When I graduated high school, I weighed 215 pounds. I loved eating fast food and drinking soda, was always mindlessly snacking, and had no exercise habits at all—I just never felt the need to work out. As time went on, I jumped into the working world and started clocking in about 40 hours a week. That schedule fueled my bad habits (who wants to cook after working all day?), and I gained more than 100 pounds over the course of 10 years.
I knew my weight was getting out of control, so I started following the Weight Watchers program my mom was on. I lost a little bit of weight during the two months I was on it, but I hated keeping track of everything I was eating, so I eventually gave it up.
While recovering from the flu, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. I went into the emergency room, and the doctor said I wasn’t having a heart attack—which was a relief since I was only 30—but that I had very high blood pressure. At the time, I weighed 300 pounds—and I knew I had to change something.
The first thing I did was start an extreme diet program that was supposed to be followed for a little over two weeks. The diet nixed things like caffeine, bread, fruit, starchy veggies, fast food, and any other junk food. I had really great results; I lost 35 pounds in about six months. However, I lost that weight by following a diet that had little to know wiggle room and wasn’t even meant to last more than 17 days.
After losing 35 pounds, I hit a plateau that I just couldn’t break, probably because I wasn’t eating enough. I got so frustrated that I started slipping back into my old ways. First, I started drinking soda again. Then, I began hitting up my favorite fast-food joints. I put those 35 pounds back on, plus more. I weighed 328 pounds.
At my next doctor’s appointment, he brought up a diet called the Sanford Profile that was more sustainable and included coaching from a nutritionist. The first thing we decided to cut out was soda—really hard for me!—and things that were high in carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, and starchy vegetables. We also cut way back on my sugar intake. Unlike my last diet, though, I knew this wasn’t something that would be permanent; it was just meant to kick start my weight loss. I began eating several small meals per day, which helped me stay satisfied without snacking.
On a typical day, I’d have a protein shake for breakfast, a fiber drink from the program for a snack, soup for lunch, another small snack from the program, and something like ground turkey and veggies followed by a protein shake for dinner. After five months, I’d lost 100 pounds!
At that point, I realized that I needed to exercise if I wanted to keep up the momentum of my weight loss, so I started walking at the mall and eventually joined a gym so I could lift weights and run on the treadmill. My diet also changed after I started working out: I began incorporating more carbohydrates, like oatmeal and more fruit, but I kept up the habit of eating small meals all day long. This diet taught me that by eating more of foods that are good for my body, I can lose weight without feeling hungry.
Since setting out to lose weight the right way, I’ve lost 133 pounds and went from never exercising—ever—to prepping to run my first 5-K next month!
Though I eventually want to lose 10 to 20 more pounds, I’ve already experienced so many things I wouldn’t have been able to if I hadn’t lost the weight. Now, I love being able to shop outside of the plus-sized section of the store. I feel like I’m so much more stylish.
Running is also something I couldn’t do before I started to lose weight. I really enjoy the freedom I feel when I run, and it’s a great stress reliever.
Don’t let a plateau get you down. During my first attempt to lose weight, my plateau ultimately killed my drive to stick with my diet and led me back to my bad habits. But this time, I used that period of weight maintenance as a reason to start working out and keep up my good habits.
Get expert advice. Another thing that helped me stay on track was my weight-loss coach. Her guidance helped me trouble shoot how much I should be eating and pushed me to try new things, like running. She was supportive and helped me figure out the next steps of my weight loss journey, which is something that my friends and family couldn’t do.
Eat more, but make healthier choices. By having lots of small, healthy meals, I rarely craved junk food or mindlessly munched. You don’t have to be hungry to lose weight; you just need to eat the right things.