How I Did It

After gaining more than 100 pounds in about five years, I signed up for Weight Watchers…for the umpteenth time. I weighed in at 265 pounds. I was 22 years old.

Determined not to become a 300-pound 25-year-old, I meticulously counted POINTS and tried desperately to educate myself on nutrition — I had no idea what was “good” for me, because I had never looked at food as anything other than something to do when I was upset or stressed or bored. I experimented with a variety of healthy food and snack options until — eventually — I began to genuinely enjoy all kinds of foods I once despised, including vegetables!

I also joined the YMCA. I was interning full-time at a magazine, and then I also had a part-time gig, so my only available time to hit the gym was 5:30am. So that’s exactly what I did, five times a week. First with solo sessions on the elliptical and treadmill, and soon in a variety of fitness classes, from Zumba to Spinning, which I took on the weekends.

I tried to lose weight so many times as a child, teenager, and young adult…and sometimes, I even successfully dropped a pound (or 60) before gaining it all right back. But this time, something was different. I still can’t say for sure what finally clicked, but I finally realized that the only way to lose weight — and actually keep it off — was to stop thinking of my latest Weight Watchers attempt as a “diet,” and start looking at as a permanent lifestyle change.

For the first time, I realized that if I ever had any hope of saving myself from a lifetime of obesity, I had to make changes that were sustainable in the long run. It wasn’t about starving myself enough to quickly drop 20 pounds, or compulsively working out so that I could squeeze into a dress for one special occasion or another.

Instead, it was the small, manageable changes — drinking more water, increasing my workouts by five minutes at a time, choosing whole grains over white bread and pasta — that delivered the greatest results. So I vowed I wouldn’t do anything to lose the weight that I wasn’t willing to do forever to maintain my loss.

I lost 80 pounds in a year.

Like most people who embark on a weight loss journey, eventually, the excitement of my new lifestyle began to wear off. The compliments died down, I wasn’t always anxious to exercise for an hour after a long day at work, and my weight loss began to plateau — big time.

That’s when I started to kick things up a notch. I tried to eat as “clean” as I could, eliminating processed items like canned soups and frozen meals from my weekly food plans. I also admitted to myself that I was starting to get bored at the gym, so I opted to try different, more intense activities.

thaifrontThat’s how I fell in love with Muay Thai kickboxing, and eventually, I started taking Taekwondo classes. I’m currently a black belt in Muay Thai, and a blue belt in Taekwondo.

I became passionate about martial arts, but there was something about running that excited me even more. I started with 30-second jogs on the treadmill, and I kept gradually increasing my time and speed until I no longer felt like I was going to die. At first, it was all about burning enough calories to earn enough Activity POINTS for that an extra snack at night. But then I signed up for my first local four-mile race…and my life has never been the same.

Running was something I never thought I could do. Even though I’m now officially a marathoner,¬† I still have to constantly battle my own doubts. It’s still hard for me to look at myself and see an athlete, and it took me forever to feel comfortable calling myself a “runner,” even as I average 30+ miles and run 5 days a week. There is a part of me that has to constantly remind myself that I AM an athlete now…and the old me is long gone. I think there’s will always be that little third-grader inside of me who couldn’t finish the mile run in gym class, and who was always chosen last for group sports.

giraldafarms10kI still have to fight not to succumb to my old habits. My snack choices may be healthier, but I still battle the same urge to tear through a bag of PopChips or bury my face in a carton of slow-churned ice cream when I’ve had a bad day. There are still days when I’m too tired or busy to go for a run, or when I look at myself in the mirror during a Taekwondo class and mentally beat myself up over my loose skin and other physical imperfections.

I do still have to fight the tendency to look in the mirror and only focus on my flaws, or to see myself as “fat.” My mind has still not fully caught up with the drastic changes to my body, and I’m not positive it ever will.

It took me a full year to lose another 10 pounds. According to my BMI, I am still “obese,” and would have to shed at least 40 more just to be considered a “healthy” weight. Hence the blog!

I’ve been maintaining my current weight, give or take¬† a few pounds, since 2009. I am physically stronger and more muscular than I have ever been, and I went from a size 18/20W to an 8/10M, but the scale simply stopped cooperating, no matter what I did…so, ultimately, I decided to accept my new body exactly the way I was.

Today, I define myself as a runner and martial artist…not as a number on the scale.

I can tell you that my weight loss, as frustrating as it has been, was so worth the effort. I am finally, genuinely happy, 170 pounds and all. Losing 90 pounds did not solve my life’s problems — as I always assumed it would — but it did grant me the ability to wake up in the morning and be energetic and enthusiastic about life. It gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of being a writer. It has allowed me to finally find a physical activity that fulfills me — there is NO better feeling than crossing a finish line. It has given me the ability to do things I never thought possible…and, more importantly, the courage to try.

I sometimes say that Weight Watchers saved my life, but truthfully, it was in me the whole time. I just had to make the choice.