Can someone be addicted to eating? For Amberlynn, the answer was a resounding “yes.” At her lowest point—and her highest weight, 213 pounds—food was in complete control of her thoughts, emotions and actions. Today, after years of hard work, determination and the support of a strong online community, she has reclaimed her life and found true happiness.
If you ask Amberlynn to describe the person she used to be—the one who used food as a drug—her choice of adjectives isn't very flattering. Small-minded. Selfish. Depressed. Negative. She paints a picture of a young woman who was lost, lacked empathy for others, blamed others for her own misfortunes and pushed away the very people who loved her most. Today, Amberlynn recognizes that her callous ways were just a mask, one she wore to hide her self-hatred and insecurities.
"When so much of life felt dark and hopeless, food was the one thing that made me feel good," she says. "It was like a treat after a long, hard day." After years of this food abuse, Amberlynn found herself at the brink of obesity.
The Turning Point
After gaining 85 pounds, Amberlynn woke up one day and decided that something had to change. There wasn't any specific event or trigger, but more a series of little moments that added up to a moment of realization.
"That very day, I threw away my cigarettes and did a workout video in my room," she says. "Then I went to my kitchen and started clearing out all the junk food." After so many years of feeling hopeless and sad, Amberlynn was suddenly angry. "I was mad at myself for letting it go that way for so long," she says. "I felt something in myself that I hadn't felt in a long time: Determination. It was scary, but also exciting."
After so many years of neglecting her health, Amberlynn knew there was no quick fix, but she was finally ready to start down the path to recovery. She started looking up information online and came across SparkPeople. "Here was this website that wanted to help me on my journey, for free. Millions of people coming together to change their lives for the better. How brilliant!"
Amberlynn was motivated and comforted by like-minded people who were more than willing to share their advice, commiserate with her struggles and encourage her to stay on a healthy path, one day and one decision at a time.
"SparkPeople helped jump-start my journey to self discovery," she says. "With the calorie counter and exercise tracker, you are held accountable for your progress, which can be helpful in adjusting your efforts for maximum results. Not to mention the thousands of recipes for healthy eating [were also helpful]. With a support group of this size and the tools they supply for free, it's no wonder SparkPeople is changing lives."
Small Sparks Toward Big Success
Amberlynn started slow, with small changes. She cut out unhealthy foods from her diet one at a time. "I gradually realized I needed to avoid certain things, like sugar and greasy foods. Both are big enemies to my waistline, skin, mood, gut...you name it!" She also began exercising every day, for small amounts of time.
She stopped making excuses.
"Every day, I got a little stronger, ran a little farther, breathed a little harder and got a little smaller," she says. The chronic back pain that had plagued her for years—and had even impacted her ability to work—was gone. Her clothes no longer fit, and she had to shop for smaller sizes.
The improvements weren't limited to just losing pounds and inches: Before long, Amberlynn started gaining a stronger sense of discipline and self-respect. She worked on strengthening her communication skills, accepting her past and learning to forgive people's transgressions, including her own. She realized that before she could change her body, she had to change her mind.
"I stopped looking for all the things I did wrong and started paying more attention to the things I did right, which was quite a bit when I actually looked for them," she says. "I stopped telling myself I wasn't enough, and started proving to myself that I was plenty."
Since joining SparkPeople four years ago, Amberlynn is finally the person she has always wanted to become—not a millionaire or a super star or a president, but simply the best version of herself: A healthy, happy and confident person.
"When I started this whole thing, I just wanted to be skinny," she admits. "I never even realized all the other benefits to being fit. This process doesn't just change your body; it completely rearranges your insides, too. The emotional baggage you shed amounts to more than the physical weight. And that's the real beauty!"
Running Down a Dream
A weight loss journey is filled with ups and downs, a mix of trivial, tedious routines and moments of triumph. For Amberlynn, one of the high points came the day she ran her longest distance yet without stopping. She'd always claimed to hate running, mainly because she couldn't physically do it. That day, she decided to try it, just to see how far she could go.
"I didn't get tired for a long time, and all the while I felt a smile start to spread across my face," she says. "Joy! I felt joy while running! I've heard so many people tell me it's not so bad once you start doing it, and I would look at them like they were crazy. Now here I was, with no more back pain and more energy than I'd ever had before—and I was running!"
Appetite for Success
Amberlynn has a busy schedule, so she usually chooses easy foods that are high in protein and fiber to keep her full and energized.
Breakfast usually includes fruit and Greek yogurt or oatmeal. Because she works in a restaurant, the temptation to eat out can be tough. She always packs her lunch, typically a turkey sandwich on honey wheat bread with yogurt, a portion of mixed unsalted nuts, string cheese and a granola bar.
On the occasions when Amberlynn does order from the menu at work, she makes healthy choices like fruit, a salad, grilled chicken breast and broccoli. "When eating out, I don't hesitate to place special orders and ask questions," she says.
For dinner, Amberlynn usually makes a typical household meal, but substitutes for the not-so-healthy ingredients. "One of my staple meals is spaghetti, and SparkRecipes is full of healthy ways to make it," she says. "I like to use fiber-filled noodles, and ground turkey instead of beef. Prego is my favorite brand of sauce, or you can make your own."
Amberlynn's Weight Loss Tips
If there's one thing Amberlynn has learned about weight loss, it's that no single strategy fits all. "Everyone is different, and everyone loses weight differently," she says. That said, she does want to share these tips that helped during her journey.
Amberlynn's transformation has sparked her husband to start his own journey. Since joining her on the path to health and wellness, he's lost 70 pounds. Today, their relationship is stronger than it's ever been.
For those who are where she was just a few years ago, feeling hopeless and dejected, Amberlynn has a message. "I can't tell you how to find your path or what it will look like, only that it is possible. It's your journey, and one you will never forget and will never regret. Are you ready to take the first step?"
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