Growing up, I was always the 'heavy one' compared to my two younger, smaller sisters. In high school, I was in fairly good shape because I played basketball. But after high school, I started to slowly gain weight. I didn’t care about what I was eating or about being active. Though I was unhappy with myself and completely lacked confidence, I had zero motivation to change, and for years I continued to live that lifestyle. I'd look in the mirror and think, "I'm not that big."
Last year I saw a picture of myself, and it was really upsetting to see how big I'd gotten—I wondered, "How did I get here?" It really hurt my self-esteem. This was a few weeks after my birthday, so I was in a place of self-reflection. I thought, "It’s time for me to put my foot down." I was finally ready to take it on.
I needed to find motivation and determination, so I set some goals for myself. I’ve always loved running but never did it because I carried weight in my legs and am flat-footed. So, my first major goal was to get to the point where I could run a half or full marathon. I never really set a specific goal weight, but I thought if I could lose maybe 30 pounds that would be great.
I signed up for a gym and started going two hours a day, six days a week. For the first hour at the gym, I'd do straight cardio—the elliptical for 30 minutes and the treadmill for 30 minutes. Then I'd spend the second hour doing 30 minutes of abs exercises and 30 minutes of strength training. Additionally, I'd go on a two-mile hike three days a week. Finally, I'd meet with a personal trainer for half an hour once a week to do circuit training. I did this for eight months starting in February 2015 and lost about 15kg.
After that, I plateaued a little because I wasn't hitting the gym as hard. Then, within weeks, I lost my 18-year-old cousin and my dog both in separate, tragic accidents. While these blows were devastating, I found solace in returning to my wellness journey. It was at that time, early this year, that I signed up for my first 5K and ran it without stopping.
There, I met a guy who told me about his running group in L.A., Movement Runners. He told me they run on Tuesdays and Sundays and asked if I wanted to join. I thought, "Why not?" After joining, I fell in love with running. It helped me recover from the losses I'd experienced and helped me stay positive. For a while, I was running lots of 5Ks and 10Ks, and finally, a few weeks ago, I completed my first half-marathon. Through that, I was able to leave behind all the pain and suffering of this past year and realise how much I’ve grown as an individual.
In addition to running, I still go to the gym for a couple of hours six days a week, but now I focus mainly on circuit training and lifting weights. I've also become a personal trainer and am helping girls just like me in boot camp classes.
I used to eat two or three big meals a day, but now I'm snacking at least every two hours and watching my portions (I also only drink occasionally). When I wake up, I’ll have oatmeal with fruit for breakfast. Then, two hours later, I'll do a post-workout protein shake or fruit bowl. Lunch is almost always a spinach (my obsession) salad with strawberries, orange slices, and chicken breast on top with a light dressing. I mix it up a bit for dinner—one night it'll be salmon with spinach, or maybe a chicken breast cooked in olive oil with garlic or red pepper flakes, and rice and veggies. I don't eat a lot of red meat, so I try to stick to lean proteins like white fish, salmon, and chicken. Some of my favourite veggies are broccoli, sweet peppers, and mushrooms. I'll do a cheat meal once a week—I'm a real sucker for sushi. I also work in an Italian restaurant so sometimes I'll indulge in penne with spicy marinara.
Deciding to get healthier for no one but myself kept me motivated. Even though there were times when I didn't want to get out of bed, I found and continue to find the courage to say, "I’m a stronger person." Self-encouragement is huge for me because no one is going to do it for me, I have to do it for myself. I am my own motivation.
People reach out to me and say I inspire them to run or work out. And what's even crazier is that I'm teaching women how to do what I used to think of as impossible through my boot camp classes.
This lifestyle change has also helped my mindset. I never saw my full potential when it came to all aspects of my life. This change has motivated me to work toward my B.A. in kinesiology. I also hope to one day attend graduate school and become a physician's assistant. I just think, "If I’ve lost all this weight, there’s nothing I can’t do if I put my mind to it."
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Also, my new energy affects everyone around me. I find that people gravitate toward me now because I love myself.
If you're looking to make this change, do what I did. Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself who you want to be. Every move you make in life should be catering to that person. Take care of your body the way you would your dearest loved ones, both physically and mentally. Release the negative energy out of your life because positivity will help you overcome the weight. Everyone is capable; you just have to train your mind to do it.