'I couldn’t believe that it was me': How seeing a photo of herself at a tailgate party inspired one woman to lose 69 pounds

Andie Mitchell

Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Kaytlin Westlake is 5’5” tall and currently weighs 145 pounds. In 2018, after realizing the negative effects her weight was having on her physical and mental health, she was determined to pursue a healthier path.

The Turning Point

I noticed my weight becoming an issue about two years ago. I didn’t look the same in my clothes anymore. I was beginning to feel sore all the time. I would easily get winded. And most importantly, I was beginning to be a very negative person because of how self-conscious I was about my weight.

There were two events that led to my complete lifestyle change. First was a trip to the mall, where I was trying on clothes, but the trip ended with me buying absolutely nothing and hysterically crying the whole way home. It was one of the most awful experiences of my life. I felt like I had given up on myself.

The second moment came about a week after the the mall experience. I saw a picture of myself from a tailgate. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe that it was me. I looked like a completely different person. Right in that moment I decided enough was enough, and I was going to be making some big changes.

After seeing photos of herself at a tailgate party, Kaytlin Westlake was shocked and decided to make some changes in her life. (Photo courtesy of Kaytlin Westlake)
After seeing photos of herself at a tailgate party, Kaytlin Westlake was shocked and decided to make some changes in her life. (Photo courtesy of Kaytlin Westlake)

The Changes

First thing I did was quit fast food and sugary drinks. I used to eat out about three to four times a week. I completely stopped. I began eating only whole foods, mostly veggies, fruits, and whole grains. I didn’t follow a specific eating plan, I would just try and make sure that any meal I was eating wasn’t ridiculously high in calories. I would just try and keep my calorie count low for every meal and only eat things of nutritional value. I started working out five to six days a week. I’d do 30 minutes of straight cardio to burn calories and fat. I got my workouts from YouTube and would do them in my living room.

What kept me going in the beginning was the realization of how unhappy my unhealthy body made me. I began seeing changes in my appearance very quickly and that was so motivating. I dedicated my entire life to making myself healthier and it was showing, mentally and physically. I felt like I could do anything. I felt strong and like I was becoming a new person. I also would take photos of myself, and seeing the improvements were so motivating throughout my journey. The support of my family and peers was another positive motivator for me.

Seeing how my mood and body were improving so quickly was more than enough to keep me from giving up. I knew I was going down a very positive and healthy road, and I was not looking back. I dreaded my old life and the new one I was living was better in every way possible. Even the struggles of the new life, like soreness from exercise or saying no to a craving, were so much more worth going through than going back to my old ways.

Westlake's body started quickly changing after focusing on eating healthy, whole foods and working out regularly. (Photo courtesy of Kaytlin Westlake)
Westlake's body started quickly changing after focusing on eating healthy, whole foods and working out regularly. (Photo courtesy of Kaytlin Westlake)

The After

After losing the weight, I have so much confidence in myself — confidence I never had before. Emotionally, I felt like I could handle anything. I was so much stronger of a person in every aspect. I developed myself into a new person, who worked hard and who was positive. My life changed in a lot of different ways; I was more outgoing after losing the weight and I credit that to my promotion at work. I was going out and doing things again instead of hiding inside my house. Every relationship I have with other people has gotten better because of my weight loss. I am just a better overall person.

I think the most eye opening part about my journey was realizing how important mental health is. My mental health when I was overweight was extremely poor; I was negative about everything, I called myself names all of the time. But once I decided to lose weight, I really worked on putting an end to those unhealthy habits. I stopped thinking poorly about myself, stopped making excuses and tried to live each day with as much positivity as possible. Before I knew it, I was making so much progress and those new healthy mindful tactics are now a part of who I am.

The Maintenance

I live by an 80 percent healthy to 20 percent treat yourself lifestyle now. I eat more processed than I did in the beginning, but I look for the best possible options, like low sodium, low sugar, etc. I still don’t drink soda or go through drive thrus. To me, if I am going to treat myself, I want to go to a sit-down restaurant. When I go out to eat, I still remain mindful about what I am ordering. I still do my Youtube work out videos. I have brought it down to four times a week — still 30 minutes, but now a mix of cardio and strength training to help build muscle.

I try to be as active as much as I can. Like I said, I do my workouts throughout the week but also do little things throughout the day, such as park farther away in the parking lot, take longer routes if I am walking somewhere, and go on walks when the weather is nice. Diet-wise, I keep fried, greasy, foods and processed sugar to a minimum, watch my sodium, portion control, and drink lots of water.

Honestly, I inspire myself these days. I never knew that I was capable of achieving such a huge goal and looking back at everything I have accomplished is so motivating. Every time I look in the mirror, I am motivated because it’s a visual reminder of the months of hard work and dedication I gave so I could have a happier life.

Westlake, pictured with her significant other, before and after losing weight. (Photo courtesy of Kaytlin Westlake)
Westlake, pictured with her significant other, before and after losing weight. (Photo courtesy of Kaytlin Westlake)

The Struggles

I still struggle with emotional eating sometimes. Most of the time I can stop it before it happens by distracting myself. But if I do give in, I learned that forgiving myself is the best thing to do. I used to get so mad if I would fall into an emotional eating episode and I would just think so horribly about myself. But now, I just really think about what led up to it and see how I can try and create a better situation for myself in the future, so I have a better chance of not doing it again. The mind is very hard to rewire and I know it takes time, which also helps me work through my struggle. I will overcome it completely someday. I just try to stay positive and not rush it.

Advice

I have a few pieces of advice: First, be patient. Don’t try and rush it — enjoy the journey and learn as much as you can about yourself. Your body speaks to you and will let you know what works and doesn’t. Second, make small goals for yourself instead of large ones. Smaller goals are way less daunting and easier to conquer, and all those small accomplished goals will lead up to your big main goal. Lastly and most importantly, check your mental health. Anyone can lose weight, but in order to consistently lose — and keep it off for the long term — means getting your mind healthy. Put just as much time and effort into your mindset as you do into your body. They work hand-in-hand.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!

Wellness Wins is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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