I am beyond thrilled to share today's transformation story with you! I met Monica through Making Things Happen back in 2011, then, late last year we decided to team up, meet again, and help each other achieve big goals in 2013! We each drove about an hour and a half and met for lunch at Borders. I had just received my Mac & Photoshop Elements and Monica spent the day showing me how to use my nifty new tools! We totally hit it off!
I encouraged her to open her Etsy shop and do online tutorials for Photoshop (she's an amazing teacher!), and she encouraged me to finally hit publish on that first Fit for a Bride post! If it wasn't for her, I don't know if I would have ever shared (or started) my Facebook page! She's been a real cheerleader!
Little did I know we also shared a weight loss story! I could hardly believe it-- she's so tiny! Then she sent over the pictures. Wow- what a transformation!
Like many of us, she lost weight, put it back on, and then lost it again; except this time, she vows, it's for good!
Monica's got a really busy schedule, commuting twice a week to get her Ph.D from Penn State (impressive, ay?) and her story is great for girls on the go! Who am I kidding? It's great for all of us!
Thanks again Monica for sharing your incredible story! You look fantastic!!
What contributed to your being overweight?
During my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to go to college full time through a dual enrollment program. I spent most of my day at the local community college and returned to high school about once a week to turn in paperwork. As you might imagine, being 17 years old and suddenly having a lot more freedom and unstructured time was a lot of fun (and really a fantastic experience), but that also led to me eating more junk food. I was never a snacker until I started college that year. Before I’d eat breakfast, lunch, a snack before sports practice, and then dinner. I think the main reason for this was because in high school you weren’t allowed to eat in class! In college most professors didn’t care and there was a café with all sorts of tasty (and primarily unhealthy!) treats. So I started snacking a lot more. And drinking a lot of sugary coffee drinks and sodas. That’s when my weight gain started.
When did you decide to make a change? Has your decision to get healthy been on-again off-again, or did something just click?
I first decided to make a change in the spring of 2004. I was at my highest weight, just shy of 200 lbs. I clearly remember one moment when things sort of clicked for me...My boyfriend (now husband!) and I left the Cheesecake Factory after lunch on Saturday and we were staring to walk through the mall when the snap on my jeans popped off. I still remember the “pling!” it made as it hit the marble floor and rolled in front of us. I remember my hubby staring at it rather dubiously (bless him, he didn’t make one negative comment and never has), and then eying me to gauge my reaction. I remember being extremely upset. I think we left the mall at that point. That was pretty much the last straw. I had been half-heartedly attempting to diet and exercise up to that point but things really began in earnest from there on out.
I ended up loosing a significant amount of weight over the next 8-10 months and was down to about 115 pounds by the following Christmas (December 2004). I wouldn’t recommend going about it the way I was though. I wasn’t following a really healthy eating plan. I was following a“I didn’t eat very much and worked out like crazy (for me) plan.” I ate three meals a day, but I didn’t pay much attention to so-called “healthy” calories or “good” carbs, I just ate low-calorie food for the most part.
I maintained that weight through our wedding in June 2006 through about a year later and then I started to put weight back on again. It crept on slowly until about I was at my highest weight again of about 168 (again I followed the stay away from the scale pattern like I did the first time) last April (2012).
When I met Monica in 2011 / Photo by Gina Zeidler
This last time I decided to lose weight again because it just felt like it was time. I was in a really good place emotionally speaking. After a few up and down years, I decided to leave my job in August 2011 and went back to school full time. I’m a Ph.D. student at Penn State, and absolutely love working in my graduate position there! I was enjoying school, family life was good, so I felt like I had all of the professional and personal aspects of my life together so it was time to get me physically together again.
When did you start to see a difference in your weight?
I notice weight loss really quickly in me because I’m so short! J So that’s the positive side, the negative is that any weight gain shows equally quickly. My sizes change dramatically fairly quickly. For example, in the high 160s, I’m in a snug size 12 in pants. At my current, still losing weight of 142, I’m in a size 6. At my pre-Christmas weight of 137, I was in a 4!
Did you use a particular program to help you lose weight? What program? (Weight watchers, Jenny Craig?)
I’m currently using Weight Watchers and have done it off and on over the years. I’m not the biggest fan of point tracking, but writing down everything you eat with a declining balance of points is very helpful for me.
What are some of your staple foods?
Oatmeal! I used to make my own using whole oats (cheaper and tastier than the packaged stuff!) but recently I discovered two different flavors of Weight Watchers Oatmeal (Berry and Maple Brown Sugar) that I like a lot. The Berry has 10 grams of fiber in it! I have yet to find one that has that much in it at the grocery store so that’s why I’m ok with paying more for it.
From Monica on Instagram
I know you're on the go a lot, in the car and at a hotel. What saves you from eating out all the time?
I am definitely on the go a lot! I commute to school each week. It’s about 170 miles each way so I stay overnight in a hotel a few nights each week. That contributed A LOT to my weight gain last year. Going out to eat, living a graduate student lifestyle of too much coffee and bad for you snacks, all really bad habits that I picked up.
This year things have been completely different! I pack my lunches and snacks and sometimes bring a meal for dinner or go out. My typical lunch consists of Greek Yogurt (I like the 80-calorie Dannon’s Light and Fit kind), freeze dried fruit that I mix in the yogurt, and fat free popcorn (the individual pop your own bag kind) or fruit. Snacks are typically fruit or a granola bar. I like the Weight Watchers snack bars, but will try anything that is about 2-3 points or less. Sometimes I have a serving of nuts like almonds for a snack. Dinner is either a TV dinner (though I try really hard not to eat these as I don’t really like them.) or I buy one meal at my favorite restaurant at school (Noodles and Company) and split it over two nights. I love their Japanese pan noodles with tofu and split it comes to under 250 calories for each meal with a big portion.
I also significantly cut down on the amount of Starbucks I drink. I love Starbucks but many of their drinks, as advertised, are not very healthy. I’m currently trying to drink the lighter versions, like a Skinny Latte vs. my terrible for you White Chocolate Mocha with Peppermint (eek! The calories! It’s awful!), but to be honest, I haven’t found a light drink that I’m ok with yet. The sugar free syrups (I’ve had caramel and vanilla so far) don’t taste very good to me. So that’s a work in progress.
Do you workout? How often?
Yes. Typically 4 days per week during the school year. I made it to the gym 5 days a week from May through August when I was home from school and that was great! During my school year it’s difficult to get all 5 days in because of my schedule. I try to do at least 45 minutes, but usually an hour. I’m also working out with a trainer (thanks to a gift from my wonderful Mom!) once a week for weight lifting.
When did you start? Have you always been athletic?
I’ve worked out off and on for years, but consistently since April 2012. While I was really into organized sports in high school, I don’t really consider myself athletic when it comes to team sports. I think I liked the social aspect more than anything else. I don’t like working out, but I like how I feel afterwards, and the healthy effects that it brings so that’s why I do it. I also watch my favorite TV shows that I never have time to watch while I work out on my iPad so that’s a big incentive for me to exercise.
What's been the best part about getting healthier/losing weight? (For example, shopping for clothes, hubby's compliments?)
I love clothes so shopping for clothes in smaller sizes is cool, but the best part has been seeing how proud my hubby is of me. He’s always been supportive of me – he really is my biggest cheerleader! – but this past summer he really showed it in a big way but encouraging us to get pictures taken together in Seattle. He’d like us to get more taken again too. He’s not the biggest fan of being in professionally taken photos so that’s a big deal for him.
Do you have any advice for other women who are trying to be healthier and/or lose weight?
Don’t lose hope if you start a new plan – or any plan for that matter – and you don’t see the pounds coming off immediately. It took time to put the weight on, it takes time, sometimes longer, to lose the weight. The same advice goes with beating plateaus. I thought I’d never see below 15 this past summer. I must have hovered there for nearly a month. I was exercising, eating well, etc… but just stuck. Then one day it went down and just kept going. Same thing has happened before at 140 too. Something about those numbers!
I really like this message that Monica added: I’d also say that if you want to be healthier and/or lose weight, then you need to stand up for yourself. What I mean to say is that if you are currently going out to eat a lot with friends, your significant other, etc…, then you can still go out to eat, but what you eat needs to change. However, if your friends, partner, etc. are encouraging you to eat the old foods, let them know you aren’t going to, and stick with your plan!
Something that really hits home with me is this thought: Each of us has so many things that are beyond our control. Life, what other people do, etc., etc., but your diet is the one thing that is completely in your control. What you put in your mouth is based on your decision, no one else’s. While it’s easier said than done, now I think about why I’m eating something before I eat it. Am I really hungry? Or am I eating for another reason? And that has made a world of difference.
Great advice, Monica! Thank you so much!
Has anyone else experienced on-again off-again weight gain/loss?
Stay tuned for a giveaway later today-- something from Monica's Etsy shop!