Before: 326 pounds
After: 172 pounds
I was about nine years old when I really started to gain weight, but I've been heavy my entire life. By age 10, I was wearing a women's size 10 pant. When I reached my preteens, I weighed 210 pounds, and everything snowballed from there. I've tried diets—maybe losing 10, 15, 20 pounds—but the weight would come right back. If I had to pinpoint my exact problem, it'd be my eating habits. I ate everything, especially when I was feeling extra-emotional. It was entirely mindless eating. Growing up, I was always teased about my size; I couldn't dress like my friends. I felt like I needed to control something, and food was my only option.
On my 30th birthday in May 2012, I’d had it. I don't know what really pushed me to make this decision, but I knew that I couldn't weigh this much forever. I have a 10-year-old (she was seven back then), and her father had passed away a few years earlier. I'm all she had left, and I realized that I have to be someone who's going to be around to watch her grow up.
It was a very slow progression, but it was worth the time spent. First, I eliminated soda from my diet and lost about 20 pounds. Then, I cut back on the junk food and my calorie intake and dropped another 25 pounds in a year. I didn't have a big goal in mind, so that accomplishment made me excited to continue along this path. By May 2013, I'd lost 50 pounds—which felt like a major milestone, so I kept at it. I really paid attention to my food. I quit eating out—and cooked more meals at home. Basically, I replaced all the bad things going into my belly with healthier choices. I consciously think about what I'm eating—it's what gets me to stop emotionally noshing on the bad stuff. Since I have a child around, I do keep some sweet stuff in the house. But whenever I feel the urge to make a poor choice, I ask myself, "Is this worth it?" Some days, I think it is! But I'm only human—nobody's perfect.
It wasn't until around August 2013 when I started to work out. I've hit the weight room with some strength training and do total-body exercises three days a week. The other days I run. Before I started losing weight, I couldn't even walk a mile—it felt like I would die. But I forced myself to walk a little bit every day. Eventually, I motivated myself to start running 5-Ks. I finished my first 10-K this past October, and I'm currently training for a 15-K this upcoming February.
Last year, my daughter and I went to Disney World after I had lost roughly 50 pounds. I still couldn't fit on a rollercoaster, so neither of us could go on the ride. She was really disappointed, but I looked her in the eye and told her, "Never again will I not be able to do something that you want to do because of my weight." After I lost more weight, we went to another amusement park that's closer to where we live, and the two of us fit into the seats.
Later, when my daughter hugged me and her arms wrapped around my entire body for the first time, she said, "Mommy, my hands touch!" It really motivated me to continue this journey. I want to teach her that things won't be easy, but the payoff is phenomenal. I'm actually smaller now than I was at age 10!
Record what you eat. Whenever I eat, I log it in an app and jot down everything I've eaten—sort of like a food journal—to see exactly what I should (and shouldn't) be putting into my mouth. It really makes me aware of my diet and keeps me accountable.
Make a workout schedule. Once you learn to make exercise a priority—which you can do—this will become a habit. So what if you show up late to a party? At least you're sticking to your goals.
Do it for yourself. Nobody could ever tell me to lose weight—I had to realize that I was ready to do it for myself. If you're not ready to do it, you're not going to be able to do it.
Jessica Welch, 32, stands at 5'6" and lives in Waco, Texas.
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