By Tamara Jacobs, as told to Saundra Young
Thinking about my weight loss journey can still bring me to tears.
At 30 years old, I was 220 pounds -- heavier than I’d ever been. And there was no slowdown in sight. In the back of my mind, I had a nagging fear that by the time I got to 35, I’d be 300 pounds and have diabetes. I felt terrible about myself, like I had sabotaged myself for years.
I gained a significant amount of weight 7 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. I went from 125 pounds to 150 pounds. From a size 5 to a size 12.
Initially, I liked the extra pounds, the new curves, the voluptuousness on my 5’4” frame, but then I continued to gain weight. Two years after her birth, I was 175 pounds, and I knew things were getting out of hand.
I tried to work out, but I really wasn’t motivated, so I stopped. I tried fitness videos, not going out to eat, intermittent fasting. Nothing worked.
Over the years, a pattern formed: I’d try to lose weight, get frustrated, and then stop.
By 2018, my daughter was 5 years old and I was 190 pounds. I was getting bigger and bigger; I knew I had a problem and that I needed to do something.
Between 190 and 220 pounds, I made so many attempts to lose weight but failed each time. I had an addiction to food and a lack of discipline and motivation -- and most importantly, I hadn’t hit my rock bottom yet. But that was right around the corner.
It was May 14, and I was 220 pounds. I was going to a (socially distanced) cookout and needed a swimsuit. I tried a size 10, but it didn’t fit. Then, a size 12 -- still no. I was a 1X (14/16). I couldn’t believe it. I was so disappointed with myself. I never thought I would get to that size. It almost felt as if my body was saying, “I told you so. I told you that you were going to get there if you didn’t do something.”
I went home, looked at old photos, looked at clothes in my closet that I couldn’t fit anymore, and told myself, “I’m going to get back into that sexy dress.” It was time to get to work.
And I was determined that this time, I wouldn’t quit. Not only was I more motivated than ever, but now, with the lockdown, I actually had the time and flexibility to devote attention to myself. I was working from home and my daughter was home from school, so there were no hectic schedules to keep up with.
So on May 14, I made a workout plan to start walking the very next day. Early the next morning, before everyone was up, I walked. And every day after that, I’ve kept walking.
My boyfriend is a fitness fanatic and has been very supportive. He has encouraged my progress every step of the way, making sure I push myself every day and stay focused. He bought me a Fitbit, and I became obsessed with counting the number of steps I did daily.
I spoke to my doctor about the best way to lose weight. She referred me to a nutritionist, now my life coach, who I meet with remotely once a month. We talk not only about my eating habits, but also about my life.
For example, I’ve hit a few plateaus where it’s been hard to get past a certain weight. One of those times was in July when I lost my 99-year-old grandfather to COVID-19. My nutritionist/life coach helped me see how going through that loss and the grieving process could affect me and encouraged me not to lose sight of my goal.
When the gyms reopened in July, I started going. By that time, I was walking 4 miles a day in just 2 hours while doing exercises between each mile. I added the treadmill and weights to my routine.
It’s been quite a process. I’ve learned I’m a very strong person, stronger than I ever imagined. I’ve learned the body is an amazing thing. I’ve also learned that I tend to be my own worst enemy -- the only one who can stop me from being in shape and losing weight is me. And, on the flip side, I’ve learned that you can be your own biggest hero.
My knees and feet used to hurt because I was so heavy. Now that I’ve lost 30+ pounds, I feel so much better. And I’m able to do more things with my daughter because I’m in better shape. I will never forget where I was, and I’ll never let myself go back there again.
I’ve put a plan in place for when I go back to work. I joined a gym that offers daycare. I love soda, but now I only drink diet soft drinks. And I’ve given myself permission to enjoy a cheat meal every Tuesday and eat whatever I want. I think it’s important to have some little things to stay on track.
For anyone out there struggling with weight loss, the time is now. If lockdown is allowing you to work from home and have more control of your schedule, use this time to focus on yourself. Make a plan and execute that plan. You don’t have to go the gym. Run around with your kids, walk around the block, stretch, clean your house, anything that allows you to be active.
It’s the perfect time to get in shape because the world is kind of at a standstill. I really believe I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it weren’t for the pandemic, if my world hadn’t slowed down so that I could get myself together. I don’t think it would have happened, but I’m grateful that it did, and I just want people that want to lose weight to take advantage of this moment.
Health is wealth. If you take care of your body, your body will thank you. And my body is thanking me.
At the start of my journey I was looking for inspiration. I found a quote that I now live by: “Crawling is acceptable, falling is acceptable, puking is acceptable, crying is acceptable, pain is acceptable, but quitting is not.”
That quote spoke to me. I really felt that quote. Ever since then, when something doesn’t go my way, that quote always gets me through -- every single time -- and I’m thankful for it.
Tamara Jacobs is a project administrator for a heating, ventilation & air conditioning company. She lives with her boyfriend, her 7-year-old daughter, and 6-year-old stepson in Severn, MD, and has a passion for doing nails, hair, and makeup.