How a Roller Coaster Led Erin to Lose 117 Pounds*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Meet Erin. She's 30 and lives in Florida. Happily engaged and recently promoted at work, she loves her life. She wakes up feeling great, rarely stops moving throughout her waking hours, and goes to sleep each night with a smile on her face. Life isn't perfect, but every day feels better than the last, she says.
Erin is so committed to this life that it's hard for her to remember what it was like before, when she weighed almost twice what she does now. When she had little energy to stay awake after work and all she wanted to do on her days off was sleep. When she was in excruciating pain from even the smallest physical efforts and walking around the block seemed like torture. When she looked in the mirror and didn't recognize the woman she'd become and didn't know how to change her life.
She wanted to marry the love of her life, raise babies together, and do all the fun things she could only watch from afar. When she moved to Florida from New Jersey, she was excited about the year-round sun, access to the beach, and all the theme parks and outdoor festivals. But most of the time, she stayed inside or came home early because she was tired and in pain. Life was passing her by, and she felt helpless. Looking back now on the day she decided to change everything, it feels like a dream—a nightmare—but she's grateful for it. Looking back, the worst day of her life was also among the best, because it was the first day of the rest of her life.
The harness was stuck. No matter what she did, Erin couldn't fasten the safety belt around her middle. She held her breath, sucked in her stomach, and tried wiggling in her seat. Her fiancé, JT, then tried, but to no avail. People were laughing and pointing, and the line was backing up. The roller-coaster operator came over to see what was wrong.
It was the day after Erin's longtime boyfriend had proposed to her, and they were at a Florida theme park to celebrate. The joy that hadn't left her face since he got down on one knee was replaced by fear and panic. Finally, it clasped.
Her humiliation turned to relief and then terror as the ride began. Was the harness secure? Would it hold her weight, or would she plummet to her death on what should have been a day of celebration? The ride lasted a mere three minutes, but every moment felt like an eternity. She held her breath, gripped her fiancé's hand, and prayed for it to be over. It soon was, and her giddiness returned, until they picked up the photos taken on the ride. Her stomach dropped as she looked at the woman in the photo. She knew she had gained weight, but really? That was what she looked like?
I look like a pillow stuffed into a wastebasket, she thought. Right then and there, she knew something had to change. She and JT wanted to start a family, but Erin asked herself, How can I take care of kids if I can't take care of myself?

At Sea World, the site of the fateful roller-coaster ride

After years of trying maple-syrup cleanses, all-meat fad diets, and every diet pill in the pharmacy, she was ready to lose the weight for good. No more quick fixes or searches for an instant cure.
This is it, she told herself. It has to be the right way. Nothing ever worked before because I didn't do it the right way.
"How to live a healthy life," she typed into her browser; she was not going to look into diets. popped up in her search results and she joined immediately. She got started on her new life and never looked back.
"I started slow, didn't change all my habits at once," she said. Instead of downing two liters of cola—up to 878 calories a day—she drank water. She added one new, healthy habit at a time, adding more new ones when the existing ones felt easy. This new way of living wasn't about restriction, as she had feared. It was about freedom. She could make all the healthy choices she wanted, with real results. She was excited about this new life.
Six months after finding SparkPeople, Erin had lost several pants sizes, had broken her after-work fast-food habit, and felt more confident than ever. She had shattered her initial goals and was well on her way to reaching more. She was motivated, and she was committed. But not that day. That day, she was terrified. She and JT had returned to their favorite amusement park, and she was about to ride the roller coaster where she nearly got stuck the day after their engagement. Her palms sweated and she struggled to catch her breath. She panicked as doubts flooded her mind: What if I still can't fit? What if I still need help getting in? What if people laugh?
JT held her hand and looked her in the eyes. "I'm so proud of you," he said. She squeezed her eyes shut and reached for the buckle. Click! It snapped, without effort. Erin exhaled, and looked at JT. "Told you so," he said.
Those next three minutes were the best of her life. With the man she loved next to her, the one who'd been by her side no matter what size she was, she was now literally flying high without a care in the world. She was full of energy and felt like she could do anything. She laughed, thinking how a roller-coaster ride represented the journey that had brought her full circle in just six months.
(Left: 60 pounds down--at Sea World again!)
When Erin saw the photos, she began to cry. There was a woman who fit comfortably into the seat. There was a woman who was happy. There was a woman who had succeeded. "I realized how my effort had resulted in this wonderful moment," she said. "I am prouder of myself than I ever have been before. Prouder than the day I graduated high school. Prouder than the day I got my college degree. Prouder than the day I got a promotion. And why? Because I always knew I could do those things. But losing the weight? That was something I never thought I could do. But I did do it. And that feeling of accomplishment—more than just how I look—boosts my self-esteem more than I ever could have imagined."

You know how we all say "someday, I'll . . . ," and for many of us "someday" is code for "never"? Erin was one of those people, but with her new, healthy lifestyle, she is actually taking on those "someday" goals one at a time, with energy leftover for everything else life brings her way.
Almost five years later, Erin is 117 pounds lighter. She is at a healthy weight for the first time since childhood, and she's at the weight she's been trying to reach since age fourteen. Erin was promoted at work to a position that has her on her feet all day. She spends her weekends with JT, exploring Florida, not sitting on the couch. She has energy to do what she needs to do to stay healthy, such as exercise, and lives her life to the fullest. When she has a rough day or her enthusiasm wanes, to boost her motivation she thinks back to those two roller-coaster rides. For Erin, this new life is fun!
Erin used to think of weight loss as being on or off the diet bandwagon. Now, she uses an analogy that's common among SparkPeople members: losing weight is a journey, not a destination. And with The Spark Solution, you can get started quickly and on the right path, which keeps your motivation levels high.
Those first two weeks, Erin said, were crucial to her success. Though Erin started with small steps, she saw big changes in her energy levels, motivation, and metabolism. She discovered a new way to think about weight loss, which made all the difference in her overall success. And she learned how to avoid the event that most likely leads to failure with weight loss: giving up. She didn't give up when she ate a cookie, because she knew it wouldn't negate the days of healthy choices she had made. (She can now eat a cookie without guilt.) She didn't quit when walking around the block left her out of breath. (She's training to run her first 5K race.) And she didn't turn back. She was building momentum even in her first days on the plan, and she knew she would lose the weight this time. She's now comfortably maintaining her goal weight.
Healthy living is about living! "I realized how good it felt," Erin says. Two weeks from now, you'll say the same thing.

Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
Erin's story has been excerpted from The Spark Solution, the complete two-week diet program to jump-start weight loss and total body health. Whether you want to lose 10 pounds, 50 pounds, or 100 pounds, this book is going to change how you think about weight loss. It will set you up for a lifetime of healthy living by helping change the way you think about weight loss and setting goals that will lead to long-term success. Don’t have your copy yet? It’s now available in paperback at an everyday low price!

*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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Wonderful story with a very happy ending, will put on my favorites for future reading when I want to give up on myself. Report
Wonderful story with a very happy ending, will put on my favorites for future reading when I want to give up on myself. Report
Wonderful! So inspiring :-) Report
Really great job!!! Your so inspiring... Report
Wow congrads Erin! Very inspiring. Report
That was a great story. Congrats! Report
Congratulations! What a wonderful journey yours has been! Report
Just what I needed to hear today! Thank you! Report
Very encouraging. Thanks! Report
amazing story and so inspirational! congratulations! Report
congratulations. your story gives me more courage Report
Erin your testimony has given me more courage to continue my weigh lose and life change. I started a new life change by following the JJSmith 10 day clean change. I started that change at 188 and now I am 175 and looking forward to my September weigh in. This is the beginning of a new me and I am loving every minute of it. I turned 63 on Sunday past and wore a suit to church that was to big on me. Yes! Good luck to you and I pray we both stay strong and enjoy life. Report
What an incredible story! Your experience definitely demonstrates the power of our minds and the decisions we make - you go girl!! :) Report
You are such an inspiration to me. My weight has been a long time problem that I want to be able to conquer. You give me such hope. Thank you so much for sharing your story!!!!! Report
Wow! Congratulations girl! That is very inspiring and your pictures are lovely. Report
Great story. Very motivational, because I am at that point in my life. Ready for a change. Report
You look awesome!!! Report
A beautiful makeover!!! If you feel as good as you look, that would be amazing!!
This is such an inspiring story! Thanks so much for sharing. I feel so motivated now. I know that this isn't a sprint, but a marathon kind of journey. I'm just excited to stay on this path of making better and healthier decisions for myself. Report
Amazing story Report
nice!! Report
You are such an inspiration to me. I have been in that roller coaster line with those same exact fears. My weight has been the only thing in my whole life that I have not been able to conquer. But, you give me such hope. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Report
That is a amazing store congratulations on your hard work Report
I love your story, so inspiring. I too want to be the girl that can go on all the roller coasters without worry. Thanks for sharing, way to go girl!!!! Report
Your story brought tears to my eyes, Congrats on your new journey! How are things now? Report
So happy for you. How are things going now in 2014? Report
If I had extra hands i would give you a huge hi 5!!! Report
Congrats!!! You look great,and I know you feel great too. Report
this was super inspiring! thank you so much for sharing your story Report
Erin this is so awesome! I am excited for you and what life has in store for you with you new health and the love of your life. Thank you for sharing. This is the encouragement I needed today.
I am really proud of you Erin you are such an inspiration and make me feel powerful enough for me to follow your success story. Report
Wow awesome job. You look amazing!!

Tere624 Report
Good for you for not giving up. You look great! Report
Congratulations on your success Report
Congrats. Report
Congratulations, you have done a wonderful job! Report
Such a wonderful story! You have done a wonderful job!!! Report
Way to go, Erin! I agree that weight loss is a journey, not a destination, but I believe the same can be said about over-all health. It is over-all health that I see as my journey.
Congrats, Erin. So encouraging to hear you're enjoying life so much more now. Report
Very inspirational...Its takes a lot of strength and perseverance to do what you've done and continue to do. Awesome!!! Report
Wow !! You look amazing !! Congratulations on your continued success. Report
What an amazing journey & you look great! I'm so proud of you! Report
I had a similar experience at Coney Island several years ago that was one of the things that led me to take action. Congratulations, Erin, on all of your success and on your beautiful journey. Please also feel free to come join us on the At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team. It seems like you're already doing an amazing job maintaining your healthy lifestyle, but a little extra support never hurts! Report
I've been too afraid to go to an amusement park for YEARS! Last time I went (when I was smaller) I remember the rides being a tight fit as they were, so I didn't dare go back once I had gained the weight. This is actually one of my goals, to be able to go on all the rides at the amusement park again! Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story! Report
Wow, really wonderful! I have had the same experience at a ride in Phoenix...I just couldn't fit at all & I couldn't drive the car (go karts)...I had to get up (in front of so many people & my hubby) and of the worst days of my life. While I still can't fit into a go kart YET, I'm already living my healthy life. It takes time to gain weight and takes time (should at least) to loose it. Lifestyle changes are much more worth it...I'm so much nicer to myself. Thank you for sharing your personal pain & triumph! Report
wow, congratulations! You are amazing. Thanks for sharing you inspirational story. Report
Good job, keep up the good work. Report
Been there, done that, and have the XXL t-shirt to prove it! Congrats on making it to the "other side"! It takes courage and strength to turn a bad moment into a positive change.

Every time it seems like maintenance is hard, I try to remind myself what it was like to have to worry whether a chair would hold my weight, or whether I could "fit" through a narrow aisle, whether I could find professional-looking clothes that fit, etc., and just generally feeling out of shape, sick, and in pain. Every. Single. Day. That was hard. Getting in my steps and eating right daily -- not so hard compared to all that.

I am actually struggling a bit right now due to some health issues (infertility treatments and multiple miscarriages), and I needed the reminder of why I need to not give up just because some cookies will dull the pain for a little while, and because I'd rather wallow in disappointment than go for a walk. So thanks for sharing your story. I'm in maintenance already, but it takes daily work to stay here -- I needed a reminder of why I do that. Report
Very inspiring! Report
You look fantastic! Good for you!! Report
This is an amazingly inspirational story. I love that she emphasized the start because that really is the hardest part. Report
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