My weight loss journey started a couple of years ago. It was July 1st, 2013 — a new month and a chance to be better for me. I stood in front of the mirror in a sports bra and underwear to take my before photo, just staring at myself. How did I get here? Who was I? I had just weighed in at my heaviest weight ever — about 50 lbs overweight, according to any doctor’s chart. I was sick and tired of seeing that number on the scale and wanted to really lose weight. Not for one week through a fad diet, though; for good.
I had already read every piece of info. I took my before pictures and went for my first booty call (early morning workout) and followed it up with a healthy breakfast afterward. I snapped a photo and posted it on my Tone It Up Instagram account. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. While I had wanted to lose weight for years, by trying everything from Weight Watchers to diuretics and more, it wasn’t until that day that it fully kicked in why.
It used to be to get rid of all the snide comments from others. To this day, I still remember the mean boy in middle school who called me a whale. Or that “friend” in high school who texted me a rude comment about my clothes when she meant to text her boyfriend. Or my ex who told me I needed to lose a few pounds. At first, I did it to show those people that I was better, with or without them. On that morning, though, I realized something: I have to get healthy for me. Not for that stupid boy or the mean girl. Not for a coach who said I’d swim faster if I was smaller. Not to wear a smaller dress size or to fit in skinny jeans. For me.
At first it was hard — really hard. I threw my whole life upside down to focus on getting healthy. I was on summer break between graduation and before starting a new job, so it was my full-time job for the month to lose weight. I worked out at least twice a day, started training for my first triathlon, and swam about four times a week. I was juicing every day and living off protein waffles. It was a great summer, but I still cared what others thought.
One day, I went to the craft store to get stuff for a Pinterest project. I bought two vases, a big bag of marbles and some stickers, in an effort to create something to keep me motivated on my journey. On one of the vases I wrote, “Pounds to Lose,” & on the other, I wrote, “Pounds Lost.” I distinctly remember putting about 50 marbles in the “pounds to lose” one and about 5 in the “pounds lost” vase. Instead of feeling motivated, I felt defeated and sad every time I looked at them. When I stood on the scale I wanted to maintain a 10 lb weight loss, but even that seemed hard. The 5 marbles that were in the “Pounds Lost” would fluctuate from 3 to 8, but never more. I ended up losing about 15 pounds in maybe three months. I looked happy in my photos and was super confident in person, but on the inside, I wasn’t catching up to the weight loss.
Over the next year and a half, I’d go through so many ups and downs. I started checking in more frequently on my Instagram account, thinking no one would really care or follow my posts. I had 180 followers on my personal account, so maybe, just maybe, a quarter of those people would follow and be interested in my new account. I honestly didn’t think anything of it. But the more people started liking, commenting, and following my photos, the more insecure I got.
I started to do things that people were encouraging me to do; to try to fit in. I went through a stint as a vegetarian, then a vegan, then on whole30, trying to feel wanted by the community — to fit in with the girls whose lives I admired. Soon enough, my account had 500 followers. I started posting to inspire them, not to inspire myself. For a while during those 18 months, I lost track of myself. I got caught in the mindset that I’d be stuck at the weight I’m at now (I ended up gaining 10 lbs so that obviously wasn’t true), and that I’d have to change who I was to be liked by people. I started posting photos that weren’t for me, they were for my followers. I started caring about what those following me thought about my food choices, my outfits, and my workouts.
One of my downfalls is always caring what other people think. When I hear even a slightly negative comment, I take it to heart like no other. If I read something about me on the Internet, it sticks with me for days — not minutes. I’ll constantly ask for feedback: how do I look? Do you like this? Do you like that? What do you think? It was easy to do, especially when I was putting myself out there on Instagram. Just recently, I’ve started learning that I have to care what I think. Do what I need to do for me. I’ve started to think more positively, to get back to that place where I was when I first started my journey — enjoying the high of the weight loss.
I’ve crossed the finish line of an international-distance triathlon. I swam from Alcatraz to SF and then ran 7 miles right after. I have a community of friends from around the globe supporting me. I look in the mirror and flex because I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. I’ve lost and maintained a 25+ lb weight loss. There are days where I’m confident and proud of my progress. I realize it’s still comparing myself to others, but it’s turning the dial to focus on me and my accomplishments. I’m halfway to my “goal weight.” I’m able to flex my arms and see a baby muscle. I just had to buy a new wardrobe with smaller clothes. I’m able to focus on my journey and actually see how far I’ve come.
But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are days or weeks where I’m in a slump and not motivated whatsoever. I cry, whine and wonder why my progress hasn’t gone faster. Why have I plateaued? Why am I gaining weight? Can’t I just freaking eat that XL steak quesadilla followed by a bowl of frozen yogurt without me or someone else judging me? I think all of these things on a regular basis now, but when I catch myself and when I can, I think back to that first day of July 2013: I have to get healthy for me. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours to remember; other times, it takes weeks. What matters is that, that’s what it comes back to.
I still eat all the foods I love: mac and cheese, bread and butter, quesadillas, but in moderation. I used to eat these foods every day. Now I eat them once a week, max. I’ve learned these foods hurt my stomach. Instead, I eat more of the things that nourish my body — green juices, protein pancakes, and salads — and genuinely like them, because they make me feel good. I wake up every morning at 5:30am because I love mornings. I work out because it relieves my stress. I’m learning (slowly but surely) to focus on these things — the things that make me, me. I’m sure I’ll have the days where I hate the freaking scale, or not want to workout, or when I want to eat my heart out. As long as I remember that one lesson that I learned, I have to get healthy for me, that’s all that matters.
I always thought that when I lost weight, I’d be happy. I never realized that people who lose (or are losing) weight go through the same struggles as healthy people. In the past few weeks, I’ve realized you choose to fill your life with positive thoughts, or negative thoughts, or whatever vibes you want. It’s up to us to see the good in everything. So I’m choosing to focus on the positives. I choose healthy about 80-90% of the time now. I’m opening up about my journey and choosing to focus on how far I’ve come, not how much further I have to go. I’ve lost 25 lbs for goodness sakes! Some people dream of that; I did it.
Losing weight definitely isn’t an easy journey — mentally, emotionally, or physically — but it’s definitely worth it. As you can see, I’ve gone through lots of ups and downs, but I’m here now. I’m ready to go back to that place where I was at the beginning, when I was consistently losing weight and conquering things out of my comfort zone, but with a new mindset. Instead of doing getting healthy for others, I’m here to do it for me. It’s been a long time coming, but after two years, it’s finally sunk in: I have to get healthy for me.
*For more from Lauren, be sure to visit Lauren Lives Healthy.