Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Jennifer Taft is 33, 5’7” tall, and currently weighs 157 pounds. In 2014, after her weight climbed to over 300 pounds, she realized she wanted to live a healthier and happier life. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
For as long as I can remember, my weight has been an issue. I was always one of the bigger girls growing up, and just accepted that was who I was. Into adulthood, I was always overweight, but I had a great circle of friends and a supportive husband, so I was mostly happy. Once I hit 30 though, I realized I wasn’t as happy as I may have been pretending to be, and was really starting to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I knew I was overweight, but I didn’t realize how unhealthy I had really let myself become.
I wish I could say there was a magical “aha” moment, but there really wasn’t. Even stepping on the scale at my doctor’s office and seeing it register at over 300 pounds wasn’t enough for me to make a change right away. It wasn’t until three months later that I woke up one day and said, “I think I can do this.”
I never expected to get this far — my goal was to get from a size 22 down to a 14. I’m now a six! I didn’t even share my journey with anyone until I had lost almost 50 pounds because I was scared of failing.
The very first step I took was to give up soda and swap it out for water. I didn’t follow any sort of “diet plan.” I did a lot of research — I wanted to do this the healthy way so that it would stick. Plus, I’m a librarian so I love research, especially when it’s something I have such a vested interest in.
I began tracking my calorie intake using MyFitnessPal. I limited the amount of calories I was taking in, so I knew I had to make them count. Volume foods that kept me full were vital. I love to eat — I didn’t get to be over 300 pounds because I hated food! My rule was, and still is, a protein and something green with each meal.
Exercise started slowly. I began by simply walking around the block. Then, I added in jogging, and eventually running. I downloaded the Couch to 5K program and was determined to run a 5K. I eventually also joined the local YMCA and started taking group classes.
Physically, I felt great! I had more energy, was sleeping better and was really finding a love for the gym and working out, something I never thought I would say.
My personality got a facelift, too. I became a much more positive and upbeat person. I stopped complaining and started looking for the positivity in every situation. It was hard to be negative when I felt so good. Now when faced with an issue, my first instinct is to ask, “what can we do to fix it?” instead of dwelling on the negativity.
I’ve read a quote that says something like, “Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.” I was one of those people. My body is achieving things I never thought it could.
When people tell you that weight loss is a “lifestyle change,” they aren’t kidding. My new passions are working out with my gym family and experimenting with healthy foods, and I can’t imagine my life any other way. The girl who struggled to get up off of the couch three years ago just ran her first half marathon! I exercise because I love my body and I want to feel strong. I eat healthy because I know I need to properly fuel my body in order to look and feel my best. I love sharing my journey and struggles with others, and letting people know that with hard work and determination, it is possible.
The thing that surprised me the most was how much of a mental game weight loss is. It’s taken me a long time to realize that losing the weight alone wasn’t going to help me to love myself. I had to figure out why I was using food as a crutch and work through that. You have to figure out why you got to where you were so that you can be sure never to get back there.
I still try to incorporate as many volume foods into my diet as I can. I love experimenting in the kitchen to find hacks so I can still enjoy my favorite meals, guilt free. I will still eat a cheeseburger or slice of pizza from time to time, but I’ve learned to enjoy those things in moderation. If I have them every day, they aren’t treats. Having them once in awhile makes them special and much more enjoyable.
It sounds so simple, but I can really feel a difference when I haven’t had enough water. Drinking more water was the first step I took when I began this journey, and I’ve really made it part of my life. I never leave home without at least one water bottle!
I have added a lot more strength training into my exercise regimen. Running is still part of my exercise routine, however, I love the way lifting weights has transformed my body. My goal is to be able to cross the monkey bars when I run my third Spartan Race this fall.
I also get my workouts in as early as I can in the day, and I routinely take a 4:45am boot camp class. Getting it out of the way sets the tone for the day. I have more energy during the day and make better decisions when I’ve gotten that workout in early. Plus, it leaves no room for excuses to not work out later.
My determination to never get back to 300-plus pounds keeps me motivated. Part of me is so terrified that I’ll get back there. There have been days and even months where I have gone off track, but that’s life.
I’ve learned that I’m not always going to be motivated. There are certainly days that I’d rather do anything in the world but go to the gym, or I’d much prefer ice cream to chicken breast for dinner. But I have to remember this is not a diet with an end date. I still have goals and I still have work to do to get there.
I’d be lying if I said it was all rainbows and sunshine. There were a lot of hard days! I always had to remember my goals. Fitting into smaller clothes and getting compliments was nice, but seeing the changes in my body and doing things I had previously never been able to do before, such as running an entire mile without stopping, was my real motivation. My goal has never been to be skinny, I simply wanted to be healthy.
I am also a very social person, so I had to learn how to navigate these situations while staying on track. For the most part, people are supportive, but you still get a lot of unsolicited advice, and I had to learn how to block that out and keep going. This was my journey, and I was going to do it my way.
Looking in the mirror three years ago, I never realized how big I had gotten. Today, I struggle with how different I look. It can be difficult to accept compliments, because there are days where I just truly don’t see what other people say they see. I still look in the mirror some days and see the 300-pound girl. The excess skin I carry around contributes greatly to this. I hope one day to have it removed, but financially, I’m not sure that it will be possible.
I think the most important bit of advice I can offer to others is to start small. Don’t try to change everything overnight or you’re going to get overwhelmed and give up. Set one goal — maybe it’s drinking more water, or prepping your breakfasts or lunches for the week. Once you have that goal conquered, add on to it. You’ll build momentum and keep going.
And remember to celebrate these non-scale victories. The scale is not the only indication of your success, celebrate all of your victories as you move along in your journey.
There is so much advice out there — low carb, high fat, paleo, Whole30, no sugar, Weight Watchers, IIFYM, etc. What works for me may not work for you. The most important thing is to choose something sustainable that you are able to live as a lifestyle.
I didn’t do anything that someone who wants it just as badly as I did couldn’t do. Remember, one day at a time, one pound at a time.
All photos courtesy of Jennifer Taft.
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