I met Shirley many moons ago. She was my hairstylist when I still lived in Florida and we pretty much started our friendship in her chair. We traded services back then- personal training for amazing hair…it was awesome, especially for someone like me who is kinda hair dumb. She also rented an apartment in the same ‘compound’ (we just called it that, I promise it really wasn’t one) I lived in and we had pool parties most weekends. I wanted to share her journey because when I met her, she desired a change but wasn’t quite ready to make it all happen BUT shortly after we moved to opposite sides of the country she took her vision and made it into reality by taking small steps and changing the way she looked at food and exercise. I’ve watched her change over the last couple of years and I couldn’t be more proud of her. It’s truly been amazing to see her reach her ultimate health goals.
So without further ado and in her own words, Shirley’s journey to health.
“I have been overweight my whole life. When I was 17, a senior in high school, I weighed 230 lbs. Even at 5’11 that is still way too big. That Christmas, I absolutely lost it. I remember sitting on my mom’s bed and just crying. I told her I really wanted to lose weight and that I wanted to start Weight Watchers. This was the start of my weight loss struggle. I fluctuated probably 20-30 lbs for about six years–I’d lose some, gain it back, lose some, gain it back but I never managed to make any real progress. On my 23 birthday, I went skydiving and weighed 220 lbs.
I felt so frustrated with my weight and I didn’t feel good in my body. Most of my family struggles with their health and weight so I desperately wanted to make lasting changes earlier rather than later. I should also mention I was a smoker for a good portion of my 20s.
About three years ago, at age 26, I decided to put an end to it. I wanted to start with just a few minor changes at first to see what would happen. I stopped drinking beer and I stopped eating fast food. Eventually, I added in not eating after 9 pm. All of this was going great and I saw results from making those small adjustments. I also used the ‘Lose It’ application to track my calories. I found this application to be very helpful in keeping me motivated and keeping me on track.
October 2012, at 27, I had FINALLY gotten down to 180 lbs by continuing to watch my food intake. I felt amazing, the best I had in my life. That same month, I got married and my husband and I moved to Brooklyn, NY. I was able to successfully maintained that weight for a year and a half–not being super strict but still paying attention and still exercising—I had made a lifestyle choice and being active was no longer negotiable but with so many delicious foods around you have to be careful!
One day I woke up and was like, “Okay, I’ve maintained my weight for a year and a half, I feel great, and I know I will never go back to 200 lbs but it’s time to get the rest of this weight off and reach the goal I’ve wanted since I was 17!!” February of this year, I started again with the phone app, didn’t eat after 9pm (we are night owls so eating at 8:30pm isn’t late) and once again stopped drinking beer. At this point, I still hadn’t gone back to fast food and we started cooking a lot more at home! I immediately started seeing results again. In March, I quit smoking. No, it wasn’t hard. It was super easy, actually. I read the book “Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Quit Smoking”. Yep, I read a book and quit—easy as that.
At that point, I was able to get back to running. All those years that I was losing and gaining weight I was an on again, off again runner–never sticking with it long enough to see what I was capable of. Without extra weight and stronger lungs I was able to run so much better than I ever had. I met Jessica several years back and trained with her on occasion and we also went running. She taught me some basics about running that to this day I still remember. The main things I remember from our sessions together was how to breath, where to keep my arms, and to watch for my foot placement. BUT the most important thing she ever said to me was that I had great form, basically she believed in me. I really feel like her telling me that so many years ago is what brought me back to running. I knew I could do well at running if I just let myself go for it. She had no idea that she planted a seed at a time when I wasn’t really ready to take my health seriously.
So flashing back to just a couple of months ago—I couldn’t believe how great I was doing. I just kept going. I hit 9 miles one day and was like, “Uhhhh…where am I going with this…its time to consult a pro”. I have always had the desire to run a half or even a full marathon for years but I never stuck with training. So I emailed the fitness person I trust most, Jess. I told her what I was doing and asked her what I should do from there. I didn’t want to hurt myself but I was having so much success I didn’t want to stop!
She asked me tons of great questions to find out exactly where I was at with my fitness and running. She told me, “If you can run 9 miles you can definitely run a half marathon.” She drew up an incredible training schedule. She had me doing pace runs, speed work, longer and shorter runs mixed with some cross training. She explained why I needed to vary up my training and she reminded me that even on my short run days I was still building mileage, which is necessary for building a strong base in distance running. I was also doing yoga for a couple months which fit perfectly into my cross training. She checked in on me at least weekly and I reached out to her when I had questions or thoughts.
I was killing it. The stronger I got, the better I felt. The better I felt the more I just wanted to keep eating right and moving my body. I hit 155 lbs in the beginning of May! I had FINALLY DONE IT! I reached my goal!! Slowly, and healthily, learning SO MANY lessons along the way that TOTALLY helped me change my eating habits.
My first half marathon was on June 15 of this year. Weeks before the race, Jess sent me a thorough email explaining what to do and not to do the week of the race. I was prepared– NERVOUS but I never had a doubt that I would finish and finish strong.
When I signed up for the half marathon, my goal was to cross the finish line but over the course of my training I grew stronger and faster. I was running an average of a 9:45 per mile pace when I started my training with Jess. I finished my half at 1:55:10 — an 8:47 per mile pace! There were 357 people in the race and 83 in my gender/age group. I finished strong at 131st overall and 24th in my group! I have never in my life felt so strong and so good as I did when I crossed that finish line.
I can’t tell you how many times I get asked—how’d you do it?? How did I lose the weight?
I can honestly say…I watch what I eat, how much of it I eat, and I refrain from eating super late. I also exercise daily. I run a lot and on off days I do yoga, even if it’s just relaxation yoga, I do something. There was no fad diet, no pill, no quick fix. It truly took a couple of years to get to this point and I’m glad it did, because I have LEARNED soooo much and the learning is what will change your life. I love feeling healthy. I love feeling strong. I love not hating my body. I love that I am finally taking really good care of myself. I will without a doubt, never go back.”
I want to thank Shirley so much for sharing her story. She did fitness her way! She took little steps to get her to big places. She is an inspiration!
If you live in NY, she is still doing amazing hair. Check her out!
Change can happen and you can do it, too! If you missed it, you can check out my tips for creating change in your life, here.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” -Norman Vicent Peale
Thanks for reading!