Journey to Fit: Jackie’s Story

Let’s start the week off with some inspiration!

Journey to Fit features an F&F reader with an inspirational weight loss or weight gain story to share. The men and women featured in Journey to Fit each paved their own path to a healthy lifestyle, and I am thrilled they are willing to share their journeys on my blog. Everyone has a unique story and approach to healthy living, and each person had to start somewhere. I hope you find this series inspiring. Enjoy!

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Today I am featuring Jackie! I went to college in Providence with Jackie, and I’m thrilled to share her story on F&F today.

Journey to Fit: Jackie

Jackie, tell my F&F readers a little about yourself.

Hi! I’m Jackie, a 29 year old pre-k teacher living in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m originally from New Jersey, I went to college at Providence (where Athena and I met!), and I moved to Maryland after college to teach and live with my best friend from high school. I taught elementary special education for five years and am currently in my third year teaching pre-kindergarten at the same elementary school. I love traveling, spending time with my family and friends, and volunteering my time to teach sailing in the spring/summer.

When did your fitness journey begin? Was there a specific moment or event that triggered it for you? 

My fitness journey is a long one! I swam competitively in middle school, high school, and for 2 years of college. During that time, I had a fairly muscular build, but I was never ‘skinny’. I was in awesome shape, working out at least 2.5-3 hours a day, 6 days a week. After I stopped swimming, it was much harder to stay in shape. My muscular build turned soft as college cafeteria food and beer caught up with me. I would work out…but when things got busy, I didn’t go to the gym because it clearly wasn’t a priority. Also, this was the first time in as long as I could remember where I had TIME and didn’t need to plan everything around practices.

After college, my first couple years of teaching were stressful and exhausting. I was dealing with that stress by making poor food choices and going too many happy hours. I would try to go to the gym but again, when things got busy or I was just too tired from dealing with small children and a terrible boss all day, I didn’t go. I then started grad school part time… so I would work, go to class until 10pm twice a week, and do grad school homework on the weekends while still trying to have a social life and navigate my way through living in a new city.

Several years ago, I wasn’t feeling comfortable in my own skin and wasn’t fitting into any of my clothes, so I decided to do something about it. I joined Weight Watchers and lost almost 40 pounds simply by being mindful about portion control and making better food choices. The program made me do some serious self-reflecting about my relationship with food, which was needed. The WW program, however, is very driven by the scale. After a while, I was starting to obsess over the numbers. I was planning out my meals and counting points, but soon that’s all I would think about, and I knew that wasn’t healthy either. Once I fell off the wagon, the pounds started to creep back again. I wasn’t in control, and I gained almost all of the weight back.

Last fall, after the beginning of the school year, I decided it was time to make a lifestyle change. I was now living by myself, loved my current position at work, and I had the time and energy to devote to making a commitment to MYSELF about being healthy. Things just mentally and emotionally felt different, in a good way. I re-joined the gym and started going to group fitness classes (spin/RPM and Body Pump) every single morning before work and on also weekends when I was in town.

I don’t own a scale (see above, re: obsessing over numbers), but will check my weight every so often. My starting weight was 260, and I am around 180 now. I still have weight to lose and don’t have a ‘target’ number in mind–I am concentrating on doing what feels right for me and my body.

What lifestyle changes have you made since the beginning of your journey?

Journey to Fit: Jackie

1. Exercising consistently. I learned (the hard way) that for me to keep the weight off, I need to exercise often. I was too tired and had other commitments that kept coming up after teaching to keep a consistent exercise routine for the afternoon, so now I take a 6am class every weekday morning, no excuses.

2. Learning my triggers. Doing Weight Watchers helped me really look at my food choices and THINK about what I was putting in my mouth. I learned that some foods I simply have to stay away from or not even have in my apartment because it’s a trigger. Once I start, it’s very difficult for me to stop. (Pasta, sweets, soda).

3. Eating cleaner. It was eye-opening to me how when I started to eat cleaner foods, I felt better almost immediately. I try as much as possible to cut out processed food, extra carbs, (bad) sugar, and artificial sweeteners. 2 cups of coffee with half and half is my daily processed splurge because some sort of caffeine is needed to work with 4 year olds all day, every day!

Did you encounter any challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Honestly, every day is a challenge. I have to actively make choices all the time, and that’s not always easy or fun. I had to learn to literally walk away when the temptation for food was too much. I had to learn to control myself in social situations or when I was out. Waking up at 5:00 am to go out in the freezing cold during a terrible winter was many times not pleasant, but I did it. It was also challenging to not see immediate results. In the beginning, I was working so hard, but my body wasn’t changing yet. I knew I was losing weight the healthy way, but it was difficult at times to just have faith and not give up.

Aside from the weight loss, what has rewarded you? What differences do you notice in how you felt then versus how you feel now?

Physically, I have found that I have more energy. I’m a better teacher because I come to school refreshed, awake, and ready to start the day, having already had my workout. Emotionally, the way I feel about myself has changed drastically. I’m not embarrassed by the way I look, so I don’t avoid mirrors or dread clothes shopping like I once did. When I first started to lose weight and people would compliment me, I would thank them but think, ‘that means they noticed that I was bigger before.’ Now I am in a much better place mentally, and when people tell me I look great or ask what I’ve been doing, I sincerely thank them and take the complements to heart. It’s amazing to know that the people who you love care about you, want to see you succeed, and be happy and healthy.

Other small things have been rewarding too, like being a size where I can shop in regular stores, being able to borrow clothes from my friends, and having people notice my progress. I recently had a former co-worker not even recognize me!?

Journey to Fit: Jackie
What are the next steps in your journey?

I’d love to get more into running. Growing up I did a pretty great job of choosing the one sport (swimming) that did not involve running! Whenever we had to do cross training with running, I will tell you that it was not a pretty sight. In the past couple months, I’ve slowlyyyy started to become more comfortable running and over the summer when the weather warmed up, I was actually excited to get out and run.

What tips would you offer others you are trying to lose weight or exercise more?

1. Give yourself some grace. No one is perfect. Bad days happen, pizza happens, beer happens, LIFE happens. And when those things happen (because all of them will, I promise), be accountable, take responsibility, and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day.

2. Don’t be scared to try new things. I never thought I would be able to make it through a spin class, and now I do it at least 3 times a week. I tried yoga this year and really enjoyed it. I never, EVER thought I would be a person who runs outside, but this season, I got over it, laced up my new sneakers (that I won from this blog!), and tried it. Was I fast? Did I look good? Was I wearing the right ‘gear’ for any of those activities? Probably not, but I was doing a lot better than people sleeping or sitting on their couches. Give anything a try because you never know what you’ll like or be good at!

Journey to Fit: Jackie wearing Fresh Foams
3. Set a routine and follow it. Don’t have time to go to the gym in the afternoon? Go in the morning. Have to take care of the kids before work? Go to the gym straight from work in the afternoon. I had too much going on after school to consistently be able to make it to the gym, so I decided I would go in the morning. Growing up I often got up early for swim practice, so it was not a jarring thing to see the 5 o’clock hour every day. I quickly found the group fitness classes and instructors that I enjoyed, and doing so helped me keep this routine of going every weekday morning for 7 months. It’s fun to see familiar faces at 5:30 in the morning and the instructors help keep me motivated.

4. Get out of your own way. The mind is a powerful yet tricky thing. Think you can’t run another 5 minutes? You can. Think you can’t lift that bar for 8 more reps? You can. Think you can’t put on a gear higher during a spin class climb? You can. Think you can’t walk away from the delicious looking bagels in the coffee room at work? You can. Think you can’t wake up at 5 o’clock every single morning? You can. Get over yourself and just do it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks so much Athena for allowing me to contribute to this series!  I am usually a private person when it comes to this stuff, so it was a big step for me to put myself out there to all you wonderful F&F readers. I hope anyone who is just beginning or is struggling with their own journey can use my story as an inspiration and motivation. A HUGE thank you goes out to all of my family, friends, co-workers, and especially my fitness instructors for always being positive and helping me along the way. I certainly could not have done it without you all.

Journey to Fit: Jackie

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Thank you for sharing, Jackie! I’m so happy you shared your story here, and you are definitely an inspiration to my readers!

Readers, leave Jackie some love! She deserves it!

If you or someone you know has a weight loss or weight gain story to share, please email me at fitnessandfeta@gmail.com. I would love to feature you. This series will run as long as I receive enough content to keep it going.

For past Journey to Fit posts:

Journey to Fit: Jen and Kelly’s Story

It’s been a while since I posted an inspirational Journey to Fit story!

Journey to Fit features an F&F reader with an inspirational weight loss or weight gain story to share. The men and women featured in Journey to Fit each paved their own path to a healthy lifestyle, and I am thrilled they are willing to share their journeys on my blog. Everyone has a unique story and approach to healthy living, and each person had to start somewhere. I hope you find this series inspiring. Enjoy!

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This month I am featuring Jen and her twin sister Kelly. Jen works on the wellness team with me at my full-time job, and she blogs with Kelly at Twins Take On Life. Their story is incredible, and they were featured in the August issue of Women’s Health this summer for their weight loss journey!

Journey to Fit: Jen and Kelly

Jen, tell my F&F readers a little about you and your sister.

Kelly and I are 28 year old identical twins. In 2009 we were one year out of college and had no direction as to what we wanted to do with our lives. We turned to food and to an unhealthy lifestyle for comfort. Eating heavy meals at restaurants and late at night, as well as living a sedentary lifestyle, was normal for us. One day we saw a picture of us posted on Facebook, and it all just clicked. We were beyond shocked seeing ourselves and asked each other, “Who are those girls? They can’t be us!?” We finally saw ourselves as the world did: severely overweight and unhealthy. We decided right then and there, looking at that picture, that we NEEDED to do something and do it together!

Journey to Fit: Jen and Kelly

What lifestyle changes have you made since the beginning of your journey?

One thing we pride ourselves about is that we didn’t do any crazy diets, drink crazy shakes, take any pills, or have any surgeries to lose the weight. The changes we made we really simple. We started working out 3-4 days a week together with a trainer, doing 30 minutes of weight training and 30 minutes of cardio each session. Since then, we have picked up running and other forms of exercise (bootcamps, boxing, etc.) to stay fit. We also tracked our food in a diary to see what we were eating and how much, eliminated alcohol for the most part (at least when we first started), and limited dining out at restaurants. Instead, we pumped up our intake of fresh vegetables and fruit, lean protein, and whole grains. We cut back on mindless snacking and desserts as well, and just tried to follow a balanced diet. We each started our journey at 254 pounds, and we now weigh 164.

Journey to Fit: Jen and Kelly

Did you encounter any challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?

The challenges we faced during our journey were mostly social challenges. How do you spend time with friends without going to unhealthy restaurants or going out drinking? We had to completely rethink how we spent time with people and what we made a priority. If friends wanted to get together on a night we had a workout, we would reschedule. If we did have to got to restaurant, we would order what we thought would be the healthiest option and split it. We also leaned on each other a LOT. We helped each other find motivation when the other needed it, and we were each others support system because we had many people around us who didn’t support us. Having each other through the journey is how we overcame any obstacle we faced!

Journey to Fit: Jen and Kelly

Aside from the weight loss, what has rewarded you? What differences do you notice in how you felt then versus how you feel now?

Throughout our journey, we ran several road races together, including 2 half marathons and a triathlon. It has been rewarding to cross the finish lines together and accomplish something athletic that we never thought we would be able to do! We never care about our time, only about finishing something that our old selves wouldn’t have even attempted!

Journey to Fit: Jen and Kelly

What are the next steps in your journey?

Right now we are working on the maintenance stage of our journey and still getting fitter along the way. We like to try new ways of exercising and challenging ourselves! Also, we are trying to motivate others to get healthy too by helping people learn from our journey to start their own!

What tips would you offer others you are trying to get on the path to a healthy lifestyle?

One of the biggest tips we offer people is to just start small! Losing weight can seem like a daunting task, especially if your goal is too high. Just start by making small changes. Start walking more every day, take an exercise class, and find a routine that works for you. Just because you have weight to lose doesn’t mean you have to start doing CrossFit classes every day of the week. Find what works for you and keep working on it. Same with your nutrition. Start by adding in more water, veggies, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein, and slowly take away junk food, fast food, and restaurants. If you try taking away too much at once, you will feel overwhelmed. You don’t have to go straight to eating quinoa and kale! Basically, small steps will lead to healthy changes.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes! We were recognized this year by the American Heart Association for our journey, and we won the 2014 Lifestyle Change Award. This is a charity that’s near and dear to our hearts, so it means a lot to us!

Journey to Fit: Jen and Kelly

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Thank you for sharing, Jen and Kelly! I think I speak for all of us when I say that you two are truly an inspiration.

Readers, leave these twins some love! Aside from reading their blog, you can also follow their journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you or someone you know has a weight loss or weight gain story to share, please email me at fitnessandfeta@gmail.com. I would love to feature you. This series will run as long as I receive enough content to keep it going.

For past Journey to Fit posts:

Journey to Fit: Laura’s Story

Time for another Journey to Fit story!

Journey to Fit features an F&F reader with an inspirational weight loss story to share. The men and women featured in Journey to Fit each paved their own path to a healthy lifestyle, and I am thrilled they are willing to share their journeys on my blog. Everyone has a unique story and approach to healthy living, and each person had to start somewhere. I hope you find this series inspiring. Enjoy!

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Up for this month is reader Laura!

Journey To Fit: Laura

Laura, tell my F&F readers a little about yourself.

Hi! I’m Laura, and I’m 23 years old. I live in Cambridge, UK. I recently got engaged to Philip, and I have a little fur baby (cat) called Kia. I work full-time as a test engineer.

I’ve been overweight most of my life. It goes as far back as primary school where I was always bigger than my friends. I gained weight throughout high school, college, and university. I never weighed myself or got weighed until I was in university and weighed in at 258 pounds. I had made feeble attempts to lose weight before then but to no success. Getting around campus was a nightmare, and I was always so out of breath walking to my classes.

Journey To Fit: Laura

After three years, I’m down 123 pounds. I now weigh 135 pounds and am currently maintaining my weight.

What lifestyle changes have you made since the beginning of your journey?

Since the beginning of my journey, I’ve made several lifestyle changes. I’ve considerably changed my eating habits. Before, I ate whatever I wanted when I felt like it. Now, I still eat what I would like to eat, but it’s in moderation.

From the beginning of my journey, I have always said that I wouldn’t restrict myself from any foods. It works for some people, but it doesn’t for me. Whenever I tried to restrict, I wanted it more and it led to binging. So, I’ll allow myself cake or a sweet treat, but I’ll portion it correctly with no second or third helpings! 😉

In terms of exercise, I was doing nothing before other than maybe a bit of walking between classes. Now, I run four times a week and fit in yoga and kettlebells at home too.

yoga

I track everything daily, both exercise and food. It’s been a staple in my weight loss, as I can control and monitor exactly what is going in and what is going out.

Did you encounter any challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?

About halfway through my journey, I was really struggling with my motivation. My weight loss was slowing, and I wasn’t seeing much progress both on the scales and in measurements. It made me feel like giving up, like that was it, and I couldn’t do anything more.

Fortunately, I’ve had a great support system who has helped and encouraged me along the way. When things got tough and I didn’t want to exercise, my family and friends were there to spur me on. It’s been what has gotten me through lack of motivation.

I started my blog as a sort of diary for myself so that I could be accountable. I started following other fitness blogs too, and it’s been a great source of motivation and inspiration for me.

Aside from the weight loss, what has rewarded you? What differences do you notice in how you felt then versus how you feel now?

I think the changes I’ve noticed since losing weight would definitely be my energy levels and my confidence. I hardly had any energy before starting my weight loss journey. I was always tired and lethargic, and it was SUCH an effort to get around anywhere. Now I’m able to run for at least two hours at a time before I feel tired, and everyday tasks are just so much easier.

Journey to Fit: Laura

My confidence has improved too, though not as much as I’d like. I used to shy away and wouldn’t really like talking to people. I’m slowly coming out of my shell, but I’m not 100% yet. I still feel very awkward in social situations and worry about judgment a lot.

What are the next steps in your journey?

At the moment, my next step is to continue with maintaining my weight like I’ve done since November last year. In the not so distant future, I will be going in for skin removal surgery, as I’ve unfortunately been left with some loose skin in certain areas after my weight loss that cannot be removed via toning or exercise. After that, it will be a case of letting my body recover and building my fitness back up.

What tips would you offer others you are trying to lose weight or exercise more?

DON’T GIVE UP!

No one ever said that it would be easy. It definitely isn’t. You just have to keep pushing it and keep going until you get where you want to be. Set yourself small goals to meet over a reasonable time frame.

Get yourself a workout buddy. They do the world of good, and having just one other person giving you support can make a massive difference.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think I’ve probably covered most things in the above, but if I was to leave behind my favorite motto that I’ve had since the beginning it would be that “the voice inside your head that says that you can’t do this IS A LIAR!”

It’s a quote I’ve stood by throughout my whole weight loss journey, through tough times, when my mind tells me enough is enough and that I’ve done everything I can. I just learned to ignore the bad thoughts and tried to think of more positive aspects of my journey.

You can do ANYTHING you want if you set your mind to it, and I’ve proven this to myself by losing 123 pounds when my mind told me I couldn’t.

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Thank you for sharing your awesome story, Laura. Keep it up!

Readers, leave Laura some love! You can find out more about Laura and read more about her journey at her blog, Laura’s Fat to Fit Journey. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you or someone you know has a weight loss story to share, please email me at fitnessandfeta@gmail.com. I would love to feature you. This series will run as long as I receive enough content to keep it going.

For past Journey to Fit posts: