I Followed A Vegan, Low-Carb, High-Protein Diet—And Finally Went To Therapy—And Lost 100 Lbs.

My name is Ravon-Symone Hardy-Castillo (@iamrayysyymone), and I’m a 28-year-old certified personal trainer as well as a mentor and residential advisor for troubled teens and adults at a continuation school in Los Angeles. After being hospitalized for obesity-related complications, I realized I had to lose weight. With the help of my doctor, a personal trainer, and a therapist, I took my life back and lost 100 pounds.

I was born with a physical limitation on the back of my body that kept me in the hospital from birth until the age of 10 or so. After several operations and skin grafts, my back was left severely damaged. My spine is less secure than the average person’s today. And because of that experience, I was always told to be cautious with lifting, jumping, falling, and any other high-intensity movement—so I stayed away from a lot of forms of physical activity.

I also had a tough childhood and grew up around people with drug, alcohol, and food addictions. As a young girl, I remember walking home from school, cooking meals, and cleaning everything on my own. I also was abused by someone close to me for several years. I kept it a secret, and having to go through trauma privately and without support drove me into a depression. I thought tears were a sign of weakness, so I stopped showing my emotions. I ate instead of crying.

My turning point came in May 2016, when I was hospitalized for three days due to complications from my weight.

As the years went on, my depression worsened. At my heaviest, I was 26 years old and 275 pounds—and the weight really represented trauma, depression, anxiety, and the identity crisis I was going through. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to be. But my health issues came to a head when I ended up in the hospital due to symptoms I was having that ended up being related to my weight.

After I was discharged, I read “severe obesity” on my paperwork. Seeing this, I knew that I had to lose the weight, if for no reason other than to save my own life. So I asked for help, and my doctor started me on an appetite-suppressant drug to kickstart my weight loss. But I knew I'd have to change my eating and workout habits, not just rely on a medication.

That month, I also began working out with a personal trainer at a 24-Hour Fitness. I paid for five sessions but only made it to three. As much as my personal trainer inspired me, at that point, I just wasn’t ready to change. I thought weight loss was only going to be a dream for me.

Eight months later, though, I made the choice to start working out again on my own. I began with three basic exercises: up-downs (which are similar to burpees), shoulder taps, and mountain climbers. Then, I gradually added in cardio and weight lifting.

Once I had a routine in the gym, I also began overhauling my diet.

I stopped eating fast food, candy, processed foods, fried foods, and sugary drinks. Although I was once a heavy meat eater, I became a pescatarian, then a vegetarian, and eventually a vegan. By the summer of 2018, two years into my weight-loss journey, I’d lost 100 pounds.

These days, I’m committed to a high-protein, low-carb, vegan diet. Being vegan means I have to read every food label carefully, but it keeps me alert to what I’m putting into my body. I meal prep and pack my meals every day so I won’t be inclined to eat out.

Here’s what I eat on a typical day:

  • Breakfast: Before I exercise in the morning, I have a protein shake. Sometimes, I’ll add extra fiber with flax seeds or fiber powder.
  • Lunch and dinner: I’ll eat literally anything that’s not from an animal. I love fresh fruits and vegetables (think: quinoa and steamed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, green beans, kale, spinach, bananas, grapes, mangos, and lots of nuts). I also love acai bowls and, on occasion, a veggie bowl from Chipotle with extra grilled veggies, guac, and chips.
  • Snacks: I love veggie juices and green smoothies (my favorite: blend six to eight mango chunks, one banana, two cups of kale, two cups of spinach, half an orange, and half a spoon of flax and chia seeds with some water). I also like to snack on baked plantains with coconut oil and a dash of sea salt and cinnamon.

In November 2018, I realized I wanted to help other people lose weight, so I became a certified personal trainer at 24-Hour Fitness.

I now understand how to do exercises with correct form, and I love weight lifting. I work out about five to seven days a week and lift almost every day. If I don’t, I do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts or 30 to 60 minutes on the StairMaster to keep my cardiovascular fitness up.

Because of my back, I still get scared of injuring myself, so I take my time working up to certain exercises and listen to my body. I know when a part of training is too much for me and I cool it when I need to. My latest goal is to lose another 15 to 20 pounds and lower my body fat percentage. I’m also considering competing in a bodybuilding competition.

The summer after I became a certified personal trainer, I started going to therapy and began to move past the trauma I went through growing up.

In July 2018, I started taking care of my mental health and going to therapy, and I’m still keeping it up. With the help of my therapist, I've begun to really understand how weight gain can be linked to trauma.

Ultimately, therapy was the golden ticket for me on my weight-loss journey. And looking back, I wish that I had known that weight loss can be more mental than physical. For me, it was actually all mental. I believe this message is missing from weight-loss content and advice; we need to talk about weight and its connection to mental health.

My dream is to travel to share my story, write a book, and reach others who have been in my shoes. I want people to see themselves in my story.

I also have a sponsorship with 24-Hour Fitness now, and I recently appeared on several billboards and commercials across the country for their “Worth It” 2020 campaign.

I also hold monthly and quarterly challenges to help encourage and motivate others to lose weight or just get active. If you’re looking for motivation, follow me on Instagram and Youtube. I’ll be posting videos of my journey, story, and life, along with lots of 2020 workout challenges—so join me.


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