Weight Loss Story

I’ve always been fairly active and believed I ate mostly healthy.  Although I’ve never been seriously overweight, I still struggled with my weight for what felt like the majority of my life.

My weight hung out in 130’s in high school, creeping up to the 140’s by graduation and then into the 150’s for The College Years.  I slimmed down to the low 140’s again before our wedding in 2001, but my weight made its way back up to the mid 150’s and 160’s in the years following babies and beyond.  At 5’3″ with a medium frame, I knew my ideal weight was closer to 125 or 130 than 165 to be sure.

Looking back now, it seems like I was always trying to lose weight – or at the very least I was always thinking about it.  Losing weight was something I wanted to do and knew I could do, but I always managed to put it off until some magical, future date and time down the road.  Any weight loss efforts never extended much beyond trying to be more active and cutting out obvious junk food.  I would manage to lose 5 pounds here or 10 pounds there – inevitably slipping back into old habits, which of course meant those lost pounds would find their way home again before long.

I don’t hold any of this against myself now – I was just plain old uninformed.  I simply didn’t have the knowledge or sustainable habits in place needed for lasting, sustainable weight loss.  Exercise and being active have always come easily, but what I would come to learn was that I needed to completely overhaul my approach to eating.

Baby #1 and a Running Start

I fell out of the exercise habit during my first pregnancy in 2003 and used having an infant as an excuse for being mostly inactive.  I’d been hanging out at my post-partum weight of about 165 for nearly a year by the spring of 2005.  Having just weaned my daughter, it was shortly after her 1st birthday that I knew it was time to get back into shape and start exercising more regularly again.

May 2005
Spring 2005

The university I was working for at the time was hosting a well promoted running race.  With a friend, we decided to try and run the entire 3.5 mile race together.  I was not a runner, but I knew running was a great way to lose weight.  Having a race to train for was the perfect way get started and stay motivated to stick with it.

Our self-designed training program involved intervals of running and walking.  We would meet at the school track after work to run and walk,  slowly increasing the time spent running and decreasing the time spent walking as the days and weeks went on.  People often ask me how I got my start with running, our approach was very similar to the popular Couch to 5K program that I later came to learn about and now recommend to anyone who is looking for some guidance with learning to run.

With about a month of training, we completely our goal to “run the whole time” and successfully ran the entire 3.5 mile race without having to walk.  It was the furthest I’d ever run in my entire life and it felt like an awesome accomplishment.  I was very happy that running was easier now and hoped it might help me continue to lose weight because I’d already lost some during our weeks of training leading up to the race.

And while I didn’t love running, I did love that my jeans were fitting better again and so I stuck with it.  I spent the summer of 2005 entering any 5K within a 20 mile radius of my house.  Having a race on the calendar kept me lacing up my sneakers and helped ensure I’d get out there and run a couple mornings a week.  My weight made its back down to the 150’s without changing much else and I was finally feeling a lot better about my post-baby body.

summer_05

Summer 2005, happy but still 20+ lbs heavier than I would have liked.

Baby #2 and a Running Stop

I stopped running in December 2005 when I got pregnant with our second child.  I stayed active and walked through my entire pregnancy, but was secretly glad to have excuse to stop running.  It simply was not my most favorite way to spend 40 minutes on any given day.

In August of 2006 left my job as a Computer Programmer to become a Stay at Home Mom, a month before we were to become a family of four.

September 2006, 4 days before Maxine was born. 195 lbs:

40 weeks pregnant

October 2006, one month post partum, 165 lbs:

Weight Loss Before Picture

Marathon Hopes

Ready to lose the baby weight once again, I got back into running in the spring of 2007 at about 6 months postpartum.  I already knew that running would help me lose weight, and I also knew that having a race to train for would make it easier to stick with it.  I wanted something big this time – so I went BIG and decided to train for the marathon that was held in my city every year in the fall.

I found Hal Higdeon’s Marathon Training Program and got Hal’s book, Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. I started following his 18 week training program, but as the mileage started to increase, I realized that I did not have enough running experience to do the high mileage required for marathon training and came to terms with the fact that running a marathon was simply not realistic or safe at this point in time. I went back to running 5K’s and 10K’s, riding my bike and walking to the park with the kids.  I soon found myself back into the low 150’s without changing much else.

Back Here Once Again

A fair weather runner, I had stopped running and exercising altogether by the winter of 2007 and that post-baby weight had crept back on. My wake up call came after Christmas that year when the scale said 165, my post partum weight following the delivery of each baby.  When I realized I weighed as much as I did following the birth of each of my daughters and did not just have a baby – I knew it was time to get serious.

a title=Christmas Day, 2007

I used the start of the new year and the approach of my 29th birthday as motivation to lose the weight and get back into shape. The kids were getting older and I felt like I had room in my life to start taking better care of myself again.  I had noticed that I was beginning to feel OLD and I didn’t like it.  I was always achy.  I couldn’t crouch down for more than a few seconds without my legs feeling like they were going to collapse underneath me.  I would hear myself groan while rolling over just to get out of bed.  I was always tired and had very little energy.  I blamed it on two pregnancies and breastfeeding and the demands of caring for two small children – but the reality was I was carrying around a lot of extra weight and it was time to do something about it.

With the big 3-0 uncomfortably close, I remember thinking “ok, it really is all downhill from here if I don’t do something about this now.”  This was not the kind of mother I wanted to be or the kind of example I wanted to set for my kids.  I didn’t just want to lose weight – I wanted to be healthy and energetic and feel like my old (young) self again.

By February of 2008 and tipping the scales at 165 pounds, I started working out a few days a week. My routine included various cardio equipment at my local fitness center, swimming laps in their pool, doing Pilates DVD’s at home during nap time and running through my neighborhood streets as time allowed.  In the spring I added cycling back into my fitness regime and was working out about 4 – 5 days a week. By May I was down to 152 pounds, the weight I’d always reach and plateau – and as usual, I plateaued here once again.

A Real Turning Point

Feeling frustrated and wanting to lose more weight, I made a comment to my mother about the stubborn scale.  This is when she asked the question that changed my life forever:

How many calories are you eating a day?

Calories?  I had no idea.  I was almost annoyed at this question because I was eating better and exercising regularly, what did it matter how many calories I was eating?  And I was a runner!  Runners can eat as much as they want!  (Right?)  She suggested I count my calories for one day to see where I was at.

With nothing to lose except another 15 pounds, I spent one day eating normally but counting my calories to see what the tally was at the end of the day.  It was then that I realized I had no idea how many calories I was supposed to be eating.  I went looking for a calorie calculator online to determine what my caloric intake should be – only to discover that I was eating exactly the number of calories I needed to maintain my weight.

Until then, I really had no concept of the role that calories played in weight loss, maintenance or weight gain.  I thought making healthy food choices and exercise was all I needed in order to lose weight.  I think in therapy that’s the moment they call The Breakthrough.

It was at this point that I started keeping a daily food journal. Armed with a small notebook, calculator, measuring cups and measuring spoons I got to work.  I used a calorie counting website for foods that didn’t come labels like like fruits and vegetables. I soon added a digital food scale to my calorie counting tool box to be sure I got the portion sizes exactly right. I actually enjoyed tracking each and every calorie that I ate, especially because the scale was finally starting to move in the right direction when I maintained a calorie deficit every day.

It wasn’t exactly easy at first though.  It took me a little while to figure out that I could actually eat more, have more energy and feel more satisfied if I focused my diet on whole foods – that meant lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains.  I still ate some processed and packaged foods, but opted for the items found in the health food section instead of the center aisles of the grocery store.

I also realized that if I exercised every day, I could afford to eat more calories and continue to lose weight without feeling deprived.  The fact that I enjoyed exercise also made it easy to stay active every day – either an early morning run before my husband left for work or just a walk to the playground with the kids; I made sure I did something active just about every day.

My effort paid off and I lost an additional 13 lbs in just a little over a month.  I could not believe it when I got below 140. My “dream weight” was 135, but I don’t think I ever truly believed I could really get there.

Marathon Realities

As I started to lose more weight and improved the quality of my diet, I noticed that running was starting to feel easier.  I was running my usual routes in less time and with less perceived effort.  I decided to attempt to train for the marathon again that summer.  I was thrilled to get past the point in my training schedule where I had to stop the year before and started to believe I really might be able to do it.  I knew it was easier this time because I was smaller, healthier and was in the best shape I’d ever been in.

I continued calorie counting, food journaling through the early summer.  I was running and exercising regularly, taking rest days when I felt I needed it. By July of 2008, I was down to 129 lbs.

Weight Loss After PictureSummer 2008

I never, ever dreamed I would get into the 120’s. I now weighed less and was smaller than I was in high school. Once in a size 10-12, I was now wearing size 4.  Shopping for clothes was actually fun!  I no longer dreaded looking into the mirror in fitting rooms, I actually enjoyed clothes shopping!  I had more energy and really did feel like myself again – in fact, I felt better than I ever remembered feeling before.  I was sleeping better, had lots of energy and just plain old felt good.  People were constantly commenting on my changed figure and asking me how I did it.  All these things helped me stay motivated to stick with my new found eating habits.

It was at this point that I stopped food journaling – I knew now what a healthy diet and proper portions really looked like.  This was how I had to eat for the rest of my life.  I was never on a diet; I had learned how to eat.

I spent that summer of 2008 continuing to train for the marathon. The day before my youngest daughter’s 2nd birthday, I completed my first marathon in 4:14:59. It was a HOT, humid day and a tough race for every runner due to the weather conditions – but I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and placed 179 out of 566, 27th among 210 females, 7th place in my age group, females aged 25 – 29.

After the Rochester Marathon 2008September 2008.  Mile 24…. VERY ready to Stop. Running.

It was a great day and so incredible to cross the finish line with my family there to support me and cheer me on.  It was definitely a high point in my journey to better health – I’d worked so hard to get there.

All Done and With My Girls

Part of my story featured in Runner’s World, October 2009

Runner's World, October 2009

The Moral of the Story

Food journaling and calorie counting were a real turning point in my personal journey to a healthier weight and inevitably, a healthier life.  It helped me see that even though I was exercising regularly and eating fairly well, my portion sizes were too big. I was an unconscious eater and food journaling was the what helped me figure that out.

I learned that I needed to stop going back for seconds and thirds.  It started paying attention to little ways I was getting additional calories I didn’t need – like eating the crust I cut off the girls’ sandwiches, munching on extra ingredients while I prepared dinner or finishing something because I didn’t want to “waste it”.  I was getting tons of extra, empty calories from soda, juice and “fat free” candy and snacks.  All of these calories added up and it’s no wonder to me now that I struggled with my weight for so long.

Sticking with three meals a day (and an intentional snack if I need it) helped me become more a more conscious eater.  No more mindless eating and just digging for something in fridge or cupboard because I’m bored.  Eat breakfast, eat lunch, eat dinner, that’s it.  I came to realize that I got a bigger “bang for my caloric buck” if I focused every meal and snack around REAL food instead of processed junk – including a lot of the processed foods found in the health food section too.  Carbs come from fruits and vegetables, greens especially.  Combined with some form protein and a helping of healthy fats at each meal or snack, I’m totally satisfied with tons of energy to boot.

I no longer keep a food journal, but it was instrumental in reaching weight loss goal.  I learned how to eat and finally figured out what had kept me from losing weight so many times before.  It taught me what proper portion sizes were supposed to look like. I still eat the foods I enjoy and nothing is off limits.  I absolutely enjoy the occasional dessert or treat, just in moderation.

As I’ve worked to maintain my weight, I’ve continued to learn about health, fitness and nutrition.  I hope to never stop learning, this is my life now.  You don’t have to train for a marathon or even run in order to lose weight.  Take a closer look at your diet and find some way to enjoy being active.  If you don’t enjoy it, it won’t be sustainable.  Let exercise complement your weight loss efforts – both will get easier as you get smaller and healthier.  Healthy eating is the biggest part of the weight loss picture – regular exercise or activity is of course important, but a smaller part of what it takes to see real change.  Figure out how to love them both and your healthy weight will fall in to place.

55 Responses

  • Jane/you-know-who says:

    Wow, I loved reading that!

  • MaryBe says:

    Congrats on running that marathon and placing impressively! This is a great ‘about’ page!

  • Emily says:

    What a great story! I have always wanted to be runner… Perhaps signing up for a 5k would be just the motivation I need to get started. I am loving the 30 Day Shred too!! :-)

  • katierunsforfun says:

    I just found your blog from your guest post on Kath’s blog…I’m from Syracuse, I have an aunt who works at RIT, and two cousins who go to school there! Small world! :)

  • Kristin says:

    What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing!

  • Jess says:

    Wow, Alison, I am really inspired by your story! I feel like I can relate so well. I was a little heavy in high school and shed some weight in college, but have never been able to get down to a weight that I feel completely happy with. My build is very similar to what yours used to be, but I always assumed that I was just big boned or naturally more “meaty” than other women.

    What influenced your decision to become a vegetarian?

    I definitely will keep up with your blog. It sounds like you have a lot of insight on food and health, and I definitely could learn something :) I have a blog too, if you want to check it out. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • Alison says:

      Hi Jess, thanks for commenting. I definitely use to believe that I was just naturally inclined to be “solid”, I never thought I could really get to a weight that was healthy and happy.

      Zak was a vegetarian first, maybe a year or two ahead of me, so I was already accustomed to making vegetarian meals and was eating meat rarely. The tipping point for me was reading in a breastfeeding book (of all places) about how healthy a vegetarian diet was and at that moment decided to take the plunge.

      Off to check out your blog, thanks for stopping by!

  • Erica says:

    You are such a rocking inspiration!

  • Lauren says:

    Amazing story! :)

  • shawna says:

    WOW! What a wonderful story. I really loved reading all of that and can relate to so much of it. I had my daughter in aug. 06, and when I left the hospital I weighed exactly the same as when I got pregnant. I’m now about 20lbs heavier than that!!! I’m adding you to my blogroll and going to use your story as motivation. Thanks!

    • Alison says:

      Hey Shawna! Thanks for your comment! Good luck on your weight loss journey, how funny our daughters are so close in age! I’m glad you commented, I’ll be following along with yours! :)

  • nataliekshaw says:

    This is such an awesome story! Congratulations! I loved reading your story! I would love to run a marathon but have problems with my back hurting when I run…do you have any suggestions? I used to run a lot but started having the back pain…the longest i’ve ever run is 12k..but i know if my stupid back would not ache I could do more. Your story is so motivating!! thanks for sharing!!
    natalie
    http://www.nono2yoyo.wordpress.com

    • Alison says:

      Hey Natalie! I used find that my lower back was sore when I first started running too – and I now believe it was due to weak abdominal muscles. I added Pilates into my work out routine and things improved dramatically.

      Also, your back could be hurting due to your form – I highly suggest the book ChiRunning to help you evaluate and improve your form.

      Thanks for your sweet comment!

  • Niki F says:

    What an inspiring story! Wow! Glad to have discovered your blog!

  • Deborah says:

    Alison– i love your blog! I can’t believe I didn’t know about it till just now! Thanks for putting your inspirational story out there. Love the cooking recipes. Congrats on it all! I am inspired to get a juicer and a blender again– had to sell mine with the move.
    Woohoo!
    :) Deborah

  • Ashley says:

    Oh my gosh! I missed your marathon. :( But it looks like you did awesome, and you definitely looked awesome doing it — check out those awesome!

    What a great story.

  • Laurie says:

    Wow! I had my son a little over 2 years ago, and I have 35lbs to lose.. I’ve been so sluggish and lazy. I need to start running again! You look awesome!!! (:

  • rawkinmom says:

    wow, I cannot believe how similar our weight stories are…the exact numbers even!!! I am 5 feet 0 in. tall and after both my pregnancies I was able to hit 163…when I would really try I could get to 152..and then it would stop and I would somehow end up at 163 again several months later!!! I should be in the 120’s and feel like I will never get there!!! I also feel like I eat SOOOOO healthy and workout so I should just naturally be small-but I am not one of the lucky ones….so hopefully I will have a success story just like you!!!! :)

  • Michele says:

    Hi Alison,
    Thanks SO much for the inspiring post on weight loss. I feel like I’m exactly where you were when you started your journey. I’m very active being a spinning instructor and workout 5 days a week but yet the scale doesn’t budge. So I’m taking your advice and tracking every morsel that enters my mouth and really figuring out the calories. Sometimes being a mom of 2 I get really baffled about exactly what to eat being that I’m trying to get 2 picky little ones to eat and then kind of just not eating anything but hopefully this calorie counting thing will work. Thanks again!

    • Alison says:

      You are very welcome Michele – the awareness that came from calorie counting was life changing, it was the first step (of many) toward a healthier life. Good luck to you on your journey!

  • Amie White says:

    OK! You rock! My name is Amie and I am a wife to one mother to 5 (ages 10-1). I just completed my fist sprint Tri-athlon on Aug. 6th and feel amazing! I’ve released 50+ pounds and have Isagenix to thank for it! I too believe in real food! And this is as real as it gets! We are talking high density nutrition!! My ability to recover quickly from workouts is dynamic! And I know that I can keep doing what I’m doing and eating what I’m eating while pregnant/nursing! Besides the fact that it is the best nutrition I could be putting in my body to grow another human life!
    As a mother, and new tri-athlete I wanted to introduce you to my friend Angel Naivalu. She is a life cleansing coach and can explain all about a ISA Game ON! (a nutritional cleansing game) and how Isagenix can help you continue to stretch yourself as a wife, mother and athlete! Keep up the great work!! Tell her Amie White sent ya!
    Angel Naivalu, MSW
    Life Cleansing Coach
    435-313-0809
    Watch this!
    http://www

    It is Natalie Christianson Mother of 4, runner and tri-athlete!

  • Stil says:

    Thank you for some other informative website. The place else may just I am getting that kind of info written in such a perfect means? I have a challenge that I’m just now running on, and I have been on the glance out for such information.king Regards Anette

  • Beth Blair says:

    What a fabulous story! I can relate so much. Thanks for sharing.

  • Julia says:

    Hi! My name’s Julia and I’ve been reading for a while, this is my first time commenting. Your weight loss story is so inspiring- I’m in college and I’ve gained a bit of weight that I don’t really want. I go to your site anytime I need some motivation. I LOVE running, and I totally agree that healthy foods are best for energy, weight loss, and just feeling good in general. I’ve been kind of a sugar addict and I need to remember that it doesn’t really do anything for my body…whereas delicious things like kale are AWESOME for me! Anyways, love your blog :)

    • Hey Julia, thanks for your comment! As a former sugar addict I totally know where you’re at. I started to feel so much better when I stopped consuming mass quantities of gummy bears and started eating loads of whole, fresh foods. It took me a while to find my way but I made it, you will too. And I completely agree, when you think about what you’re putting into mouth and what it actually DOES for your body, it’s much easier to reach for the good stuff and let the junky foods fall to the wayside.

  • Jamye Sack says:

    What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing your encouraging journey. You look amazing!

  • Courtney s-z says:

    Your story is soooo motivating! Thank you!

  • Regards for this grand post..Nice pics.Thanks for information

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