''I lost more than 90 pounds—and found myself.''

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.
  • Take your time. "Don't force it," she says. "Change is a process, not a race." Amberlynn's path wasn't without its plateaus or setbacks—she recalls one three-week period when she didn't lose a single pound, and another rough stretch when she gained back 15 pounds—but she never lost sight of her goals. "Patience is one of the hardest things to learn, but when you do learn it, you will know peace of mind."
  • Start today. "For those of you who are reading this and thinking about how you want to make a change, I was you! I talked about it, I thought about it and I kept saying, 'Tomorrow. I'll do something tomorrow.’ My advice to you is to get up and make the change—today!”
  • Embrace baby steps. Amberlynn's results began when she decided to ditch the "all or nothing" mentality. "Use whatever time you have, whether it's 10 minutes or an hour," she recommends. "Make small changes to your diet."
  • Make a list of goals to motivate you. With her journey underway, Amberlynn made a list of things she wanted to accomplish in her "new life." These included going camping, going hiking, running a marathon, taking dance classes and becoming a personal trainer—all things the "old" Amberlynn would never have had the confidence or ability to tackle.
  • Make it a lifestyle. After losing more than 90 pounds, Amberlynn faced the arguably tougher challenge of keeping the weight off. To continue with her new healthy habits, she learned to listen to her body and heed its cues. "Your body will tell you what it needs," she says. "You learn what makes you gain weight, and what exercises work best for you. You learn what foods make you feel the best."
  • Don't be shy about selfies. Amberlynn took photos of herself every week so she could see the small changes along the way. Even during those weeks when the scale didn't budge, the images showed her that all the hard work was paying off.
  • Never put yourself down. "If you think a bad thought, immediately take it back and replace it with a positive one," she says. "It's exhausting to be negative all the time. Letting go of the pain and the guilt and the anger is just as rewarding, if not more so, than shedding the weight."
  • Skip the fad diets. Amberlynn reiterates that there are no tricks or shortcuts to achieve real results. "The only thing that works is work."
  • Ditch processed and preserved foods. "If a food has a long shelf life, it doesn't belong in your life." She also recommends cutting out sugar.
  • Invest in good gear. When she made the commitment to regular exercise, Amberlynn's first purchase was a good pair of athletic shoes. "I love Nike's line for men and women, but there are many good brands out there to fit what you need." She also recommends a speedometer or fitness tracker to track your progress, music to boost motivation, and a camera and measuring tape to gauge results.
  • Portion control is key. Learn how to moderate what goes on your plate.
  • Set small goals and celebrate them. "No victory is a small one, so rejoice in each one. Be proud of every effort you make, because even the smallest of them are leading you to a better life."
Inspiring Others to Make a Change
 
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?"

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Comments

1SUZIQ11 10/5/2018
50 pounds gone. I want to keep it going but this plateau is beginning to wear on me. If I can get to 90 pounds gone I will be so happy! Report
MUSICNUT 3/27/2018
Thank you for sharing :) Report
LEANJEAN6 3/18/2018
Quite an inspiration and I want to follow your pointers! Report
KHALIA2 3/8/2018
You "Rock", Amberlynn! You are truly an inspiration to many. Thank you! Report
INSIGHT62 3/3/2018
Very inspiring journey. Everything centered around just being healthy. Report
KENYAW1 2/14/2018
Out of all the weight loss success stories I have read, your was the most inspiring to me. Report
ERICALEAHA 2/10/2018
Thanks for sharing your story. I am at the point of trying to find what works for me. Food & Exercise. I know I can do it. Report
JAYLANJACKIE 2/9/2018
Took notes to pass on to my friends. Report
SREED41 1/23/2018
You've inspired me and im just beginning, just started yesterday and i have been the most happy, i've been in a long time, I try to eat right and have done better with sparkppl, and i hula dance 2 x a day, so ty, hugs keep up the gr8 wrk, Report
ALBERTA119 1/21/2018
Thank you for sharing your story very inspiring! Report
CAROLYNINJOY1 1/15/2018
Well written. Congratulations on your success. Thank you for sharing your story. Report
SPARKLED146 1/10/2018
Good inspiration. Report
HONEYSPOILSME 1/1/2018
I liked the "if it has a long shelf life it doesn't belong in your life." I'm trying to eat more quality foods and this struck a chord with me. Report
Great article-a great one to share Report
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sitting here and feeling quite inspired encourage and with good solid ideas. Nothing like the voice of experience sharing with you. Thank you again and congratulations Report
This was far the most inspiring blog entry I've read so far, thank you for sharing the experience! It resonated with my own feelings about how negative self-talk often can be the real reason for not loosing weight. Not the easiest thing to do - to change our perception of ourselves, isn't it :) But totally worth the baby steps!

Truly happy about this lady. Keep going! :) :) Report
NEW2ME2018
Very inspirational for someone with the same amount of weight to lose. Just starting out today and will take it one day at a time minute by minute. I know it will be a worthwhile journey. Report
This is very inspirational Report
ROCKS8ROX
Inspirational! Report
thank u Report
Great weight loss. Takes determination and dedication. Report
RAPUNZEL53
Great. Report
great news for her---- She must be so proud! Report
Thank you and congratulations. Report
You are inspiring!
Report
Inspirational read. Thank youd Report
Congratulations! Report
Great success story and happy it was shared with SP, giving me hope and the motivation to keep on the journey of weight loss and self discovery. Report
Excellent advice in your blog. Thanks so much for sharing. CONGRATS to you on all your hard work. Keep motivated and keep strong. I am hoping to get back to my routine since I have been sick for few weeks. Your Inspirational blog will get me started again Great and appreciative. God bless.
Irish Ei Report
Thanks for the reinsuring that I can lose my weight successfully once again. Report
very motivational, thank you Report
SHAUNAI1
Very inspiring. Just starting out it can feel a little overwhelming. It helps to hear about other peoples success. I feel like maybe it is possible this time. Report
Very encouraging story! Thank you! Report
WELL DONE! and well written. Thank you! Report
You motivate me to do more! Report
Great story ! It sound like she was talking about me. Very motivational !!! Report
She did great! I hope I can get to my goal of 97 lbs to lose. I have lost 48 already. Hello everyone have a great day! Report
She did great! I hope I can get to my goal of 97 lbs to lose. I have lost 48 already. Hello everyone have a great day! Report
WAY TO GO , Amberlynn ! Just what I needed for some motivation. I'm a mirror reflection of you inside & out when you started.
Thanks for sharing some hope ! Report
CHARLOTTE2539
What an inspiring story. I appreciate the tips too. I need to incorporate a few of these. Report
SMILEABBYG
Wow!! Very happy for her, and who she was before is who i am today, hopefully someday I'll be able to say those things as well :) Report
WALKABOUTCHANGE
What encouragement! I feel there is hope in finding my path. Report
That's a Awesome story & a Awesome Journey. I more trouble at night. I'm always looking for something to binge on. I'm a diabetic. I always have peanut butter on hand. It's a quick fix when my sugar is low. Have any help? Report
Wow! That's quite a journey! You really persevered. I am having a hard time losing the last 7 lbs. If you can lose 90 lbs, I'm sure i can lose 7! Report
Thank you for sharing! Report
Congrats!! Report
Congratulations and thank you very much for sharing your story. I am also an "all or nothing" kind of person and can be very harsh on myself. Baby steps is what I'm looking for. Thank you for the the motivation! Report
Congratulations! Report
Congrats -- I need some inspiration and especially motivation. I love your tips -- make a list of goals, that is what I'm going to do.
Thank you!! Report
I agree very inspiring but would love to see the selfies you took. Report