My Journey to Losing 83 Pounds
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Growing up, I was never known as the skinny girl. I was always chunkier than my friends and when I was with a group of people, I noticed that I was typically the heaviest person. As you can imagine, it made me quite self-conscious. However, I was lucky enough in the fact that throughout my years in school, I had quite a few friends and was never bullied. I was in a number of extra-curricular activities including student council, volleyball, class council, prom committee and Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD). Because of that, I sometimes felt that I was at school more than I was at home but I loved every minute of it. Not only did I enjoy participating in school functions, it helped strengthen my relationships with those around me.
Having a strong support system in school was very important to me because I know there are others who unfortunately aren't as lucky but while everything was great with my friends, I sometimes felt like the outsider in my own family. Don't get me wrong, I have the most amazing family and I don't know what I would do without them. However, when I was younger, my brother and cousins participated in a number of different sports while I simply sat on the sidelines and it made me feel like I wasn't good enough. I hate saying this today but at times, I felt like if I would have been an athlete growing up and not overweight, my family would have liked me better.
You know how girls will go on shopping trips with one another in order to pick out cute outfits for school and parties? I never did that. I mean, I probably could have but the only person I would go shopping with was my mom because I couldn't stand the thought of letting anyone (even my closest friends) see me try on clothes. I also couldn't shop wherever I wanted. I couldn't just run into Deb, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle or Aeropostale whenever I wanted to like my friends could; I had to shop at Lane Bryant and other stores that specialized in larger clothing sizes and to be honest, it was embarrassing. One time, I remember dress shopping for one of my cousin's wedding and I actually got stuck in a dress I was trying on. I had to wait until my mom came to check on me and when she was finally able to help me out of the dress, I was mortified by what I saw in the mirror.
The following year, I was in 8th grade and reached my heaviest weight of 233 pounds. I just couldn't believe I let myself get that big. In reality though, I knew that I had no one to blame but myself. I hardly knew the meaning of fruits & vegetables and my idea of exercise was walking to the kitchen. On the other hand, I was very familiar with all-you-can-eat buffets and I loved anything with cheese. Nachos, mozzarella sticks, pizza, macaroni and cheese, etc. If it had cheese, I would more than likely eat it.
I don't know what it was but seeing 233 pounds light up in front of my face was it for me. My "a-ha moment" if you will. Up until that point, I never had any motivation to lose weight and while that same motivation went up and down like a rollercoaster as the time went by, the light at the end of the tunny was at least flickering.
In the fall of 2001, I started my first year of high school and decided to try out for the freshman volleyball team. To my surprise, I made it but had I known how much conditioning was going to be involved, I may have second-guessed my decision to try out for the team in the first place. I mean let's face it, I had never even heard the term "conditioning" before unless it dealt with the hair product. Outside of the mandatory PE classes throughout school, I don't ever really remember exercising by choice. During one particularly rough night at volleyball practice, I remember having to run suicide drills and I don't think I even got through one before I had to stop because of the amount of physical pain I was in.
As we got closer to our first game, I walked into practice one day and saw a pile of mesh gym shorts. While we were able to choose our t-shirt size for half of our uniform, the school already had a pile of shorts for us to choose from for the other half. After not fitting into the largest pair of shorts available, I had to wait until after practice to ask my coach if I would be able to buy my own shorts for the season because nothing fit. Talk about humiliating.
Even though being on the volleyball team was completely different than what I anticipated, I never gave up and by the end of the season, I was in the best shape I had ever been in. I was still incredibly overweight BUT I could run a mile without stopping and that was a major stepping stone for me. However, once summer break hit that year, I slowly started slipping back into my old ways. I began having sleepovers with friends, staying up late, eating junk food, sleeping in until noon and watching TV on the couch all day. Pretty soon after that, I was back to where I started.
Fast forward a few years to the fall of 2005 when I went off to college. At first, I absolutely hated it. I don't do very well with change and it was the first time I had ever been away from home and I honestly just missed my family. Being homesick coupled with the fact that I had some personal things going on back home prevented me from gaining the dreaded "freshman 15." In fact, I actually lost 10-15 pounds.
One day, I was on my way to Anatomy class and I saw a job fair for summer employment opportunities and when I walked past a table for Cedar Point (an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio), I decided to pick up a pamphlet to see what it was all about. At first, I didn't think too much of it but after a while, I decided to apply and see what happened. I mean, I loved going there as a guest, so why not get paid to be there? After I applied for a job in Ride Operations, I had an interview and was offered a position. Once I talked over everything with my mom, I decided to move forward and accept the job and then once I took my last final, I packed up my belongings and headed to Ohio.
Leaving Michigan was harder than I thought it would be and I initially wondered what I had gotten myself into. However, after a while, I started making my own money as well as some amazing friends that I still talk to today. I also discovered my love of walking. I worked for 10-12 hours a day, six days a week in all types of weather and I learned that being exhausted due to exercise instead of eating myself into oblivion was actually kind of awesome.
I ended up working at Cedar Point during every summer when I was in college (2006-2010) and following my time there, I weighed somewhere between 180 and 190 pounds. Throughout the next few years, my weight stayed pretty stagnant but that all finally changed in 2014 when I moved to Georgia and decided that since I was in a new place, I was going to start a new chapter and finally take care of myself. This time was going to be different though. This time, I was going to succeed.
When I started my job in Georgia, I was quite nervous but I was excited to see what was in store for me as well. After a few weeks, I learned that my job came with a number of perks - one being a free membership to one of the local gyms, which meant that I had no excuse. When I activated my membership to the gym, I had to force myself to go regularly because it seemed like everyone had it all figured out and I was the only one that was a fish out of water. However, I stuck with it and learned that people there are usually willing to help if you just ask. Now, after going consistently for four years, I can't imagine my life without it.
During a typical week, I will usually head to the gym 3-4 days and use a number of different workout methods including the elliptical, treadmill, arc trainer, stair master, rowing machine, free weights and other strength training machines. I have also started taking spin classes which will definitely kick your butt but they are totally worth it. One thing I would like to get better at though is planning my workouts out ahead of time or have someone help me create them based on the areas that I would like to target each session instead of simply walking in and winging it.
While learning how to navigate my way around the gym was certainly not easy, I found that it was actually easier than changing my eating habits. Learning how to eat healthier was rather frustrating and it proved to be the most difficult part of my weight loss journey.
Eating was a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. I hated fruits, vegetables and anything that was remotely healthy for me. Carbs were my first love (I could eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese in one sitting like it was nothing) and the protein that I did consume was usually fried. Because of that, I knew when I decided to finally change my ways in 2014 for good, I was going to have to completely change my relationship with food, both mentally and physically. I had no idea where to start but I knew that instead of living to eat, I was going to have to teach myself how to eat to live.
The first thing I did was start looking at food labels in the grocery store to educate myself on what a serving size actually was. For so long, I gorged on junk food without knowing how much harm I was actually doing to my body. Next, I tried substituting healthier versions of the foods and beverages I already enjoyed and that was honestly the one method that has helped me the most throughout the years. For example, I switched regular pop for diet (I'm well aware that neither are good for me but since I don't drink coffee, it's how I get my caffeine fix), fried chicken for grilled or baked, candy bars for Quest bars, white pasta and bread for whole wheat, pork sausage and bacon for their turkey counterparts, white rice for brown rice and things like that. I also started drinking more water.
While some individuals can stick to one of the so called "fad diets" or "fad lifestyles" with no problem such as vegetarian, plant-based or keto, I quickly learned that I am not one of those people. In 2016, I came across the AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge (if you aren't sure what the challenge consists of, please click here) and I was intrigued because one of my friends was a distributor so I thought I would at least give it a try.
The first 10 days of the challenge (also known as the cleanse phase) were definitely interesting. I absolutely loved the Spark drink mix (Fruit Punch for the win) but I think my system was so shocked by all of the dietary changes I was putting it through that I don't think my body had enough time to adjust. When I got to days 11-24, they were filled with so many vitamins and supplements that I had trouble digesting them. That coupled with the fact that I just didn't feel good made the program not worth it to me and I ended up quitting around day 13 or 14.
Even though I lost money doing the challenge, I can at least say that I tried it and learned more about myself in the process. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the diets and lifestyles mentioned above, I learned they just weren't for me and that I tend to eat healthier when I give myself more freedom of what I can eat but limit the calories and portion sizes. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. I have heard it time and time again but you have to do what works best for you and not what works for someone else.
When I began actually trying salads and fruit (instead of just saying I didn't like them), I learned that I absolutely LOVED them both and have been missing out all of these years. While I am pretty picky about what is in my salads, I will eat them all of the time because they are simple and help get more vegetables into my diet, which is something I continue to work on because I'm not exactly a vegetable lover.
When it comes to fruit, I am a little less picky. My favorites are grapes, apples, pineapple and strawberries but I will eat pretty much any fruit that is put in front of me, with the exception of bananas. I have repeatedly tried to acquire a taste for bananas but I just can't get myself to like them so if anyone knows of a way to change that, I am all ears.
Losing 83 pounds over the years and keeping it off is certainly no small feat and while I am proud of myself for what I have accomplished, every day is still a learning experience for me. I now love salads, fruit, grilled chicken, smoothies and protein shakes but there are days when I am overly concerned with the number on the scale.There are also days when I feel guilty about eating something unhealthy but I have to repeatedly tell myself that everything is okay to eat in moderation. I mean if I want to have macaroni and cheese, I should be able to have macaroni and cheese and not hate myself for it. At the same time, I know that I need to be more sensible about how much of it I eat. For instance, instead of eating the entire box like I used to do as a kid, I will not split it up into three meals and pair it with a lean protein and some veggies.
When it comes down to it, I look back at the girl that I used to be and I love the changes that I have made to better myself. I of course have good days and bad days just like anyone else but every day is a process and as long as I don't quit, I can't fail.