Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Tiffany Neves is 26, 5′8″, and currently weighs 157.4 pounds. Nearly exactly a year ago, she weighed 288 pounds. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
I was overweight starting in elementary school. My parents were divorced and despite having everything we needed, my brother and I were on our own a lot to make meals because my mom worked overnight as a nurse. Often, we went with whatever was easiest — macaroni and cheese, Hot Pockets, pizza rolls, and, of course, fast food. My dad always said, “If you don’t eat it, ya wear it,” in an attempt to get us to finish all the food on our plates. That quickly turned into a bad habit that I carried with me throughout the years. Gradually, I got bigger and bigger. Taco Bell and McDonald’s became my best friends in high school and that stayed true all the way to 288 pounds. That was the point I decided to change my life.
When I decided to lose the weight, it was right after my grandpa — who was my everything — passed away at the end of August last year. He had tried multiple times to help me — he even came up with little competitions where he’d pay me for every pound I would lose — but I never followed through. All he wanted was for me to be healthy and happy. The week after he died, I spent a week binge drinking before something in my brain snapped. Time isn’t on our side, I realized. He passed away without seeing me healthy and happy. I needed to change that, now for myself. So when my friend started a weight-loss competition, I hit the ground running.
I knew I had to change my habits in order to change my weight. First, I never ate breakfast — just one or two huge meals that could be enough to feed a family of four. So right away, I began eating five smaller meals. I also decided to cut out fast food entirely, because I knew that played a big part in my weight problem. I’d buy one meal a day from Taco Bell. I set a goal: no Taco Bell or hamburgers for a year. And I stuck to it!
Before I committed to losing, I’d drink multiple sodas a day. Except for the occasional Coke Zero, I cut those out, too. I went online and looked up YouTube channels of people who underwent major weight-loss transformations and watched these strangers’ videos for hours on end. They were incredibly motivating.
I joined a gym and started going four to five days a week. I had never played sports in school or had any desire to do anything active before — but I was changing that. For the first couple of months, I stuck to strictly cardio exercise, and as I got more comfortable I incorporated weights for a more balanced workout.
Tiffany at 288 pounds (left), and now at 157 pounds (right). (Photos courtesy of Tiffany Neves)
When I was losing, the things that kept me going were my own happiness and my family and friends. They all deserved to be around a happy, positive, uplifting Tiff. I remember being depressed before I started changing my life. The only thing I wanted to do then was drink and sit around in my own self-loathing and self-pity — nothing else. I was so upset by what others could accomplish, yet wouldn’t do anything to push myself to do the same. I would talk negatively about anything I could. And I didn’t realize how unhappy and negative I was until I began losing weight and changing my mindset.
I started my journey right before the busy holiday season and my birthday last year. I went to Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Destin, Florida, all while still maintaining my healthy choices and working out. People would say things at the holiday parties that had the potential to tempt me, stress me out, but I remained strong in my goals and pushed forward. Then, in January, I got news that my dad was on life support in the ICU. My world crashed again. The doctors confirmed it; they told us that he wouldn’t make it much longer. I felt lost. With my world spiraling, I didn’t feel like going to the gym, and certainly didn’t feel like having to eat healthy. I wanted to binge eat.
But I looked in the mirror one of those nights while at the hospital and told myself that this was not going to break me. And it was yet another turning point in my transformation. I started prepping healthy meals to take to the hospital. I went to the gym after sitting with my dad for a few hours. Miraculously, he made it and went back home and back to work. But then, on July 27, due to complications with his liver, he passed away.
It was an extremely dark time in my life and for a while I wondered why so many devastating things kept happening. But then, after grieving long enough, I started to see the loss of my grandpa and dad as, in some way, tests of strength. Tests that made me push on and keep fighting for a healthy, happy life. My dad and grandpa have helped me more than they will ever know.
Since I have lost most of my weight, I feel free! I have never seen the world as I see it now — there are beautiful things and people everywhere. There are so many opportunities and things to be done. My asthma has almost completely gone away. I used to get bumps under my arms, and they haven’t come back since the weight loss. I can now do my favorite thing — swimming — without having to cover myself from head to toe! I can now go into any store and pick out an outfit — and not feel limited to the one plus-size store in my town. I can work a 16-hour shift without my ankles swelling or developing a painful rash where my thighs used to chafe. I can now ride comfortably on a roller coaster or fly on an airplane without being scared I’d take up too much room in my seat. I can now do more outside without sweating profusely after only a short time. I can now spend the night at friends’ houses and borrow their clothing if I need it. I can sit comfortably with crossed legs on the floor. And now, when I smile, I really mean it.
“Since I have lost most of my weight, I feel free!” Tiffany says. (Photos courtesy of Tiffany Neves)
Above all, my mental and emotional well-being has changed the most. Tiffany, just a year ago, saw no hope, no future. She didn’t make plans and she had very low self-esteem. Tiffany, today, has hope, dreams, and self-worth. I have true happiness. Despite all the loss I have endured this past year, I have gained so much. I love waking up in the morning and not feeling down! I want to help those around me achieve their goals. I want everyone around me to be happy!
My diet and exercise post-weight loss is almost the same as it was while I was losing. I still eat five times a day and still work out four to five times a week. The only thing that has really changed is that I have incorporated more weightlifting. My stomach is my trouble area, so that has been my main focus recently. It has become a lot easier to live a healthy life because everyone around me knows that I eat healthy and work out regularly. They don’t ask me anymore if I want to eat foods that I wouldn’t want to eat and they don’t give me a hard time when I say a polite “no,” either.
Now that I have lost most of my weight, I have become a little more lenient. If I really want to eat something more indulgent, I allow myself to have it and then continue on with my day and my routine. I usually have one what I call “you go girl” meal a week. But throughout this journey, my taste buds have changed and I have learned to love and crave more of the foods that are naturally a little better for me. I used to be all about the sides — like fries, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese — and would leave the burger or meats on the plate, but now I find myself craving chicken and steak. I end up leaving the meal a lot more full when I eat more of the meat and a little less of the side!
Water. Water. Water. It has been a game-changer for me! I used to drink nothing but soda and the only time I would drink water was when I’d work a 16-hour shift on weekends. Now everyone knows me as the ‘gallon girl’ because I carry a gallon jug of water with me everywhere!
Food prepping has also become a huge part of my healthy lifestyle! Things are just so much easier when I take the time to prep meals. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to eat, or getting off track — no matter where I am or how busy I get — because a healthy meal is already made and ready to go! No excuses needed!
There have been some days when working out seemed worse than getting run over by an 18-wheeler. Whenever that happens, I pull out my old, bigger clothes and put them on. Or I take a selfie and set it next to an old one of me. I also have my “before” picture printed out and taped to my bathroom mirror. It reminds me of what I’m doing, where I’m going, and how far I have come.
Being around my friends and family when everyone is eating differently can be challenging (and sometimes tempting), but I try to remember that just because I’m trying to control my health doesn’t mean everyone else has to. I find that the less I focus on the hardship of it, the easier it is! I just eat my meals and move on.
Your mindset is everything. At the start, I would say to myself, “Oh nooo, it’s time go to work out!” and I’d dread the drive to the gym and the whole workout. Or, I’d sarcastically make jokes about my healthy food to friends and family, like, “Yay salad … not!” Once I changed my attitude about it all, healthy living started to feel better and easier. Of course, going to the gym isn’t always your first choice, but it is getting you closer to your goals. Don’t be down on something that is helping you! Look at it positively and then nothing can stop you!
My last and best piece of advice is: Remember that time is not on our side. It will pass, whether we do what we want to do with it or not! So take advantage of your time and your life! Put it to good use!
Follow Tiffany on Instagram at @idependonme7.