Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Marissa Schillaci-Kayton is 5’3” tall, and currently weighs 130 pounds. In 2018, after realizing her weight was having a negative impact on her life, she drew inspiration from weight loss transformations on Reddit. This is her weight loss story, as told to Yahoo Lifestyle.
The Turning Point
I have always struggled with my weight. I had some periods in my life when I was lighter and more active and fit, and others where I didn't make the effort needed to take care of myself. Somewhere in my late 20s, I really lost my way and completely failed at taking care of my health. I went from a highly active job that I biked to every day to an office job that required me to drive. I had a lot of stress between work and graduate school. I stopped being active and stopped taking care of myself.
I was incredibly unhappy with my body and the negative impact it was having on my life. I stopped engaging in activities that I once loved because they felt too tiring, my insomnia was out of control and I always felt like I was waiting for things to get a little worse.
I spent a significant amount of time doing research and thinking about the best approach for me. I turned to the internet for both information and inspiration, and really found the latter on the progress pics sub on Reddit. I saw people succeeding at what had felt so insurmountable to me, some of whom started with higher mountains to climb. I remember looking at their timelines as well. While the complete transformations often took a year or more, a lot of people made great strides in a matter of months, and that's what helped motivate me early on.
I decided to start off simple: calorie counting and walking. I started off at 1,500 net calories (allowing myself to eat back calories burned during exercise). Then 1,500 total (no eating back exercise calories), then a 1,200-1,400 total caloric range. It took a couple of months to progress down to the lower range, but I found that it was effective at giving me enough leeway to eat just a bit more on my more active days.
I wasn't particularly active when I started, so I made a deal with myself to walk 30 minutes a day, three days a week. Eventually, my walks became longer and more frequent. I started making myself lace up my sneakers whenever I went to the fridge out of boredom. As I built up my endurance and lost weight, I added on other activities including hiking, Zumba and c25k (a 9-week 5K running program). Eventually, I joined a gym and had a good friend teach me how to lift weights.
At first, I had to take inventory of the internal changes, because the external stuff takes a bit of time. Because I was more active, I started to sleep better. I had more energy, my mood was better, I wasn't struggling with issues like migraines as much. Feeling better really did drive me early on and really encouraged me to keep increasing my physical activity.
I didn't really talk openly about my weight loss at first because I was so afraid I would just fail again. I had a single friend that I talked to about it because he was also on his own journey, so I felt like we were good support for one another. Eventually, though, people started to notice and I found myself with no choice but to talk about it. What I found was an outpouring of support from friends, family and co-workers. Some people in my life made the decision to start their own weight loss journeys. It stopped just being me on a journey, but rather a collective “us” of important people in my life, all working on our health.
I sustained an ankle injury at one point that required surgical intervention. Even though it was hard to sit through the healing process, I think that the experience had a profound impact on me. I spent time thinking about how much of my life I had spent in front of the television, and how there are some people who do not leave their house at all because of their health. I decided I didn't want those things for my life and did everything in my power to ensure that I spent as much time as possible being active out in the world.
I think there is a part of me that will always be sad about spending so many great years of my life struggling with my weight, but I have made it my mission to keep moving forward and to keep pushing myself. I am so happy to reconnect with an active lifestyle and to spend so much time in nature — and to finally have had my "aha" moment.
I have also become a much more extroverted person since losing weight. I think that confidence is the big underlying force, and it carries over into all aspects of my life, including my career and relationships. In some ways, I can see that the shift in my personality and interests has been hard on some important people in my life, and I need to make room for that and work around some of those issues still.
I am a self-professed running addict. I love what it does for my body, mind and spirit. I run three to four days a week. Most of my runs are between 4 and 8 miles, but every Sunday I hunker down for an endurance run and push myself to my limits, and then run some more. My current goal is to do a 33K run (20.5 miles) on my 33rd birthday, and I am close to two-thirds of the way to that goal.
I also lift weights and do resistance training because they make me a better runner. I hit the gym 2-3 days a week for a full body lifting session and cross training.
I make sure to take at least one rest day a week where I take it easy. I still try to stay lightly active and do things like stretch, walk the dogs, foam roll or go on a light bike ride. Because of the high demands of my training, I sometimes have to listen to my body and take unplanned rest days.
I have to eat a lot more with how active I am, and I am still getting used to that. I currently shoot for 1,700-1,900 calories a day most days, but I am still trying to figure out a good maintenance range with my level of activity. It is hard to mentally switch from "I have to eat less calories to lose weight" to "I have to eat more calories to sustain my desired activity level." I will learn, though.
I have always loved good quality food, so I eat a lot of vegetables, fruit and lean protein. I have been experimenting with vegetarianism, but I am not sure if I will be a full-blown vegetarian or just someone who eats a lot of vegetarian food. Still, my little experiment has me thinking outside of the box with my cooking, and I am thoroughly enjoying it for now.
I think there are a lot of reasons to stay healthy. First and foremost, because those closest to me — my husband, my family and my friends — all deserve the best version of me. They deserve to spend time with my happiest, healthiest and most confident self. They deserve to live in a world where my health and well-being is not something they have to worry about.
I also know now that I deserve to live my best life. I shouldn't be sitting around waiting for a poor diet and inactivity to catch up to me in the form of diabetes or other chronic illnesses. I deserve to have a life with balance where I give myself time and space for me. My workouts and diet are so important to my happiness and well-being.
There are some people in my life that I am not as close to anymore, which is tough. A lot of it probably has to do with me changing as a person. I have different interests, am more extroverted and my personality is quite different. Having relationships change for these reasons is easy for me to understand, and I think that either I will find common ground again with those people or I won't.
At the same time, some of these relationships seem to be changing simply because my weight is different, which is a lot harder to wrap my head around. I don't know if there is much that I can do about it if someone changes their behavior towards me because my body has changed.
Small sustainable changes add up fast. I am extremely active now, but that wasn't always the case. I had to start small, and being honest with myself about what and was not sustainable for me is what was key. Figure out what works for you. Before starting something, ask yourself if you can maintain it for six months, a year, five years, the rest of your life? Weight loss in and of itself won't be something you do your entire life, but maintaining it will.
Discipline is key. Motivation is fleeting, but discipline is forever. It outlasts your bad days and your good. Discipline has taught me that it is the days that I feel like working out the least that I need to the most.
Be kind to yourself. Understand that everyone slips up. It is human nature. The single most important thing for you to do when this happens is to accept it, move on and start right back on your journey. Remember, this is a lifelong thing. There will be holidays and accidental pizza and days that you just can't get to the gym. As long as you find the discipline to get back on track and keep yourself pointed in the right direction, you will be fine.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!
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