Mom of 5 after losing 96 pounds for her sons' weddings: 'I always felt apologetic when I was fat. No more'

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

Carla Carter is 5’8” tall, and currently weighs 140 pounds. In 2018, after two of her children announced they were getting married, she was motivated to finally lose the weight in time for both weddings. This is her story, in her own words.

The Turning Point

When I went to college in 1982, I gained the “freshman 15.” I then got pregnant with my first and gained 70 pounds while pregnant. I lost and gained repeatedly after that.

I have lost weight many times before. After each of my five pregnancies, I would try to lose weight — sometimes very successfully, sometimes I would just gain more. This time my motivation was different. Two of my kids told me last Mother’s Day that they would be getting married this May and June. The minute the words came out of their mouths, I put down the forkful of cake. That was the minute I started. I had a very clear goal in mind.

Carla Carter before she started her weight-loss journey. (Photo: Carla Carter)
Carla Carter before she started her weight-loss journey. (Photo: Carla Carter)

The Changes

I started with Weight Watchers, but the success was limited. I felt there were too many “zero point foods” on their Freestyle program. So I called my two “biggest loser” friends. One said to do intermittent fasting, the other said to download a calorie tracker and track every single bite. So that is exactly what I did. I set the tracker (Lose It) to lose 1.5 pounds a week, and I set the Life Fasting Tracker app to 16:8, meaning fast for 16 hours and eat during the 8-hour window. I don’t think I could have done one without the other. After I lost 25 pounds, I bought an Apple Watch. I hit my goals on the Apple Watch every day for a few months, but the weight loss is really due to the calorie counting and intermittent fasting. I drank a lot of water — that is really key. I like to drink water or seltzer all day long.

I felt great. Once I started the tracking with the Lose It app, along with the fasting from 7pm to noon, I saw immediate results. It was seeing those results, day after day, week after week, that kept me going. I think if the weight loss had been slower, I would have become very frustrated and given up. That’s not to say that I didn’t have plateaus. I only entered my lower weights in the Lose It app. I felt it was bad juju to enter in higher weights. Once the weight loss really got going, I stopped the crazy fluctuations I had seen with Weight Watchers. And I had my goal and felt fantastic so nothing could shake my motivation. Nothing.

Carter in the process of her weight-loss journey (left) and after losing 96 pounds (right). (Photo: Carla Carter)
Carter in the process of her weight-loss journey (left) and after losing 96 pounds (right). (Photo: Carla Carter)

The After

I felt fantastic. I didn’t just lose weight. I also lost knee pain, GERD, sleep apnea, asthma attacks, back pain, hypoglycemia, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and a deep sense of self-loathing every time I caught myself in a store window or mirror I didn’t expect. I now exercise vigorously in a way I never could have before. I still track all of my food in Lose It, and I still intermittent fast most days. I have much more confidence now.

Not everything about weight loss has been positive. The reactions of my many colleagues has actually been largely negative. They were supportive at first, but as I lost more I felt the snide comments about being too skinny. It was very hurtful and really affected my self-image.

As we age, we lose padding in our faces, and when you add a big weight loss it’s very noticeable. Funny, no one ever said anything to me when I was eating two desserts at lunch. No one ever said anything to me when my BMI was 35.

I have much more confidence now. I will say things that I never would have said before. It’s like I always felt apologetic when I was fat. No more.

Carter at her sons' weddings. (Photo: Carla Carter)
Carter at her sons' weddings. (Photo: Carla Carter)

The Maintenance

I continue to track my intake. Weighing daily. Keeping up with the exercise. Honestly, after a year it’s very hard to let go of the “weight loss” mindset, so I’m pretty much doing the same things I did when I was losing, I’m just eating more calories.

I do cardio for 30 minutes five days a week, or I will walk the dogs three miles. I have always been a vegan or vegetarian throughout the weight loss phase — and for years before — and I continue to be. I still fast from about 7pm until 11am or so. That said, if I’m hungry in the morning I eat something. I eat what I want — that’s the joy of calorie counting (calories in, calories out or CICO). No foods are off limits; you just track them. I have eaten pizza every single Friday night for years.

I did not eat in restaurants during the loss phase (except for the takeout pizza) and I still don’t. It’s really hard to control your intake when you’re eating in restaurants often. I eat a lot of fruit, peanut butter, just anything I want.

I threw out all of my fat clothes. There was not one single item of clothing that still fit, not one. I am a professional, and I had to buy a lot of work clothes. I feel so much better. I can run upstairs without a second thought. I have so much more energy. I feel like I’ve shed the past, the shame, and become a new person, capable of much more physically and able to fit into anything I try on. Before, it was a daily struggle to see what still fit me.

The Struggles

People saying I’m too skinny still hurts, no matter how my much my family supports me. I’m a 56-year-old professional woman with five grown sons, and I still let other people’s opinions get to me. I mentally prepare myself whenever I see someone I haven’t seen in a while because I know what’s about to come out of their mouth. However, I’ve stopped explaining that I’m “right in the middle of normal BMI” and all of the other reflexive answers. I’ve stopped apologizing and just stare at them until they stop.

Looking in the mirror is also strange. I thought when I lost weight I would return to the “old me.” Instead, I’ve become a different person in terms of appearance. This happens with weight loss in middle age. But honestly I look fantastic, so it’s not too much of a struggle.

Advice

Drink water and seltzer all day. Get a calorie tracker. Incorporate Intermittent fasting. You do not need to eat all day. Have at least 30 days of consistent tracking down pat before you exercise. A lot of people attempt to do both at once, and they end up with increased hunger and then fail. Do not take cheat days. Do not eat cheat meals. If you know you’re going out to dinner, adjust your day accordingly. Honestly, once you get the hang of tracking, you reflexively do not want to go over your allotted calories.

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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