Like many who struggle with their weight, 35-year-old Jamie (WINDMILLS18) has started her journey more times than she can count—and she has been overweight for as long as she can remember.
Now a high-school teacher in Lexington, Virginia, Jamie's own school years were marked with shame over her weight. "I was always one of the biggest kids in my class at school," she recalls. "My chubbiness as a child turned into obesity in high school, then in college, I kept gaining at a steady pace, causing me to fall into the morbidly obese category. From there, I spent the majority of my adult years as super morbidly obese."
Ironically, it was the end of a relationship that kick-started the beginning of Jamie's most recent—and most successful—trip down the path to a healthier, happier life.
"I was feeling lost, unworthy and very unhappy," she shares. "I decided it was time to put myself first and concentrate on being the best possible version of myself—inside and out."
Another strong motivator for Jamie was the fact that she'd always wanted to have children. "Super morbid obesity coupled with my age was a surefire way to not make those dreams come true," she says. "I wanted to be able to have a healthy pregnancy and be around to watch my kids grow up when the time came."
Using Exercise to Overcome Emotional Eating
One of the biggest challenges Jamie faced while trying to lose weight was her tendency to seek out food for comfort and reward. As a self-described emotional eater, she would binge-eat several times a week. Jamie admits that when she would feel stressed or sad, she would immediately want to go to a Chinese food buffet and eat until she couldn't move.
"I used to treat food like a friend, a friend who was always there and made me feel better immediately," she recalls. "Food was how I coped with all of my feelings…the good and the bad."
One day, while feeling disgusted after a food binge, Jamie made a deal with herself that whenever she was craving something bad due to her emotions, she would exercise instead. At first, she hated it—during her workouts, all she could think about was food. But as time went on, her dependence on food for happiness started to wane, until one day, it was gone. Now, Jamie would rather go to the gym, crank up the music in her headphones and sweat out her stresses.
"Working out has become my new outlet for stress and anxiety," she says. "It helps clear my mind while keeping me focused on me. I still have days where I crave not-so-good foods, but I no longer daydream about going home after work to sit on my couch and eat five meals worth of food at once. Food is fuel for my body. Yes, I like to eat—but now I eat because I need it, not because I want it."
Nutrition & Exercise Plans
Most days start with coffee and a breakfast of either oatmeal or hard-boiled eggs. Lunch consists of a protein and lots of fruits. Jamie's dinners always contain a protein and are heavy on vegetables. "I try to eat as many colors as possible," she says. "I do not follow a low-carb diet. I use the nutrition plan set for me by SparkPeople and stay within those parameters."
Jamie quickly discovered the power of meal prepping as a weight-loss tool. She plans out her meals ahead of time and dedicates Sunday as her cooking day for the coming week. For those new to meal prepping, Jamie suggests starting with simple recipes at first. "My go-to dinners consist of baked chicken and roasted veggies," she says. "These are fast and easy and hold up well in the fridge for five days." She also likes creating themes with her meals, such as Mexican lunches and Greek dinners, to keep things interesting and to work more variety into her diet.
To complement her nutrition plan, Jamie exercises at least five times per week. On weekdays before work, she hits the gym at 5 a.m. for an hour of walking rolling hills on the treadmill. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she adds some strength training with circuit resistance machines and also tries to incorporate more targeted strength training at home a few times a month. She hopes to increase her strength training as she gets closer to her goal weight.
So far, Jamie has lost 120 pounds and wants to lose another 60. "I have an idea of what my goal weight would be, but I won't be completely sure of that until I get closer to that number," she says. "I've never been a healthy weight in my adult life, so I will talk with my doctor to plan what is best for me and my health."
Sparked to Make a Change
Jamie first found SparkPeople in 2007 while looking for smoothie recipes, and joined under a different username. Over the years, she had some periods of success, but then would get discouraged and stop visiting. Several years ago, Jamie rejoined SparkPeople with a renewed resolve to make a change. At first, she lost and gained the same 40 pounds over and over—until achieving her most recent success.
Jamie has found that she is most successful when she stays active on SparkPeople and consistently tracks her food and fitness. "I am living proof that it works—you just have to be accurate and honest, and know that it's okay to hit the 'refresh' button when things don't go as planned."
Social media has become an important accountability tool for Jamie, too. At first, she was always afraid and ashamed to talk about her weight-loss journey or goals, afraid that people would think she wasn't worthy of a healthier life or would assume she'd fail. "Then I found the power of accountability," she says. "The more people who know I am working toward a goal, the more people I have supporting me and pushing me to crush my goals."
Now, Jamie openly shares her story—her successes and her setbacks—on SparkPeople. She also created a weight-loss Instagram account (@peacelovewindmills) to document her journey and inspire others to keep going. "I have gained so much motivation and inspiration from others on a similar journey, and hopefully I can pay it forward by supplying some encouragement and support for others who are lost, stuck or don't know how to begin."
Life After Losing 120+ Pounds
Losing more than 120 pounds isn't just a matter of clothes feeling a little baggier—it is a major physical change that affects every part of life, both the mental and the physical. After being morbidly obese for nearly her entire life, Jamie found that her dramatic weight loss came with quite a few pleasant surprises and other non-scale victories.