Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Esther Hollander is 41, 5’4″ tall, and currently weighs 147 pounds. In 2015, she realized that her weight had been negatively affecting all aspects of her life. With her 40th birthday approaching, she was determined to make a change. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The turning point
I was heavy for as long as I can remember. I was already large in elementary school, and by the time I finished high school I had ballooned to over 300 pounds and teetered there for much of my adult life. When I began my transformational journey, I did not have a reference point as a thinner, healthier version of myself.
Being overweight was tough in all facets of my personal, social, and work life. Because I had little self-worth or confidence, I shied away from seeking new friends and from career advancement and felt closed off to general opportunities and experiences. I was acutely aware of my size and felt like people were staring at me. I avoided activities that required too much exertion or activities where my size was prohibitive. My children were being parented by a mom who was minimally active, involved, or energized. I felt out of sync as a wife, and I was not setting a healthy example for my household.
My motivation to lose weight stemmed from my worsening physical and mental health. At 300 pounds, my body started to rebel as obesity-related medical conditions began to accrue. I had accepted that my weight was a problem, and I had basically given up on the possibility of losing it. My 40th birthday was approaching, and a determination grew within me to make fundamental changes and see a different reality for myself.
This was not my first rodeo. I already had what felt like a lifetime of numerous failed attempts. I began in my usual way, with a few uncoordinated actions. I purchased a Fitbit, started Zumba classes at my gym, and counted my calories. I was not focused on truly creating health in my life and was largely disengaged with my efforts, though.
I was fortunate that a friend connected me with her OPTAVIA coach, and I began their weight-loss program. It focuses on what most diets skip, and what really matters — using daily habits to make small changes that yield long-term success. I started the Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan, with portion-controlled Fuelings (OPTAVIA provided meals or meal replacements) eaten at regular intervals. I exercised moderately until I was close to my goal weight and then began exercising more intensely — because I could and it was fun!
At the beginning, there was an adjustment period, but it wasn’t long until I hit my stride. The structure of the program was appealing to me. I learned how to eat all over again! Once I saw that weight loss could be achieved quickly and consistently, I started to believe that success was possible, and I wanted to keep going.
Support was also a key aspect in staying the course. I was so happy to have found a program with an active community that never let me feel alone in my struggles. In addition to the broader community, I had a coach who motivated, guided, and encouraged me. She believed that I could be successful before I could believe it myself. The program provided me with a complete reset. I cemented numerous healthy habits that were not part of my previous routine. I now use those habits as my road map. I became an OPTAVIA coach, which is something I previously couldn’t have envisioned. Coaching allows me to pay it forward and keeps me connected to my new lifestyle by motivating others on their journey to health.
My life has been transformed dramatically, both physically and emotionally. I have become an active mom who’s able to keep up with her kids, which fills my heart with joy. I feel more connected to my husband, who embraced the program. As a result, our partnership and shared sense of purpose have grown in unison. People tell me that on the outside I am the person that I always was inside. I am happier, more vibrant, and more engaged in all aspects in life. Losing weight has given me self-confidence, not only because I accomplished a goal, but before, I just didn’t feel worthy of happiness and fulfillment. Now I know I am worthy and I believe in myself. My body isn’t a barrier anymore. Since I lost weight, I have discovered that I really love and value exercise. I am now a certified personal trainer, and I hope to inspire others to pursue their health goals through that channel too.
Many things have surprised me about life after weight loss. At 300 pounds, I was basically living in an alternate universe because I was closed off to so many experiences. Experiences that others may consider average, like shopping for fashionable clothes, became little feats for me as they were new and exciting to me at age 40! I am surprised at how much glee I’ve had “being a kid again” at the playground or riding a bike.
I generally eat six times a day, three large meals, and three smaller meals. My larger meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — consist of portion-controlled servings of vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. I focus on the quality of the ingredients and creating simple but delicious meals. The smaller meals in between are hearty snacks that have balanced nutrients and adequate protein. I eat treats sparingly and enjoy occasional indulgences. I work out about five times a week, incorporating both strength training and cardio. I am focusing on getting strong and pushing myself to greater limits.
I plan my meals ahead of time and don’t let myself get hungry. I stock my fridge with massive amounts of prepared vegetables and lean proteins. Going to the gym is nonnegotiable.
At my gym, I am surrounded by people of all different ages and abilities who are rocking their health goals. There’s nothing like watching a 90-year-old man get on the treadmill! I am humbled and inspired by that. And working as a personal trainer keeps me accountable to myself and motivates me by helping others. What I really value is hearing how others have conquered life’s challenges. I am a firm believer that we can learn something from everyone, so I am always trying to do that.
On occasion, I still battle the demons that challenge my self-worth. When my confidence waivers, I use a lot of positive self-talk (“Yes, you can, Esther!”) and surround myself with people who encourage and support my efforts. I am still in awe that this is my life — it’s a new and wild concept for me — but if you believe in yourself and work toward your goals, you can change the course of your life and fulfill your dreams.
You have to stop getting in your own way. Figure out what your roadblock is and work to remove it. It’s not easy, and change can be overwhelming, but you’re worth it. Take off your blinders and become engaged so you can internalize what you want to accomplish. Stay connected with the big picture of why your life depends upon it. Believe in yourself and believe that it’s possible — it is!
All photos courtesy of Esther Hollander.
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