inspiration · Weight Loss

My Lifestyle Change, Losing 120 lb and Keeping it Off

I realized that bits and pieces of my story are all over the place, on this blog, on my facebook page, on fatsecret, in my head…  but I’ve never written a summary of the whole story.  So I’m going to do that now, up to today including how I lost the weight and how I have kept it off.  I will try to keep it brief.  I plan to include a much more detailed account when I write my book.

Starting Point, 287 lb, size 22/24

Me, November 2008

At the end of 2008, I accepted a job transfer from Massachusetts to Phoenix, Arizona.  I had wanted to lose weight for a long time and I had tried unsuccessfully many times, losing 10-20 lb and gaining it back.  I even lost over 100 lb when I was 20 but had gained that all back as well.  I was at my all time high weight, close to 300 lb.
I thought, if I’m going to live somewhere that hot, I am really going to need to lose this weight.  But I was done with unsustainable diets.  I made up my mind that I would lose the weight and never gain it back, no matter how long that took.  I think I finally realized that the only way to do that was to change my lifestyle permanently.  Old habits = old body.  Something finally clicked.

The first thing I did was join a gym.  I was most frustrated with the state of my cardiovascular health.  I had always been a walker- living in Philadelphia for 8 years without a car, I walked everywhere.  But my career had put me at a desk in front of a computer screen, living in the suburbs and forced to drive instead of walk.  I had put on quite a few extra pounds in the few years preceding and was very out of shape.  I knew that exercise was going to be important.

I hated going to the gym.  I was always out of breath no matter what I did.  I felt out of place and uncomfortable as one of the largest people I saw around me.  But I stuck it out and committed to going to the gym at least 4 days a week.  I didn’t do much but the elliptical and some of the weight lifting machines.

Weight didn’t start magically falling off just from working out, unfortunately.  I  knew I had to do something about my diet.  In January 2009, I found a website called MyFatSecret.com where you could track calories.  I decided to give it a try.  Counting calories was all brand new to me.  I had never thought much about nutrition.  I learned quickly that I had been eating much more than I thought.  I learned that my idea of portion sizes had been way off.  It was no longer a mystery to me why I was obese.  I started to really see that my choices had given me the body I had and that it would be my choices that would change me.  As soon as I started counting calories, I started losing weight.  I didn’t change what I was eating very much, but I did start eating breakfast.  My main concern was eating less calories than I burned.  I lost about 60 lb that way.

During that time, I kept to myself.  I wasn’t blogging or participating in any online weight loss forums.  But after the first year and losing 60 lb, I started to feel like I had something to share and I started this blog.

Adjusting Along the Way, 220 lb, size 16

About a year into it, about 60 lb down

The tricky thing about weight loss is that you have to keep changing what you’re doing along the way.  This can be very frustrating at first, and I know it caused me to have more than a few temper tantrums.  As you lose weight, you burn less calories overall.  As you exercise, you have to push yourself harder and harder to get the same heart rate rise.  You have to keep doing better.  Doing the same thing over and over and over again doesn’t work.

I had a few plateaus along the way.  Each time I would get upset that what I was doing stopped working and each time I fought my way out of it by changing what I was doing.  I tried new exercises- classes, weight lifting, running.  You name it, I tried it.  My default answer became “Yes, I will try it” instead on “Um, no thanks, I don’t think so.

I also really started changing my diet after about a year into it.  I watched Food Inc and decided to go back to being vegetarian.  I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and took it to heart.  I started really paying attention to the contents of my food instead of just the nutritional information.  It was at this point that something really clicked with me.  Once I started eating all whole real foods, everything became easier.  I had that feeling of “I got this.” and I knew I could make it to any goal I set for myself.

Finding My Goal Weight, 165 lb size 8/10

Finishing the Job

My initial goal weight was 180 lb.  That sounded reasonable to me.  In the beginning, I thought how wonderful it would be to be a size 14!  To be a size that could shop somewhere other than Lane Bryant or The Avenue.  I never wanted to be skinny, I just wanted to lose the excess weight.   I reached 180 lb in August 2010.  It took me 20 months to lose 107 lb.  I felt pretty happy with myself at that point and I took a few months off from trying to lose weight.

This was the first time I practiced maintenance.  All I did was stop counting calories.  I kept eating what I had been eating and I kept exercising just as I had been, but I relaxed what I was eating just a tiny bit.  I stopped losing weight and I didn’t gain it either.

After awhile, I felt like I would like to try to lose a little more.  I decided to take it 5 lb at a time and see how it went.  I decided that if the weight came off easily, I would keep going.  If it became a big struggle, I would stop.  I made it to 165 lb in about 6 months and decided I felt good about that weight and I called it quits.

Post-Weight Loss to Today

My Weight History
Me, Feb 2012

This is me now.  I have maintained my weight with some minor adjustments for 1 year.  Sometimes I can’t believe how far I’ve come and how different everything is now.  I love exercise!  I look forward to it all day long.  And it makes sense to me – of course I hated exercise when I started.  I was so out of shape, everything was really difficult.  Now I very frequently impress myself with my ability to do things I could never do before like running long distances or lifting heavy weights.

I wear a size 8 or 10.  I never dreamed I would.  I have so many options when I go clothes shopping, it’s a little overwhelming.  When I go to the doctor, they don’t even question my weight.  It is a non-issue.  This is such a relief.  I feel like people finally see me for me instead of just seeing that I was heavy.  It’s sad the way the world judges those who are overweight.  I feel like I am finally free of that stigma.  I feel very happy with myself when I look in the mirror.

I’m not perfect.  I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini.  But that’s okay.  I’ve lost 12o lb and I am 34 years old.  I cannot expect my body to be perfect after all I’ve put it through in my life.  A lot of this journey was about self-acceptance for me and breaking away from the expectations placed on women to look a certain way.  Forget that.  I will decide what is right for me and nobody else.  I have so much confidence in myself now and I feel that it is truly up to me to take care of my body the way I see fit.  I don’t do this for anybody else or to fit into any type of mold, I do it for my health and so that I can live my own life as fully as possible.

I have so many things I love to do now that weren’t part of my life before.  I love physical activities and I absolutely adore cooking.  I shop in a much different way and I love food even more than I did when I was heavy.  But I love food that makes me Feel Good and Look Good as well as Taste Good.

I weigh myself daily.  It’s my moment to check in with myself before getting on with the day.  Yes I am eating right.  Yes I am exercising.  Yes I am engaged with my body.  No, I am not going back where I was before.  Old habits = old body.  I love my new body, and my new habits have become engrained in my life.  It’s not a struggle for me anymore, it’s a joy.

16 thoughts on “My Lifestyle Change, Losing 120 lb and Keeping it Off

  1. I agree, it’s more than a diet. I’ve been engaged in this process for almost two years (since the end of March 2010). In that time I’ve gone from having a waistline of 66 inches to one of 34 inches. I’ve also taken meat, but not fish, out of my diet.

    To put things slightly differently: you go,girl!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story, it is such an inspiration for someone like me who is on the way and find the road very rough sometimes. Succes like yours gives me hope that I too can achieve that 🙂

  3. LifeStyle Change has eluded me as I slipped back into old patterns. Much appreciation for sharing your story as I know in my heart weight loss success is possible but you must live the dream to acheive it. You have been such a wonderful example and goal model, thank you. Love Lisa Online

  4. You are truly an encouragement. I have lost 10 lbs in the last year, but am totally struggling with staying the course for the rest. I mAde the decision today to start a jice detox for a handful of days to get me kickstarted again and refresh my frame of mind. Love, love, love your blog, facebook page, etc.

  5. Wow, that 100 lbs turned to 10 above, even tho I thought I proofed it well. So it was 100 lbs lost in a year…a significant change. But I can’t quit now!!

  6. I love this. I’ve got a little less than a hundred pounds to lose and I keep not starting because I know it will be difficult and take a really long time. But putting off starting isn’t getting me any closer to feeling the way I want to feel. Thank you for being honest that it was a) a long journey and b) challenging. Your observation of working out being so difficult at the beginning resonated with me. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing.

  7. You look amazing. Great job. True inspiration, keep on posting and let me know when you publish your book. Just as Leigh said I have the same problem. Trying to keep the house, go to work, and trying to get a workout all on the bus becomes very discouraging, but I have decided to start working out a little at a time at home. It is a sacrifice, but now my health is starting to hurt my relationship with my hubby in many ways. I have started to make changes on the way I eat. I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables and drink more water. Thank you for sharing your story, that motivates me to do what I have to in order to get where I want to.

  8. You are awesome! I love that you have such a great, positive attitude about yourself and you show perseverance in overcoming the extra weight. YES, society looks and treats you different when you are fat. We are told to ‘love’ yourself the way you are, but then looked down on, passed up for promotions, and made fun of the way we are when fat.

  9. Congratulations. You made a massive commitment and kept to it…. That’s really is a wonderful thing you did for yourself. Sharing the journey is quite inspirational… Your health is up and now as you get older you just get better! Congrats again!!

  10. Great story!
    I was long obsessed with the idea of loosing weight. I am not too fat, though I would willingly lose another 20-30 lbs. I’ve tried to minimize my food intake, but it usually led to depression and mood swings. Moreover, I could not get sustainable results: I would start eating and all my lbs would come back. Then I tried sports. First it was hard to spare time for that, besides, I was always tired after work, but it became much easier when I noticed first results. In order to support my body and not feel too tired I started taking Super Army & Professional Sports Mega Endurance Formula before my trainings. It’s a natural supplement containing all necessary nutrients to prepare the body for intensive workouts. Now it is already a year since I’ve started to go to the gym. It is usually 3 times a week. Each of my training session lasts approx. 1.5-2.5 hours. I feel quite fit. Although, I’ve lost just 12 pounds, I do not worry that much because I’m getting in much better shape. I have visible muscles on my waist line and arms – no diet could have provided that.

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