The Exercise and Eating Plan I Used to Drop More Than 200 Pounds

Steal the moves that helped get Desiree Richards major results

Before: 388
After: 173

The Lifestyle
Growing up, food was my friend. I had a bit of a rocky childhood. My parents divorced when I was little, my mom passed away when I was 10, and I lived with my dad and stepmom, who was extremely controlling. While I was living with them, my stepmom kept a close eye on the portions of my food, so I stayed at a fairly healthy weight.

When I went to live with my grandparents, there were no rules on what I could and couldn’t eat—and my weight just exploded. I would eat entire bags of chips, pizza, ice cream, and sandwiches loaded with cheese and mayo. I found myself eating as a coping mechanism to deal with all of the family drama and anything else that was going on in my life. Within four years, I went from weighing 180 pounds to about 320.

After high school, I went to college and continued with my unhealthy habits. Halfway through college, I decided to join a Christian-based leadership program that emphasized being physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy. So each day, as part of the program, other students and I went on runs and worked out together three to four times a week. Before this point, I hadn’t exercised at all. After two years with of the program, I weighed right around 200 pounds.

After I finished the program, I ended up gaining all the weight back plus more because I wasn’t exercising and I was eating the yummy cafeteria food all the time. I decided to try a weight-loss program that sent me pre-portioned foods to eat, and it was effective. But I wasn’t trying to lose weight for myself—I was mostly doing it for my family and friends who were concerned about me. After about a year on the plan, I’d lost 80 pounds, but I gave it up. I didn’t like eating the same things all the time, and I missed using food as a coping mechanism. It wasn’t long after that that I gained it all back.

The Change
When I went to grad school after college, I weighed about 388 pounds. My family and friends were on my case to get healthy again, but I coudln’t commit to it. Then one day, I felt my heart racing very, very fast for no reason. I still don’t know if it was caused by a panic attack or my weight, but I had to go to the emergency room and have my heart stopped and restarted. It was so scary. I knew I had do something.

About six months after that incident, I found a Groupon for boxing classes at Title Boxing. I’ve always wanted to try boxing as a stress reliever and to work out some of my emotions, but I never had. So I went to the gym and did my first class, which was incredibly hard. But I signed up for a membership the same day. I was ready.

After signing up, I started taking group classes three to four times a week. I loved the support from the other people in my class. It was super motivating. A few weeks after I started working out, I had a session with a personal trainer who taught me a little about nutrition. We made a plan that focused on eating 40 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent carbs, all of which had to come from healthy sources, which meant I had to learn to cook.

I found that keeping a close eye on everything that I was eating was time consuming. I had to spend more time at the grocery store picking out healthy foods, and I had to measure everything that I put into my meals. I kept track of all of it with the MyFitnessPal app. Though it was tedious and took a few hours out of my weekend, the weight started to come off really quickly. Plus, as I got into a routine, I started to prep and cook my meals much faster.

The most frustrating part was hitting a plateau, and it happened to me a few times. When it did, I knew I had to change something up. So I went from taking kick boxing, boxing, and other workout classes three or four times a week to hitting the gym five or six times. Then, I added in weight-lifting into my routine.

Over the course of two years, I lost more than 200 pounds—and now weigh 178 pounds.

The Reward
I love that I’m able to work out as much as I do. For me, exercising has replaced binge eating as a form of stress relief. As a result, confidence has skyrocketed; I’m a much happier person now. Today, my size doesn’t hold me back from anything. Something as simple as going to the bathroom is easier because I don’t have to hope there is a handicapped stall for me to use. I’m also able to buy a plane ticket or ride a rollercoaster without worrying that I won’t be able to fit in the seat.

Desiree’s Tips
Consistency is key. It was really hard to stick with my new exercise and eating habits, but forcing myself to keep doing things that were good for me helped me see the results I wanted.
Find a workout that you like. Another reason for my success is that I was exercising in a way that I couldn’t get enough of. I really fed off of the energy of others in my classes, and it made me look forward to exercising—instead of dreading it.
Make friends with people who have the same goals as you. Finding people at the gym who were also trying to live a healthy lifestyle made the biggest difference. It’s so nice to have a support system of people who are on the same track as you. You can share recipes or talk about issues that you share.

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