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I’ve been working on losing weight this year – I made that cliched resolution to get healthier, and so far it’s been sticking. If you’ve ever been on this journey, you know it can be really easy to get off track. I truly think a large part of the difference for me this time around has been watching people who are success stories; those who’ve been on this same path, who’ve stuck with their goals, and who have results to show for it.
My friend Laurie is one of those people. She works full time, she’s got three kids, yet she’s still managed to succeed – triumphantly – at her weight loss. I’ve been really inspired by her, and I asked her if she’d be willing to share her story because I think you’ll be inspired, too. Thanks to Laurie for agreeing to write this guest post!
I never had a weight problem. All of my life, I ate what I want, when I wanted and I was still able to maintain an average-sized frame. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a bikini model, but I did not gain weight very easily. I was happy with my body. I enjoyed eating junk food. I never had to think about what I was putting into my body and if I wanted an ice cream, I ate that ice cream. If I wanted to eat potato chips and soda before bed, I did.
Pregnancy: Where it All Started
I got married when I was 23, and soon after, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. When I was pregnant, I took that as the chance to continue eat whatever I wanted, times two. I didn’t hold back at all. By the end of my pregnancy, I had gained over 70 pounds. This was my first pregnancy and I figured this is just the way it goes: you gain weight. I didn’t think I’d have a problem with the weight coming right off, because I never had issues with weight before.
The weight didn’t fall off. I lost the initial water and bloating weight, but then I was stuck. The weight was there and it was there to stay. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. I was so content being a first-time mommy that it didn’t bother me a whole lot. I accepted my new body – excess weight and stretch marks everywhere – and enjoyed my new life. I knew we were going to have more children, so I didn’t really try to do much about it.
Accepting My New Body
A couple of years later, I got pregnant again and we had another child. During that pregnancy, I gained less weight, but I started off much heavier that time around. After we had our second child, I decided that I wanted to get into shape. I started eating healthy and exercising daily. I managed to lose around 30 pounds before finding out I was pregnant again. My third pregnancy was a surprise. It certainly wasn’t planned. My daughter was only five months old and I was just beginning a weight loss journey that was nowhere near complete. Once again, I gained less weight than I did my first, but I was still much heavier from the get go.
During this three-and-a-half year period of pregnancies, my body endured a lot. I was up and down with weight and I really didn’t treat my body the way I should have been. My body had been through hell and back. It would never be the same. It was stretched out in areas I didn’t think could stretch out. It was big and unflattering. It was not me.
After my third child was born, I once again started my weight loss journey that had been put on hold nine months earlier and once again, I managed to lose 30 pounds through diet and exercise. Once again, another big event happened in our lives – we bought a new house and would be moving. Moving with three children three and under (with one being three months old at the time) was a big stressor. I was busy packing and unpacking, and my weight loss journey came to another screeching hault. I didn’t have time to exercise and I was so stressed out and busy that I fell back into unhealthy eating habits.
At this point, I was once again ready to accept my body the way it was. I was in the 180-190 pound range. “This is just how my body is going to be.” I would tell myself. I didn’t think there was much I could do. The thought of losing all the weight, and knowing how hard it was to lose that initial 30 pounds, was enough to make me feel defeated and give up on the dream of ever being the weight I was before having children.
Working Towards a Goal
Two years went by. Life was great and I was enjoying being a mommy. I was overweight, but had accepted it. Then I would see myself in pictures. I would be unhappy with how I looked. It was starting to bother me more and more. I wanted to do something about it and I would be all gung ho on dieting and exercising and it would only last a day or two. It was HARD. Then something inside me snapped. I was turning 30 years old. I knew I did not want to be this weight any more. I wanted my body back. My kids were starting to get older and more self sufficient and I felt like maybe I could squeeze in some more “me time” and focus on myself a little more. I started to watch what I ate and started exercising. I religiously did Jillian’s Michael’s 30 Day Shred each and every night. I was starting to see the weight come off – slowly, but surely. It started to become an addiction, so to speak.
I would set small goals for myself – 5 pounds here, 10 pounds there. My ultimate goal was to get back down to where I was when I got married. I made sure to track all my calories and I was always going for walks each night after work – pulling a wagon with two kids in it with one hand and walking two dogs on a leash with the other while my son walked or rode his bike alongside me. I was determined. I had the willpower. I had the ambition. I had the drive. I did it. I was able to lose a lot of weight. I was able to get down to my wedding weight. There were a lot of setbacks, weight fluctuations, feeling tired and defeated if the weight didn’t come off as fast as I was hoping. It was HARD. I did it though.
But, wait – why wasn’t I happy? My body looked nothing like it did when I got married. The scale said the same thing, but my body was nowhere near the same. I decided to keep working and set a new goal for myself, which was 20 pounds lighter. I had been there when my husband and I first met, so I knew it was a possible, healthy weight for me. So I went for it! Again, the drive was there. I had never had this drive in the past. All of those times that I wanted to lose the weight, but I just couldn’t – I didn’t feel this determination. I didn’t feel this motivation. I wasn’t in this mindset. I kept going with the weight loss. I went from a size 16 to a size 8. I bought a lot of new clothes because I kept getting smaller and my clothes kept getting bigger. Buying new clothes is expensive, so Goodwill and other thrift shops became my best friend. All in all, I ended up losing 53 pounds. It felt great. It was such a rewarding experience knowing that no one but me did this. I worked hard and it paid off in a big way.
A Minor Setback
I was able to maintain my weight for about a year. I was in school finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree. School with three small children is stressful. Life in general is stressful. I had fallen back into bad eating habits. I wasn’t exercising because I didn’t feel like I had the time. I stress-ate A LOT. Before I knew it, I had gained weight. I wasn’t weighing myself, but my clothes were getting tighter. I wasn’t fitting into any of my newer “skinny clothes.” I ignored it. I lost the weight once, I can do it again. Then I decided to step on the scale – 24 pounds heavier. My heart sank. How did I let this happen? 10 pounds, I can do, but 24 pounds? I remember over the holidays feeling so ugly and gross. I felt like I had nothing to wear because everything made me feel fat and uncomfortable. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I was so unhappy.
Once again, I was ready. I was ready to lose the weight. Just like everyone else, this was my New Year’s resolution. Starting on New Year’s Eve, I dusted off my exercise DVD and got to work. I started watching what I ate, counting calories and losing the weight – slowly, but surely. I was on track and I was going to do this and I vowed never to let myself slip like this again. I wanted to be healthy and I wanted this to be permanent. I ended up receiving a Fitbit for a birthday present. I thought this would be neat and help motivate me to be more active. I didn’t realize just how motivational this would be. Realizing how little I walk around during the day – especially sitting at a desk for the majority of my work day – I deicded that I wanted to get a treadmill. My husband found a great deal on Craigslist and we were then proud owners of a treadmill that I could use whenever my heart desired. I was hooked. I was walking morning and night. I walked while watching TV and movies, I walked while my children played around me, I just loved to walk.
Before I knew it, the extra weight that I had gained was gone. I even managed to lose more weight on top of that, mostly just from walking as my exercise. I have recently become interested in running as well. I would love to sign up for a 5k in the future. I also do some other exercises – yoga when I have time, and I have a series of crunches/ab exercises that I do each night as well. I’m looking into getting into weight training and other exercise routines.
In addition to the exercising, I have educated myself about proper eating and nutrition. I’ve learned that it’s not just calories in vs. calories out. That’s what I thought – 100 calories was 100 calories to me. I wasn’t eating the right foods, and I wasn’t properly fueling my body. When I was losing weight the first time around, I remember days where I would just eat a bunch of granola bars and that was it. I lost the weight, so it “worked”, but that was why I fell back into bad habits. I wasn’t educated and I just wanted the weight to come off. I actually enjoy grocery shopping now. I do it leisurely because I love looking at all the food and I love reading the nutrition labels on everything. I lay in bed at night looking for new recipes to make. I love trying new foods. I love trying to find healthy versions of current favorites. We are trying to replace all junk food in our house with healthy options. We are making small changes to what we buy in order to benefit our health and our bodies long term.
Success and Happiness
Since New Year’s Eve, I have lost over 30 pounds. This is what I gained back and then some. I feel great, and I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I feel like this is a lasting change. Eating healthy doesn’t just mean salads. There are so many delicious options out there. I look forward to eating my food so much more now than I ever have. I’m using my food as fuel and not just a pasttime or something I do because I’m bored or stressed out. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring or bland. It’s delicious and nutritious and there are so many options that I don’t have the desire to buy pre-packaged foods anymore. I’d rather eat fresh foods! Each night, I pack and prepare my lunch for the next work day. It’s time consuming, but I know that what I’m bringing to work with me is fresh and healthy. It’s a win in my book!
Throughout my fitness journey, I have lost a total of over 80 pounds. I have gone from a size 16 down to a size 4. It’s been a long journey of ups and downs and it hasn’t been easy. I did something that for a long time I never thought I would be able to do. That doesn’t come without criticism, though. At my current weight, which I’m extremely happy with, I now have people commenting on how I’m “too skinny” or that I need to eat more. I wonder why it’s ok for people to comment when someone is thinner, because I never got any comments from anyone when I was overweight. It’s discouraging, to say the least. I’ve worked hard to get here and people feel the need to have an opinion about it. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in my adult life.
I feel great, and while I’m still trying to accept the stretch marks and loose skin that comes with losing a lot of weight, I am much happier with my body now than I have been in a long time. My fitness journey is just beginning. Although I have lost the weight, there are still so many opportunities ahead of me. The possibilities are endless and this lifestyle change is here to stay long term.