Throughout high school and college, I stayed at an average weight. Though I wasn’t super active, I’d sporadically ride a stationary bike and use the elliptical once or twice a week. My diet also lacked serious discipline, but my metabolism was at its peak. As a college student on a budget, I ate a lot of sandwiches and chips, but it never affected me.
After graduating in 2004, I loved that I could afford to buy pretty much anything I wanted—unlike my college days. I started turning to meals like pizza and fast food because it was easy and quick.
A few years after graduating, I began struggling with depression. I started to feel really complacent in life, and I stopped going to the gym and caring for myself. I let my illness take hold of me and used food as a coping mechanism to feel better. That’s when my weight really started to climb, and I began having to buy bigger clothes. As my size increased over the next several years, it got to the point where I wouldn’t feel comfortable in an airplane seat, my energy levels were at an all-time low, and I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without feeling completely gassed. On top of that, my self-esteem was very low. I never wanted to meet new people or do anything besides sit at home.
In 2012, I went to my doctor to discuss going on medication for depression. When they weighed me, the scale read 293 pounds. I knew I’d gained weight, but I didn’t realize it had been that much. That appointment was the wakeup call that I needed to get my health in check.
For motivation to get healthier, I bought a Fitbit and began using the Lose It! app to log my calories and keep track of my activity. I started eating salads and swapping my fast food go-tos for home-cooked meals. By the time I’d lost about 20 pounds, I thought, “Hey, I can totally keep this going on my own.” But then I got frustrated that I wasn’t able to buy a pair of size-four pants as quickly as I’d wanted to—so I gave up on my new habits and ended up gaining all of the weight back. I felt just as lethargic as I had before.
About a year after my failed attempt to get fit, I got sick of feeling like crap all of the time and decided to cut out all alcohol. I noticed a dip in the scale right away and got motivated to get on track again. Since I knew the Lose It! app had worked for me in the past, I decided to give it another shot. But this time, I told myself that I couldn’t give up so easily.
In addition to logging my calories and activities again, I started working out using the Couch to 5-K program. My sister was always a runner, and she invited me to run a four-mile race with her. It was hard at first because I hadn’t worked out much since college, and I didn’t love running. I actually hated it. Every time the little voice from the Couch to 5-K program said, “Begin running,” I would get so angry. But the way I felt when I finished training made me feel so good that I just kept doing it. In addition to training for the race with my sister, I started walking my dogs or just walking by myself whenever I had a spare moment.
Two years after I initially started my weight loss journey, I’ve lost about 130 pounds and weigh 164 pounds.
I feel so much happier now that I don’t have to pass on plans because I’m worried that I wouldn’t be able to do certain activities. Recently, my dad asked me if I wanted to go on a bike ride with him, and for the first time in years, I actually could. Plus, I’ve gone on to do more races, including two 10-Ks, and I’m looking forward to running a half-marathon this spring. I’m nervous, but I know I’ll be fine.
Track your calories. Tracking everything that I eat helps keep me honest. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I had a salad today so I can have this bag of chips,” I know exactly how many calories I have left to eat each day. It helps me realize when I’m not actually hungry and I just want chips because they taste good.
Don’t get discouraged. The first couple of months were really hard because I didn’t see the dramatic results that I was hoping for. When I got frustrated with that, I just gave up. But the second time around, I knew that if I wanted those dramatic results, I had to be patient and stick with my plan.
Don’t nix a workout just because you don’t like it at first. Though I didn’t initially like running, I became addicted to the feeling it gave me after a couple of workouts. If I didn’t give it a fair shot, I might not have accomplished all the races I’ve done since.