Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Melanie Klerer, 23, is 5-foot-6 and currently weighs 140 pounds. In 2016, after stepping on a scale and realizing the extent of her weight problem, she was finally inspired to change her habits and live a healthier life. This is her weight-loss story.
The turning point
I’ve been overweight for as long as I can remember. I loved to play sports, but I also loved to eat. My mom made delicious home-cooked food, and I rarely said no to a second helping. I was always conscious of my weight. I was constantly reminded of it when I finished last in sprints for lacrosse in high school or when I could barely run the mile in gym without vomiting.
Things got much worse once I went to college. Without sports, I packed on the pounds. I would get winded walking up a flight of stairs. I would constantly sweat. Finding clothes became harder than normal. I gained 40 pounds over the course of three years. My diet got worse as well, as I subbed home-cooked meals for late-night Burger King, Papa John’s, and packages of Oreos.
At one point, my friend was feeling self-conscious about her weight after gaining a few pounds over the holidays. She bought a scale and wanted to kick off a new diet, but she was afraid of the number she would see when she weighed herself. I offered to step on the scale first. I saw 232.2 pounds and held in my tears until I got back to my apartment. I had been in deep denial about how large I was. I knew I was overweight, but that 232.2 pounds put me into the morbidly obese category. That was the wake-up call I needed.
Throughout the years, I had tried quite a few weight-loss programs. The main difference between those failed attempts and my current success was that I was honest with myself this time. I tracked everything I ate diligently for two years using MyFitnessPal. I tracked the Oreo binges and late-night pints of Ben & Jerry’s. For the first time, I held myself accountable for my own actions.
I started small with diet changes. I still ate junk food, but I just ate less of it. Instead of a whole sleeve of Oreos, I limited it to a few and tracked them to make them fit into my caloric budget. As time went on, I made incremental changes to my diet. I started to eat more veggies and fruit instead of dessert and chips. I swapped fried chicken for grilled chicken. It was easier to say no to cheesecake when I realized I could have a huge serving of chicken and broccoli and a low-calorie ice cream for fewer calories. I knew I would be more satisfied with a larger portion of healthy food rather than junk food.
As for exercise, I had been going to the gym sporadically throughout college, and for the first year of my weight-loss journey, I went one to two times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I really began to get serious in the beginning of 2017, after I had lost about 30 pounds. I started to do spin, boot camp, HIIT [high-intensity interval training], and other group fitness classes regularly. I found that in a group setting, I would keep a schedule and push myself.
I approached this weight-loss journey really slowly and incrementally, which I think was the reason I felt pretty good most of the time. I had my fair share of times when a bowl of M&Ms seemed to be calling my name, but whenever tempting treats would appear, I would think about how I would feel after eating them. I was motivated by the progress I saw in the mirror and in pictures I took. The only reason I did not give up was because I felt supported by my family. They encouraged me throughout the process, and when I fell off the wagon, they would help me get back on.
This is the first time in my entire life I have been at a healthy weight. I don’t think I realized how much my weight had been keeping me from living my life to the fullest. I am currently training for a half marathon, then a full marathon next year. That has always been on my bucket list, but back when I was an obese teenager, it seemed like a total pipe dream. I can also now participate in activities, go to theme parks, and go on hikes with friends without worrying about my size becoming an issue. I don’t hate flying anymore because I don’t spill over into my neighbor’s seat.
I also feel normal for the first time. I’m no longer the largest person in the room. I am just a person. I don’t feel like everyone is staring at me and judging me by my size. Shopping used to be an activity I dreaded. Now I love going into a shop and just picking things I like, rather than things that would hide my size or even simply just fit.
I always thought weight loss was some nebulous process that I could not control. The biggest surprise to me was that I was completely in control of it the whole time. That realization made the “Weight loss is simple” and “Move more, eat less” idioms I had heard from childhood actually make sense. Weight loss was simple, just not easy.
As for life after weight loss, one surprising thing has been that I no longer have to worry about how much space I take up. Airplanes, public transportation, and other space-confined activities used to make me so nervous. I worried about spilling into someone else’s personal space. All in all, the biggest surprise to me was how many little behaviors and preferences I had picked up over the years to try to hide or deal with my size, and how much they impacted me living my life. I hated summer because it meant shorts/dresses (and the chafing that accompanies those garments), being uncomfortably warm and sweaty, and bathing suits.
I am currently training for a half marathon in November and full marathon after that. I am doing strength training, spinning, and boot camp-style classes. I have also incorporated flexibility training through yoga. I eat pretty cleanly, centering my meals around a lot of veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains. I like to eat a bunch of smaller meals and a nighttime treat (Halo Top and Enlightened ice cream are favorites). I will eat junk food occasionally when I am in the mood, but I find myself rarely craving the foods I used to eat.
The key to maintaining for me has been a combination of finding workouts that I enjoy (and can therefore keep to a schedule) and eating healthy meals that I enjoy and know I can just eat without thinking about them. What has worked best is establishing good, consistent habits, so that maintaining my weight becomes more like a car on cruise control. I sometimes need to put my foot on the brake after a slip-up, but for the most part, I let the habits I formed over two years drive the car.
I hate to admit it, but I have found most of my motivation nowadays in the mirror. Being able to look at myself in the mirror and like what I see (instead of avoiding mirrors or feeling sad about my reflection) has been incredibly motivating. I am glad someone told me early on to take progress pictures. They motivate me when I want to quit because when I am feeling bad about my progress, I can remind myself how far I’ve come.
I still struggle with having a healthy relationship with food. Despite having a fairly healthy and well-rounded diet today, I struggle with the diet mindset of trying to only eat “healthy” food all the time. I am working on letting loose more and just eating what I want, not just what I think is healthiest all the time.
On a less serious note, I am struggling with finding a sense of style. I grew my style around hiding my size, but now I am trying to find out what I like and don’t like. I feel like I have been in a school with a uniform for the past 20 years, and now I need to figure out how to dress myself in a way I like.
I would say not to rush anything. Small changes last, big crash diets don’t. And don’t expect drastic results right away. You did not put on the weight overnight, so why should it come off overnight? It took me two years of little .5-to-2-pound losses to shed nearly 100 pounds. I’m glad I did it slowly. I am not sure I would have been successful otherwise.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!
Have a weight-loss win to share? We want to hear it! Tell us at YStyleBeauty@yahoo.com.
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