Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Cailyn Blonstein is 20, 5′7″, and weighs 193 pounds. But just a little more than a year ago, she weighed 263.5 pounds. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The turning point
When I was around 8 years old I started gaining weight, and every year after, little by little, I gained more. By the time I was 12, I went to a dietitian and started a program to lose weight. But it felt like everyone else wanted it for me more than I wanted it for myself. Looking back, I’ve learned that no matter how badly someone else wants something for you, you’re never going to do it until you want it for yourself. It wasn’t until I was almost 19 years old that I began to see how big of a problem my weight had become. I needed to change.
My aunt is a librarian and recommended I read Tory Johnson’s book The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life. I devoured the book, finishing it in two days. It spoke to me on so many levels. Just like Tory, I want to work in the television industry — I’m in college now, but I have dreams to be a news producer. Because Tory’s on camera, she faced (and very likely still faces) criticism about her appearance. I could see having to deal with the same scrutiny someday. I didn’t want to one day make it to my dream career and have my weight hold me back. I wanted to be confident and uninhibited — and I wasn’t either of those things.
Tory hadn’t just inspired me; she’d led me to my own shift. Reading a book about someone who successfully changed habits while losing weight and bettering herself made me know that if I wanted change badly enough, I could do it, too!
The first thing I did was cut out all of the habits that were causing me to gain weight — like stopping for fast food multiple times per week and eating sweets (brownies, cookies, ice cream). I decided to try sticking to a low-carb diet and traded in my go-to chicken nuggets and french fries for grilled chicken salads.
My body has never really been able to digest refined carbs. My freshman year of college, I had emergency surgery to get my gallbladder removed, and they found out it grew directly through my liver. Since then, my body has been supersensitive to bread and bread products. Every time I eat them, I feel bloated and sick, but prior to my weight-loss journey, I enjoyed the taste of them too much to care about how much they were hurting me.
Cailyn before and after her weight loss. (Photos courtesy of Cailyn Blonstein)
It wasn’t easy. The first week of my shift was easily the hardest seven days. I felt absolutely awful. It was so tempting to just give up, but I knew that the pain I experienced then wouldn’t matter months down the road when I felt (and looked) better.
One of my best strategies for not giving up was to set attainable milestones. For example, every time I hit a weight-loss increment that I thought was notable, I’d treat myself to something that cost the same amount of money as the amount I had lost. When I lost 10 pounds, I bought myself a new shirt, in a smaller size, which cost $10. As time went on, no matter how hard it got, I knew a treat was in the foreseeable future. That kept me motivated.
During the first eight or nine months of my shift, I didn’t do any formal exercise. I wanted to focus on healthy eating and making those better habits the foundation of my lifestyle.
In the beginning, it seemed like weight was falling off so quickly. I was down 15 pounds … then 30, then 50! It was so fast on the scale. But it took a long time before I actually noticed the weight loss on my own body. Slowly, I started to become more confident. I began looking in the mirror more, and liking what I was seeing. With the physical changes definitely came mental ones, and personality changes, too. I became an all-around happier, more positive person.
One incredible side effect of my transformation has been the impact it has had on my dad. He has now lost 53 pounds — just 5 pounds away from his goal! Last summer, when I started losing weight, he began cooking healthier meals. He obviously didn’t want to make two dinners — one for me and one for him — so he just began eating healthier and lowering his refined carb intake. He saw how much that way of eating helped me and how good I felt from it and wanted the same for himself.
Cailyn and her father, who has achieved a 53-pound weight loss of his own. (Photos courtesy of Cailyn Blonstein)
Now my diet is mainly low-carb. I focus on lots of veggies, big salads, and protein. Two of my favorite meals are caesar salads with grilled chicken and bunless cheeseburgers. I’ve broadened my low-carb diet to include low-carb wraps, which I never did in the beginning.
During this whole health shift, whenever I wanted something that I knew would make me gain weight, I’d ask myself, “Is it worth it?” I’d debate whether or not the few minutes of joy I’d get from eating the unhealthy food were worth the weight gain/bloat I’d see on the scale the next day. Most of the time, it wasn’t worth it. On holidays, vacations, or my birthday, I’m not as strict. I know that it’s OK to indulge every once in a while as long as I don’t do it all the time.
As for exercise, I go to the gym four to six times a week. I take classes like HIIT (high intensity interval training), kickboxing, and Zumba. The past few months I’ve also focused on lifting weights so I can become stronger and look my absolute best.
This shift has been a major learning experience. One thing that has really helped put my weight loss into perspective is that every time I hit a milestone, I go to the grocery store and lift an item that weighs the same amount as I’ve lost. In anticipation of hitting 70 pounds lost, I went to the store and picked up two 35-pound containers of kitty litter. Physically feeling that amount of weight was incredible. It kept me motivated.
When I began losing, I weighed myself every single day, but I soon realized that these numbers were unrealistic because there are so many factors that can impact the number on the scale. Now I’ve created a “Weigh-in Wednesday” for myself. It’s the one day I choose to check in. It helps me to stay on track and remain consistent without getting obsessive.
If I sense that I’m getting away from my healthy habits, I take a look at old photos of myself. I see how unhappy I used to be and how unhealthy I was. Seeing those images is usually enough to snap me back into my routine. I am so thankful to be where I am, and to have gone on this whole journey. I don’t want to ruin it.
There will always be weeks when the number on the scale doesn’t change, and while that’s frustrating, I’ve learned that it isn’t the be-all and end-all. I’m working on finding parts of my body that I love — that can’t be defined by a number — because that number below my feet is only my relationship with gravity, and that’s it. I am more than that number.
One piece of advice I’d give others is to be public about your shift. From the get-go, I posted very openly about my weight-loss journey. I’d share my successes and my struggles and post pictures as updates. You’ll also be glad that you’re able to look back and see your progress along the way. People who care about you want you to succeed, and you never know — they might need some motivation too! You could give someone a role model to look up to, much as Tory was for me.
Enjoy every little milestone that comes with your transformation. Celebrate it. Know that if I can turn my life around like this, then you can too!
Order Tory Johnson’s inspiring new book, Shift for Good: Simple Changes for Lasting Joy Inside and Out, and check out her first book, The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life.