My Weight Loss Story Through Photos

Most of you know that I grew up overweight. I shared my story when I first started this blog because I wanted my readers to know I get it. I know what it's like to feel depressed by my appearance, completely consumed by my size, and in search of a lifelong solution to my biggest problem. YET, only able to find comfort in the foods I know are bad for me. I get it. I really, really do. But, since most of you know me the way I am now - a CrossFit-salad obsessed fool - I thought pictures might illustrate my understanding better than words. So, here's a look back through my life, and my own personal weight loss journey.

HomecomingHomecoming in 9th grade.

In middle school my first crush called me fat and by High School, not much had changed. I didn't have a date to Homecoming so my friend Holly went with me. I vividly remember this night and all that led up to it. Shopping for a dress was a disaster because everything was so tight fitting. As you can see, we made a way with control top pantyhose (read: the most uncomfortable thing, ever for bigger girls) and a body suit. YES, that means I'm wearing a body suit AND pantyhose in this photo. What a mess! I also vividly remember us ordering a pizza that night and me eating the entire thing; I think Holly had one slice. Clearly, I hadn't connected food with my weight issues, and external contraptions, albeit uncomfortable seemed like the best solution at the time.

SVA 1Eleventh grade.

I left home to attend a boarding school in 11th grade and on this particular day, we had a mini-photoshoot on the rooftop of the dormitory!! There's a bunch more pictures from this day and in all of them, I have this same mean look on my face!

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This was also in 11th grade. I can't believe I thought it was acceptable to wear that tank top and those shorts together! Ugh! During this time I was a heavy smoker. I smoked at least a half a pack of cigarettes a day.

SVA Dorm 1Same dorm. Same mean mug! 

As for the cornrows? I can't really explain it! Haha. I wore them all. the. time. I think it was my way of separating myself from my peers more so than my lack of athletic ability did. I wanted to be athletic so bad and I tried out for several sports teams - basketball, cheerleading and soccer - but never made any of them. In eleventh grade, they put me on the junior varisty team even though all my peers were varsity. Allowing me to play junior varsity was a favor, but sadly, we lost every game that season and I don't think it gave me the self-confidence I so desperately needed.

Creation Fest

These pictures are from a trip I took with my mom at the end of eleventh grade. I think I gained a lot of weight that year in particular because the school I attended was strictly vegetarian and didn't serve meat. I can only imagine I loaded up on carbs and a lot of fake stuff. It's no wonder I got so big.

Creation Fest 2

Below is a photo of me the day I left for college!  When I look at this picture I seriously can't believe how big I was. Or how long my fake nails were...

SVA Graduation

It's interesting because within the first year of college, unlike so many other college-goers, I LOST 15 lbs. We were walking everywhere, and back then, my school had the worst cafeteria. I never ate there. I was pretty poor, too (no job, just school + money from home), so that meant surviving off dorm room delicacies like chips and gushers.

saramichellesroomSophomore year of college.

Don't be decieved: a smaller waistline does not mean healthier!! In fact, I was probably the UNHEALTHIEST I've ever been in my entire life during this time... I smoked a pack of Newport cigarettes a day (sometimes more), drank often, and ate like crap.

I did, however, have my first elliptical experience in college around this time. But we never stayed at the gym longer than 30 minutes. I usually got on the elliptical to occupy myself while my friends flirted with the basketball players (they weren't interested in me). I never touched the weights or really pushed myself though. I think I did the elliptical a total of 10 times. The weight loss came from the drastic change in my environment, walking a lot, and probably smoking a lot too.

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The night before graduation from college, 2003.

By the time I graduated college I looked completely different.

A lot better, I think.

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Of course, some of that can be attributed to learning to dress better and ditching the cornrows, but I still had no concept of working out or eating healthy. In my mind, healthy meant either eating less or choosing fat-free sugar-free foods. (I know better now!)

After college it didnt take long for the weight to creep back on. When I was back in a cozy living environment, I ate the only way I knew how: a lot!! Breakfast pizzas and microwavable burgers were the norm, and I remember having the hardest time not giving into the Dunkin Donuts I'd walk past every morning on the way to the bus.

I was still smoking too.

Then, in 2008, I started to get the bug. I went on a trip to Miami with some college friends and around that time I decided I didn't really want to smoke and drink and go out any more. One of my good friend's brother's was just beginning to get into weight lifting and had a bench press setup at his place. I tried it out (just the bar of course) and loved the feeling. I picked up an Oxygen magazine for the first time that same weekend, and started to get the crazy idea I could become a bikini model (ha! still not there yet). I started to think about getting healthy, getting in shape, and getting strong. When I got home, I went straight to the grocery store and then cooked up three Oxygen recipes. That's when I discovered the egg white casserole, and loved it!

Of course, nothing happens overnight and I was quickly realizing that losing weight and getting in shape now was a lot harder than it seemed to be in college (when I wasn't even really trying)! Around this time I started back on the elliptical at my work gym and started drinking protein shakes. Slowly, I saw progress.

An interruption occurred when I got engaged!! Woo hoo!!

WeddingshowAt our first wedding vendor show.

Around the same time I got engaged I got a new job and that really helped solidify my interest in working out. I joined a nearby gym with some coworkers and eventually, we all chipped in for a personal trainer (Melissa). I think this story goes back to why I believe in personal training and set out to become a personal trainer.  When I met Melissa, I wasn't that overweight, but I definitely wasn't where I wanted to be. I'd gotten engaged and knew I had a wedding coming up at some point (we had a long engagement). I also knew I did not like the way I looked in my engagement pictures. In fact, I was mortified!

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(Thankfully we took some other pictures later I was happier with.)

I worked out with Melissa two or three times a week doing mostly weight lifting, and on the other days, we'd run or do the elliptical (some form of cardio). Melissa and my two coworkers taught me everything I know about exercise. It was with them that I started lifting weights for the first time (I remember HATING lateral raises with the weighted bar - it was so hard!) and started doing a consistent amount of cardio. I was starting to realize I really liked cardio! If you asked me to chose between the weight machines or stairs, I'd chose the stairs! They all liked weights, though so I kept doing them and I'm so glad I did! My body started to change. I was leaning out. And Melissa was working with me on the right foods to eat, too. I remember her writing out a simple meal plan that went something like: oatmeal, veggies + chicken for lunch, sweet potato + fish for dinner. She also told me to drink a chocolate protein shake if I had a sweet craving, and so that's just what I did!

I got really into running around this same time and starting picking up 5ks, and eventually 10ks and 10-milers. Having an upcoming race seemed to help me stay consistent in going to the gym.

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In the weeks leading up to my wedding I became more disciplined on my diet, but it wasn't easy. I remember having a very tough conversation with Melissa. I was complaining (and whining) about not having lost more weight and not seeing the results I wanted, and she basically told me it was my own fault; it certainly wasn't her program! That was hard to hear, but I'm glad she was straight forward with me because I left determined to get it together, and that I did! I finally started tracking consistently and eating a lot more veggies. My go-to lunch was 1/2 cup of brown rice, a bag (a whole bag!) of steamed veggies and grilled chicken. I'd have greek yogurt in the afternoon and then something simple for dinner.

When I got married, I was an all-time low of 147 lbs. I also had sleek shoulders and flat stomach! I couldn't have been happier with the results of my hard work.

Getting Ready Wedding

Oh and, for the first time in my entire lift, I wore a bikini on my honeymoon!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can't believe I'm putting this on the internet - shoot me!

When we returned from our honeymoon my coworkers and personal trainer and gym were all still there, and for that, I'm so thankful. We continued our workout routine but challenged ourselves with the goal to run a FULL marathon. I already loved running but knew a marathon would take serious dedication. I knew it would bring immense satisfaction, too, so I signed up. Every weekend we got together and ran the long runs. I experienced some knee problems, but when race day came, I showed up and finished in about 5 and a half hours.

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Training for a race was tricky because I did what most running experts suggest - carb loading. I also would feel extremely hungry after long runs (not to mention feeling like I deserved to reward myself for the 16 miles I ran that morning). Even though I wasn't eating as clean as I could have been, I do think I was a lot better off than I ever was in college or years prior. Of course, with marriage there were many changes - moving and making dinner for two instead of one - but one thing remained consistent - my will to TRY to eat healthy, and to keep working out.

After the marathon I decided to take a break from running (I hear that's normal). I've done a few 5ks since then (the color run and electric run), but nothing big. Next year I'm hoping to get back into running by maybe signing up for a half marathon. (I never did a half! I jumped right to the full!) I still run sometimes at CrossFit but it's shorter distances. I think having started CrossFit when I did was really good for me because I was becoming a little disenchanted with the gym.

Melissa moved gyms and isn't as accessible now. I do have access to a gym at work (which most of you probably see photos of on instagram), and I have a trainer there, but I was getting to the point where I wasn't challenging myself enough; I was just going through the motions and not seeing results.

Of course, like many newlyweds I gained some weight after the wedding and with my work gym, my new personal trainer, and this blog, I definitely wanted to get that last little bit of weight off once and for all. But, then something odd happened... I started CrossFit.

I've shared how Crossfit has brought results, both weight-wise and strength-wise, but mostly, it's drastically changed my goals. Even though I still think it'd be nice to lose a few pounds, I'm much more focused on getting stronger and conquering a lot of non-weight related goals, like doing a handstand!

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My other big focus is consistency (i.e. not diving head-first into chocolate cake when I'm not doing challenges). I want to stop the yo-yo dieting and just get in the habit of eating clean, and do that for years and years to come (not for the next six months till summer).

I think eating clean is the hardest for me because it's easy to revert back to the old me (the one who grew up eating cinnamon toast crunch for breakfast and five guys for dinner), but I'm trying and I have amazing tools - like salad club. I love to cook and try new recipes, and I realize that nobody's perfect 100 percent of the time.

Did I mention I finally quit smoking? THAT was definitely a huge step in the right direction.

Clearly my weight loss (or rather, fitness) journey isn't over but I'm thankful I have this blog to navigate the way. As you can see, it's been a lot of ups and downs thus far, but I like to think I'm making strides.

Have you struggled with your weight your whole life?