“Losing weight and keeping it off means a lifestyle change. It’s a cliché because it’s true. When you do truly change your lifestyle, though, it becomes your new normal.” (Photos courtesy of Laura Hargrove)
Laura Hargrove, age 32, is 5′2″ and currently weighs 132 pounds. But in 2006, she weighed 230 pounds. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
In 2006, I auditioned for season 3 of The Biggest Loser. A few weeks after the audition, I was asked to do a screen test with the producers. I thought that it was going to be my big break. The day that I had to leave for my screen test, my oldest niece was born, and it really made me think about the example I would be setting for her. Would she look up to me? Would she follow in my footsteps? Would she develop the same issues with food that I had? Those thoughts nagged at me.
Months later, when I didn’t hear back from NBC about getting on the show, I started to feel even more hopeless, even more depressed. I gained more weight. I had put all of my happiness into this one prospect (the show), just like I had with every other diet plan before, and when it fell through, all I was left with was more weight.
Two full years passed before I finally snapped out of my pity party. I was watching a home video and didn’t even recognize myself! It was scary. That was the wake up call I needed. The very next day, I started my journey. It was the Monday before Thanksgiving.
I had tried every single diet program imaginable. You name it, I’d done it two or three times. What was different after my home video epiphany was that I just decided to do my own thing. I made a conscious effort to eat healthy — to choose grilled chicken over fried chicken, a side salad over French fries, water instead of soda, and one cookie rather than four of them. That was the easiest way to do it in my mind; I would just make simple substitutions without feeling like I was depriving myself. At the time, I lived close to a park, so I started walking the one-and-a-quarter-mile loop around the park once a week. I eventually progressed to being able to do the loop three or four times a week. Then, I invested in some workout DVDs. I worked my way up slowly in an effort to not burn myself out. That had been my pattern in the past — starting an unsustainable plan, burning myself out, and then quitting. I had to break free of that negative cycle.
The most important thing I did while losing weight was setting weekly goals. Losing three pounds in a week seemed more doable than looking at the overwhelming, big picture of losing 100 pounds. Cutting out ice cream for just one week as a personal challenge seemed more doable to me than never eating ice cream ever again. Small, but specific, goals like this played such an important role for me. I’m sure I would have gotten overwhelmed and quit if I had thought about the finish line, as opposed to focusing on the small steps along the way.
Throughout my weight loss, my clothes became looser and looser, until all of a sudden, I found myself buying a size six; it was just so surreal. I no longer got out of breath walking from point A to point B. Socializing with my friends and coworkers became easier, better. I wasn’t so tired anymore. I had energy like I’d never known. With the weight finally gone, I had confidence! For the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in my own skin. I was on top of the world and I felt absolutely amazing.
With all of these exciting changes, I honestly didn’t expect anything negative to happen. I was so happy and proud that it came as a shock to me when I lost a few friends along the way. Some gal friends of mine, who I had a real connection with, began to give me the cold shoulder and eventually cut me out of their lives altogether. A few of my true friends even told me I was getting “too skinny” and that I needed to “eat a hamburger.” There was a part of those comments that might have come from a place of good intentions, but they weren’t exactly helpful and they didn’t always come out in the kindest way.
Another part of weight loss that I never expected was the loose skin I have now. It’s unsightly, heavy, and it physically hurts, especially when I’m working out. I wear compression garments and cover my arms and legs because I’m really self-conscious about it. But that’s the reality of losing nearly 100 pounds. I wouldn’t trade any of challenges that I have to deal with now for a second of the negativity I lived with in my 230-pound body.
Before, my weight was crippling me. I was a shell of a person just existing and going through the motions. But being able to replace “I will” with “I did” feels pretty darn good. I didn’t have to go on a TV show to get results; I did it all by myself. Today, I’m living. I have a husband and family of my own. I’m proud of the woman I am and I’m confident in the example I’m setting for my nieces. I proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. There is no greater feeling!
The Lessons In Maintenance
Maintaining my weight loss is something that I have to work on every moment of every day. I log the calories of every sip and bite I put into my mouth; I weigh myself every Monday come rain, shine, or Christmas morning; I drink water like it’s my job; and, work-schedule permitting, I work out five or six days a week. This is what I have to do to maintain. There’s no way around it. If I didn’t do this, I’d still weigh 230 pounds. Believe it or not, this is what surprised me most about maintaining. When I was heavy, I had this mindset of, “Just eat healthy food for a while, work out a little bit, lose the weight, and then you can go back to normal.” You can’t do that. Losing weight and keeping it off means a lifestyle change. It’s a cliché because it’s true. When you do truly change your lifestyle, though, it becomes your new normal. It becomes a kind of second nature. You don’t have to tell yourself to do it; you just do it naturally.
Today, I still struggle with my sweet tooth. I have to really keep that sugar lover in me in check. I could eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and never get sick of it. Now, when I do want to indulge, I’ll get ice cream that’s pre-packaged in individual servings. I also love sweet, sugary coffee treats — I can’t get enough! Today, if I decide to go get one of my favorite drinks, I make sure to order the smallest size, with skim milk, and no whipped cream. Another key for ensuring I stay on track is never going to the grocery store when I’m hungry!
If you’re struggling to lose or maintain, I would highly recommend finding tools to help keep you on track. For me, a calorie-counting app made all the difference. A few months ago, I downloaded an app that counts my calories for me so I can monitor and know exactly how much I’m consuming. Before, I was kind of guessing on my own. It can be a bit time-consuming, but the reward of maintaining my weight loss by counting, preparing, and planning is so much greater. Use tools to your advantage. They will help you to be accountable — to yourself and others — and that only makes it easier to stay focused.
But my very best advice? Stop waiting. I was the queen of waiting ‘til Monday, or waiting until after the holidays, or waiting until after my birthday, or waiting until after fill-in-the-blank. Something is always going to be happening. And, before you realize it, 20 years of your life have passed you by and you’re still heavy. How many happy memories and opportunities did I miss out on because I waited until I was 26 before I decided to just do it? Don’t wait. If you want to lose weight, you can do it!
Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have achieved healthy weight loss. The series is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative135-pound weight loss of her own. Have a success story of your own to share? We want to hear it. Tell us at YHTrueStories@yahoo.com.
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