How These Two Sisters Prioritized Their Health and Lost Over 100 Pounds Each During 2020
As "competitive athletes our whole lives" attempting to earn college scholarships for basketball, Alex and Reana Kaminsky were used to their competitors throwing them some curveballs. Little did they know life would throw many at them during the coronavirus pandemic starting in early 2020, just as they were embarking on their wellness journey.
"We were always active growing up and played basketball together, but we were the ones on the team that were usually out of shape or just heavier than everyone else," says Alex, now 24. "While we had the opportunity to pursue college sports, we both decided to forgo that for professional opportunities."
After they stopped playing competitive sports and entered college, Reana (now 25) admits that their weight crept up as they were eating more and moving less. They were able to stay fairly active, dabbling in a mix of walking, biking, tennis, golf, running, weight lifting and indoor cycling during school, but struggled with the nutrition piece. Once they both accepted offers at their first desk jobs, "we stopped exercising and began to eat takeout for almost every meal every day, and the pounds started packing on," Alex says.
"We lost all endurance and mobility and were unable to even climb the stairs or walk through the parking lot without running out of breath," Reana adds. "Our weight high point was in 2018, when we were doing nothing but sitting at a desk all day to work and then coming home to eat and sit on the couch."
Looking back, Alex admits that it wasn't exactly a surprise that they hit 330 pounds (for Alex, who's 5'8) and 298 pounds (for Reana, who's 5'6) at this point.
"We struggled with weight our whole lives and tried different diets and programs, always fluctuating in weight and always on a path of losing or gaining. It seemed almost impossible for me to just be, and not be either out of control, gaining weight, or super-restrictive to try to lose weight," she says.
They had tried juice fasts, cranked up the cardio, ate calorie-controlled prepared meal challenges and even stopped eating entirely at times, but this led to a yo-yo cycle that made Alex and Reana feel even worse. So on January 13, 2020, the former athletes, who are now roommates in Denver, teamed up to take on the Whole30.
"We knew that nutrition was the main thing holding us up, so we decided to start a 30-day Whole30 challenge. With that, we were able to learn more about how whole, nutrient-dense foods made us feel and why we want to be eating more of those types of foods," Alex explains.
Soon after the month ended, the pandemic lockdowns began. The Kaminskys admit that it was tempting to slip back into old habits–with the stress, anxiety and more time at home—but they were able to keep each other accountable. Alex and Reana made a commitment to each other to stick with a mostly whole foods eating pattern. In fact, they stepped things up and decided to transition to a plant-based diet at this point. (If you, too, want to get started eating plant-based, here's a beginners guide.)
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we've eaten plant-based about 90 to 95% of the time. When we want to enjoy something outside of that, we do, but going plant-based has allowed us to push harder in workouts, need less recovery time, sleep better, have more energy and just feel amazing overall," Alex says. "We focus on getting a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It's never boring and the amount of delicious things we eat still blows my mind daily."
At the same time, they slowly added in more movement. First, with a simple goal to move their bodies daily. With time, this evolved into high-intensity workouts (such as indoor cycling or training at ChuzeFitness) for 60 minutes at least 5 or 6 days per week, plus occasionally golf for Alex and tennis for Reana. When gyms closed, they joined a running club, tuned into live Instagram workouts and aimed to get up for short walks at least three times per day since they were working from home and sitting a lot.
"Luckily, the gyms have opened back up and we've been able to make it to classes, but now we have the option to do on-demand workouts if we don't make it in," Alex says.
Being consistent with exercise and eating more whole foods helped Alex drop from 330 pounds to 210 pounds. Starting at 298, Reana is now around 195 pounds.
Their transformation has less to do with a specific number or change on the scale and more to do with what's happening inside their heads and hearts, Alex and Reana agree.
"It's important to set different types of goals that help you see the progress you're making that are completely unrelated to a number on the scale. I'm a huge fan of celebrating all of your wins, no matter how small or silly they seem," Alex says " For me, these include how long it takes to run a 5K, how much weight I can deadlift, how many push-ups I can do without stopping and how much power I can generate on the rower. This also keeps me motivated and pushing for something rather than feeling like I'm exercising without a reason."
This all adds up to help them feel like athletes again, Reana says. And as an added bonus to feeling more at home in their sneakers, they feel more at home in their skin.
"A turning point in our success was when we realized we're confident in who we are and are not worried about what anyone else is doing," Reana says.
If someone else wants to follow in their shoes, Alex suggests giving yourself some grace.
"The journey isn't perfect and you have to trust the process. You will struggle. You will have good days and bad days, and you will constantly be learning. If you know from the beginning that it's not going to always be easy, it won't feel like a total disaster if you have a hard day, and it won't feel like you're a failure because you know that's part of the process. You also know that better days lie ahead, so you won't be tempted to throw in the towel."