''100 Pounds Lost, 10 Lessons Learned''

Editor's Note: After losing more than 100 pounds with SparkPeople, we asked Chasity (CHASITY_ANN) to share her story with you! Her amazing before and after photos are also featured in our New York Times Best-Selling book, The Spark, and in a recent spread in First for Women magazine!

If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be writing an article about health and fitness, I would have laughed until I was blue in the face. Years of poor eating habits and a dislike of physical activity had helped me pack more than 250 pounds on my 5' 2" frame. Growing up, my parents occasionally tried to encourage me to eat healthier and play outside more, but it was a battle—one that this strong-willed girl always won. They constantly reminded me that I was special and loved regardless of my size, and I knew that to be true. While I wasn’t terribly happy about being as large as I was, it never held me back from doing things that I truly wanted to do.

On January 6, 2007, my brother made a decision that would change my life. Our family is very close, yet he and I tend to be more than a little competitive. Shane announced that he had decided to lose 15 pounds by March. I had been considering an attempt to tackle my weight issues, and his announcement lit the necessary fire underneath me. The race was on! With the help of SparkPeople, I began to learn about health, nutrition, portion control and, yes, the dreaded exercise. SparkPeople helped me choose a reasonable weight-loss goal and did the calculations to tell me how much food I should eat every day to lose weight while still staying full and fueled.

My mantra became “Eat less, move more.” I was still philosophically opposed to any formal exercise, but I found that walking briskly through the mall had nearly the same effect as walking around a track (as long as there weren’t any good sales!). Parking farther away from the doors at the grocery store increased the distance that I walked every day and it’s not so difficult to lift weights if you can do it while watching “American Idol.” (And yes, three-pound weights count.) The trick isn’t to start a strict, regimented, complicated program; the trick is simply to START!

With the moral support of my family, friends, co-workers (thanks, Wichita!) and SparkPeople, I have now lost 110 pounds. For the first time in my life, I feel GREAT! I joined the YMCA and I actually enjoy spending a few nights a week strengthening and toning the body that I have slowly uncovered during the past 20 months.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along my journey:
  1. Pay attention to the foods and drinks you put into your mouth. Write them down in a log or a computer-based food tracker like SparkPeople's. It is worth the time; it was absolutely a key to my success. Mindless eating is responsible for more calories than you think.
  2. Understand portion sizes. Most restaurants fill plates with two or three times more than a standard serving. It’s OK to eat out—just be aware of how much you’re eating at one time.
  3. Don’t diet. “Dieting” implies a limited time commitment. In order to lose weight and keep it off, you have to commit to changing the way you think and feel about food.
  4. If you crave something, eat it. If you don’t eat what you're craving, you’re much more likely to overindulge later. I have some type of candy or treat nearly every day, but I make sure it fits into my nutrition plan.
  5. When you stumble (yes, “when” not “if”), get back up. It is inevitable to make mistakes. You will have bad days—days when you eat everything in sight. That’s OK as long as you don’t string them together all the time. Recognize that every single day is a fresh start to meet your goals.
  6. Find a hobby. Often, we eat because we are bored; find something that you enjoy doing that can occupy your time. Oddly, one of my hobbies is cooking. Ironic, no?
  7. Be stubborn. It’s not going to be easy and it is going to take willpower—lots of it. Refuse to fail and you'll reach your goal.
  8. Use your scales! Some people are terrified of seeing the numbers, but weighing in every day is the easiest way to be sure that you are on track. It’s far easier to adjust your routine to get rid of one or two extra pounds than to realize one day that you’ve somehow gained 10 pounds without realizing it sooner.
  9. Talk about it. Have a support system. Yes, it can be embarrassing to admit to everyone that you are trying to lose weight, especially if you’ve tried before with less-than-stellar results. It’s amazing how supportive your friends and family are, though. Give them a chance!
  10. Recognize that food can be an addiction. Stop to think about not only WHAT you are eating but also WHY you are eating it. If you think you have an addiction to food, seek professional help. You really aren’t alone.
Recently, I heard a story from a lady whose boss had stopped her in the hallway at work one day. There was a party going on in the office kitchen and the boss had a piece of cake from the party that he was raving about. He said it was the best cake he’d ever eaten and held out a bite for her to try. She agreed and decided right then to get the recipe. As she turned to walk back to her office, she saw her boss drop the remaining cake into the trash can. She stood there, amazed at his willpower (and pondering a rescue mission for the cake). When she found out later about my recent weight loss, she asked, “How did you do it?” My reply? “I learned how to throw away the cake.”

Chasity Before Chasity After