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Before: 385 pounds
After: 213 pounds
When Tonya Weber, 38, was in her early twenties, she was diagnosed with multiple health problems, including a thyroid condition, kidney stones, sleep apnea, and arthritis. She was in constant pain and at one point was taking seven prescription medications plus eight to 10 ibuprofen a day in order to cope. “I wasn’t really living, I was just surviving,” she says.
“I didn’t feel like doing anything. Shopping took a horrific amount of energy and I’d always have to stop and rest.” Because her medical issues made it difficult for her to lose weight, she found herself using them as an excuse for poor eating habits. “I’m from Texas. In the South everything is about food. You eat when you’re happy, sad, or celebrating.” In 2009 she had three major surgeries within 6 months, and during her recovery the weight kept piling on, eventually reaching nearly 400 pounds.
The Turning Point
Once Tonya’s weight soared to 385 pounds, she started to fear the consequences. “I was afraid I’d be one of the people who get trapped in their house or that I’d die before I hit 40.”
In 2009 Tonya joined a regional weight loss club, SlimGenics, where she learned to eat better, but realized she wasn’t eating enough. Then in 2010, she joined a gym and met her trainer, Callan. “He saved my life,” she says. “In my first session I almost passed out. I could barely do curls, but Callan said to keep coming back and not to give up. At the time I wasn’t strong enough to believe in myself, but I didn’t want to let him down.”
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After a year of working out, she’d built muscle strength and whittled her weight down to 321 pounds, but wanted to lose more. In January 2011, she sat down with her trainer to set goals and formulate a plan of attack. “We got my calorie count right and kicked up the intensity of my workouts. I started losing 3 to 4 pounds a week, and I am only about 30 pounds away from my satisfaction weight.”
Today Tonya works out 3 days a week on her own and 3 days a week with her trainer, plus she adds extra cardio after training sessions. She’s also cut out most processed foods and sticks to around 2,000 calories a day on workout days and 1,800 a day when she doesn’t go to the gym. She also keeps a 1 to 1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates and limits her consumption of grains. “Callan changed the way I look at food,” she says. “Viewing food as fuel and not as a reward or punishment system completely changed my outlook on life.”
“I love to shop, so when I get to buy new clothes it’s huge for me. There’s that and the energy I feel,” she says. She genuinely looks forward to gym sessions, which she says are sometimes downright laugh fests because they’re so much fun.
Tonya also works toward incremental goals. During her first year of weight loss, she ran a 5-K. When she ran her second 5-K this year, she blasted 18 minutes off her original time (her goal was to knock about 8 to 10 minutes off), finishing the race in 35 minutes.
Print It: 12-Week Training Log for Runners
After about 3 weeks of working out, her pain dissipated and she could stop taking ibuprofen. She’s now off all but one of her medications . “People have also noticed that I don’t get angry anymore,” she says. “The gym has been a big stress release. It’s helped me find a work-life balance.”
And then there are the seemingly little things. Tonya recently returned to an amusement park where, in the past, she’d been too big to get on many of the rides. This time around she was not only able to fit into the seat , but also had to tighten the safety straps. “The numbers on the scale are great, but being able to take that ride was a spectacular moment,” she says. “I stopped calling myself fat that day.”
Don’t give up. “It’s not going to be easy. If it’s fast and easy it won’t last.”
Don’t punish yourself. “I know one meal or one setback will not ruin my program. Accepting myself as a work is progress gives me the strength to move on with purpose.”