My name is Sarah Clanton (@bpdbodyandme), and I am 32 years old. I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee, I am a full-time middle school teacher. After years of struggling with my mental health and relationship with food, I decided to start making small changes to my diet and exercise. By staying in a calorie deficit and working out with Team Body Project videos, I lost 75 pounds.
Ever since puberty, I struggled with my weight. I filled out thicker than all of my friends. I began using food for comfort at a young age. Added to that was the issue of food scarcity in my home for many years. The combination of these two factors and the way I was raised deeply damaged my relationship with food and led me to develop binge eating disorder in later years.
During the pregnancy of my second child, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. After his birth, my doctor informed me that I would likely develop type 2 diabetes if I did not make changes to my diet and activity levels. At the same time, the constant hormone fluctuations from my two pregnancies and deliveries in two years had triggered the symptoms of my borderline personality disorder to be more unmanageable than ever before.
I wasn't ready to commit to making any changes until I was 30 around March 2020. That’s when I decided enough was enough. I remember my granddaddy coming to visit for Christmas a few months before, and my mom taking lots and lots of photos. I remember wanting to hide behind the couch for the pictures. And I remember seeing the photos at a later date and crying my eyes out. I didn't recognize myself. I saw my dead, empty, forced smile and how my posture tried to shrink my body into its smallest form and failed.
It took me over another year after that to crawl out from the depression and start making the necessary changes to take care of myself once again. My body was in constant pain. Even the simplest physical activities seemed impossible for me, and I was eating fast food multiple times a day as a punishment to myself for not being willing to do the work yet. Even though I had known and understood I was only hurting myself by prolonging the process.
I had never thought of dieting as practical or enjoyable, so I did not follow a specific diet program or plan.
I simply aimed to make healthy swaps whenever possible and remain in a calorie deficit as often as possible. I knew restricting foods would only lead to more binge eating later, so instead I followed the 80/20 rule of nutrient-dense foods to "treat" foods while aiming for a modest 2,000 to 4,000 calorie deficit daily. The reason I was able to stick to this plan was because I never forced myself to eat foods I didn't like, and I never made any particular foods off-limits. No cleanses, no fasting, no keto, and no cutting out food groups. Just mindful portion sizing and a daily calorie deficit helped me shed the excess weight in an achievable, enjoyable way.
I started with the teeniest, tiniest choices—swapping a can of soda for a glass of water at lunch, or replacing chips or crackers with fruit or Greek yogurt instead. I started incorporating breakfast into my eating, usually opting for a fruit smoothie (with added protein) or a southwest egg scramble. I started packing my own lunch for work instead of hitting the drive-through daily, usually choosing a simple salad with grilled chicken or a basic turkey or tuna sandwich.
I also paid close attention to portion sizes and was mindful of including fresh fruits and veggies whenever I could. These little changes snowballed into larger changes, and before I knew it, I simply didn't want the soda anymore. I didn't want fast food. My body was feeling better and so it wanted better, and better is just what I gave it. By focusing on one small replacement behavior at a time, I made sure that I wouldn't get overwhelmed and give up like I had given up so many times before. I concentrated all of my effort on replacing harmful behaviors with helpful behaviors, one at a time, until they became so routine that it simply didn't take that much effort anymore.
Here’s what I eat in a day.
Breakfast: Protein shake and fresh fruit (typically mixed berries)
Lunch: Large salad with protein source (taco salad with ground turkey, Caesar salad with grilled salmon, etc.)
Snacks: An apple or banana covered in peanut butter, bell peppers or carrots with low-calorie ranch dressing
Dinner: Chicken or fish with veggies and a carb like broccoli and potatoes, sliced cucumber and rice, etc.
Dessert: Greek yogurt topped with fat-free whipped cream
After about two weeks of small changes to my diet, I felt ready to incorporate exercise.
I looked on YouTube for beginner workout videos and stumbled across Team Body Project. Their videos included people of all shapes and sizes, and that made me feel confident that I could participate. So I told myself, just one 30-minute video a week, and to be honest, the first video absolutely destroyed me. I had to pause frequently, I immediately felt short of breath, and I didn't think I would make it to the end. But I did.
Once a week grew into twice a week, and over time that success spiraled into the exercise routine I maintain now. Typically I work out from home five days a week, between 75 and 90 minutes daily. My favorite type of exercise is pilates and strength training, which I discovered a love for after becoming a member of Team Body Project. I make time to incorporate cardio and yoga as well.
These three changes have made my weight-loss journey successful.
I practiced mindful eating. Learning to eat to fulfill my hunger vs. eating to fulfill my emotions has allowed me to be intentional about reasonable portion sizes and to relearn my fullness cues. I no longer eat out of boredom or sadness, and I can comfortably leave food on my plate once I'm full.
I incorporated regular movement. Going from a very sedentary lifestyle to someone who's regularly active has fundamentally changed my attitude, energy levels, and the shape of my body. By ensuring I move my body intentionally five to six days a week, I guarantee that my body grows stronger and my heart grows healthier.
I learned to have self-compassion. I accepted a long time ago that there is no perfect path to a healthy body. This empowers me to focus my energy on forgiving myself if I get off track and to rededicate myself to my wellness each and every day. Because I love myself and my body, I always aim for progress, not perfection.
From my highest weight, I lost 75 pounds in just over a year and a half (around 20 months).
There will be days you feel like giving up. There will be times when you don't feel strong enough to continue trying or when you feel like reaching your goal is impossible. In those moments of self-doubt and insecurity, remember what it is you're fighting for and push forward anyway. You'll never know how resilient you are unless you persevere. You'll never know what your body's capable of until you give it the chance.
I have gone from someone considered obese and who felt ashamed to someone more confident and powerful than I've ever been. The growth is worth it. The healing is worth it. The peace is worth it.
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