I Lost 103 Pounds!*

By , By Abigail Cuffey, of Woman's Day

BEFORE 226 lbs

AFTER 123 lbs!

The reality of an empty nest forced Joyce Anderson, 41, of Richmond, KY, to change her focus. Here she shares how she finally got fit and took back her life.

My secret binge eating started when I was 13, after my grandpa died. I really looked up to him and we were very close, so when he passed away, I turned to food to comfort myself. In high school, I was very active and ran cross-country, but I still gained weight because I was overeating when no one was around. At 19, I shed about 30 pounds in the months before my wedding by going on a crash diet. But after I had my daughter and son, the weight gradually crept back on and before I knew it, I was over 200 pounds. I felt so unattractive that I hardly have any family photos from that time. Occasionally I'd lose 30 pounds but then I'd gain back 35 more. It was a vicious cycle.

→ Focusing on me

In 2008, my daughter, a senior in high school, told me that she didn't want to be a cheerleader anymore. I was upset—not because I was disappointed in her, but because it would leave a hole in my own life. I had been devoting all of my free time to my children's activities; at one point, my daughter even told me to stop living through her. Her comment hurt, but she was right: I didn't have a life of my own. I was too embarrassed about my body to go out and socialize. I knew then that I had to do something about my weight and "get a life," since both my children were nearing college agand would be leaving home.

→ The big jumpstart

That year, two days before Christmas, I sat down and searched for weight-loss plans online. I found SparkPeople.com (an online health and weight-loss community) and began to log what I ate; I also read other people's blogs to stay motivated. I joined a gym in January of 2009, and it just so happened that it was hosting a Biggest Loser—type competition. I signed up, worked out with a trainer a few times a week, and at the end of 12 weeks, I had lost 50 pounds and won the individual female weight-loss category!

Afterward, I continued to eat healthfully and stuck to 1,200-1,500 calories per day. The competition kickstarted my weight loss, but I knew I needed to find an activity that I really loved and would do long-term. Dancing seemed like a fun challenge, so I used a coupon I had for a free private dance lesson. The first class was a mix of cha-cha and salsa dancing, and I definitely felt clumsy and awkward, but I had so much fun that I decided to keep going.

→ Dancing my way thin

Over the course of a year, I continued to lose weight (about 50 more pounds) and improve my dancing. In 2011, I competed in rumba, cha-cha, bolero, mambo and East Coast swing at two different dance competitions. Dancing has taught me how to carry myself, control my body and just have fun. Now, at 41, I'm not afraid to take chances and I finally feel attractive, something I've never experienced. And yes: I now have a life.

My best tip

Pick a "cravings" day. If I have a craving during the week, I tell myself to hold off until Saturday. If I still want it then, I eat it—but I often find that the urge has passed.

My stick-with-it secret

USE VISUAL REMINDERS I carried around this "before" picture of myself when I was at my heaviest as daily inspiration to stay on track. I would pull it out whenever I felt my commitment waning. It was a great reminder that I didn't want to go back to that overweight place and a positive reinforcement of how far I'd come. It really came in handy the night before my first dance showcase (after I'd lost 65 pounds). I was terrified that I would freeze up, but then I looked at the picture and thought, Wow, I've come too far to turn back now.

Stories you might like:

What is your best tip or “stick-with-it secret" for your weight loss and/or health journey?

*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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LEANJEAN6 3/12/2018
Yu sure look differently Report
You are truly an inspiration to all of us. Report
I'm new here, I'm also in the "before" picture status. Loved reading your story, helps me stay focused. You look great! Report
Congratulations on all your accomplishments!!! You are an inspiration!!! Report
Joyce you are amazing! I saw your picture an felt like I knew you and then saw you where from Richmond. I used to live there but moved to Lexington. You are probably someone I knew when I lived there. Congratulations on your success if you are still on SP my name is Barbanna! Come visit me on SP sometime! Report
Wow! I love that u started dancing whichis what i want to do!
Congrats! Report
Incredible !! You look awesome!! Report
I like how you found physical activity you enjoyed doing. Great job! Report
I'm going to try your cravings tip. Thanks for sharing your success story! Report
Thank you for sharing your story! Congratulations on your success and keeping it off. You look so fabulous and I know your family is so proud of you. You give me so much inspiration! Good luck on all your goals! Report
You are such an inspiration! Congratulations! Report
Congrats on the weight loss. You have given me inspiration today. I need to lose 102 pounds and have been with Sparkpeople for approx. 4 weeks. I wanted to quit but I cannot. I have learned so much about my eating habits and I still have a lot more to learn. I did it because of my sodium intake. Thanks for the inspiration. keep up the dancing. Report
What I like about this is that you have had great self-awareness, not everyone would realise, or be honest enough to admit to themselves, that they were living their life through their child. It's such an easy thing to slip into doing. You have been so honest in this article, and giving good advice - basically, you are in my eyes an awesome woman.

The tip to wait until Saturday if you have a craving is brilliant, because if you do still have the craving, having a treat once a week isn't a problem. People are more likely to stick to a healthy diet if they allow themselves treats than if they are too strict with themselves, so I do like this idea.

Thank you for the article, am so glad SP featured it and pointed people to it. Report
Way to go !!! Congratulations ! Report
Thank you for sharing. Report
WOW! I love your story, truly an inspiration. Congrats on your weight loss and getting healthier. A lot of what you said hit really close to home for me. Thanks for sharing. Report
You are so inspiring and look absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for sharing your journey. Report
Bravo on your transformation! Truly amazing. Keep up the great work.

It is so true that we as parents tend to live our lives through our children. As a child, I always wanted to learn to dance ballet which was NOT an option for me as my parents had 7 children to feed and clothe. Therefore, as a young mother of two, I basically forced my two girls to dance ballet. Thank goodness, my oldest daughter loved it (and still teaches it) but my second daughter did not like it at all and said exactly what your daughter said to you -- not to live my life through her. I let her drop it after 12 long years for her... Not good.

To make a long story short, they are now both adults and do whatever they wish to do. I no longer interfere. We try to guide them as best as we can and at one point, we just need to cut the umbilical cord. Report
Truly inspiring. You look Great! Report
Congratulation Joyce! You look wonderful! I saw your story on Woman's Day and because of you I sign up on this site. Thank You! Report
Congratulations on your success, keep it up! I also love dance, I do Zumba and Social Dance and I have over 100 lbs also!! Report
What a great inspriation you are! You look wonderful! Your idea of waiting for the "cravings day" is terrific. You have inspired me also.
Thanks for sharing your story. Report
Joyce, I came across your blog while perusing Sparkpeople (after logging my weight today, of course!!) and felt compelled to comment. I started at 232 last October...my kids are grown and gone as well, so I know what that feels like...it's a strange thing to actually have time to devote to yourself! As of this morning, I am down 52 pounds...slipped over the holidays and have been struggling to get totally back on the wagon since. Your story is very motivating to me...I can do this! Thanks for sharing your journey with us:) Report
You look great! I know you'll keep dancing and keep the weight off. Report
Thank you for sharing your story. Two months ago I took a salsa dance class. It was such a fun evening, but I felt so uncoordinated that I never went back. Your success story has me thinking about returning! Report
hi,awesome n greatly inspiring,am really hapi for u,i ve hated d way i look fr years witout doin anyting about it,untill dis week,i started dieting,it hasnt been easy,since am nigerian and over here we dont have most of d kind of healthy meals suggested on sparklpeople.but i am most determined to go on becos dis weight has made me lose more than i can imagine,but with the help of God n a strong determinatn to carry tru,i wl be writing my own success story soon Report
That's amazing and just about what I need to lose! Congratulations! Report
Dear Joyce, Thank you so much for sharing your story on Yahoo. I found Sparkpeople and have joined. Wishing much happiness and success!
TLC Report
You are inspirational, thank you for sharing your story!

KG Report
I read your blog on here and then the next day saw it on yahoo.com! I loved reading about your journey. Report
Thanks for sharing your story. I actually found it somewhere on the web and learned about sparkpeople.com from it, and now I'm here because of you. Thanks for helping me find the support I need. Report
You look fab, thanks for sharing your inspiring story. Report
You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story! Report
Just saw your story on Yahoo News!!! Good for you!!!!!!!
You are an inspiration ! Thank you ! Report
That's awesome, you look great. Report
Great blog. You inspire me to keep on trying. I have to us my zumba exercises more often. You look great. Report
You are AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTG you have given me hope in the future . I will be using the cravings day for sure. Thank You Very Much. Report
Way to go!!!! Thanks for sharing and for being such a great inspiration to others and for some great ideas. Report
Hi Joyce, It's Rosie from Jazzercize at Bluegrass! You inspired me to keep going to Jazzercise for a while (I need to get back to it). Now, you're inspiring me to keep going with SparkPeople! You told me back then that 100 Pounds could be done; well, today I hit 50! Halfway there! so I won't be quitting any time soon. Congratulations on losing and keeping it off.! Report
This is awesome, thanks for sharing! I too have lost over 100 lbs and ballroom dancing is one of my hobbies! Love it :-) Report
You are an inspiration! Report
excuse me while I wipe up this drool. WOW! Report
Thank you for sharing your story - some great tips and reminders!! Report
thank you so much. you have proven to other people that YES, you can lose weight with dance.

people have told me I can;t but so far so good I've lost 20 pounds with mostly just dancing.

thanx. Report
Great blog! Thanks for sharing your success!
Congratulations on your success! You look AMAZING! I like dancing too, but I am nervous about joining a class and not being able to follow the steps...I bought myself Zumba for my Wii, and will start to practice at home until I can do it. I have been putting this off - but will START TONIGHT!You are an inspiration! Love the cravings day idea! Report
What a fantastic journey you have gone through! Thank you for sharing- very motivational :) Report
Awesome for you! My daughter was on a competition dance team for 5 years until she graduated high school. I too am an empty nester, focussing on ME for once in my life! Keep up the good work! Report
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