Amanda’s (Extra Long Version) Story
Today was my first official weigh in where I was at or under my goal weight. I thought about waiting for a few official weigh-ins to report myself as being “at goal”, but decided that I’ve been hovering here long enough to make it official.
My name is Amanda, and I’m 25 years old. As of today, I have lost 133 lbs. I have gone from a size 22W with 49.5% body fat to a size 8 with 23.3% body fat. I have learned to love foods I never thought possible, to crave exercise, and to love cooking. My journey required a lot of changes, but I am still me. I still love to cook, bake, and yes, eat. I still love to make cookies and cakes and pies, though now I pawn off most of the goods on neighbors and friends. I still love to entertain, though I do so with healthier dishes, and 99% of my guests can’t tell the difference. I weigh 55% of what I did at the start, and I didn’t put my life on hold, deprive myself, or make myself crazy with strictness. I can sum up my plan, loosely, as follows:
1. Calorie count. The level that works for everyone is different, but I found a level that would let me lose 1-2 lbs a week and stuck to it like glue unless I made a choice that something was “special” – see #3.
2. Plan, plan, plan! I plan my food a day ahead of time, and dinners every week. I make 4 portions of every dinner so my partner and I have ready-made, on plan lunches every day. I plan my healthy snacks and make sure they are always available. Planning is so essential to long-term success, I can’t emphasize this enough.
3. Exercise! Strength train and do cardio. It makes you feel better, builds muscle, and in my experience, makes healthy choices food-wise even easier to make.
4. Make allowances for what matters. There were days I decided to go off plan. Usually, these were special days…birthdays, celebrations with family, holidays. Sometimes they were not…dinner with friends, or a date with my partner. But never forget it is a CHOICE, and never neglect to go back to your healthy ways after. At least every 2 weeks, I made a choice to go over my calories – sometimes more often, sometimes less. But I always chose to go back to my plan afterward.
5. Figure out what isn’t negotiable to you and plan for it. For me, it was dessert. I feel deprived without it. So every day, I saved myself 150 calories of my allowance, and I had something delicious and sweet. An individually portioned ice cream bar, a mini-cake I baked with whole wheat flour and fruit, whatever it was, it was essential to me, so I made a plan for it and made it happen. Whatever your non-negotiables are, you can fit them in with good planning!
When I started my journey, I weighed about 295 lbs. I never had a scale in my house, but I went to visit a friend, and there was a scale in his bathroom. When I stepped on and saw that I was just 5 lbs away from the 300 lb mark, it scared the heck out of me. My grandfather, not a small man, died of a heart attack when I was 2. My grandma had a stroke. What’s more, I have struggled with an anxiety disorder, and it manifested itself in fears about my health. At age 23, I spent so much time simply terrified that I was going to die of some preventable disease…heart attack, diabetes, you name it and I worried about it. I was setting myself up for a short life, I knew it, and I was terrified.
My partner was much smaller when she met me. She came to college in about a size 12-14…not a tiny girl, but not big either. By the time we’d been together 5 years, she’d gained to nearly meet me – 280 lbs and a size 22W. We wanted to have a commitment ceremony, and she had proposed on our anniversary in 2004. Neither of us wanted to commit to a date, though, until we were smaller. The idea of fitting into a wedding dress was just too scary.
In early 2006, my sister got engaged. Sarah and I had been planning our ceremony with no real progress for a year. My sister said, essentially, “Look, you were engaged first, so you get first choice of date, but you had better pick something soon or I’m planning regardless”. We found our dream location and took the only date they had available, April 21, 2007. The date was booked around April of 2006, and suddenly we had a VERY quickly approaching wedding. It was time to start making some changes, for both health and vanity. It was the final push we needed.
I made a commitment to cooking every night. I work from my home, so it was easier for me than most to get dinner on the table. On my lunch breaks, I’d spend 15 minutes prepping dinner so it could be on the table in 30 minutes or less, half an hour on stretching or strength training, and the remaining 15 minutes eating. When Sarah got home, dinner was only a short while away – a blessing for us.
We learned very quickly that eating small portions for our main meals wasn’t a workable strategy for us. I cooked many dinners at the beginning that just felt small, and we left the table unsatisfied. I started tweaking, adding extra vegetables into everything, cutting back to lean proteins, and bulking out reasonable servings of whole grains with lots of produce. We ate things we had never had before, like roasted pork tenderloin, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, and any number of different veggies. We learned that we could still have big plates of food so long as we made sure that they consisted mostly of veggies. I learned how to cook in a completely different way, removing oil and replacing with chicken broth, spices, herbs, and fresh ingredients. I replaced sodas with unsweetened iced teas and plenty of water, and switched to drinking my coffee black. Some things, though, I didn’t sacrifice. Sarah and I ate dessert every night, usually a calorie-controlled single serving of some sweet treat. It made us feel indulgent, and we made sure each day had room for the calories.
About 4 months into our new way of eating, we subscribed to a Community Supported Agriculture farm, where we paid a certain amount to get whatever the farm had in season that week. As the veggies and fruits I’d never heard of came out of the box, I had to adapt. I learned how to cook winter squash, beets, greens, eggplant, and tomatillos in healthy ways. These things are staples for me now, all due to that wonderful box subscription. And I gained more confidence in myself as a cook, which led me to create even more recipes we could enjoy. I used FitDay to track total calories and played around with new preparations and ingredients, and I can honestly say that I have loved 95% of the meals I’ve eaten while in weight loss. In fact, I’ve started being disappointed at the richness of restaurant meals – I see oil on the plate and just KNOW they could make the dish healthier. Drives me crazy.
I knew exercise was important, but didn’t really know what to do. I bought a rebounder (mini trampoline), and would turn on the TV and just bounce to break a sweat. After a few months, Sarah and I started getting up before work to go for long walks, which progressed into jog/walks as the summer went on. Then, when Fall hit and it got cold out, we joined a gym. The first time I walked in, I was terrified…all of these thin people and me, over 200 lbs, feeling so horribly out of place. I changed before I got there, unwilling to strip in the locker room in front of anyone else. The gym did, however, offer 2 free personal training sessions a month. I met with a trainer, who taught me how to really work the gym, and helped me develop lower and upper body strength training routines. I realized that the gym wasn’t a place to be afraid of…it was a place where I could feel strong! To this day, I never feel smaller, more toned, or more fit than when I am looking at myself in a gym mirror, weights in hand. I got myself into a routine – cardio 6 days a week, weights at least 2, and “bonus” workouts whenever I could fit them in on a lunch break.
Fast forward to the ceremony, 1 year after we started. I remember bursting into tears the first time I tried on a size 22W wedding dress. But my dress, which I purchased in October in a size 18, had to be sized down by a very skilled seamstress to a size 12. My arms looked toned, my waist looked small, and I felt incredibly beautiful. I was 6 lbs shy of the ultimate goal I’d settled on (which was actually goal #3 – first goal was 180, second 170…I decided to go past both of those when I reached them because I didn’t feel I was yet where I wanted to be), but I felt great.
Then I hit my first “plateau” – but man, was it a whopper. I went 6 months without losing a single pound. I did lose some inches, and a couple of dress sizes, bringing me to about a size 8. But not one pound. I’m not going to blame this all on fate – I know that after the ceremony, I was a little more relaxed – the big event had already taken place, so I backed off a little. I maintained my workouts but maybe added a few more treats. I was maintaining right around my wedding weight, so I decided not to panic. I knew that my body would either cooperate eventually, or if not, I’d get tired of being stuck and eat clean for a few months to get the last few pounds gone.
5 months into the plateau from heck, another whammy – my left knee started throbbing in pain every time I went down stairs, and making a horrific popping noise. I went to my doctor, was scheduled for an MRI, and told not to do –any- weight bearing cardio until we knew what was going on. My only option was to swim, which I did, but not nearly as often as I wanted. I could only do upper body and core workouts, with no lower body work. It was miserable, and I was watching the scale creep upward. I finally got the drive to cut out the extra treats, vowing to two of my favorite chicks (thank you Robin and Heather!) that I would not let this derail me. I worked my arms into well-toned submission. When I saw the orthopedist and he scheduled surgery, I told myself the end was in sight. Unfortunately, after the surgery, we discovered two other problems with my knee going on at the same time. To this day, I still haven’t done a full lower body workout without a physical therapist’s direction. I have finally worked myself up to 60 min on the elliptical trainer, my old cardio standby, but have to tape my knee in such a way that my kneecap can’t dislocate. I think the key, for me, was that I NEVER gave up. Even when I could do nothing but arm lifting, I would get to the gym at least every other day, just to lift. I was always thinking of ways I could still move and keep my body happy without hurting the knee.
I still don’t understand how it happened when my cardio was so limited, but 4 weeks after surgery, I dropped 4 lbs rapid fire, from 168 to 164. Then another three weeks of nothing as I slowly ramped up the exercise, with some events going on in between (including my birthday and all the associated cake and frosting!). Then on Friday, I weighed in at 161.6, and today, on my official weigh-in, there it was…goal.
As most of you know, I was featured in Woman’s World magazine in the October 30, 2007 issue as a “Weight Loss Success” cover story. The whole thing is still surreal to me, but there I am in full color (I should know…I have enough copies to prove it!). What amazed me most about the article was the impact it had on other people – already I have heard from so many people who are trying my recipes, experimenting with new veggies, and getting ready to move to a whole different lifestyle. It amazes me to no end that I might have that sort of impact on people.
My life is completely different now than at any point before. Me, the girl who crossed 200 lbs in 8th grade, who was teased, who was ridiculed, who got out of breath singing even in the car, and who was so darned ashamed of who she was now has a healthy BMI, wears a size 8, and is so darned proud of herself she could burst. Today I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since high school. I had to introduce myself (it’s a common thing…I look completely different), and her eyes went wide as she said “You look like a completely different person”. And I really am.
Sorry for the length, but that is the whole story. I cannot thank the wonderful people here at 3FC enough for the support, encouragement, and ideas. I would never have done it without being here. And to every single person reading this who is sitting where I was sitting a year and a half ago – you can do this. And when (not if, but WHEN) you do, for each pound you lose, you can’t even imagine the amazing things that you’ll gain. To close, I give you a quick list of some of my favorite gains:
1. A wide selection of amazing recipes that I can cook for me, for company, or at bake sales without going off plan OR disappointing anyone. I’ve cooked healthy meals for my in-laws, my parents, my friends, and my relatives, and no one has said anything about the food being light (even the meat and potatoes types!). Those recipes will carry me into maintenance and beyond. Related, I developed a huge knowledge of dozens of healthy, natural foods and how to cook them.
2. A clean house. Let me explain this one. I can only cook in a clean kitchen…dishes in the sink, dirty counters, etc, make me not want to cook. To proceed on my cook-at-home-eat-healthy path, I have to have a clean kitchen. Once the kitchen is clean, I tend to clean everything else. In addition, I have a ton more energy to clean up the everyday messes.
3. A fabulous new sense of style. I love my clothes, I love makeup and styling my hair. I’ve gone from “I don’t care” to “give me a minute to throw on some lipgloss,” and have never felt prettier.
4. My confidence. I have confidence in my looks, my health, and my decisions. This is priceless to me.
5. My health. I no longer worry about medical problems striking me down. I am in control of my health and body.
6. My self-respect. I didn’t respect myself when I was bigger. I felt I was failing, and I was, really, failing myself. I have so much awe and respect for what I have accomplished, and it has helped me believe I can accomplish so much more.
7. A belief that I can do absolutely anything I want to do, if I just put my mind to it.