All the while, my weight itself physically kept me from living. I couldn’t lift my own body out of the bathtub, I paid for first-class tickets because I couldn’t fit in coach, and I had to request tables at restaurants because I was too large for booths. But oddly, no one talked about my weight, not even me. I was the elephant in the room.
I remember one day when I was eating dinner at my mom’s house, the chair broke beneath me. My mother and I laughed hysterically while I was lying helpless on the floor, but I was laughing to keep myself from crying.
But my real wake-up call came at the doctor’s office for routine blood work in early 2012. He said, “Your cholesterol is so bad you are at risk of a cardiac event sometime in the next 10 years.” I was only 39—a HEART ATTACK? That’s when it hit me that I was slowly killing myself. I vowed to make changes and left the office crying.
What I did next is particularly alarming to me when I look back on it. I went straight to McDonald’s for what I thought was my last fast-food meal. While I was eating it, I thought, IS this going to be my last meal? Am I going to die? I clearly had a very unhealthy relationship with food, which would prove hard to break. I didn’t immediately change my ways, and unfortunately there were many more unhealthy meals after that one.
I ate one of those meals on August 3, 2012, at a birthday party for my sister—it was rice, steak, and veggies covered in creamy sauce at a Japanese restaurant. At that party, my sister and my 21-year-old niece, both overweight, told me they had joined Weight Watchers a few weeks ago and were already losing pounds. Although I’d tried what felt like hundreds of diets in the past, I’d never tried that one. I joined with my best friend the next morning.
At my first weigh-in, the bad news was I weighed 363.3 pounds. The good news: I was in the right place. For the first time in my life, I discovered how to create a healthy and balanced meal, with the right mix of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. I discovered a new love for vegetables I’d never heard the names of before, like rutabaga. I also learned I could eat foods I liked—I just had to learn portion control. I made so many changes the first week that I expected a loss of 10 pounds or so. When I stepped on the scale and saw I’d lost only 1.2 pounds, I was devastated and demotivated. I knew I had to add some exercise.
The problem was, my knees were so bad that I couldn’t walk more than a few steps without pain, so I had to find another option to get moving. I begged my best friend and weight loss partner to join a gym with me until she agreed. Together, we spent 2 to 3 hours a night at the gym after work. At first, I could do only about 10 minutes on the treadmill. My knees barely bent enough for me to get on the stationary bike, but I would do another 10 to 15 minutes there. My friend would strap my feet into the rowing machine because my stomach was so big I couldn’t reach them. We would row side by side, and although the activity was extremely hard for me, it felt great to finally have some control over my life and my health.
With the addition of exercise, the weight started coming off, which was so motivating! I built up to lifting weights 5 to 6 days a week and doing some form of cardiovascular exercise for an hour each day. I couldn’t believe how quickly my body was transforming. I felt unstoppable. For the first time in years, my legs and shoulders grew muscular, and my jawline and biceps became visible. I looked like a new person. I went from a size 9½ shoe to a 7½, from a size 32 pants to a size 12, and from a size 5X shirt to a medium. Within only a year of joining weight watchers, I lost 100 pounds! Perhaps most important, my cholesterol dropped 37 points.
From there, I stayed motivated by coming up with unique challenges. On New Year’s Eve, I completed my year total of 2015 pushups. By the end of 2014, I had hit my goal of losing 150 pounds! For 2015, I vowed to do everything I couldn’t do when I weighed 363 pounds. I rode a bike, which I hadn’t done since I was a teenager. I went kayaking for the first time. I swam next to dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. I saw three concerts in one weekend and danced in public. The list goes on and on.
Now I’m 150 pounds and 150 inches smaller, and I no longer find happiness in a bag of chips. I am up with the birds every day, ready to live the life I held myself back from for far too long. I am my own superhero.