A Teacher Loses 120+ Pounds and Learns to Love Herself

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.
  1. I can comfortably fit in my bathtub, and it is no longer a struggle to get out of the tub without fear of hurting myself.
  2. I no longer need a seat belt extender on planes! In fact, there is a ton of extra belt left over now!
  3. A regular size towel fits around me. I had to use two towels (one to cover the back, one to cover the front) for so many years.
  4. I have so much more energy! I used to get out of breath and need to sit down just from walking. Now I can do cardio for hours.
  5. I don't snore anymore.
  6. I had terrible heartburn for 20 years, no matter what I ate. Now I only get heartburn when I eat something spicy.
  7. I have collarbones! I know this sounds ridiculous, but I never thought I would be one of those women who have prominent collarbones…turns out that I do.
  8. I like to take pictures now. I never wanted my picture taken and was constantly afraid that someone would post a picture of me without my approval. Now I love to have my picture taken. I like to see how my body is changing and transforming, and I realize that I don't have to be perfect. Gaining confidence is an ongoing process, but I'm getting better at it every day.
  9. My students respect me more. They respected me before, but now I can serve as a better role model for them, and their attitude toward me changed once I started to lose weight. They could see that I was taking myself seriously, and in turn, they take me more seriously.
  10. My overall quality of life has improved. My smiles are genuine instead of forced. I feel strong, capable and worthy. I am proud of how hard I have worked and I use that success to keep pushing me to be the best version of myself that I can be. 
If Jamie could offer one tip to those who are just embarking on their journeys to transformation, it would be to start with small changes. "Don't try to change your whole life overnight. Weight loss and being healthier is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix," she says. "Those small changes will be tough at first, then one day you'll realize that those changes are now habits and part of who you are."

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CECELW 4/5/2020
That is an awesome story Report
WILDKAT781 3/29/2020
awesome! Report
SNUZYQ2 10/6/2019
Amazing story! This really resonated with me! Report
MARYGOLD5 8/26/2019
Thank you. This is very inspiring. Report
Thank you for inspiring us to keep going, even if our journey is full of starts and stops. Making those small changes mean so much...one step at a time. Thank you for sharing your story and the list of things you can do now! Report
NASFKAB 8/6/2019
Very inspiring Report
SHOAPIE 8/3/2019
Well done! Report
Wow, congrats on your weight loss!! Report
This article and folks like WINDMILLS18 are the best thing about Sparkpeople. Thank you for the uplifting piece and yay, WINDMILLS18! Report
Congrats on a job well done! Report
Good info thx SP! Report
I loved reading your story, especially your list of victories! I hope to be where you are now. Awesome job! Report
Inspirational Report
Wow. What an accomplishment. Congratulations. You are totally Awesome!! Keep up the great work!!


Nola Report
There are so many positives to losing weight. Why can't we see that when we think of giving up. Thanks for the reminder. Report
Just reading your story has helped more than you will ever know. Thanks and keep it up Report
Awesome, way to go! Report
WOW!!!!! I am very happy for you, what an accomplishment! Report
Great inspiration. Report
Congratulations Report
Great job! You are very inspiring! Report
WAY to go. Spark is GREAT, well done.
KEEPING IT UP, it's a great feel and be happy and you have now. AWESOME!
Pat in Maine. Report
Thank you for sharing your story. Continued Good Luck to you. Report
well done Report
Excellent job!!!!! You are an inspiration to others!! WOO HOO !! Keep Sparking!! Report
Congrats on your weight loss, Jamie! Keep up the good work! Report
Thank you for sharing. Report
Thanks for the inspiration! Report
Awesome! Report
Bravo!!! Keep your good work up! Report
I loved this story, so many parallels to my own struggles. I always enjoy these types of stories, but this one was even better than usual. Report
way to go and the site is packed with help and tips i agree Report
Awesome...thanks...from a fellow educator... Report
Great story thanks for sharing Report
Congratulations! I agree, staying connected on Sparkpeople keeps you focused on your goals. Good job! Report
Each day is all you need to think about. Just keep going forward. You are doing great. Report
You are a very different person now in many ways. Keep being proud of yourself for all you have accomplished. Each day is all youthat you Report
Wow! What a motivating story! Report
Congratulations on your success! Bravo for making positive changes. Report
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Awesome job! Report
NIce story. Report
What a motivating story. Report
Congrats on all your success. Thank you for sharing your story, you are a strong amazing woman! Report
Thank you for sharing your story. It's very motivating! Report
Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing
thank you Report
Awesome! I'm learning to love myself too! Thank you for sharing! Report
just because you love yourself does not mean your body cooperates and looses weight no matter how hard you try ... upset with the title .
congrats to the person !! Report