Name: Michelle Swift
Height: 5 feet, 10 inches
Before Weight: 224 pounds
How I Gained It: Unlike most people, who comfort-eat to self-medicate and deal with emotional problems, I ate because I was happy. I had remarried, and my new husband loved to go to buffets, so I happily went with him. I can’t speak for other people, but for me, buffets do something to me emotionally. I find it’s easy to eat beyond your physical limit when you are paying one price and want to get your money’s worth. On top of that, I was not eating a healthy diet — I ate a lot of fat, sugar and processed foods.
Breaking Point: I recall not being able to look at myself in the mirror. I’m not talking about full-length mirrors — though I cried many times in a store’s dressing room. I couldn’t even look at my face in the mirror anymore. I didn’t recognize myself. The person looking back at me was somebody else — the spirit was the same, but the outer person was not someone I knew, nor was it someone I wanted to be. Just going to the store to try on clothes would push me to tears.
How I Lost It: I’ve been a yo-yo dieter for years. I’ve lost weight in the past, through fee-based weight loss groups and on my own, but I was never successful at keeping it off. SparkPeople changed that. The resources and the community gave me the tools I needed to lose it for good.
I started by tracking every bite I ate on SparkPeople. Having a daily calorie allotment allowed me to lose weight without depriving myself — for instance, I love chocolate, so I ate a little bit of it every day and just fit it into my daily calorie count.
As I started to focus on my health, I quit eating so much processed foods and started eating a cleaner, fresher and simpler diet. I learned that food in its most basic form is more nutrient packed, so by eating unprocessed foods, I could actually eat more food and still lose weight. I also started cooking more — I tried lots of new recipes and things I’d never heard of before, and over time, I found that eating healthy can be delicious!
Exercise is key, and for me, finding fun exercises was especially important. Fitness really can change your metabolism and improve your energy levels, no matter what you weigh. Everyone needs to find what motivates them — do fun things, mix things up or exercise with a friend.
Of course, the support was also a big part of it — I connected with others right from the start to get the encouragement I needed. Thanks to the online community, I was never at a loss for new strategies or motivation. And helping others helped motivate me, in turn.
Throughout my journey, I’ve made sure to celebrate every success. Nothing is too small to share or be proud of. Even the smallest successes — like not eating the last helping of mashed potatoes or getting in an extra 10 minutes of exercise — are worth celebrating.
Even though I had lost weight before, I was more successful this time because I finally realized that it really wasn’t about the weight. It was more about creating a healthy lifestyle that I could maintain forever. As I continued to steadily lose the weight, I started running, and in 2008, I ran my first half marathon. I never expected to be hooked on running. I also never expected to be a size 8, but here I am!
After Weight: 154 pounds
Michelle has maintained her weight loss for two years and counting.