I don’t know if it was the start of a new year or our engagement over Christmas or just finally deciding to do something about not feeling like the best versions of ourselves… but Will and I have been on a major fitness kick since January. We found a personal trainer we like love, who understands our individual goals but lets us train together at night so we get the most for our time and money. Working out with a personal trainer is still a major expense for us but we agree that fitness is one of the best things we can invest in at this stage in our lives (especially with sixteen months until our wedding!). Eventually I’d love to cut back on this expense and get into a routine of going to classes I like during the day but having Will as a workout buddy has really helped us make this a priority on a weekly basis.

The other great thing about having a personal trainer (besides, you know, actually working out for a change) is that she tracks our progress every six weeks or so, both in terms of weight and all kinds of measurements. In addition to these check-ins, we’ve also been taking progress pictures just for ourselves and it’s been really rewarding to notice the little changes taking place. Will has actually lost 12 pounds (and looks better than ever, truly) but I’m mostly focused on toning up and making sure I look the best I can be when I walk down that aisle and get to marry him!


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This past week, though, I got weighed and measured and realized that I’d not only gained two pounds since the last check-in but that most of my measurements (arms, waist, hip, butt, etc.) had stayed pretty much the same. So frustrating! I know that progress is rarely a straight upward trajectory but it still sucks to hit a plateau or feel like you’ve taken a step back. (And I know two pounds is not the end of the world, I’m not overweight, it’s not about a number, yada yada — it’s more about knowing I can do better and therefore having no right to be disappointed… Read on.) Rather than letting me feel sorry for myself (or worse, go eat something terrible to “make myself feel better”), our trainer asked if I’ve been doing anything differently lately (umm, did those calories from day drinking on a bachelorette party actually count?) and if I was finally ready to talk about some changes to my diet.

Ahh yes, my diet. What I’ve failed to mention up to this point is that despite pushing myself through several seriously tough workouts a week (and as my fiancé has started eating brown rice and lean protein every day for lunch), I’m still completely addicted to sugar, totally reliant on carbs to fill me up after neglecting to eat lunch at a normal hour, and definitely having a few too many cocktails on the weekends (but it’s wedding season?!). When I did gymnastics through high school, I could eat literally anything I wanted and still basically have the body of a ten-year-old. I had hoped that if I really got into a habit of working out hard again, I’d lose a few pounds, maybe stop hating my arms, and head into the summer feeling ready to strut my stuff.


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Yeeeah… not quite the same at age 26. While I do feel more toned and definitely (thankfully) have more energy from the past several months of working out, deep down I know there’s more I could be doing to look and feel my best. I think it took getting into a regular routine of working out before I felt like I could tackle improving my diet as well. It’s hard to take on several big changes at once but now that we’ve been in Dallas for a year (and have an active social life here!), have made some decisions about our wedding, and have started to reap the benefits of working out, I think it’s time for phase two of my fitness journey.

I’m not sure what this will entail exactly… but I do hope that by writing this out for all of you to see that I’m finally ready to start thinking about the food I put in my mouth and the impact it has on my body, my skin, and my energy levels (and maybe even my sleep? #wishfulthinking). More salads, less Splenda, more healthy snacking, fewer sugar crashes… Wish me luck, because I’m seriously going to need it.


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I’m by no means qualified to dole out fitness tips and the thought of sharing my bikini-clad before-and-afters on the internet makes me a little nauseous… But if you have any ideas for fun fitness-related content you’d like to see on Design Darling, shoot me an email or leave a comment below. And if you have any favorite healthy snacks (or, let’s be serious, healthier alternatives at Starbucks, etc.), I’m all ears. I’d love to hear what you do to be healthy and take care of yourself — whether it’s acupuncture or juicing or doing SoulCycle or taking your dog on long walks.

P.S. I am seriously inspired by my friend Liz’s post-baby fitness goals… If she can get in shape with precious Charlie by her side, I really have no excuse!



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  1. Congrats on your new commitment to a healthy life! I started weight lifting and working with kettlebells about 9 months ago, with the (not so well defined) goal to “be strong AF” – I’ve since set some actual goals, haha. But it has been incredible to watch my body change, and feel how much stronger I’ve gotten, and to pick up weights that I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d ever be able to use.

    The way I commit to healthy eating is the 80/20 rule – throughout the week I eat about 80% clean/paleo – the other 20% is fun (I don’t like calling it cheating, because that makes me feel guilty) – so if throughout the week I have 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, for a total of 35 meals – 7 of those can be fun – so if there are donuts at the office on Friday, I can have a donut as a snack – but the catch is that I can’t go overboard with the 20% fun food.

    I also don’t keep unhealthy snacks in the house – there are no cookies, ice cream, chips, and so on. If I want to snack at home, my only options are healthy options.

    Finally, I quit diet coke almost 3 months ago, and it is the flattest my stomach has ever been. Seriously. It made a HUGE difference.

    Good luck! I can’t wait to hear more about your journey!

  2. Good for you, girl! I do pure barre and love it! You should try it…it is super hard EVERY time and you will notice a difference in your body in just a few classes. And, I think you look great!

  3. Try the pumpkin seeds at Starbucks! I like the spicy ones – they’re super yummy, not too hot, and filled with Omega-3’s! They also sell kale chips but the pumpkin seeds are the jam.

  4. Good for you! Shifting the focus and committing to being healthier is a huge step! While I’m not the healthiest person out there (I still love iced coffee and I’ll never give up margaritas!), I’m a spin instructor part time. I see a huge difference in how I feel on the bike based on the choices I’ve made with my diet. For me, meal prep is key! If I spent the time making healthy lunches for the work week, I’ll resist snacking or going out to lunch. I love protein smoothies for breakfast as well. I also highly recommend Whole30, which is a month-long food plan committed to resetting the system. It’s a little extreme, but you learn so much about how things like dairy, sugar and carbs really affect how you feel and sleep. I love using their recipes even when I’m not doing an actually round of the program. Group fitness classes will also help you stay motivated, especially as you transition away from a personal trainer. Barre and spin are great! Good luck!

  5. First of all, congrats on sticking with committing to be healthy so far this year, as well as wanting to take it further! I feel like my motivation stopped for a while after I got married and moved to Texas in September, but I’ve been trying to work out more frequently and clean up my diet since March. It’s definitely frustrating to feel like you’re making an effort and improving in your workouts and not see any change on the scale!

    For posts, I’d love to see ones on:
    – your journey towards healthier eating
    – using healthier products in general, I loved your post on using more natural skincare and makeup, and I’ve been using Think Dirty since!
    – workout motivation
    – your favorite types of workouts
    – healthy snacks
    -healthy dinners

    And for me, eating healthy is much easier if I plan ahead! Apples (with an apple corer, I’m lazy and don’t like eating a whole apple), plain Greek yogurt with honey and fresh fruit, and roasted chickpeas are awesome snacks. I unfortunately don’t live close to a Trader Joes anymore, but their amazing salads and their frozen chicken burgers (on lettuce instead of a bun) used to be go-tos for me.

  6. Keep posting pics of your awesome yoga/gymnastics moves! I’ve always been really into yoga to stay healthy and reduce stress, but about 6 months before my wedding last December, I decided to step it up a notch. So I started doing spin once a week (in addition to yoga), then bumped it up to 2-3 times a week. I saw results quickly! My legs and butt looked so much more toned! And even better, it felt pretty amazing to go from feeling nauseous after my first spin class to feeling like a badass when I could finish a class and have more energy than when I started. Try making one small change a week and avoid thinking about all the changes you want to make all at once. Keep posting about your fitness/nutrition journey! I’m getting a master’s degree in clinical nutrition, so I love reading about what motivates people regarding food, nutrition, and health 🙂

  7. I was thrilled to read this post! I just turned 29 am in my first year of a tough, exciting new job and my first year living and working in the heart of Boston. I’ve had so many changes over the past year and now I really want to invest in some self care/ways to get stronger. I am doing a month of yoga (at least one class a day) and I’ve started drinking more smoothies to get my dose of fruits and veggies. I’d love to see more posts on what resources you turn to for recipes and tricks to stay healthy and get toned without giving up all the yummy things. 🙂

  8. I would love content on eating well– or better? Healthy snack ideas? Healthy dessert ideas? How to go a day without eating cheese? (The final is likely an impossibility.)

    I’m in a similar camp as you – with college basketball, I could eat all-you-can-eat ice cream basically daily and always look fit. Now that I’m not working out 20+ hours a week and I’ve aged a few years though….times have changed. Looking forward to more health/wellness related posts!

  9. Hi there!
    For healthy snacks, I like any sort of “protein ball” (if you look on Pinterest you can find a ton!) They’re easy to make and definitely help satisfy my sweet tooth!
    And for a healthier option at Starbucks, I love their iced shaken green tea unsweetened. It’s not for everyone but I’m addicted!

  10. Tracy Anderson streaming is the best best best. It’s super fun and will tone you up like no other (but no bulk). My favorite sweet snack is organic plain yogurt mixed with a bit of real maple syrup. Good luck – healthy eating is a struggle, having a stock of healthy food at home is so important!

  11. With your gymnastics background, you should check out CrossFit… It’s like personal training since you have so many coaches for each class. They’ll train you and ease you into everything. I was VERY hesitant to join, but it was life changing and I did it for 9 months. Oh, and I didn’t get hurt.

  12. Hello! I totally agree! Recently I have started working out way more (half marathon training!) however I still struggle with a major sweet tooth… I’m a firm believer in not restricting yourself but being able to enjoy both delicious veggies and fresh fruit but also a chocolate chip cookie. I really would however like to cut back on sweets because too much doesn’t allow the ability to enjoy it nearly as much. Some tips so far is I recommend are Tone It Up YouTube Chanel. It offers workout that might even classify as fun, just maybe;) I also am a fan of fruit for sweet cravings. Some of my favorite combinations have been 1. An apple with peanut butter and some chocolate chips on top 2. Strawberries with a tiny bit of whipped cream 3. Strawberries and pineapple. I have throughly enjoyed seeing your health journey so far.
    Keep it up,

  13. I am in the same boat.

    If youre looking for a sweet treat try this.

    Cut up a banana. Drizzle with some honey (if you have allergies use local honey. It’s supposed to help!) And add some cinnamon. It’s my go to.

    If you’re like me and love a drink at night to unwind my boyfriend got me hooked on this. Sparkling water and a dash of bitters. It’s enough of a bite to trick me into thinking I’m having a drink. And it’s nice to have something in my hand when I’m out with friends.

  14. I think it’s awesome that you have made it your goal to be the best version of yourself for your wedding (and moving forward in general!). It’s a healthy and attainable goal that you are setting for yourself and no one else, which makes you so much more likely to stick with it. On the diet front, I would recommend looking objectively at everything you consume on a daily basis (don’t necessarily need to write it down, as I find that makes me feel obsessive) but just become aware of it. Then look to see the patterns and habits that aren’t helping you out (ie. artificial sugar and lots of foods that come from a box/bag, eating after dinner, eating foods that spike your blood sugar, waiting too long between meals and then overeating because you are starving) and then fix those. Then you’ve made a more solid foundation for yourself and I guarantee it will get you over the plateau, and then you can focus on the particulars. Mentally, I also think it helps to remember or write down how you feel on those good days when your skin looks great, your jeans fit perfectly or you killed your workout, and keep in mind that feeling becomes all the more regular when you stick to your goals 🙂 Also I 100% recommend Tone It Up for at home workouts and meal ideas. Best of luck on your next phase of this fitness journey (and remember not to stress about it!!).

  15. Hey Mackenzie!
    Congrats on making the decision to take your health to the next level, I know from personal experience that getting dedicated to exercising regularly is hard, but kicking empty carbs and sugar are absolutely the hardest. I’ve recently started making a concerted effort to eat healthier and I’ve found that it is so much easier when I come up with a few go-to snacks and meals and keep them ready to go. Some of my favorite things to eat:
    1. Scrambled egg with veggies–I hate eggs but I know they’re really good for you so I carmelize 1 small onion in a pan with olive oil, add a handful of broccoli florets, and then move it to one side of the pan and scramble an egg on the empty side. Soooo good!
    2. Whole wheat toast with almond butter: this one’s pretty simple, just toast some of your favorite whole wheat bread and spread almond butter on top (my favorite is the one that you get from the grinding machine at Whole Foods). If you want to add a touch of sweetness, I highly suggest sprinkling some mini chocolate chips.
    3. Whole wheat toast with hummus spread on top, mixed greens on top of the hummus, and topped with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
    4. Apples dipped in almond butter! It’s delicious.
    5. When you’re craving sugar try replacing what you’re craving with some kind of fruit.

    My last price of advice is don’t go all out right away. I remember a few times I went really hard trying to be healthy and didn’t last more than 2 days because I didn’t understand that no matter what I couldn’t will myself to enjoy quinoa 😉 Pay attention to what you eat and make improvements, but don’t beat yourself up for splurging, either.

    Good luck with everything!!

  16. I love love love you for being so open and honest about this. You’re telling my life story: high school and college D3 athlete gets out of shape-ish at a high pressure job, hires trainer, then realizes all the workouts in the world won’t give me my 21 year old body back without some diet changes. :-/ I also love love working out with my boyfriend. We don’t get a ton of time together, so getting a joint gym membership has been an awesome way to spend time together, without skipping the gym and dowinging drinks or movie theater popcorn.

    I would love to see posts on:

    -What you and Will do in the gym together (can be hard to navigate co-ed workouts)
    -Fave workout(s) for when you’re alone (aside from classes)
    -If you find a diet that works for you, what you’re eating in a day! I’m a vegetarian too, and it can be SO hard to find protein. People have this idea that we’re all health freaks, but I feel like I wind up relying way too much on carbs for energy.
    -stretching routine! would love to see from a former gymnast like you.

    Also, for the record, your body is amazing now, and if you gained pounds without gaining inches, it MUST be either muscle or water.

  17. So appreciative of your honesty and transparency! These journeys with our bodies are not only long, they’re endless– taking care of ourselves is an everyday thing. I’ve lost over 40 pounds in the past five years, and even though I work out 10 times a week and make (mostly) healthy food choices, it is hard to not only maintain but accept myself, as well. I’m hopeful that I’ll feel confident when I get married this summer, but it’s a work in progress (looking at you, upper back muscles…). And of course, you’re already adorable the way you are, but I understand wanting to feel better, too!

  18. Love this!! I’ve recently begun my fitness journey of exercising regularly, but am in the same boat with the eating. I would love to hear easy everyday lunches (that I won’t get sick of). Keep up the great work!

  19. Love this post, Mackenzie! I think a lot of us can relate, especially in our mid-20s into 30s. I realized I can’t expect my body to function (and look) its best without some level of exercise and mindful eating. One thing I’ve loved is ClassPass for variety and MyFitnessPal for tracking daily intake. You’ll be a stunning bride – keep up the good work!

    xo, Laura

  20. Check out A friend and I recently bought their Nutrition Plan and even two weeks into the plan we both feel slimmer and have more consistent energy throughout the day. They have worked with a nutritionist to create their plan and there are SO many resources available! They live by philosophies of Lean, Clean & Green, as well as five smaller meals, with no starches after meal 3. I think this will definitely be a lifestyle change but one that is worth every penny!

  21. Mackenzie, I love this!

    All of what you’re feeling – I’ve been there! Plateaus can be so discouraging, but remember, we all hit them. I think you’ll find that even making small changes, will yield some big results. (I’m horrible when it comes to dessert. Do I need a post-lunch sweet? No. But I just can’t help myself! Swapping that treat out for a few berries, or better yet, a quick 8 oz. of water has been huge for me!)

    I hope you keep us updated! Of course everyone’s fitness “journey” is different, but it’s always so encouraging to hear that other people are pushing through to make the changes for themselves too!

  22. I hit the same point that you did before my 30th birthday — and especially with wanting to get in shape for my wedding in 5 mos!! I rolled my eyes at it for YEARS, but I tried Beachbody’s 21 day fix and it was a game-changer for me because it had the nutrition/food all laid out as well as the programs. Changing your diet, cutting out processed foods, excessive sugar, etc. is the best thing you can do for yourself. If you eat a clean diet 80% of the time you can still treat yourself 20% of the time and make a big impact. You know how they say, “you can’t outrun a bad diet”?? — when you change the way you eat you’ll unlock some serious changes. One year later I am down two dress sizes & healthier than ever. Props to you for putting your health first!!

  23. Such a relatable post! Something that has really helped me and my girlfriends is making workout dates (doing a class and grabbing a smoothie or a salad) instead of getting happy hour drinks and inevitably fries and bar snacks. It keeps us accountable while still getting together, plus no hangovers and the cost is about the same in NYC! Good luck, I’m looking forward to seeing health and fitness content on your blog, I’ve been following along for almost 5 years now!

  24. I think seeing a nutritionist is a great place to start so they can help you identify what mistakes you’re actually making. I had tricked myself into thinking anything from Whole Foods and/or Organic (ice cream! cheese!) was still healthy. My nutritionist suggested I stop eating fruit in the morning to help keep my body in fat burning mode… who would’ve thought smoothies weren’t my best route? Good luck! Looking forward to these posts.

  25. I’ve been an active 5-days-a-week runner for years and it wasn’t until college that I realized I couldn’t just run run run and eat whatever I pleased like I did back in high school! I know exactly how you’re feeling- you think, well I’m exercising a ton why am I not seeing results? Fitness gurus always say that toning up/losing weight is 80% diet related and it’s such a hard reality to face.

    I’ve been trying to drink more water, eat less carb-heavy meals, and have been doing pilates (online using the Blogilates workout calendar!) and a bit of weight lifting in addition to my usual running. It sounds like a lot but it becomes a routine eventually, and I know it’s good for me.

    Good luck with your fitness goals!!

    Leda xx

  26. Love this post because it’s just so darn relatable! I’m constantly struggling to stick with a workout routine and trying to eat healthier. I went running 2 times last week so that’s a start! I’ve found Nutrition Stripped ( to be a wealth of knowledge about eating healthier and she has a ton of great recipes! I also just signed up for Purple Carrot which is a meal delivery service like Plated or Blue Apron but it’s all vegan!

    – Kelsey

  27. If you can do it without being obsessive, MyFitnessPal is great for tracking your macros. Have a good mix of protein, carbs, and fats prevents the sugar crash and makes me less tempted for snacks! I do sometimes get stuck on the number on the scale, and when that happens, I actually stop using MyFitnessPal for a week or so so I don’t slide into bad body image territory.

    You know how Starbucks has those protein packs? Those are so easy to make at home and way cheaper. I prep snack packs on Sunday and pull them out during the week for my husband and I. If we have portioned, healthy snacks on hand, we’re both less tempted by a bag of chips or candy. Plus portion control is totally want kills people’s diets!! We do a lot of mozzarella sticks (high protein/low fat), crackers, hummus, olives, veggies, and sometimes mini pitas. Sometimes I’ll fill little salad dressing containers with chocolate chips for a sweet fix. I’m alllllll about appropriate sized snack containers. My favorites are Wean Green, which are for babyfood or something, but they work great and are glass, which was important to me.

  28. Thank you for sharing your progress toward a healthier lifestyle Mackenzie! I would love to see more of this content on your already wonderful blog, especially food related. I am guilty of propping myself up on Lara bars and caffeine to get through the day.
    I am a big fan of Pure Barre for workouts. It’s a little pricey, but I enjoy the consistent results and focus on creating a lean, feminine form.

      1. Oh the sore muscles! I promise that full body soreness goes away after the first few classes. It might be worth trying again if you finish with your personal trainer and would like a directed workout. They even added a cardio level class in addition to the regular barre class! The best part is the community they foster among their clients. It’s a great way to meet new people in a new city!

  29. I loved reading through this. I actually wrote a post recently talking about how every(body) has bad days ( It’s easy to look at someone, make our own assessments and assume they feel comfortable and content in their skin. About 4 years ago, I weighed nearly 45 pounds more than I do now. Fitness is a huge part of my life now and I’ve been able to maintain my weight to an extent, but I’ve only recently started to think about the things I’m putting into my body and how they’re effecting me (I can’t eat mozzarella sticks and grilled cheese on the reg like I used to). When it comes to working out, I love ClassPass! I aim to take one rowing + strength class, a spin class, bar method and get in a short run on my own each week. Being able to switch it up is a lifesaver for me! I really love seeing what everyone is eating/buying at the grocery store and would love to see a roundup those!

  30. Oh man, I feel you on the carbs. For the last several years I’ve had two doctors basically forcing me on to low carb. Well, as you would imagine, I don’t WANT to do that. But if I would do it, and stick to it, I lose weight and feel great. And then I just don’t want to do it anymore. Because, candy, donuts, pizza, etc. Well, I went in this year for my endocrine appointment and got the tongue lashing of the century. I was not sticking to it, and was up quite a bit. I got not only put back on it, but put on a medication for weight loss that I was desperately trying to avoid. Ok apparently not desperately enough. But it got me on track. So I am down 30 now that I am sticking to it and taking the stupid meds. I see her in two weeks and I hope she takes me back off the meds (unlikely… bec she knows Ill quit eating properly.)

    STICK TO IT. And work on the carbs.

    You are going to look amazeballs at your wedding!

  31. Definitely take advantage of healthy food options that are quick and easy. Have you tried Snap Kitchen at all? It’s such a great resource for busy people looking to stay on track! Plus, it’s a great Texas-owned business…it was started by a friend of mine. 🙂

    1. This is too funny — our trainer has brought up Snap Kitchen a million times and I pass by one every day on my way to work. Now I’ll definitely stop in! Any favorites there?