”
She regularly turned to fad diets and trendy exercise programs (“There was a lot of Tai Bo in my life!”), but could never stick with a routine. “I’d do two weeks really hardcore, and then not be able to maintain that,” the influencer admits. “I felt emotionally rundown and was tired of being constantly consumed by my body image.”
About six months after college, Dunlop reached her heaviest weight and knew she needed to make a change. Yo-yo dieting wasn’t working, and she wanted to develop healthy habits that would really stick. Consistency became her new goal, and she decided she’d try to focus on being healthy and feeling good, not necessarily losing weight.
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The switch wasn’t easy. “I got rid of the scale,” Dunlop says. “As a woman, growing up all you think about is weight, weight, weight. It took time to get that out of my head and focus on feeling good.” Here, the strategies that helped Dunlop shift the way she thought about weight loss—and turn her healthy lifestyle into a career.
Finding a workout routine she could stick with
Dunlop started signing up for group fitness classes and fell in love with the atmosphere. She realized she wanted to teach others about health and fitness, so she eventually got certified as a barre and yoga sculpt instructor. “I felt like when I was teaching, I was my best self,” Dunlop says.
“I try to work out five to six times a week, usually three of those workouts are strength and conditioning, and two to three are some type of cardio, like HIIT or running,” she says.
Switching to a balanced diet
Being a personal trainer helped Dunlop become more educated about nutrition, and she quickly realized why her old eating habits never seemed to work. “I used to cut out all carbs, but then I’d be the person eating sugar-free candy,” she says.
Dunlop lost 45 pounds after she started loading her plate with more lean protein, healthy fats, and fresh veggies. As a bonus, she also found that some of her hypothyroidism symptoms like headaches and low energy improved.
Now, she eats five to six small meals a day, such as English muffin sandwiches with turkey bacon, egg, avocado, and spinach for breakfast, and spicy sriracha salmon with sweet potatoes and kale for dinner. Keeping protein-rich snacks on hand (think nuts or turkey jerky) help her keep her energy up throughout the day.
Meal prep is also key, Dunlop tells us. “Even if I just have one spare hour on the weekends, I’ll roast some veggies, bake chicken, or make a huge batch of these breakfast egg muffins and freeze them,” she says.
Embracing body positivity and self-love
While Dunlop has clearly made a major physical transformation, she feels like her biggest accomplishment is improving her body image and self-confidence. The key: constantly reminding herself that being strong and feeling good is more important than the number on the scale.
“I actually weigh more now than when I was at my lowest weight, but I look leaner,” she says. “I always encourage people to take photos and use measurements, because the scale is only a small part of the picture.”
Looking back, Dunlop says she feels like a different person from the woman who couldn’t break out of the yo-yo diet cycle and constantly felt insecure.
“It’s an emotional change, our bodies fluctuate and that’s normal, but the biggest thing throughout this transformation has been how I look at myself,” she says. “[I went from being] that person who felt embarrassed going to workout classes and [was] constantly questioning, ‘Should I wear this, can I wear this?’ And now I’m like, ‘Yes!’
And not just because of my size—a lot of that comes from strength and making those healthy decisions and knowing that everything you’re doing is bettering so many parts of your life.”