Erika Lost 90 Pounds and Beat Depression*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Name: Erika Schnure
Amount of weight lost: 90 lbs.
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Occupation: Meeting Planner
Age: 28
What was life like before your weight loss? Just before I lost weight, I was in a very bad place personally. I had just lost my job, I was extremely depressed, and I ate for comfort during my days at home. I used a popular weight-loss program to lose 55 pounds in 2010, but once I lost my job and couldn’t pay for the food anymore, I gained every single pound back, and then some. This landed me at 230 pounds at 5 foot 6 inches tall. I was completely miserable. In just my mid-20s, I was on the verge of being categorized as having high blood pressure, and my cholesterol was very high. I had given up. I thought my weight was due to genetics, and there was nothing I could do about it, so why try to eat healthy? Why pay for a gym when working out wouldn't do anything?

What was your ''light bulb moment'' that made you get serious about losing the weight? After losing my job in DC, I ended up moving back in with my parents in the Chicago area for about a year. Shortly after I moved home, my mother, who was also obese at the time, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Obviously, I understood the genetic implications of such a diagnosis, and I knew I was in danger of the same problem. Moving home may have actually been the best thing for me, because living in the far suburbs meant that I could not just walk a few blocks to gorge on burritos and cheeseburgers at my neighborhood restaurants like I could in DC. The closest fast food restaurants were miles away and required a car trip. I realized that eating as poorly as I did was just not worth it. As I made that realization, I discovered that eating well was not only a lot cheaper and easier, it was much more delicious!

Tell us a bit about your weight-loss journey. Once I moved home, my weight loss started sort of unintentionally. As I started eating more home-cooked meals and curbed some of my old eating habits that would embarrass me to do in front of my parents (like eating an entire box of macaroni and cheese, a regular occurrence back in DC), I found that pounds were dropping off. I was motivated by the loss in itself, so I kept going and kept finding better ways to eat healthy: new recipes, new ingredients I’d never tried, and new ways to snack.

Once I’d lost about 50 pounds solely by changing my eating habits, I plateaued. I knew that I had to add in exercise. Despite never having been a runner and having always hated running, I signed up for a 5K on a whim in July 2012, and after finishing it in over 41 minutes, I felt my first ''runner’s high'' and was totally hooked. I started a Couch to 5K program the next week, and then moved on to a 10K program. I bought my own place, and then shortly thereafter, I reached my goal on April 16, 2013, weighing in at 140 lbs. I ran my first half marathon in October 2013. I didn’t just lose weight: I changed my entire lifestyle.

Did you encounter any obstacles during your journey and, if so, how did you deal with them? A runner’s worst enemy can be injury. I’ve been injured several times since becoming a runner. The trick is finding ways to compensate or work around it. Recently, I suffered a concussion, and was therefore able to do absolutely no strenuous exercise. I compensated by walking in my neighborhood instead, and by paying careful attention to what I was eating. When I had a calf muscle strain, I pulled back on my running, but focused on my upper body instead, using my kettlebells to do some upper-body strength training. There are always ways to work around an obstacle; sometimes you just have to be creative!

What tools, routines, habits, and motivators did you find most helpful to help you stay motivated?  I began tracking my running from Day 1. I always track my mileage, which is so important for me, especially when I am training for a race like a half marathon. has a great mileage tracker, and I use a few other phone apps and even podcasts to make my runs a little more entertaining. As for staying motivated, the fact that I actually reached my goal and was able to accomplish that feat keeps me motivated. I know now that I am absolutely capable of making myself the healthiest I can be, and I am so determined to never be in that miserable, depressed, obese state ever again. I never again want to be ashamed of myself like I was; I am motivated by the pride in myself that I did it.

Did you ever slip up or hit a plateau? If so, how did you overcome it? I did mention my plateau after which I added exercise, but I’ve absolutely slipped up. I think everyone has at some point. After reaching my goal, I went on a long business trip and couldn’t eat the way I usually prefer. I ended up gaining six pounds in two weeks. I felt so disappointed in myself, and I made a very conscious effort to get right back into my healthy eating routine and my running routine when I got home.

What is your typical exercise routine like? As my username implies, I am a runner! I really love running because I find it to be such a great stress release for me. When I was obese and had a bad day at work, I would comfort myself with fried chicken for dinner. Now, after a stressful day, I run instead, and feel amazingly better afterwards. When I am healthy and in training mode, I run about 30 miles a week. I usually run 4-5 miles every other weekday, and save my long run (10+ miles) for the weekend. In between, I love my kettlebells, because they’re cardio and strength training in one!

How would you describe your typical diet now as compared to before your weight loss? My diet is drastically different. My usual day before my weight loss would include: sausage, egg and cheese sandwich from a coffee shop for breakfast; double cheeseburger and large fries for lunch; and a whole medium-sized frozen pizza for dinner. And that doesn’t even count the snacks (which, in one day, would sometimes be half a box of Cheez-Its and more)! Now, I’ll usually have two frozen waffles with a little bit of light butter for breakfast on the go during my drive to work; a light yogurt and light frozen entrée for lunch; and marinated chicken with long grain and wild rice and a simple salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing  for dinner. My snacks now are maybe a handful of pistachios, a few baked pita chips with some hummus, or a low-calorie granola bar.

What advice would you give to someone just beginning a weight-loss program? I think about how I felt when I was obese, and I would say the biggest thing to remember is the following: Do not give up. Losing 90 pounds was not easy. It was a lot of hard work that I was more than willing to put in for the sake of my health. There are always some setbacks you run into, but you can overcome them. It takes a lot of effort to lose weight, but do not let that stop you! It is the most rewarding thing in the world to put in the work and then see the results on the scale or in the fit of your jeans. The day I fit into a size 4 for the first time since middle school, I was so elated that I could not even compare the feeling. Look for delicious, healthy recipes. Find a physical activity that not only makes you sweat, but that you really love. I promise you that the results are worth more than anything.

Did you experience any other benefits (improved relationships, reaching other goals, improved self-image/confidence, improved lab work/medical condition etc.) in addition to losing weight?  My confidence, my self-image, and my mental health went through the roof as I was losing weight. My entire mentality changed for the better, but obviously my physical condition improved drastically as well. My BMI is now in a healthy range, my body fat percentage puts me in the ''fitness'' range, and amazingly, much of my cellulite has disappeared. My resting heart rate, as reported by my doctor, is 44, which is the kind of heart rate that an elite athlete would have, according to experts. My cholesterol and blood pressure is normal now, and all my other blood work results are near perfect.

How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health? I can’t even begin to describe how much my life has changed after my weight loss and my lifestyle changes. I think about how I felt before I lost weight: depressed, hopeless, helpless and completely out of control. Everything is the opposite now of what it was. As a result of my weight loss, I am much happier, much more optimistic about my healthy future, and very much in control of my own life and my own behavior. It feels really good to be in total control of yourself, since I know how terrifying being out of control can feel. Healthy feels phenomenal.
Congratulations, Erika!
*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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