I started gaining weight in elementary school. I believe it was a result of low immune system and getting sick often (and needing many bouts of antibiotics). As my body struggled, mental anxiety became chronic and I found solace in food as a coping mechanism.

HOW DID YOUR WEIGHT AFFECT ANY ASPECT(S) OF YOUR LIFE?  I’ve been extremely outgoing for my entire life, but my weight prevented me from taking risks. I always wanted to do the things on my bucket list but made up excuses to wait until I was thinner. I struggled with self bullying, poor self worth, and depression from yo-yo dieting.

WHAT WAS THE “TURNING POINT” THAT GOT YOU STARTED ON YOUR WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY?  After I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I hit my peak weight of almost 360 lbs. My symptoms were out of control and I suffered from a myriad of symptoms including severe daily pain, blurry vision, and cognitive lapses.  In 2014, at 25 years old, I collapsed and couldn’t feel my entire right side. I realized if I were to call for help, it would take multiple people to come lift me out of my second story apartment.

I didn’t call for help, but I did lay on the floor and focus on my breathing. I realized that if I didn’t do something, I’d be in a wheelchair well before I was 30. I spent the next 4 months on disability, struggling to walk, and dedicated all my time to learning how to heal my body and putting those tools to action.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?  I researched what would reduce inflammation in my body and started on a wellness plan for Multiple Sclerosis (The Overcoming MS Plan) that promoted a whole foods pescatarian diet.  I focused on stress management, self love, and self care to start retraining my brain for positivity. I figured, if I didn’t love myself, I was never going to work as hard as I’d need to in order to heal myself so I focused on gratitude and being gentle with myself.

HOW LONG AFTER YOU STARTED DID YOU BEGIN TO SEE RESULTS OF YOUR WEIGHT LOSS EFFORTS?  I lost 12 lbs the very first week of starting my new plan and then it consistently came off over the next two years.

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART?  Multiple Sclerosis was my main challenge. Needing a cane, overcoming the physical pain so I could exercise or even stand long enough to cook, being unable to work full time, and depression/binge eating disorder were the biggest obstacles.

DID YOU EVER WANT TO GIVE UP? WHAT KEPT YOU GOING?  I’ve wanted to give up so many times. My doctors, friends/family, and the internet all told me that this is what’s to be expected with MS. That I needed weight loss surgery. That I wouldn’t be able to do it alone. But, I refused to believe them and used a mantra to anchor me back to my purpose.  The manta was “why not you?”, and I’ve said it to myself over and over every day for the past 4 years. I tell myself, “Carolyn, people do amazing things every single day… why not you?”

DID YOU HIT ANY WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAUS? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?  Yes, I hit many plateaus. I used a combination of stress management, mindfulness, and life design to stay on track and focused on the goal. I continuously reminded myself of how far I’ve come and what would happen if I were to give up. I plan to stick to this way of living for the rest of my life!

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO LOSE MOST OF THE WEIGHT?  It took two years to get to this weight and I’ve maintained for the past two years. I’m now starting to focus on losing a bit more, but I’m really happy at this size.

DID YOU HAVE ANY NON-SCALE VICTORIES?  Everything is a non scale victory. I’ve gone from severe pain, using a cane, and morbid obesity to hiking mountains, visiting Machu Picchu, riding 40 miles for a bike marathon, and I get to go symptom free almost every single day now. I can also fit in airplane seats again (and without a seatbelt extender!) and went from a size 24 to a 10.

WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY DIET LOOK LIKE COMPARED TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER?  I’m still an emotional eater, but I’m working on that. It’s a lifelong process, but when I was heavier, I would binge eat multiple times a week. I ate a lot of fast food, processed foods, conventional meat, ice cream, chocolate… the works. I ate well for my actual meals (I was always trying to diet) but then ate poorly for snacks or in a late night binge.

HOW DOES YOUR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY COMPARE TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER?  I’ve always worked out and I loved to dance when I was heavy, but I wasn’t as consistent as I am now. Now, I find exercises that I love that I can modify, if needed, for my illness. I mostly go hiking, hula hooping (with a weighted hoop), and practice yoga almost daily.

MY WEIGHT LOSS TIPS & TRICKS

  1. Your diet isn’t what you eat, its everything you absorb. That includes your skincare, what you talk about, what you listen to, what you watch on TV, who you hang out with, etc. If you want a happy and healthy life, you have to create it for yourself by replacing the things that aren’t leading you to your goal with what will.
  2. Build a positive relationship with yourself. Take yourself on dates, say “I love you”, journal, and keep your standards high.
  3. Keep a gratitude journal. Reminding yourself of all the reasons you have to be grateful increases a positive attitude, minimizes stress, and promotes healing.
  4. Manage your stress. Stress burns a ton of sugar and ramps up your hunger. Practice deep belly breathing every day to start reducing your stress load.
  5. Meal prep!! Having your food all planned out keeps you organized and focused so you don’t have to worry about making poor choices last minute!