Losing any amount of weight is impressive but when your loses equate to more than a quarter of your body weight, you have battled hard and triumphed. Women who carry a lot of extra weight often have the added disadvantage of being traumatized by social stigma and years of taunting. "Those scars stay with you," says Nicole Zernone, 42, a New York City schoolteacher who has lost 90 pounds and wants to lose 20 more. "As you lose weight, the memory of being teased and feeling ashamed floods you. A lot of acute stress flashes back." Those scars can make your successful results that much sweeter.
Here are 11 things that women who have lost more than 50 pounds want you to know about the ups and downs of this sort of transformation:
1. The fashion options are jaw-dropping
When you are over 200 pounds, it can be hard to find clothes that suit you. Zernone always wanted to shop at Anthropologie but having been 240 pounds, it was impossible. "There was literally nothing in the store that fit me," she said. Now that she's dropped 12 sizes and weighs in the 150s, things have changed. "It's such a thrill to buy clothes because they're my style, not just because they fit," she says. Her greatest pleasure these days is wearing knee high boots. "Slipping into a boot is such a simple pleasure, and you can't understand this unless you've been a size where your legs were too big to fit into the boots."
2. Embrace support -- even after you've lost the weight
Tiffany Graf, 47, began her journey at 236 pounds. In less than a year she has lost 50 pounds with plans to lose 50 more. When she needs a boost, she turns to two of her sisters-in-law. "We keep each other going with inspirational texts and reminders that we're not alone in this struggle," she says. "Most importantly, they help me when I slip so I don't get too down on myself and I'm able to move on."
3. Be wary of the rebound...
Successfully losing weight, and maintaining that loss, often comes after years of crash dieting and dramatic weight fluctuations. Zernone keeps herself on track by jumping on the scale a few times a week. "It's so simple for 1 pound back to become 5 pounds, then 10, and 20, and so on," she says. "It's incredibly stressful and terrifying when you've worked so hard and it can slip away so easily."
4. ...But don't freak yourself out!
Adjusting to your new weight and trusting that it won't come back can take some time. Jade Levine, 30, began losing weight 4 years ago, starting out at 175 pounds. Now, at 125 pounds she says, "I'm just now starting to feel less stressed about it coming back." She had been so worried about the weight returning that she was exercising 6 days a week and weighing herself daily. "I was overdoing it and making myself crazy with the scale," she says. "It's very stressful and emotionally exhausting to live that way."
5. You'll always see a fat lady in the mirror
Sometimes, no matter how much weight you lose, you will still see yourself as heavier. Despite dropping 12 sizes, Zernone still sees a 200+ pound women in the mirror and finds herself falling victim to old habits. "Sometimes I catch myself turning sideways to walk between desks, or unnecessarily stepping aside for someone when I don't need to," she says. "I'm not sure if that will ever go away."
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6. Going to the gym never gets easier
Even after losing their weight, Zernone and Levine still find the gym difficult. It was an effort for them to get there and once they did, there was always someone slimmer, stronger, fitter and younger who made them feel ashamed. Both women have given up the gym for exercises that suit them. You can do the same. If the gym feels impossible, you can workout at home. The BodyRock Beginner Bootcamp is a great place to start! Everyday, for 30 days, a new workout will be delivered to your inbox, for free! The workouts are specifically designed to challenge your body without overwhelming or intimidating you. Each workout lasts between 10-12 minutes so you can easily fit them into your day. When you are sweating it out in your own living room, those feelings of being inadequate and of being judged, disappear. It is just you and your goals. Nothing will stand in your way. When you are done this 30 day program, you can bust it out a second time or start the Intermediate Bootcamp! Like the Beginner Bootcamp, the Intermediate program offers 30 days of trainer designed programs delivered to your inbox at no cost! Why put yourself through the mental torture of the gym if you don't have to? Sign up for the Beginner Bootcamp here
and the Intermediate Bootcamp here
7. You're younger than you realize
Graf suffered with arthritic knees, sciatic nerve pain and plantar fasciitis. Despite regular cortisone shots and pain killers, she would still cry from the pain at the end of her work day. "I didn't think I'd be able to continue to work," she says. "It was all torture, but once the weight started to come off, all the pain went away. I feel alive and mobile again." Now, she's both medication and pain free. The same can be said for Zernone. She experienced incredible joint pain and her mobility was suffering. "I didn't want to admit that my body was falling apart with the weight," she says. "But it's true. Nobody needs to live with that pain. Now that so much weight is off, I'm pain-free. I can sled with my daughter. I can contort myself in yoga in ways that were totally impossible when I was over 230 pounds."
8. Your formerly favourite foods will make you ill
You used to be able to gorge on an endless supply of treats but once you drop the weight, your tastes change. "Sweets are just too cloying now," Zernone says. "I used to eat cookies without restraint. Now I eat half of one and don't want the rest." Graf tells a similar story. "Maybe it's part of being healthier, but the body really tells you that it doesn't want those things anymore," she says. "The nice part is you don't miss the foods you once loved. Now I crave veggies, not pasta and Italian bread."
9. You'll discover tricks that work for you
When you are working toward your healthy eating goals, you will learn all about balance. If you spend your day loading up on simple carbs like cereals, white bread, pasta and sodas, you will overeat. If you eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein and complex carbohydrates, you will find yourself feeling satisfied without eating nearly as much food. "Once you replace white flour with vegetables and you replace processed food with natural food, you feel full and you learn portion control," says Levine. "Then you look back and can't believe how much you were eating unnecessarily." If you need help balancing your diet, the BodyRock Meal Plans can help. The plans include 30 days worth of meals and snacks that prove healthy eating doesn't have to be boring. With detailed weekly grocery lists, all you have to do is buy the ingredients and follow the recipe. We are talking real deal whole, nutritious foods, prepared by you in your own home. We do all the planning, you do the cooking! Are you ready? Get your meal plan here
10. You can accomplish a lot when you think small
Thinking about how far you have to go on your weight loss journey, and any failures you've had in the past, can be enough to make you quit before you even get started. Break your goals down into smaller, more manageable pieces. "It's depressing to think I need to lose 50 more pounds after all that I've done," says Graf. "Instead, I need to think about very small chunks. I'm 51 pounds lighter. Can I get to 55 before Valentine's Day? And, if I don't, it's not the end of the world. I've learned to accept that and stay on course, because I never want to go back to where I was."
11. The struggle is worth it
No matter how hard you've had to fight and how many tears you've cried, reaching your goal weight feels wonderful. Losing large amounts of weight will completely change your life. "The weight loss was a long journey, but it's worth it," Levine says. "And anyone can do it. It's hard to believe when you start or when your weight creeps back up, but if you stick with your plan, you really can meet your goals. That feels amazing."
Have you lost a significant amount of weight? What do you wish people knew?