My weight problems began very early in life, at least by kindergarten I was already showing signs of being overweight. I was raised by my maternal uncles who had no clue what healthy was or what good nutrition looked like. They had the mentality that you could eat anything in moderation and in a perfect world that is true but they forgot to teach the “in moderation” part of it. They didn’t cook much and I remember eating Mc Donald’s at a very early age and could tear up a 20 piece chicken nugget, large fries, and a large drink by myself at 8 years old. We had pizza ordered every Friday, it was our weekly ritual. We always bonded over food, it quickly became my comfort and what I would turn to when I was feeling sad, angry, hurt, or happy. My mother passed away 11 days after my 2nd birthday and was in foster care until I was 6 years old when I was placed with my uncles. I had a rough start to say the least and food always was my go to as a way to get out of the darkness. I experienced such pain emotionally and mentally at a young age that I became destructive to myself by using food as my coping mechanism.
HOW DID YOUR WEIGHT AFFECT ANY ASPECT(S) OF YOUR LIFE? As the years went by I quickly got bigger and bigger and even bigger. It got to the point where I hated myself so much, hated who I was, hated the way I looked and felt, hated my size, and hated life so much that I became severely depressed. I never let on to anyone just how truly miserable I was, how unhappy I was. In reality I was slowly dying internally and didn’t know how to cope. My life felt like I was spiraling downwards into a bottomless pit of despair. I truly had no idea how to dig myself out of this black pit of emptiness. I didn’t have many friends, I was the shy quiet girl in school, I was always different and an outcast, not many took the time to get to know me or even talk to me. I was relentlessly bullied to the point that it became physical over a long period of time, I kept quiet until I started coming home with bruises and using the excuse of “I fell down” could only work for so long. My peers were so cruel and hurtful in the words that they spoke to me that I believed what they said. I wholeheartedly felt like I was disgusting, ugly, unworthy of love and respect, and that I was never going to amount to anything. Having this mentality screwed with my head so badly that I became even more of an introvert and didn’t like going out in public much because I always had this idea in the back of my head wondering what others thought about me and my weight that I couldn’t bare being in large groups. My weight has always been a huge part of my life in the most literal sense and in a way only someone who have been overweight their entire life could only understand. It had been my shield and my curse. I would hide and be afraid to look life in the eye. My dating life suffered to the point that I didn’t believe anyone could ever love the fat girl. I had zero confidence in myself and I just knew I was hideous, an ugly duckling so to speak. I became the girl who missed out on life experiences because of my weight, I let it and I’ll never get those years back but I can move forward.
WHAT WAS THE “TURNING POINT” THAT GOT YOU STARTED ON YOUR WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY? In 2006 I turned 18 I had gotten a full-time job, I graduated high school early because of the severe bullying that I was enduring, and I was preparing for my high school senior prom! My uncles never let me go to school dances so this was something I was really looking forward to. I remember feeling like going on a diet to try to lose some weight before prom so I could find a dress easier. It had been a very long time since I had weighed in and was really nervous to see how much I weighed. While I was at work one day on my lunch break I stepped onto the scale and when those numbers flashed 350 I felt my heart drop. What did I do to myself? Why did I do this to myself? How did I get to this point of 350 pounds? I was mortified, in shock. I remember sinking to my knees and cried for a solid 10 minutes before I composed myself. I felt like I had failed some how because I had allowed myself to get so big. Sure I could blame my uncles for a poor diet and poor eating habits but at that point it was time to take the reigns on my life and embrace my mistake. I think what truly was my turning point that kick started my weight loss was finding out my mom didn’t die of a heart attack as we all had originally thought but rather passed from metamorphosis of fatty liver disease due to morbid obesity. Finding that out scared me. It lit a fire under my butt to really kick a change into gear and change I did. I started immediately researching proper nutrition, trying to learn what a healthy diet was supposed to be, and cut sodas, fast food, and junk food cold turkey. It was the only thing I could think of that would have the most impact quickly. I lost a little bit before prom and found a size 28 prom dress that barely fit me. Seeing photos from prom made me realize just how big I was and how much destruction I was causing myself.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED? My first step was learning and researching. I spent the first few weeks trying to get as much knowledge as I could about nutrition so I could figure out what healthy was. I stumbled across a website in my search called Sparkpeople which is a website with articles, member blogs, user forums, a lot of information on healthy eating and exercise, and allows you to track your foods and exercise. I looked through the site and instantly joined. It had so many helpful articles and helped me immensely when I had no clue where to start. I ended up cutting out sodas, fast food, and junk food immediately. My next step was to figure out what to eat instead of what I was used to so I was able to craft menus around the information I found. What was great about Sparkpeople was the community there was always so helpful when questions were asked. I felt like I belonged and that was my saving grace in a way. When I cut out the foods I knew I went through horrible withdraws and often wondered if I was doing the right thing. Logging on to Sparkpeople during that time helped me realize that I was on the right track and that I could do this. Sparkpeople sets up a suggested amount of calories, fats, carbs, protein, fiber, and other nutrients based on information you input which truly was a big help in getting me started. I literally had to start from scratch and work my way up to a diet that made sense for me. I began walking a little bit each day always increasing my time and distance. 2 years ago I got a fitbit flex and it was the best thing I ever did. It held my accountable and helped push me further. I started using it getting barely 10,000 steps a day and now I average 43,00 steps a day.
HOW LONG AFTER YOU STARTED DID YOU BEGIN TO SEE RESULTS OF YOUR WEIGHT LOSS EFFORTS? My first week on Sparkpeople and tracking my foods, calories, and my macro nutrients I lost almost 15 pounds which was mostly due to water weight and cutting out the junk food. After having such a great first week I thought “cool, this is going to be easy!” boy oh boy was I wrong. In weight loss I’ve learned that slow and steady wins the race and there is no quick fix. Weight loss is hard, so hard. Sure the concept of calories out should outweigh how many calories put in and it will equal weight loss but it is so much more complex than that. What works for one person won’t always work for someone else. After all we are all different. It took a few months to find a rhythm that worked for me and I began losing weight pretty steadily. 6 months in and I was down 50 pounds and feeling amazing. By the end of my 1st year I was almost down 100 pounds when a plateau hit and hit with vengeance. Working through it was rough but once I got past it I had lost my job. I could no longer afford the gym membership that I had and had to cancel. When I couldn’t find work right away I went back to being depressed and back to old habits… I guess the saying of old habits die hard rang true in this instance. I regained every pound I had worked so hard to lose. I had to find my inner strength to get back up and keep pushing through.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART? In my journey there were many challenges that I had to overcome, the main one being myself. I self-sabotaged myself so many times that I would oftentimes kick myself while I was down. It was part of my mentality that I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough. I had to learn to cope with things around me in a way that didn’t involve food. I needed to embrace a healthier me and in order to do that I needed to love myself first, only then did the weight loss journey truly take off. In this journey I had to find myself, to learn who I was, what made Marissa tick, what I wanted and needed. I had to cleanse my heart, soul, and mind first before proceeding on to my body. This is not just about losing weight or a number on a scale, much more than a size on a pair of jeans, and more than a mark on a measuring tape. This is mental and emotional healing as well. I had to learn these things first and had to overcome those challenges first before anything else. Another challenge I had to overcome was my poor diet and eating habits. I wasn’t used to eating fruits and vegetables or eating lean meats and healthy fats. I didn’t know how to make healthy choices when it came to food. On the exercise front I hated working out because it was so foreign to me. I was the furthest thing from athletic and I had to learn to like working out and exercising before I could make this work for me. It was about finding a balance, a happy medium. I had to find exercises that I enjoyed and loved that I could see myself doing long term. My family didn’t know how to show their support and they were unwilling to eat healthy with me so I had to learn to watch them eat their fast food and junk food while I ate my foods. It was a constant battle with myself because I craved the junk food and sodas. I had a horrible addiction to sodas and sweets that when I quit them I had withdraws something fierce! I had to overcome snide remarks from others saying I wasn’t doing things right, that I was losing too slowly, some said I was losing too fast, some call me anorexic now, and some still call me fat. The difference now is I no longer care what their opinion is of me, this is my journey and no one else’s.
DID YOU EVER WANT TO GIVE UP? WHAT KEPT YOU GOING? Of course I wanted to give up! I think we all go through that point where we want to give up and throw in the towel. There were countless times where I wanted to give up, to cry, to scream, to just stop and never keep going. I would have a bad weigh-in or a bad workout and I’d want to throw in that towel and go run to the nearest grocery store to get a pint of ice cream and wallow in my bad day while eating the entire 4 serving container of my favorite flavor, cherry almond mocha fudge got me, it understood me! Throw in some peanut butter and make it a party! I had to dig deep on those days where emotions flooded me. What kept me going was I’m no quitter. In everything I do in my life I go hard or go home. I don’t ever give up and I keep pushing. I’m the type of woman that doesn’t like to be a failure and I learned to be in competition with myself to hold myself accountable. My mother passing when I was 2 years old effected me more than I ever let on because it caused a lot of my pain. I promised myself I would never get to my mom’s size of 400 pounds. I didn’t want to die young like she did, she was only 38 at the time of her passing. On days I wanted to give up I’d look at old photos of her and see my prom photo and used it as motivation to keep going and pushing harder. I knew I had to do this for me but my mom definitely was a big part of what kept me going. I miss her terribly and I’d like to think she’d be proud of how far I’ve come and how I’ve grown during this process.
DID YOU HIT ANY WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAUS? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM? Oh yes! Plateaus and I used to be best friends forever that it became annoying. I’d get to losing weight again and bam there was a road block just up the road from where I was at. Some plateaus were here and gone quickly and some lasted a few months at a time. It was so tough seeing the scale not move at all. I would lose the same 5 to 10 pounds over and over again that I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. I overcame the plateaus by changing up my exercises and change up the foods I was eating because I had learned my body would get too used to something and the effectiveness would decrease. During the times I wasn’t losing weight I relied on how my clothes fit me and my measurements. One month I lost almost 19 inches overall but the scale did not move at all and I dropped an entire size. Sometimes it’s more than the scale and it becomes more how you feel, how your clothes are fitting, and inches rather than pounds that become more important and more of an indicator of progress.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO LOSE MOST OF THE WEIGHT? I started my journey in 2006 and by 2008 I was down 100 pounds and quickly regained due to losing my job and depression sinking back in. I took a break to focus on myself and started back up fully in 2011. By 2014 I hit my first big goal of being in onderland! In 2015 I hit my final weight loss goal to be 155 pounds and got married to my best friend in May and I got to wear a fitted dress to show off my hard work. All in all I lost most of the weight over the course of about 3 and a half years.
DID YOU HAVE ANY NON-SCALE VICTORIES? I had so many non-scale victories and each one is equally important to me. Not only did I lose 195 pounds but I went from a size 26 to a size 6/8! I’ve lost countless inches. Take away the numbers and what do I have? I have confidence in myself that I never could have dreamed of. I have a love for myself, a new found happiness with life and with myself, I have learned I am worthy, I am worth love, I am worth kindness and compassion, I’m worth respect. I have walked away with a better mental and emotional health. I have off days like everyone but my depression has gone. My self-hatred is gone. I’m still working on my body distortion, I often think I’m bigger than I am. I was big for so long that I’m still blown away that I’m much smaller. I’m no longer morbidly obese, obese, or overweight! I no longer suffer from exercise induced asthma. I don’t have any health issues, I didn’t have any to start with but I’m so glad I can still say my health is in amazing shape. The way I feel can not be described. I have a sense of awe of myself. I’m proud of myself. I did this! I overcame something I never thought I could. Oh and I like taking selfies now and dresses are pretty rad. I used to hate photos being taken of me and dresses was something I avoided because I thought I looked horrible in a dress. No one can ever take this feeling away from me and that is a victory. I have come to terms that everyone has an opinion and it’s up to me how I take it. I choose to ignore the naysayers and the negativity.
WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY DIET LOOK LIKE COMPARED TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER? When I was morbidly obese my diet consisted of sodas, fast food (burgers, fries, pizza, fried foods), junk food (chips, sweets: cookies, brownies, ice cream, milkshakes, etc.) I would usually skip breakfast and oftentimes skip lunch and would have a large dinner and a bunch of snacks. I was killing myself with what I was putting into my body. I was addicted to sweets and sodas. I craved those things so badly I would get like the guy on the snickers commercials. Sure I still crave things from time to time and I’ve learned not to deprive myself but rather focus on portion control but I am no longer food aggressive. My diet now consists of steamed vegetables, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, lean meats like chicken breasts, salads, healthy fats like avocados and olive oil, lots of water, green tea, nuts, whole grains, protein powder, and eating smaller more frequent meals/snacks. I actually eat breakfast and lunch now. Am I perfect? No, of course not but I am still learning and still a work in progress.
HOW DOES YOUR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY COMPARE TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER? When I was heavier I hated physical activity of all kinds. I hated walking anywhere. I was the girl that would avoid running the mile in P.E. class because when I exerted myself my asthma would be triggered and became difficult to breathe. I was winded going up just a few stairs. My physical activity now has vastly changed. I love to walk, I enjoy doing weights at the gym, I still hate the treadmill but I put on some music and I’m able to get through it. I’m no longer winded going up and down the stairs, in fact my breathing has improved so much my asthma is no longer there. I feel more energized and I have a love for working out. I enjoy dancing in my room even though I’m terrible at it but as long as I’m moving that is all that matters. I got a fitbit 2 years ago and was barely getting 10,000 steps a day. I had to work at it each day to raise my numbers to where they are at now, 43,000 a day.
MY WEIGHT LOSS TIPS & TRICKS
- Be in the right mental mind frame first. You have to have a sense of what you want, why do you want to lose weight, how did you get to this point? You have to be prepared that this is emotional and mental just as much as it is about weight loss. I can’t stress this enough that if you’re not in the mind frame of you want to do this then it will not work or be as effective as it could be.
- Don’t expect weight loss to be easy or to happen instantly/over night. It requires dedication, motivation, sweat, and tears. You’ll fall down but you have to get back up and keep on going because you can and will do this. It may not seem easy and you’ll want to give up but the end result is amazing. The person you become will be worth it in the end. This is not about numbers but rather finding who you are.
- Learn what works for you! Not everything works for everyone which is why there are different diets, different programs such as weight watchers, and surgery options. We are all different and require different needs. Finding out what your needs are will greatly help in the process. If you don’t like a particular exercise find something that you do like.
- Change it up! Don’t let exercise or your food choices become mundane. If it starts to feel like a chore change it up and quickly! It will help with plateaus in the long run if you learn to change things up from time to time. Listen to your body, it will tell you what you need.
- Want that cupcake? Want that spoon of peanut butter? Want that steak? EAT IT! Don’t deprive yourself of foods or make foods “banned” because in the end you might cave in and binge on it… doesn’t mean you will but don’t be afraid of food. Learn to portion things rather than deprive. It took me so long to figure this one out but I’m so glad I learned this and wished someone told me this sooner so this is me telling you not to let food hold you hostage.