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.
Today we’re chatting with Jessica, a fellow healthy living blogger whose blog I found via Instagram. Jessica’s posts are so inspirational, motivating, and real, and I’m psyched to have her sharing her story on F&F today. Enjoy!
Jess, tell my F&F readers a little about yourself.
Hi everyone! My name is Jessica, and I live with my husband and fluffy black and white kitty in central New Jersey. I’m a chocoholic, wine-drinking runner, and I’ve lost more than 100 pounds since 2004! Online I can be found at Jess Runs Happy, where I chat about my fitness adventures, share recipes, and gush over the newest flavor of Chewy Chips Ahoy. PS: Did you know they make brownie-filled cookies now?!). I’m so excited to be sharing my story here!
What lifestyle changes have you made since the beginning of your journey? What was your starting weight and where are you now?
I was always a bit overweight, but by 2004 a serious anxiety disorder crippled me emotionally and physically. The only medication that helped also gave me cravings that packed on the pounds, and I shot up to 270+ pounds. Then a few days before my 21st birthday, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It turned out alright because after treatment and surgery the following year, she was cancer-free (and still is, to this day!). But that was the shock I needed to want to take better care of myself.
After that, I learned how to listen to my body and eat sensibly, and I also took up exercising. I started out slowly at first. A half hour on the stationary bike in my dorm’s gym a few times a week coupled with smarter choices at the dining hall helped me drop 40 pounds in the first year alone! I found myself addicted to the high of working out, and when I started running I really discovered my happy place. After that first pounds, it took another 3 years to lose another sixty or so for a total of 105 pounds gone, and I’ve maintained that weight loss (give or take 10 post-ACL surgery) since 2009!
Did you encounter any challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?
Along with the usual weight loss plateaus that I beat by trying new and different types of exercise over the years (from biking to the elliptical to kickboxing to yoga to strength training and beyond), I also experienced injury as well. While running the Atlantic City Half Marathon in October of 2012, I tore my ACL coming out of a water stop at mile 12. The pain was unbelievable, but I finished the race! Working with my orthopedist, we discovered that I hadn’t properly strengthened my other leg muscles and increased my mileage too quickly, leaving my already banged up ligament vulnerable to injury.
That January I had reconstructive surgery. I spent 6 months in physical therapy building those muscles back up and learning how to run again. I was ready to throw in the towel and say that my injury was a sign to pack it in and settle back into my old ways, but then one day I was lying on the couch with the passive motion machine bending my leg for me as I watched a runner go by my window. The frustration I felt in that moment at not being able to run was when I realized that I truly AM a runner and that I was meant to continue my fitness adventures! And nothing – not even a torn ACL – would take that away from me!
Once I started racing again around a year after the injury, I focused on training smarter, not harder. I incorporated strength training and cross training, and I listened to my body to give it the respect it deserves. I also had to renew my commitment to healthy eating as well, as being suddenly sedentary and depressed over the whole thing caused me to gain about around ten pounds back. Today, I’m back down to what I feel is my perfect racing weight, and I’m feeling stronger than ever!
Aside from the weight loss, what has been rewarding for you? What differences do you notice in how you felt then versus how you feel now?
I gained the majority of my weight in college as I was discovering who I really was. While I was enjoying my new freedoms and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, I always felt physically restrained because I was so much bigger than other 21 year-olds. Once I started to lose the weight, my self-esteem increased, my mood improved, and the only way I can describe it is that I finally felt like I fit my body. And best of all, my anxiety subsided enough to allow me to go off the medication within that first year. That alone was motivation enough to keep going!
What are the next steps in your journey?
I’m currently training for a few half marathons this spring: the NYC Half and the Asbury Park Runapalooza Half Marathon. They’re only a month apart, and this will be my first time running halves so close to each other. I’m excited to see how far I can push myself because I’ve PR’d in each of my three official half marathons. It would be awesome to keep that streak alive!
Beyond that? While I love running, and it will always be my favorite sport, I know it’s doing a lot of damage to my already vulnerable, injury-prone knees (thanks, genetics!). Once the spring race calendar quiets down, I’ve got my sights set on a sprint tri here in NJ in August to keep me moving in the summer months!
What tips would you offer others who are trying to lose weight or exercise more?
Above all else: Don’t compare yourself to others! It’s easy to fall into negative thinking and quit when you’re surrounded by other folks who seem to be doing “better” than you, whether you’re at the gym watching the super fit chick crush the Stairmaster next to you or you’re at a race and everyone else seems to be passing you. At the end of the day, the only competition you should be concerned about is between you today versus the you from yesterday!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes – every passing minute is a chance to turn it all around! I know from experience that it’s so easy to backslide once you’ve had a day, week, or month of bad eating and no exercise. But you have the power to take control one meal, one snack, and one moment at a time. Every time you eat something or have a few minutes of free time, you have a choice to make: go for easy, unhealthy food and do nothing, or make a healthy choice and move that body.
I am by no means perfect – I’m a firm believer in “everything in moderation” and never deny myself chocolate or cake or some other yummy treat when my body is really craving it. I used to be the girl who claimed that “I don’t run unless I’m being chased,” and I literally trapped myself in my own body with anxiety and weight gain. But 10 years and 100+ pounds later, I really am living proof. If I can do it, you absolutely can do it too.
It’s an honor to be featured here on Fitness & Feta, and I truly hope that my story inspires you to be the best you that you can be!
Readers, leave Jess 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: