Welcome to the 21st edition of the Real Life Biggest Loser series! Are you ready for Tara? You better be. She sets goals like “impossible” and then goes accomplishing them. What I love most about Tara’s story is how she articulates the mental health benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. She says, “Life as it was before felt like I was passing through. Not making a mark, constantly checking the clock, and never being present. I felt invisible. Now, I feel so confident, so present, available and ready for anything.” It’s true and it isn’t about being skinny—it’s about being active and feeding your body energy, not garbage. Living healthy changes your brain, it changes your mindset. If you are feeling in the dumps or like life is a blur, I challenge you to follow Tara’s lead. You will be astounded to see where you end up!
Name: Tara Damiani
All time high weight: 216
Current weight and height: 140 pounds 5ft 4
Total weight loss: 76 pounds and counting
How did you gain the weight? Building new house, busy career, commuting and in tons of traffic, and not eating often enough. I’d say stress played a huge part.
When did you begin your weight loss journey? January 1, 2011
How long have you kept the weight off? Started in 2011, never looked back
What motivated you to lose weight? Did you have an A-HA moment? I saw a picture of myself and although I never perceived myself to be ugly or unattractive, I always felt pretty, this particular picture was horrifying to me. I could not believe what I saw, I could not believe that was me. I cried for days and did not understand, how I could be at that place? I always strive to be a good role model for my kids, my family, and what was I telling them? My A-Ha moment was not just a promise that I will never look like this again, but it was also a challenge for myself to change everything, change job, change diet, change fitness regimen or lack there of. I wanted to do the impossible, I wanted to be someone I always wanted to be and never tried to be. Constantly striving for new things, more challenges. Being the best “ME” possible. For myself and family.
To what extent had your weight affected your physical health? I was tired all the time, no energy, depressed and wanted to sleep a lot. I had circulation problems in my feet, and legs. I got shin splints when I started exercising daily.
How did you lose the weight? Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen. I started losing weight by eating often and drinking lots of water. I logged food in to MyFitnessPal everyday. I would eat every 2 hours. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and at least 2-3 healthy snacks in between. I would allow myself a healthy snack right after dinner too, not too late. Food choices are endless really. I stay away from white starches. I eat only whole grain or wheat, I eat low calorie snacks, lots of celery, carrot sticks, tomatoes, cucumbers, salads. I eat lots of chicken and fish. My favorite go to snacks are granola bars, handful of almonds, bananas, Clementines, and grapes. Low fat yogurt and sorbet are fun treats, keeping in mind sugar content.
My exercise regimen started out with a slow walk almost daily. I worked up to a fast pace and then incorporated yoga, strength training and aerobic workouts at home alternating days. I always ran so I started with a slow-pace jog, started signing myself up for road races to keep motivation going. I kept trying to increase time each road race I conquered and I kept impressing myself with longer distances, and better times. I lost a good 50 pounds at this point, and started with harder workouts. I bought the Insanity DVD to do at home and loved the intensity of it. I also felt that it helped with running, building the core, strengthening legs, etc. I alternated Insanity with running anywhere from 5-10 miles. I kept signing myself up for more road races, to constantly motivate and improve. I conquered the Falmouth Road Race this past August. This race was a tough one due to all the hills and extreme heat. I wasn’t able to run for 10 years and impressed myself with a great time. I ran my very first Half Marathon on October 21, 2012. I placed in the top 15 woman for my age out of a few thousand runners. I’m currently training for the Boston Marathon this April and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Who was the most influential person/people to you during the process of losing weight? My family and friends have been so influential. Everyone is so supportive, some who ran races with me to keep me going, some who show support on the sidelines, some who just check in to see how I’m doing. My husband and children have started eating better and signed themselves up for road races every Saturday starting in October. My brother started running with me and is now conquering rugged maniac races and others like that, beating all times and constantly challenging himself. I have two close friends that are also signed up for Boston this April and they are my coaches and inspirations for this next adventure. I have always ran but never been a runner like I am now. I have family on my fathers side that have all ran the Marathon and I remember watching and crying watching them and promising myself that I too would be part of this amazing race one day so I suppose my inspiration started with them. I am blessed with amazing friends and family and could not be who I am today without any of them.
Have you ever lost weight and then gained it back? If so, how was this time different? Yes, all the time. I used to look at it as a diet. Boring foods, little choices which equals failure. You get bored and want to enjoy what everyone else is having. This time, it’s a life change, nothing is boring, I constantly switch up foods, it all tastes good and I allow myself to enjoy all of it, eating slow–not inhaling it all.
It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT? I am a better person when I am healthy, I have more energy when I exercise and I am who I am supposed to be. It’s part of me now, it’s my life.
Just starting off, losing weight is hard. Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? I think the weight part was easy at first, but I definitely had struggles in the middle. You have plateaus, but as long as I switched up diet a bit and exercise routine, I saw a difference. I still use MyFitnessPal to log in all my foods just to keep me focused. I feel journaling this stuff really keeps you in line.
What is the hardest part for you now? It sounds crazy but as you get smaller, you critique yourself more. My size used to be a 16, I am now a 2 and along with that comes challenges: areas that need tightening and such.
If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? Don’t let life get in the way, put yourself first always!!!!!
Do you worry about gaining weight back? How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back? Nope, never. I will never be that person again.
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? I have a Facebook account and I’ve found that journaling this stuff and showing people my journey has completely inspired and impacted tons of people in my life. I am constantly answering messages from people asking me specific questions on diet/ exercise regimen etc. I cannot tell you how great it makes me feel. I hope that my struggles and challenges and triumphs will help people.
What is different (if anything) about your life (and/or health) now that you have lost the weight? Everything is different. We are a much more active family now. We enjoy running, hiking, white water rafting, skating etc. Life as it was before felt like I was passing through. Not making a mark, forgetting important days, constantly checking the clock and never being present. I felt invisible really. Now, I feel so confident, so present, available and ready for anything.
If we want to follow you, where do we find you? You can find me on Facebook.
Thank you so much Tara! And, of course, knock em dead at the Boston Marathon! We’ll be cheering you on!
Tara is a homemaker living in Brockton, Massachusetts with her husband and two kids, Angelina and Dominic.
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