If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know by now that the past few years were really, really busy for me. Last year at this time, I was in grad school full time at UNC, writing for the blog, planning my wedding, and studying for our comprehensive exams. At times, I felt like my head might explode. And then, I thought of my grad school friend Maria, who was doing our full time grad program while also taking care of two kids, and I told myself to shut up. Because compared to her, I had it pretty easy.
As you know, Maria was my study buddy down at UNC, and I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have made it through biochem or comprehensive exams without each other. The added benefit was that while studying, we also had the chance to get to know each other pretty well! Most recently, when I was down in Chapel Hill last month studying for (and passing!) the RD exam, Maria told me more about her struggles with weight in the past, and showed me some pictures before her weight loss journey began. It’s honestly hard to believe the “before” photos are even her because I’ve always known her to be the way she is now! I was so inspired by her story and how far she’s come that I asked her to write a guest post about it to share with all of you, too.
Without further ado, please give my friend Maria a warm welcome. I know you’ll find her story as inspiring as I did!
Maria’s Story: Losing 50 Pounds and Keeping It Off
I have struggled to maintain a healthy weight most of my life. Here is my story.
I started as a skinny little kid. It wasn’t until I turned about 9 years old when I put on more than a few pounds.
During my childhood I definitely learned to use food for comfort. In junior high school, the scale had crept up high enough that my doctor wanted me to lose weight.
He recommended meal replacement bars with milk for my lunch each day at school. Although I don’t agree with this method now, it did help me lose weight and I was a little less than 110 lbs in high school, which was a good weight for my very short stature of 4’11".
As most do, I put on a few pounds in college. I was probably around 120 lbs. when I graduated. During my 20s, my weight would fluctuate between 130-150 lbs. I eventually moved to VA where I lost my network of friends and the gym where I worked out. I started a new job, hardly ever worked out and ate out often. I got married a year or so after I moved and was about 150 lbs by then.
I got pregnant shortly after at around 158 lbs., and I weighed over 190 by the end of my pregnancy. I stayed at home with my first born. This was a lonely time for me. Being home with a baby all day in a city where I didn’t have any family and only a few friends left food as my best friend. I ate a lot, and I weighed 168 lbs. when I got pregnant again. I didn’t gain that much extra weight during this pregnancy due to persistent nausea and migraines, but I did reach 194 lbs. before delivery.
Christmas 2003 – age 32
During this pregnancy was when I had a life changing experience. Six weeks before I was due, my first cousin passed away at the very young age of 49, leaving behind his wife and two children. He was morbidly obese. This literally scared me into realizing that I could be on the same path if I didn’t get control of my weight after my pregnancy.
Six weeks after I delivered my second child, on the first day that I was allowed to exercise, I went to the gym. I ran one mile on a treadmill at a very slow pace. I was determined to finish one mile. This was the beginning of my new life – I was going to lose weight and give my body the best possible chance of staying healthy. After a few weeks of trying this on my own, I asked my husband to give me personal training sessions for Mother’s Day, which he did. This may seem expensive and I honestly don’t remember the exact cost, but even if it cost $200/month, it was more important to me to prevent disease and early death. I wanted to live long enough to see my children grow up. When I think about all the stuff I spent money on, such as going out to eat, buying new shoes, etc., it didn’t seem like such a huge price to pay.
My first trainer was good, but my second one, Eric, was great! I began working out with him during the time that one of my nearest and dearest friends passed away. This was a time where it was really hard for me to avoid my old “friend” comfort food. As a result, I was working hard at the gym but was not losing weight.
Summer 2004 – age 33
One day, my trainer asked me: "What are you eating? We should be seeing results with as much as you work out." He asked me to sign a contract, where I agreed to a few simple basics like avoiding alcohol, white foods and sweets, and anything breaded or fried. I never counted calories, I just ate a lot of fruits and vegetables to get full, plus lean proteins and whole grains. I also dutifully avoided the foods listed in my agreement with Eric. I never went hungry, I followed my hunger cues and if I was hungry I ate and if I was full I didn’t.
My workout routine included 3 days per week of about 30 minutes of strength training and 30-40 minutes of cardio. I also later added a Saturday morning boot camp to my routine and the weight literally started falling off. Over the course of a year or so, I went from 174 lbs. to 126.
2005 – Age 34
After about a year, I gave up the trainer but continued to work out on my own. I have maintained my weight in the 120s for the last 8 years. People often ask me what my secret is. I wish there was a secret potion or pill that would fix weight issues, but the reality is that once you are overweight, it is generally a lot of work to get it off and keep it off. I still struggle with not eating comfort foods when I am stressed, but I try very hard to do other things to cope with stress in different ways other than mindless eating. Exercise definitely helps! Once you form new healthy habits they will become a normal part of your life and easier to maintain. I wanted to help others learn to do this which is why I decided to go back to school in my late 30s. I often wonder how things would have been different for me if my doctor, during my teen years, had had the knowledge to teach me to eat healthfully or to send me to a dietitian so that I could have learned healthy habits at an early age.
I earned my MPH in Nutrition from UNC-Chapel Hill and graduated with Anne in December 2012. As you know, we also just passed the RD exam together! I can’t wait to get my new career started and teach others how food can help their health issues and how to maintain healthy habits for life. I have also started a blog, A Diva’s Guide to Nutrition and Wellness, geared towards women, that I update a few times a week with information on healthy habits.
Here is a picture of me at the beach, summer 2012, at age 41.
My goal is to never see the scale over 130lbs ever again!