9 Women Share the Highs & Lows of Losing 100 Pounds or More

Lauren Brown | Feb 18, 2016 Healthy Living

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Weight loss is such a delicate, intricate experience. Many who have never struggled think it's just easy to "stop eating" or "make better choices." But if you've ever had to lose weight -- from 5 pounds to 50 or 100 -- you know that it's not just an on and off switch you can flip anytime you want.

Many times the extra weight has nothing to do with liking food and everything to do with not feeling loved or worthy. And just because you successfully lose weight does not mean that you are successfully living in your new body. It takes getting used to -- for you and for your friends and family.

But that's not to say that losing several dress sizes isn't also incredibly exhilarating, rewarding, and fun. It's just downright life changing, and the better prepared you are, the higher your chance of success -- and of keeping the weight off for good.

We went to nine incredibly inspiring women who have all lost well over 100 pounds and asked them to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their weight loss journeys. They're opening up and unafraid to tell you what it's really like to lose so much weight, and it's nothing like you expected!

 

Image via iStock.com/Jasmina007

  • 'Now I want a healthy mind and body.'

    1

    Nancy Virden

    "I was unhealthy and growing even less healthy. In an unhappy marriage, my fear was becoming disabled and having to be cared for by my husband. My eating and weight felt out of control, which in fact they were. Finally, after a particular binge, it was as if my eyes opened and I understood what was happening. I knew then I was beyond helping myself. I had to address the reality of food addiction. I spent a month in treatment and another year in a support group, led by an addictions counselor who specialized in eating disorders. Through these, I developed a food plan that works for the special needs of an addict. I lost the first 100 pounds mostly in two years. I have a way to go yet.

    "The most unexpected part of losing so much weight was self-confidence and energy. Previously I didn't have much of either, and it's nice to experience. Many friends and allies have had positive remarks and I appreciate it. I did get hit on a few weeks ago for the first time in two decades! That is funny! 

    "It is shocking to me when I look in the mirror and see a woman anyone would call overweight and realize I was once 100 pounds heavier! It is difficult to picture myself a few years ago. It is sobering and makes it clear how very much in denial I was for so long. Sometimes I am tempted to overeat because food was my go-to for stress management most of my life, but now I want a healthy mind and body more than I want escape." -- Nancy V., Cleveland, Ohio

  • 'Accept my body as it is, flaws and all.'

    2

    Erica B.

    "In 2000, my mom died from cancer, and that got me really thinking about what I wanted out of my life. By that summer, I weighed 259 pounds, and I decided that I wanted to lose weight for myself, so I could scatter some of my mom's ashes from the top of her favorite mountain, Mt. Katahdin. I lost 130 pounds over 2 1/2 years, and I've maintained that weight since.

    "When I think about the reality of weight loss vs. my expectations, the biggest different is not ending up with the body I expected. As I lost weight, I imagined myself eventually having a body like I might have had if I'd never gained weight. I don't know why, but some part of my brain clearly expected a magical transformation, where no one would be able to look at me and guess I had been overweight. This is true to an extent. When I'm wearing enough clothes, no one knows. But get me in a bathing suit, or anything less, and the evidence is all there. After all, stretch marks don't disappear. Loose skin doesn't smooth out. Certain areas of fat remain, and even if you do have surgery, you'll have the scars from the surgery.

    "All of this forced me to do something I had never considered when I was overweight: accept my body as it is, flaws and all. This was harder than I expected -- I had thought a good body image would happen automatically after losing weight. Instead, I had to fight for it, do the work of acknowledging and honoring everything good about my body, everything it allows me to do and feel, and I find that I'm even happier as a result. It's not the fairy tale I hoped for, but that's okay because the reality I have is much deeper and more rewarding than I would have guessed -- especially since I was able to climb Mt. Katahdin and scatter my mom's ashes as I wanted." -- Erica B., Portland, Maine

  • 'Each milestone is more rewarding.'

    3

    Tanisha S.

    "When I stood on the scale and it could not register my weight, I knew I had to make changes because it indicated I was over 350 pounds. For once, I felt being a plus-size diva was no longer sexy. I started counting calories, but I embraced drinking water, drinking smoothies, loving vegetables, and finding fun ways to be healthy. Plus, I prayed for the strength. I lost 100 pounds in 362 days and 150 in 17 months. 

    "People will not always be happy for your success. It's one of the hardest things to stomach. When I told people how I did it, they did not believe me. I had close friends stop speaking to me because of my weight loss. I wish I started off using weights to avoid my flabby arms. But, now that I'm strength training, it's coming together. 

    "[I love] when people tell me I've inspired them to stop making excuses. [I hate] when people call me a liar. I know losing over 150 is equal to a normal human, but I worked hard every day for the last three years to live this life today. 

    "Losing the weight feels amazing. Each milestone is more rewarding. I remember the first 10 pounds, the first time I ran for a minute straight, and when I lost the first 50 pounds. When you see yourself doing things others do not think is possible, it's so rewarding. I tell people to stop focusing on the weight loss and embrace the lifestyle. 

    "Being overweight/obese is a sign of a deeper issue. I challenge people to start sorting out their lives to identify why the weight loss journey is difficult. Plus, be consistent. Don't think, What if it does not work? Love the life you live today and seek to improve it every day." -- Tanisha S., Brooklyn, New York

  • 'I finally found success by doing it slowly.'

    4

    Sharon T.

    "I was a single mother of four children ages 1 to 11, and although I was active, I knew that if I did not do something about my 357-pound body, I would continue to gain weight and eventually die. I wanted to see my children and future grandchildren. I wanted to live. I had high blood pressure (going through a divorce can do that to you), and my cholesterol was high. Two of my children had developed weight issues. If I did not do something, my children would continue on the path to ill health. I wanted to be a role model for them.

    "It took about a year to take off 135 lbs. I discovered that dealing with the psychological issues was THE most difficult aspect of maintaining the weight loss. I went to a nutritionist who helped me with my triggers for eating. We worked on alternatives to turning to food, and I maintained my 135-pound-plus weight loss for 15 years.

    "When I see pictures of myself at 357 lbs, I do not see a difference in my body. I know it is there, but body dysmorphia is so common in women that have carried a lot of weight. I still walk in Lane Bryant, but the clothes don’t fit. I have had to learn to say thank you when someone compliments me on the way I look. Or on how far I have come. It took me a long time to learn to say thank you and not divert the comment or 'pooh-pooh' it. My family has always been about looks. For all the years as an adult, when I would see my dad, if I lost weight, he would make a comment like, ‘Sharon, you look like you’ve been keeping the weight off. Nice job.’ If I did not get a comment on how I looked, I knew I had gained weight. This was a huge trigger for me.

    "I’m VERY proud of the fact that I did the weight loss the hard way. No gastric bypass, no band. There is NO magic pill, and I finally found success by doing it slowly. I am eating ALL the foods I love, I am in charge of what I eat, and when I want a piece of chocolate cream pie, I make the choice to have it and eat it slowly, enjoying EVERY SINGLE bite. I can move better. My knees don’t hurt. I am on NO medications for diabetes, cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

    "I want to be an inspiration to other women to be healthy no matter what size or age they are. To inspire them to lose body fat the slow, steady way. To not let society dictate what you should look like to be considered beautiful. I am proud of myself. Losing weight is just a number on the scale. I would rather be larger and healthy than skinny and sickly. We have to stop letting food have control over us. If you want a piece of chocolate, have it, but enjoy it. Eat it mindfully. Eat it slowly." -- Sharon T., Chicago, Illinois

  • 'I totally changed my lifestyle.'

    5

    Iris S.

    "I decided to lose the weight because I had health issues and I hated the way I looked and felt. I created my own weight loss program because every diet I had been on had a really bad maintenance track record. I wanted to not only lose the weight but keep it off once and for all.

    "Basically, I counted my carbs and allowed myself a maximum of 45 for breakfast and lunch, 30 as a snack, and 60 at dinner. That way I wouldn’t be hungry. I also gave up Diet Coke and all artificial sweeteners, and eventually started buying only organic produce, dairy, and groceries. In addition, I started walking in the pool for 30 minutes, four days a week. Later, I added a trainer twice a week to firm up the flab. I lost 135 pounds in about 14 months.

    "The unexpected aspect was how easy it was! Not hard at all except for giving up Diet Coke. And, I wound up looking really fit -- not like a ‘formerly fat’ person. But the biggest thing was how easy it is to maintain the loss. I had been able to lose weight before but had never kept it off. By focusing on maintenance from day one, I totally changed my lifestyle. 

    "My friends were okay with the process but they weren’t particularly encouraging because some of them have weight to lose and others felt self-conscious about eating and drinking in front of me. They were especially uncomfortable about the fact that I drank Pellegrino instead of wine -- even though I never lectured them or made a big deal out of it.

    "Once I got all the weight off and ran into people I hadn’t seen in a long time, they were totally impressed and a little freaked out. They, of course, wanted to know how I did it (many of them were convinced I had gastric bypass surgery), and a lot of them asked if I could help them lose weight. As a result, I started a weight management coaching business to help others do the same thing.

    "It’s FABULOUS to not only lose weight but keep it off. I don’t have to settle for buying clothes that fit versus clothes that I really like and that look good on me. I can go into ANY STORE and put on ANYTHING and it looks great. Even Sloan pants, size 6, at Banana Republic." --  Iris S., St. Louis, Missouri

  • 'I became who I was always meant to be.'

    6

    Camille B.

    "I've lost and kept off 170 pounds since 2011. Losing the weight had become a life or death situation for me.

    "My children, who are now 11 and 13, don't even remember what I looked like at 324 pounds, but I'll admit that it took me a long time to not see the bigger me in the mirror even after I had lost all the weight.

    "Because my confidence level and energy went through the roof, so did my ambition and desire. For that reason, my family and friends' relationships changed drastically. I became who I was always meant to be, and although I have a ton of support from new friends, my previous relationships withered." -- Camille B., Durham, North Carolina

  • 'Losing weight is hard as hell.'

    7

    Christian O.

    "I truly hated myself the FIRST time I lost 100 pounds and did it solely to be able to finally date and be accepted by society. I didn't care what I did and would grossly overtrain and under-eat. The second time around, I am losing weight to be healthy and also to inspire others to be able to take hold of their lives and live well. I lost 100 pounds in under a year. [My success] made others who didn't believe in my ability to lose weight want to change their lives in more ways than weight.

    "I never knew the pain I felt was abnormal as I had been a larger woman since I was born. I also wasn't expecting my body to not like certain foods anymore like fried chicken, pork, beef, or dairy.

    "I wish I was more prepared in understanding my growth and seeing myself well. I didn't expect to lose so rapidly and to still feel ugly afterwards. Even though I slaved away in the gym, men still weren't interested in me, or if I did get any guy's attention, I was still too fat.

    "I do love the fact I did overcome the self-doubt and built more confidence in myself by making such a big goal. Losing weight is hard as hell. It's not a cake walk. You go through confidence jabs as things you may have stacked your worth on, like having big boobs or booty, may go away. You will have a lot of naysayers who talk about you and don't believe in you until it starts to show. 

    "I believe with the society we live in, we are so hard on making ourselves look a certain way; however, I believe in my journey. I found a love for indoor cycling, became a certified cycle instructor, and battle the issues of image by applying that to mainstream gyms. I hope to radically change the mindsets of society, of those who believe plus-size people aren't healthy." -- Christian O., Dallas, Texas

  • 'I spent too much time being overweight and sad.'

    8

    Melissa S.

    "I want to tell any woman, young or old, to stop wasting time. I spent too much time being overweight and sad, and I regret it. When I joined Planet Fitness, I worked to make that change and lose the weight and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.

    "Like most women, I always put my job, family, home, everything before myself. When I lost the weight, I changed all that. I finally took control and put myself first. I have more energy, confidence, and control than ever, but it hasn’t always been easy.

    "Anyone starting this journey must know they will stumble, get frustrated, and want to quit, but it’s worth it. Start your journey today, not tomorrow." -- Melissa S., Fort Wayne, Indiana

  • 'I feel I OWN my body today.'

    9

    Pat B.

    "I had repeatedly dieted and regained for years. My mother put me on my first diet at age 10, not because I needed to lose weight but because she did, and she wanted company in her struggle. I got the idea that there was something terribly wrong with me and it needed to be fixed. I didn’t understand my mother was a food addict until I faced my own disordered eating.

    "The struggle wore me down. Every time I lost weight, it came right back, with more weight. No diet, diet program, or therapy had helped. But I had a young son, and I didn’t want him to be ashamed of me, the way I had been ashamed of my mother and her crazy eating habits. The way I felt about myself at 242 pounds wasn’t sustainable. It was a downward spiral.

    "My doctor kept increasing my dose of antidepressants and telling me not to feel guilty about my weight, but to accept it, since I was likely to always be obese. One day I said ‘no.’ I wasn’t willing. I knew, somehow, the woman who was 242 lbs was not the real me. I looked in the mirror and didn’t see me. It was not a natural body state for me. It was hard and difficult to live with that much weight, and all the emotional turmoil it held. I felt my son deserved more.

    "One of my first steps was to start research. I discovered 99 percent of all weight lost on a diet returns and it returns 108 percent of the weight lost. Dieting sets up a body for regain. That had been my exact experience. I decided to lose weight permanently.

    "Now, as a coach, that is all I focus on with clients. It means lifestyle change and rewiring the brain. But I’ve done it. It took me four years to lose the bulk of my excess weight. I lost 32 pounds the first year, 23 the second, 9 the third, and 12 the fourth. I tell everyone who asks the third year was key. I kept details of measurements, workouts, weight. I felt I was going nowhere that year. I worried I’d regain out of frustration. I think most people do. But, at the end of the year, I had lost nine pounds but THREE DRESS SIZES. I developed a mantra of ‘never go back.’ After losing the first 76 pounds, I focused on maintaining it. I wanted it to be permanent weight loss, and the medical profession measures that at five years.

    "I had to face myself and my unhealthy impulses. I had always considered it a physical problem. But it was more mental and emotional. I was shocked many of my friends were jealous or negative about my changes. They had been more food buddies than friends. But, I rediscovered my body, my femininity, my sexuality. I feel I OWN my body today. Even though it is far from perfect, my body is the perfect home for me." -- Pat B., Madison, Wisconsin

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