Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Hannah Legg is 5’8” tall, and currently weighs 175 pounds. In 2014, after seeing unflattering pictures of herself she was motivated to finally solve her lifelong problem with her weight. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
My weight first became an issue at the age of seven. My family had lost their home to a house fire and this event is what led to my emotional attachment to food and bingeing. After the fire, I had a rough time. It was then that I began not only overeating at mealtimes, but I would also binge and hide food from my parents. I was young; I didn’t know why I was doing it, but it was my emotional crutch.
Food was how I dealt with every emotion, whether happy, sad, anxious, angry or scared. It numbed the bad feelings and heightened the good ones. The bingeing, overeating, and hiding food only got worse as I got older and had more freedom. I was well over 200 pounds by high school and continued to get larger until my mid 20s.
The major turning point for me was the holiday season of 2014. My sister and I had taken photos of us braiding our brothers hair in front of the Christmas tree and when I saw what I looked like in those photos — how big I truly was — I was disgusted. So my New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to get healthy and lose the weight. Like every other obese person out there, I had tried to lose weight on multiple occasions throughout my teens and young adulthood, but nothing ever worked or was sustainable.
I can’t explain what about this time was different, but something just clicked, and I knew if I didn’t do something I was going to die.
This time around, I took a new approach to weight loss. I started with small changes. First, I stopped drinking soda. I was a diet Coke addict and would drink at least three or four per day, so I switched to only drinking water or unsweetened tea. I made a conscious effort to make healthier food choices and eat smaller portions, with minimal processed sugars. I wasn’t counting calories at first, just trying to get used to the idea of change. I did this for about six weeks, and 30 pounds melted off with no exercise — just making small, mindful changes. It was at that point I felt I was ready to up my game.
I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app to start tracking my calories. It wasn’t long before I had educated myself enough that I no longer had to look up “healthy recipes,” but just a regular recipe and make my own healthy version. It was also at that point I decided to add in exercise. I had no idea where to start so my uncle suggested I download the Couch to 5k app and do that.
Now, at 300 pounds, I was not stoked to be running. I thought I was going to hate it. I soon found out how much of a mental game running is, and enjoyed challenging myself. Running became like therapy and a workout all in one. I was moving and getting my blood pumping, but it also did amazing things for clearing my mind and helping me work through the mental and emotional barriers. I felt better and better with every day and the weight kept coming off.
My friends and family are truly what kept me motivated emotionally. Seeing my body change and being able to do more and more — breathing better, fitting into more clothes, having less anxiety — kept me physically motivated. There was no going back. I had always felt like someone else trapped in this fat girl’s body, and after changing my habits and realizing I didn’t have to be that person, that I had been choosing to be that person, I knew I never wanted to treat myself and my body with such disregard ever again.
After two years of running and losing the bulk of the weight, I made the decision to make the switch to weight lifting so I could put on muscle and start toning the body I worked so hard for. Lifting made a huge difference in not only my physique, but also my posture. My back pain also started improving.
The third year of weight loss, I hit a bit of a hiccup in my journey. I started feeling depressed, with low energy, and I was losing more hair than was normal with weight loss, among other symptoms. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. I went to my doctor to have blood work done. When the results came back, they showed that I have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. This meant that my body wasn’t burning enough calories on its own to keep my body running properly, which was causing the hair loss and mood swings and stunted weight loss.
Thankfully, after months of struggling, a simple blood test and getting put on medication had me back on track and I was able to reach my goal weight shortly after.
I feel amazing after the weight loss. I am so much happier and healthier. I am excited to wake up every day and live because I enjoy everything so much more. I can also actually listen to my body and hormones now. I didn’t realize how out of touch with my body I was until I started to lose the weight and could actually feel what it was telling me. I love that I no longer easily get out of breath, I don’t sweat anymore unless I’m working out, I can fit more comfortably on airplanes and roller coasters, clothes fit better…the list of ways my life is better and happier is endless.
The loose skin was more of a shock than I thought. I knew that losing almost half my body weight meant that I was going to be left with loose skin, but I didn’t expect it to make me look like I was still 30 pounds overweight. That being said, I would have rather lived every day for the rest of my life with that loose skin than live the short life I knew I was headed for as a morbidly obese person. When I was able to remove the skin, they look off more than 10 pounds of it.
My eating and exercise these days is a bit different from when I was losing. I no longer count calories. I listen to my body and eat what I want in moderation. I try to follow and 80/20 diet: 80 percent clean and healthy with 20 percent coming from sweets or indulgences. I still lift weights 2-4 days a week, but my main exercise comes from outdoor activity like hiking, kayaking, anything that gets me outside. Thankfully, I live in a place that makes it very easy to explore the outdoors year-round. Every once in awhile I will go for a short run, but I keep those to a minimum to take it easy on my knees and joints.
Healthy habits I try to practice in my daily life now are drinking plenty of water, getting enough fruits and veggies, keeping a routine, and putting some time aside for self-reflection or meditation. I automatically start feeling worse or off if I am not taking the time to properly listen to my mind and body.
I feel like nowadays everything inspires me, because everything is possibility. Before weight loss, I always looked at life with restrictions — things I couldn’t do. And now I know I can do anything, I just have to work for it. My motivation is stronger than ever. Every day I wake up feeling so fortunate to be in this body I worked so hard for and I’m still seeing changes and pushing myself to reach my goals.
One thing I still struggle with is bingeing and an my emotional attachment to food. It is nowhere near as bad as it used to be, but I will still get the urge, especially if it’s been a tough day or week. I deal with this by giving myself some alone time to think about why I am having the thoughts, feelings, or urges so I can work through them constructively, not destructively. I also like to remind myself that one day of bad eating is not going to make or break my weight. Having an off day is OK.
The best advice I can give is to never give up and don’t make excuses. Only you can make the changes and only you truly know why you want and need to. Love yourself through everything. Know that it’s not going to be easy, and you’re going to want to cry and scream and quit sometimes, but I can guarantee you that the results are worth it. Nothing worth being proud of comes [easily], and this is no exception. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and by far the most rewarding.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!
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