Meet Erin. She's 30 and lives in Florida. Happily engaged and recently promoted at work, she loves her life. She wakes up feeling great, rarely stops moving throughout her waking hours, and goes to sleep each night with a smile on her face. Life isn't perfect, but every day feels better than the last, she says.
Erin is so committed to this life that it's hard for her to remember what it was like before, when she weighed almost twice what she does now. When she had little energy to stay awake after work and all she wanted to do on her days off was sleep. When she was in excruciating pain from even the smallest physical efforts and walking around the block seemed like torture. When she looked in the mirror and didn't recognize the woman she'd become and didn't know how to change her life.
She wanted to marry the love of her life, raise babies together, and do all the fun things she could only watch from afar. When she moved to Florida from New Jersey, she was excited about the year-round sun, access to the beach, and all the theme parks and outdoor festivals. But most of the time, she stayed inside or came home early because she was tired and in pain. Life was passing her by, and she felt helpless. Looking back now on the day she decided to change everything, it feels like a dream—a nightmare—but she's grateful for it. Looking back, the worst day of her life was also among the best, because it was the first day of the rest of her life.
The harness was stuck. No matter what she did, Erin couldn't fasten the safety belt around her middle. She held her breath, sucked in her stomach, and tried wiggling in her seat. Her fiancé, JT, then tried, but to no avail. People were laughing and pointing, and the line was backing up. The roller-coaster operator came over to see what was wrong.
It was the day after Erin's longtime boyfriend had proposed to her, and they were at a Florida theme park to celebrate. The joy that hadn't left her face since he got down on one knee was replaced by fear and panic. Finally, it clasped.
Her humiliation turned to relief and then terror as the ride began. Was the harness secure? Would it hold her weight, or would she plummet to her death on what should have been a day of celebration? The ride lasted a mere three minutes, but every moment felt like an eternity. She held her breath, gripped her fiancé's hand, and prayed for it to be over. It soon was, and her giddiness returned, until they picked up the photos taken on the ride. Her stomach dropped as she looked at the woman in the photo. She knew she had gained weight, but really? That was what she looked like?
I look like a pillow stuffed into a wastebasket, she thought. Right then and there, she knew something had to change. She and JT wanted to start a family, but Erin asked herself, How can I take care of kids if I can't take care of myself?
At Sea World, the site of the fateful roller-coaster ride
After years of trying maple-syrup cleanses, all-meat fad diets, and every diet pill in the pharmacy, she was ready to lose the weight for good. No more quick fixes or searches for an instant cure.
This is it, she told herself. It has to be the right way. Nothing ever worked before because I didn't do it the right way.
"How to live a healthy life," she typed into her browser; she was not going to look into diets. SparkPeople.com popped up in her search results and she joined immediately. She got started on her new life and never looked back.
"I started slow, didn't change all my habits at once," she said. Instead of downing two liters of cola—up to 878 calories a day—she drank water. She added one new, healthy habit at a time, adding more new ones when the existing ones felt easy. This new way of living wasn't about restriction, as she had feared. It was about freedom. She could make all the healthy choices she wanted, with real results. She was excited about this new life.
Six months after finding SparkPeople, Erin had lost several pants sizes, had broken her after-work fast-food habit, and felt more confident than ever. She had shattered her initial goals and was well on her way to reaching more. She was motivated, and she was committed. But not that day. That day, she was terrified. She and JT had returned to their favorite amusement park, and she was about to ride the roller coaster where she nearly got stuck the day after their engagement. Her palms sweated and she struggled to catch her breath. She panicked as doubts flooded her mind: What if I still can't fit? What if I still need help getting in? What if people laugh?
JT held her hand and looked her in the eyes. "I'm so proud of you," he said. She squeezed her eyes shut and reached for the buckle. Click! It snapped, without effort. Erin exhaled, and looked at JT. "Told you so," he said.
Those next three minutes were the best of her life. With the man she loved next to her, the one who'd been by her side no matter what size she was, she was now literally flying high without a care in the world. She was full of energy and felt like she could do anything. She laughed, thinking how a roller-coaster ride represented the journey that had brought her full circle in just six months.
(Left: 60 pounds down--at Sea World again!)
When Erin saw the photos, she began to cry. There was a woman who fit comfortably into the seat. There was a woman who was happy. There was a woman who had succeeded. "I realized how my effort had resulted in this wonderful moment," she said. "I am prouder of myself than I ever have been before. Prouder than the day I graduated high school. Prouder than the day I got my college degree. Prouder than the day I got a promotion. And why? Because I always knew I could do those things. But losing the weight? That was something I never thought I could do. But I did do it. And that feeling of accomplishment—more than just how I look—boosts my self-esteem more than I ever could have imagined."
You know how we all say "someday, I'll . . . ," and for many of us "someday" is code for "never"? Erin was one of those people, but with her new, healthy lifestyle, she is actually taking on those "someday" goals one at a time, with energy leftover for everything else life brings her way.
Almost five years later, Erin is 117 pounds lighter. She is at a healthy weight for the first time since childhood, and she's at the weight she's been trying to reach since age fourteen. Erin was promoted at work to a position that has her on her feet all day. She spends her weekends with JT, exploring Florida, not sitting on the couch. She has energy to do what she needs to do to stay healthy, such as exercise, and lives her life to the fullest. When she has a rough day or her enthusiasm wanes, to boost her motivation she thinks back to those two roller-coaster rides. For Erin, this new life is fun!
Erin used to think of weight loss as being on or off the diet bandwagon. Now, she uses an analogy that's common among SparkPeople members: losing weight is a journey, not a destination. And with The Spark Solution, you can get started quickly and on the right path, which keeps your motivation levels high.
Those first two weeks, Erin said, were crucial to her success. Though Erin started with small steps, she saw big changes in her energy levels, motivation, and metabolism. She discovered a new way to think about weight loss, which made all the difference in her overall success. And she learned how to avoid the event that most likely leads to failure with weight loss: giving up. She didn't give up when she ate a cookie, because she knew it wouldn't negate the days of healthy choices she had made. (She can now eat a cookie without guilt.) She didn't quit when walking around the block left her out of breath. (She's training to run her first 5K race.) And she didn't turn back. She was building momentum even in her first days on the plan, and she knew she would lose the weight this time. She's now comfortably maintaining her goal weight.
Healthy living is about living! "I realized how good it felt," Erin says. Two weeks from now, you'll say the same thing.
Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
Erin's story has been excerpted from The Spark Solution, the complete two-week diet program to jump-start weight loss and total body health. Whether you want to lose 10 pounds, 50 pounds, or 100 pounds, this book is going to change how you think about weight loss. It will set you up for a lifetime of healthy living by helping change the way you think about weight loss and setting goals that will lead to long-term success. Don’t have your copy yet? It’s now available in paperback at an everyday low price!
*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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