I didn’t grow up with healthy foods in my low-income household. I ate what I had, and it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized I’d been eating a lot of cheap, unhealthy foods.
Things got worse when I started working at McDonald’s at 17. I’d eat the food while I was there, and on my way home I’d eat a box of Nutter Butter cookies that I’d start and finish in the car. It happened with Pop Tarts too—I’d eat an entire box in secrecy and buy another box to make it look like I hadn’t. Before I knew it, I was 320 pounds.
Through therapy, I eventually learned I had binge-eating disorder.
That realization, at age 23, was the best thing that could have happened for my health. I learned what the signs and triggers for my disorder were (I thrived in secret and I did it more when I was emotional). So when it came time to start focusing on weight loss, I knew what I had to watch out for.
And so, when a friend texted me on September 1, 2016, inviting me to join a health-accountability group chat, I said yes without much thought, because I was finally ready. For the two months I was in the chat, I created vision boards and wrote down my goals, and every time I hit a new benchmark, I’d reward myself with a new purse or an expensive bottle of wine.
During this time, I also started replacing meals with protein shakes and lost 35 pounds. But after a month or two, I realized that a lifelong change couldn’t include dieting, especially with my binge-eating disorder. (If I’m restricted, I’ll overcompensate and overeat.)
Instead, I started eating a healthier, well-rounded diet (that meant no more fast food or Nutter Butters) that didn’t feel restrictive. I focused on incorporating whole grains, veggies, and lean meats into my diet and I learned how to build off of dishes I already loved, making healthier alternatives. This is what a day of meals typically looks like for me:
- Breakfast: protein oatmeal or egg whites with spinach, and two slices of whole-wheat, low-calorie bread
- Lunch: chicken and broccoli roasted in the oven
- Dinner: grilled shrimp (which I’ve always loved) and a salad
- Snack: turkey pepperoni
Because I was sedentary before my weight loss, I had to start slowly when it came to exercise.
I began with 10 to 15 minutes of at-home workouts I found on Google for the first five months. Then I moved up to 30-minute workouts on the elliptical in my apartment’s gym before joining a 24-hour gym nearby. By this point, I’d lost about 50 pounds and that gym membership changed everything.
After joining, I started losing serious weight—way faster than I was before. I started lifting weights by following online workouts, taking classes, and working with a personal trainer.
I loved it so much that I’m now teaching fitness classes at my gym twice a week. I instruct full-body workouts that include high-intensity training, weights, and a great soundtrack to go along with it. This is coming from a girl who used to hide in the back of class.
I loved myself at 320 pounds and that’s the only reason I was able to change my lifestyle and shed the weight.
Ultimately, I’ve lost 131 pounds. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely wasn’t easy (especially with a binge-eating disorder), but once I made the decision to turn my life around, I didn’t look back.
The biggest lesson has been to take it day by day. It’s not easy dining out with friends who don’t consider calories, or living with a partner who eats chips and Twinkies.
But as long as I remember I don’t need to be perfect, I have an easier time loving myself on this journey as much as I loved myself when I was overweight and binge eating. That’s what I try to communicate to others, so they’ll be inspired to change their own lives, too.