Several months ago I had asked Becki if I could interview her for Real Life Biggest Loser. She was game, but then I didn’t hear from her for a while. I finally heard back from her recently and she apologized for taking so long. She said, “To be honest, I gained a few pounds (less than 10) and let it really disrupt my self-image and self-esteem. I wasn’t feeling much like a Real Life Biggest Loser at the time.” Becki had lost 90 pounds, gained less than 10 back, and it hit her confidence. She got herself back on track by recognizing how things went off track and reestablishing her exercise and diet habits. I bring up this point because it is precisely this skill of overcoming the frustration and disappointment of setbacks that will determine your success. Success is not about whether you pick a low-carb, Paleo, low-fat, Mediterranean, or Zone diet. It lies 100% in your ability to withstand setbacks. Can you hack it? Becki’s ability to get back up, dust herself off and keep fighting is why she is a Real Life Biggest Loser.
All time high weight: ~240
Current weight and height: ~150, 5’5”
Total weight loss: ~90 lbs
How did you gain the weight? I was heavy my entire life. I always played sports as a kid and lived in a rural area where I could be outdoors, but I was never active enough to make up for the food I ate. I had lots of fresh food at my disposal growing up on a farm, but being from the South also meant a whole lot of fried food and decadent desserts. In high school I joined the swim team, but was so self-conscious about my weight that I started purging. I made it down to around 180 lbs (from over 200) and people were frequently complimenting my weight loss. Unfortunately the stress I was putting on my body was wreaking havoc on my immune system and I started getting sick a lot. Eventually I got mono and was miserable. I had known other people who had mono and lost a lot of weight so I was confused at first why I wasn’t losing any during my bout. I realized that the reason I wasn’t losing weight was because I had already been practically starving myself. I stopped purging until college and gained all of the weight back. In college I was struggling with pretty severe depression and started purging again on occasion, but was terrified of getting back where I was so I stopped after freshman year. Instead of purging to exert control over my depression then, I turned to even more food. By the time I graduated college, I weighed over 215 lbs. My first year out of college I lived outside the city and felt very isolated. I was still struggling with depression, though somewhat less severe. My commute to work was over an hour each way and I often found myself stopping at a local bar for food specials for dinner rather than cooking when I got home. At my heaviest I weighed around 240 lbs.
When did you begin your weight loss journey? My weight loss journey has been off and on for most of my life, but mostly unsuccessful yo-yo dieting. I started living healthy and working toward balanced weight loss about a year out of college, in 2010. That is what I consider the true start of my journey.
How long have you kept the weight off? I have maintained an approximately 90lb weight loss for about 6 months, but now have hopes of once again jump starting muscle toning and fat loss and I imagine that will lead to approximately 20 more pounds lost. For a few weeks I had gained around 5-10 lbs and really let it bring me down. I started feeling like a failure. After I dug myself out of that bad place (and lost at least 5 of those pounds) I resolved to only weigh myself around once per month (if that) and focus more on how I’m feeling about myself. The 20 additional pounds I anticipate losing is just an estimate based on how I believe my body will react to increased training and a focus on good nutrition.
What motivated you to lose weight? Did you have an A-HA moment? I don’t know that I had much of an a-ha moment, aside from stepping on the scale and seeing that I had gained all of the weight I lost in college. I was more interested in my fitness goals than weight loss goals at first (I wanted to be able to run at least a mile), but as I started to lose weight, I felt better than I ever had and started paying closer attention to my nutrition in addition to my fitness.
To what extent had your weight affected your physical health? In college I would become winded from walking fast. I developed exercise induced asthma, which was embarrassing. I also had virtually no energy and felt awful. The most frightening experience related to my physical health was in my senior year of college when I experienced severe chest and arm pain while standing in my dorm. After speaking to a few doctors in the time since, I am fairly certain I had a mild heart attack and that my lack of cardio conditioning is what was contributing to my shortness of breath rather than asthma, per se.
How did you lose the weight? Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen. After about a year out of college, I was fed up. I was disappointed in myself for having gained what little weight I had lost in college and wanted (needed) a change. Some of my coworkers were training for a half marathon at the time and that seemed like an incredible accomplishment. I made a comment to one of them that I could never even run a mile and she said to me, “Anyone can run a mile, you just have to go slow. They say you should be able to carry on a conversation while you run. If you can’t, slow down.” This frankly sounded like hogwash to me as I had developed problems breathing and could barely run at all without becoming very short of breath. A few nights later I literally had a dream that I was running VERY slowly and that I was able to run for more than a mile. As silly as it seemed, I woke up with a sense that I really could do it if I tried. That evening after work I bought a pair running shoes on eBay, without having any idea what kind to get. I figured that since I had spent money on them, I had better use them when they arrived. A few days later I laced them up and went for my very first mile run (which was more like a fast shuffle). I was so proud of myself I could barely contain it and promptly sent a text message to one of the girls at work who was training for a half marathon. This same coworker had started doing midday walks at work on her lunch break, so I started joining her whenever I could. I also started eating more raw fruits and vegetables. At the same time I was using Fitday to track my calories. I also completely cut out alcohol for a few months. One day while I was out for a run I saw a sign for a local 5K and thought, “Why not?” so I signed up as soon as I got home. I ran that first 5K in just over 30 minutes and was more proud of myself than I had ever been before.
Not long afterward, however, I went through a breakup that was very hard on me. I felt myself becoming depressed again and entirely stopped running for several months. Despite this, I continued to eat healthy while keeping track of my calories on occasion and managed to not gain any of the weight back even though I didn’t lose any more. Just after my birthday that January, I made a commitment to get back to regular exercise and joined a gym. I committed to going every weekday either before or after work and quickly started seeing results. I also went back to keeping track of my calorie intake more consistently and worked on learning portion control. In March I met a wonderful guy who was incredibly supportive of my fitness and weight loss goals and who challenged me to keep at it. I ran my first 8K in June 2011 and as I crossed the finish line wondered to myself if a half marathon would be possible. In July registration opened for the Boston Athletic Association half marathon and I signed up, once again knowing that if I committed the money, I would work for it. Around this time I discovered Myfitnesspal.com. I loved that it allowed me to track workouts and food. It helped keep me accountable and is a tool I still use. While training for the half marathon, I encountered some setbacks and was largely unprepared when the half rolled around. I managed to finish, but did walk for a little bit of it. I was somewhat disappointed, but my partner reminded me how big of an accomplishment it was to have done it at all and he was right. I never could have run as much as I did even a year before. After the half marathon I continued running and have since run more 5Ks, another 8K, my first 10K and am training for my second half marathon.
After I had lost around 70 lbs, I hit a bit of a roadblock and wanted to try something new. There was an online deal for a local 4-week bootcamp that eliminated the money factor, which had been holding me back. Almost every day for the four weeks it rained. I didn’t miss a single workout and realized that I could no longer use rain as an excuse to not work out. During bootcamp I bought a Fitbit, which syncs with MyFitnessPal and tracks steps, distance traveled, altitude gained, overall activity level, and calories burned. I wear it every single day and am confident it has been the most helpful tool in losing some of the more stubborn weight.
When I hit my 90lb loss, I had the A-ha moment that I want to pursue a career that integrates fitness, nutrition, and mental health counseling. This led to the creation of my blog and my entrance into the healthy living blogger community. I recently made the full transition into being vegetarian because I had already cut out most meat through a general focus on more natural, raw, unprocessed foods. Since I’ve officially cut meat out of my diet, I find myself feeling less bloated, but I definitely have to watch my carb intake because I find myself sometimes craving the extra calories, especially after a really hard workout.
Who was the most influential person/people to you during the process of losing weight? My coworkers who first encouraged me to give running a try were instrumental in my initial weight loss and overall fitness. That said, the person who has been most influential in my journey as a whole has been my partner, Joe. He keeps me on track, encourages me to keep going, and helps me stay grounded when it comes to slips or setbacks. He has never made me feel bad about my shortcomings and helps me keep everything in perspective.
Have you ever lost weight and then gained it back? If so, how was this time different? My entire life was about losing weight and gaining it back. The difference this time is that I didn’t subscribe to some fad diet or try anything extreme. I started paying more attention to what I was eating and chose to eat healthier, more nutritious foods. At the same time I developed a routine of exercise, rather than just exercising in large bouts and then stopping. Changing my fitness and nutrition focus into a habit has been key to losing weight the right way. Another huge change has been for me to keep in mind that it’s about balance and that I shouldn’t beat myself up about a bad day or even a bad week. That said, I did (as I mentioned above) gain 5-10 pounds for a short time and felt very disappointed. What I discovered was that I was able to get a handle on it again the right way, rather than any crash or extreme dieting. Those 5-10 pounds are what I would call vanity pounds. I hadn’t slipped back into old habits, I just had a very busy month where I wasn’t making time to eat as healthy or exercise as much. Being able to look at that and say, “Wow, I really should make time for my health” is a completely different reaction than I’ve had in the past. Making it more about my health and less about a number has actually made the whole process more successful. Once I regained that control, the pounds came off pretty easily because they had been at least partially water weight rather than fat. That experience has helped me realize that even though my weight may fluctuate, it doesn’t define me.
It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT? Reminding myself that missing a day of exercise or having a high calorie meal isn’t the end of the world has been huge for me. In the past I would let these setbacks take over my thoughts and make me feel downtrodden and like it wasn’t even worth trying. I mentioned the struggle I’ve had with being afraid that one bad day would make me suddenly balloon again, but as I’ve slowly started to overcome that fear I have gained more confidence in myself and my ability to be healthy, which (like most anything) has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. As they say, whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. I have also found it necessary to switch up my routine. It helps me prevent burnout and lets me try out new, fun workouts! Having people in my life who are supportive and willing to be active and eat healthy with me has been key. I have also tried to surround myself with positive people who care about more than just weight loss or appearance. This reminds me that I am choosing to live in a healthy, positive way to better myself and those around me. Losing weight and keeping it off is just a really amazing added benefit.
Just starting off, losing weight is hard. Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? What is the hardest part for you now? In many ways the beginning was easy because weight loss wasn’t my focus. I consider myself very lucky because I “accidentally” stumbled on losing weight the right way. Seeing that weight was coming off by just eating more natural foods and spending more time being active taught me that I didn’t need some fad diet to lose weight. It was hard to stay on track sometimes, particularly when I was feeling depressed or stressed at work. The hardest part for me is that I love food. Every single day I have to fight for staying healthy. Some people talk about how they no longer like the taste of unhealthy things, but for me that just isn’t the case. I have a definite sweet tooth and love indulging, but high fat and high processed foods make me feel like crap so I have learned to indulge in a way that makes me feel better. The hardest part for me has been trusting in the weight loss. That is, I had a hard time for a long time believing that a piece of cake on my birthday or going out to eat with my partner’s parents isn’t going to make me suddenly gain 90 lbs. The mental aspect of weight loss is still the biggest struggle for me, making every day a fight. That is why I named my website Fighting for Wellness. I want to share my journey with people and help them realize that losing weight the right way, in a way that is sustainable over time, is not easy. It takes fighting for it to be truly successful.
If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? Losing weight is great, but being healthy is better. If you can’t envision yourself sticking to your weight loss plan for the rest of your life, it isn’t going to work for the rest of your life.
Do you worry about gaining weight back? How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back? I worry about this all the time, but admittedly less than I used to. One of the biggest struggles has been to realize that a fluctuation of a few pounds isn’t going to change my overall fitness or health. For that reason I have cut back on how often I weigh myself. Now I try to focus on how I feel, how my clothes fit, and how much energy I have. When I live my life healthy, the weight almost takes care of itself. I continue to watch what I eat and I still track my food and exercise in Myfitnesspal as well as keeping track of my fitness with my Fitbit.
Can you tell us how your participation in social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs (reading them and writing your own) has impacted your weight loss journey? My initial weight loss journey was not influenced by social media, but it is instrumental to my maintenance and what I hope to be a new jumpstart into additional healthy living. The first blog I read that was related to health and fitness was that of a local woman who did Ultimate Bootcamp, which is what first inspired me to try it. When I decided to start my blog, I figured using Twitter to connect to people would help give me inspiration. I found an amazing community of healthy living bloggers and attended the Healthy Living Summit this summer in Boston, which renewed my passion for fitness and healthy living as well as inspiring me to continue hoping to inspire others.
What is different (if anything) about your life (and/or health) now that you have lost the weight? Virtually everything is different about my life now. I can do more physically than I ever imagined and I am much more mentally healthy. I don’t sell myself short the way I used to and I have found a passion in life that I could never have imagined. The most amazing thing, perhaps, is that instead of becoming a new person, I finally feel like the person I always believed I was. When I was heavy I didn’t feel like I was living life to the fullest. I didn’t feel like people knew the real me. Now that the weight isn’t holding me back I feel like me for the first time in my life.
If we want to follow you, where do we find you?
Becki is a graduate student living in Boston, MA with her partner, Joe.
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