My name is Ashley Buckingham (@ashley_bfit), and I am 35 years old. I’m from Greenville, South Carolina, and I work for the court system and also own my own photography business. After dealing with traumas that deeply impacted my mental health, I gained a lot of weight. Finally, I tried WW again to get healthier, and it worked.
My weight loss struggles began in 2004. I was in college and experienced a sexual assault. I ended up leaving school, moving back home, and I coped with my trauma by eating anything and everything. I rarely would leave my room, and before I knew it, I went from 160 to 230 pounds. During this time, I was also in an abusive relationship, which did not help my struggles with weight or my mental health.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with PCOS, which caused even more darkness in my life, and I sank deeper into depression. In 2009, I finally decided I needed to do something to better my life. So I ended up losing 60 pounds with diet and exercise, and I finally gained the courage to leave my husband. However, I hadn't dealt with my traumas properly, so I was still using food as a coping mechanism.
Food was my drug, one that I did not realize at the time would lead to a decades-long battle.
When I got pregnant in 2011, I weighed 175 pounds and was depressed and not handling stress well. By the time my daughter was born, I had gained over 100 pounds and I hit my heaviest weight of 289 pounds.
After she was born, I started walking up and down my driveway. At first, I was only strong enough to walk one lap. The driveway was half of a mile long, and I could barely breathe after that lap. But by the time my daughter was a year old, I was walking up and down the driveway four or five times and doing Zumba videos on the Wii.
By 2013, I started taking Zumba classes, became a licensed Zumba instructor, and started doing BeachBody workout videos after my classes. I lost 90 pounds from 2012 to 2014. But sadly, my struggles were not over.
In 2015, I became a single mother, and my negative self-image and struggles with food came roaring back.
After gaining another 75 pounds by November 2017, I went to a weight loss clinic to discuss weight loss surgery. There, we discussed all the pros and cons, as well as what the requirements were. They told me I would have to do six months of counseling as well as wait those six months and try to lose weight. However, if I lost weight, I would no longer qualify.
I found myself at a crossroads: I could either wait the six months, feel sorry for myself, or I could start making changes now and see where I would be in six months. So that is what I decided to do.
December 27, 2017, was the day I made a commitment to myself to be kinder to myself.
I vowed to talk to myself the way I talk to my friends and loved ones, and to start focusing on my relationship with food. I vowed to use food as a tool to fuel my body, and stop using it as a form of reward and punishment. Trust me, that was so hard. But by January 2019, I was down 20 pounds.
That may not sound like a lot in a year, but for me, it was huge. I had stuck to my commitment of being kinder to myself, and I wasn't beating myself up for stumbling or slipping up. I knew I needed to get healthy for not only me, but for my daughter. I didn't want her to hate what she saw in the mirror like I did, and I knew it started with my own self-image.
In January 2019, I committed to working out at least five days a week for 30 minutes. I also joined WW for the fifth time that May.
I told myself *this time* I would actually work the program the way it was intended to be worked. I would track the food that went into my mouth, whatever it may be, and I would not give up on myself.
The working out proved to be the easiest part for me, but my relationship with food is a battle I face every single day. We can't escape food—we have to eat. And I was learning how to eat all over again. I loved WW because it made this a lot easier for me. WW has made it so I am not deprived from foods I love and crave.
Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:
- Breakfast: 50 to 70 grams of egg whites or two eggs, 100 grams of sweet potatoes, 1 cup of berries, and a cup of coffee with 1 tbsp of sugar-free creamer.
- Lunch: 3 to 4 ounces of a lean piece of meat (usually chicken), 1 cup of green veggies, cauliflower, or a salad with dressing on the side, 1/2 ounce of cheese, and a healthy carb, like a sweet potato or 1/2 cup of rice.
- Snacks: Protein shake, Built Bar, an apple with 1 tbsp of peanut butter, or 2 tbsp of hummus and carrots.
- Dinner: 3 to 4 ounces of a lean piece of mean, again, and a salad or green veggies. I try not to eat a starch or heavy carb at nighttime.
- Dessert: Berries, sugar-free pudding, or JELL-O.
- Water: 120 ounces a day!
When I was at my heaviest, all I did was walk. Then eventually I started doing BeachBody videos.
I got into working out because I really liked the way I felt afterward. After battling depression for so long, working out gave me those happy feelings that I did not normally feel. I started craving those moments of clarity and that is what kept me moving. I knew if I could just move for 30 minutes a day, I would feel better.
Beachbody videos were great because they offered modifiers, and you could see how to do the workouts properly without hurting yourself. Right now, I work out one to two hours a day. During the week, I walk three to four miles in the morning, then I lift weights for about an hour afterwards. When I lift weights, I focus on a muscle group a day, and it really has changed the composition of my body.
These three changes helped me see the most noticeable results in my weight loss.
- Change one: I focused on improving my mental health. I always tell people this journey is not just a physical one, it is a mental one. You have to address what is going on in your mind in order to truly overcome your struggles and it is okay to focus on you. It is okay to make yourself a priority. What I did not do in my first two journeys is focus on my mindset, and I ended up gaining the weight back. Focusing on your mental health is just as important as drinking your water and moving your body.
- Change two: I started weighing my food. I eyeballed my food most of the time and lost weight for a while doing that, but then I hit a wall and I started weighing my food. Needless to say, I was highly disappointed to learn what two tablespoons of sour cream and peanut butter actually looked like. But the awareness made a difference!
- Change three: I accepted I didn’t need to be perfect. No matter what you do, you have to just keep going. You did not gain your weight overnight, and you will not lose it overnight, so you have to be consistent. If you track, drink your water, and move your body consistently, then you will see results. But you do not have to be perfect. You just have to be consistent. Your journey is in your hands—and this is a conversation I have had with myself many times.
Since restarting my journey on December 27, 2017, I have lost 67 pounds, and could not be prouder of myself. I refuse to go back.
Before I lost weight, I was always looking for happiness in all the wrong places, thinking that food would fill the void that I had inside of me. I had the worst self-esteem. Since I changed my mindset, my whole perspective has changed, and after everything I have been through, I finally found happiness with myself.
Yes, I’ve lost weight, but I am finally truly happy and confident in my own skin, and that in itself has been the biggest and most fulfilling reward. The journey is hard, but man, it is so worth it.