Weight Loss Story

I’m going to start by saying that parts of my story are very embarrassing to me, but I’ve decided to share it because I find personal stories very inspiring. I feel that if I put my story out there for others to read, it might be just the motivation someone needs to get started on their own journey to fitness and better health.

Even though I’ve always been active and have strived to eat healthy, I’ve struggled with my weight since high school. I’m 5’3″, I weighed in the 130’s creeping to 140’s in high school, gaining slowly up to the mid 150’s in college and after graduation. I’ve always been very muscular and used that as an excuse as to why the scale said what it did. In the months following the birth of each of my daughters, I would weigh about 165, and could get back to the 150’s with moderate exercise and cutting out junk food. I’ve always enjoyed exercise, but never thought I could be a runner. Biking was always my favorite form of exercise during the spring, summer and fall, and I would hit the elliptical at the gym during the winter months, watching the people on the treadmill thinking “I could never do that!”

I had fallen out of the exercise habit during my first pregnancy and used having an infant as an excuse for having no time to exercise. In the spring of 2005, shortly after Ava’s 1st birthday, I knew I wanted to get back into shape and exercising regularly again.

spring_05
Mom and Ava (15 months) Spring 2005.

The university I was working for at that time was hosting a well promoted running race, The Corporate Challenge, for employees of local companies in the area that signed up to participate. After being highly encouraged in mass emails from HR to be part of the RIT Team, a co-worker and I decided we would walk it. After giving it some more thought, we decided we were up for the “Challenge” and would run the race. We were both in reasonable shape, but neither us were runners, so with a month until the race we mapped out a little training program for ourselves with the hopes of running the entire 3.5 mile course. I’d never run that far in my life, but I knew that running was a great way to lose weight and the race was great motivation to stick with it.

People often ask me how I got my start with running. Our training program involved running and then walking and then running again, slowly increasing the time spent running and decreasing the time spent walking as the days went on and we felt ready. Our approach was very similar to the popular Couch to 5K program that I later learned about. I tell anyone looking to start running about the Couch to 5K program, as this is basically how I approached it.

I had two goals for the Corporate Challenge: 1. Run the entire race. 2. Don’t come in last. We successfully did both!

cc
That’s me on the left, 30 lbs heavier than I am now…. read on.

Totally psyched about new found ability, I spent the summer of 2005 entering local 5K’s. I made my way back to the 150’s and was feeling really good about myself. Knowing I had race to train for was great motivation to stick with it and kept me running regularly.

summer_05
Losing weight but still 20+ lbs heavier than I wanted to be.

Enter December 2005 when I became pregnant with Maxine and stopped running completely. I didn’t feel comfortable running through my pregnancy (even though many women do and it’s generally considered safe) but I did walk and stayed active through my entire pregnancy. I left my job as a Computer Programmer to become a Stay at Home Mom in August 2006, a month before we became a family of four.

40w1d
September 2006, 4 days before Maxine was born. 195 lbs!

Looking to lose the baby weight I got back into running in the spring of 2007. I knew that running helped me lose weight quickly, but I wanted some motivation to keep me lacing up my running sneakers and getting me out the door. I decided to go BIG and train for the marathon that was held in my city every year in the fall. I found Hal Higdeon’s Marathon Training Program and got his book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. I started following his 18 week training program, but during a 9 mile training run in Week 4 I realized a marathon was just too much, too soon. I stuck with 5K’s and 10K’s through the summer and fall and once again got back into the low 150’s.

A fair weather runner, I stopped running and exercising altogether in the winter of 2007 and slowly started putting on weight. My wake up call came when the scale said 165, my post partum weight after each girl. When I realized I weighed as much as I did following the birth of each of my daughters and having NOT just had a baby I knew it was time to get serious.

before_oct_2006
My “before” picture. Although this was taken 1 month post-partum with Maxine, this is still what I looked like at 165…. and I can’t believe I’m posting this picture on the internet!

I used the start of the new year and the approach of my 29th birthday (ACK here comes 30!) as motivation to lose the weight and get back into shape. I had noticed that I was starting to feel OLD. I was always feeling achy, I couldn’t crouch down for more than a few seconds without my legs feeling like they were going to give out! I would groan inside just trying to roll over or get out of bed! I was always tired and had no energy. I blamed it on two pregnancies and nursing, but the reality was this was all due to the extra weight I was carrying around. With my 30th birthday right around the corner, I knew NOW was the time to get in shape. I didn’t just want to lose weight, I wanted to be healthy and feel like myself again!

So in February 2008, at 165 pounds, I started working out a few days a week. My routine included various cardio equipment at my local fitness center, swimming laps in their pool, doing Pilates DVD’s at home and running through my neighborhood streets. In the spring I added cycling back into my fitness regime and was working out about 4 – 5 days a week. By May I was down to 152 pounds, the weight I’d always reach and plateau, and as usual, I plateaued here once again. Feeling frustrated and wanting to lose more weight, I made a comment to my very wise mother about the stubborn scale, and she asked how many calories I was eating every day. I had no idea and was actually annoyed at this question because I was eating healthy and exercising, what did it matter how many calories I was eating a day? Runners can eat as much as they want! (Can’t they??) She suggested I count my calories for one day to see where I was at. I did, although reluctantly, figuring I had nothing to lose (with the exception of another 25 lbs!)

I found a calorie calculator online to determine what my caloric intake should be. I spent a day of counting calories and was shocked to discover that I was eating exactly the number of calories I needed to MAINTAIN my weight! Eureka! I had no idea that calories really DO count, I thought making healthy food choices and exercise was enough.

At that point I started keeping a daily food journal. My tools were a small notebook, calculator, measuring cups and a calorie counting website for foods that didn’t come labels, like like fruits and vegetables. I soon added a digital food scale to my tool box to be sure I got the portion sizes right. It was actually a lot of fun tracking each and every calorie that I ate. It felt like a science experiment! I focused on eating whole foods, lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I also realized that if I exercised every day, I could afford to eat more calories and still lose weight without feeling deprived. I found ways to incorporate some activity into my day each day, whether it was an early morning run before Zak left for work or just a walk to the playground with my kids, being sure to spend some time playing “tag” while we were there!

I was shocked and thrilled to see scale begin to move again after I started food journaling and calorie counting. I lost an additional 13 lbs in a little over a month! I could not believe it when I got below 140. My “dream weight” was 135 and I don’t think I truly believed I could really get there. As I lost more weight I also noticed that it got easier to run and I was running my usual routes in less time. I decided to I would try to train for the marathon again, which was in September. I was so happy when I got past the point in the training schedule where I had to stop the year before, and I believe it was possible to keep going this time because I was smaller, healthier and in much better shape.

I continued calorie counting, food journaling and running regularly, taking rest days when I felt I needed it. By July of 2008 I was down to 129!

july_2008

I never, ever dreamed I could get into the 120’s. I now weighed less and was smaller than I was in high school. Once in a size 10-12, I was now wearing size 4! Shopping for clothes was actually fun and I no longer dreaded looking into the mirror in fitting rooms. I now had more energy and felt like myself again. So many people commented on my changed figure, all these things helped me stay motivated to stick with it.

The day before Maxine’s 2nd birthday, I completed my first marathon in 4:14:59. It was a HOT, humid day but I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. I placed 179 out of 566, 27th among 210 females, 7th place in my age group, females aged 25 – 29.

after_sept_2008
Mile 24…. VERY ready to stop. running.

It was a great day and so incredible to cross the finish line, with my family there to support me and cheer me on! It was definitely a high point in my journey to better health, I’d worked so hard to get there.

All Done and With My Girls
I really did it!

What I learned from food journaling and calorie counting is that even though I was exercising regularly and eating fairly well, my portion sizes were too big. I was an unconscious eater and food journaling was the wake up call I needed. I had to stop going back for seconds and thirds, pay attention to little ways I was getting additional calories I didn’t need, like eating crust I cut off the girls’ sandwiches, munching on extra ingredients while I prepared dinner, finishing something because I didn’t want to “waste” it, drinking juice instead of water….. all of these things added up. Having three planned meals and one or two planned snacks have helped me become more a more conscious eater. This is still the approach I take today to maintain my weight loss and is one of the things I recommend to any family or friends who ask me how I did it.

I no longer keep a food journal, but it was instrumental in my continued weight loss. It taught me how to eat and showed me what was keeping me from losing weight so many times before! I now know how what proper portion sizes should look like. I still eat the foods I enjoy and nothing is off limits. (With the exception of meat, of course.) I enjoy the occassional dessert or treat, but in moderation. As I’ve worked to maintain my weight and have read and continued to learn more about nutrition, I’ve come to realize that I get more “bang for my buck” if I focus every meal and snack around REAL food, instead of processed foods. Lots of fruits and vegetables fill me up, then combined with some lean protein (low fat dairy – like yogurt or cottage cheese – eggs, egg whites, tofu, beans) and some healthy fat (canola or olive oil, nuts, avocado, dairy) I’m satisfied and have more energy to boot. You don’t have to train for a marathon to lose weight, it’s just about finding some way to stay motivated and be active. Healthy eating is just one part of the picture. Regular exercise is just as important and it’s all about finding ways to stick with it and stay active. I truly enjoy exercise and being active. For me, I need a wide variety of things to do to keep me from getting bored. I love running, biking, swimming, Pilates, yoga…. and I love me some 30 Day Shred! Daily exercise is a normal part of my life now. I want my children to grow up knowing how important it is to be good to our bodies by staying active and eating healthy.

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14 Responses

  1. Wow, I loved reading that!

  2. Congrats on running that marathon and placing impressively! This is a great ‘about’ page!

  3. What a great story! I have always wanted to be runner… Perhaps signing up for a 5k would be just the motivation I need to get started. I am loving the 30 Day Shred too!! πŸ™‚

  4. I just found your blog from your guest post on Kath’s blog…I’m from Syracuse, I have an aunt who works at RIT, and two cousins who go to school there! Small world! πŸ™‚

  5. What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Wow, Alison, I am really inspired by your story! I feel like I can relate so well. I was a little heavy in high school and shed some weight in college, but have never been able to get down to a weight that I feel completely happy with. My build is very similar to what yours used to be, but I always assumed that I was just big boned or naturally more “meaty” than other women.

    What influenced your decision to become a vegetarian?

    I definitely will keep up with your blog. It sounds like you have a lot of insight on food and health, and I definitely could learn something πŸ™‚ I have a blog too, if you want to check it out. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • Hi Jess, thanks for commenting. I definitely use to believe that I was just naturally inclined to be “solid”, I never thought I could really get to a weight that was healthy and happy.

      Zak was a vegetarian first, maybe a year or two ahead of me, so I was already accustomed to making vegetarian meals and was eating meat rarely. The tipping point for me was reading in a breastfeeding book (of all places) about how healthy a vegetarian diet was and at that moment decided to take the plunge.

      Off to check out your blog, thanks for stopping by!

  7. You are such a rocking inspiration!

  8. Amazing story! πŸ™‚

  9. WOW! What a wonderful story. I really loved reading all of that and can relate to so much of it. I had my daughter in aug. 06, and when I left the hospital I weighed exactly the same as when I got pregnant. I’m now about 20lbs heavier than that!!! I’m adding you to my blogroll and going to use your story as motivation. Thanks!

    • Hey Shawna! Thanks for your comment! Good luck on your weight loss journey, how funny our daughters are so close in age! I’m glad you commented, I’ll be following along with yours! πŸ™‚

      Alison

  10. This is such an awesome story! Congratulations! I loved reading your story! I would love to run a marathon but have problems with my back hurting when I run…do you have any suggestions? I used to run a lot but started having the back pain…the longest i’ve ever run is 12k..but i know if my stupid back would not ache I could do more. Your story is so motivating!! thanks for sharing!!
    natalie
    http://www.nono2yoyo.wordpress.com

    • Hey Natalie! I used find that my lower back was sore when I first started running too – and I now believe it was due to weak abdominal muscles. I added Pilates into my work out routine and things improved dramatically.

      Also, your back could be hurting due to your form – I highly suggest the book ChiRunning to help you evaluate and improve your form.

      Thanks for your sweet comment!

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