Name: Valerie Bradley
Starting weight: 160 lbs.
Current Weight: 110 lbs.
Amount of weight lost: 50 lbs.
Time it took to reach: 3 years
Time maintaining it: 1 year
Goal weight: 110 lbs.
About yourself: My name is Valerie Bradley, I'm currently 36 years old. I am a mother to two beautiful girls age 9 and 6, and wife to a fantastic husband. I grew up in Illinois, went to college in Indiana, and ended up moving to Oregon for my job after college. I met the man who I eventually married my first day on the job. I have many hobbies, including quilting, knitting, hiking (we have lots of awesome trails here in Oregon!), and Taekwondo. I have my own quilting business, which also keeps me quite busy.
How did you go about losing the weight? Was there any specific plan? I knew that I was not eating right. I had been doing Taekwondo for several years, which is great exercise, and the weight wasn't coming off. It had to be my eating habits. I started tracking my eating with paper, pencil, and a calculator. Once I realized just how much I was overeating, I adjusted my food intake and the weight finally started to come off. I discovered SparkPeople.com after a few months and I've been tracking my food and exercise there ever since.
After a while I hit a plateau (as we all do) and needed to shake things up a bit, I joined a gym and started to work with a personal trainer that my husband had recommended to me. I still use the routines he gave me when I go to the gym. I also started doing the Couch To 5K program, which is a running program for non-runners. I started that in Spring 2010 and I ran my first 5K race in July 2010.
What motivated you to lose the weight? What were your reasons for wanting to lose it? Did you have a particular moment that gave you the final push to start or was it more gradual? At first, though I was disappointed with the weight gain, I thought to myself "Well, I'm a mom, and moms are supposed to be heavy, right?" I deluded myself into believing that it was not just OK, but normal for me to gain weight. That changed the day I was preparing for my morning shower and found I had the beginning of a belly overhang starting. In my mind, I wasn't "fat" until I noticed that. Only "fat" people have a belly overhang... so if I had one starting, I had to be "fat", right? That was the day I realized that I needed to make changes. That was the day the paper, pencil, and calculator became a permanent fixture on my kitchen counter.
What struggles and problems did you endure while at your heaviest weight? What, if any, health problems were present? I was fortunate in that I didn't have any health issues while I was overweight.
How has your life changed since losing the weight? How have you changed? Do you feel like your overall health has improved? I do feel like my overall health has improved. I know my cardiovascular system is healthier as I can now run up to 4 miles, and I'm working on increasing that distance. I can do better in my Taekwondo class, I don't get tired as quickly. I can keep up with my children better. I'm even going to start taking gymnastics lessons as the gym where they take lessons! My confidence has gone through the roof and I enjoy trying on clothes now.
Have the people in your life been supportive of you on your weight loss journey? Have there been any challenges created by others in your life? My husband has been very supportive. In fact, my successes have encouraged him to get to the gym and get healthier too. He isn't overweight or unhealthy... he just says he needs to keep up with me now. I like that! In fact, I've been fortunate in that nobody tried to sabotage my efforts.
What are a typical day’s meals for you?
Breakfast: 1 small banana, 2 turkey sausage patties, 1 cup of coffee. Approximately 260 calories.
Lunch: Leftovers from dinner usually, or some mini deep dish pizzas from Schwan's. Approximately 350 - 400 calories.
Afternoon snack: 1 cup of coffee, a piece of fruit or a granola bar. Approximately 200 calories.
Dinner: Various. Usually a meat of some sort (most often chicken), rice or cous cous, a vegetable. Approximately 350 - 450 calories.
Dessert: If I have room in my calorie budget, I'll have a small dessert. A small scoop of ice cream, a couple cookies, a mini chocolate bar... whatever will fit. I find that a small treat at the end of the day really helps me to keep up with being "good" the rest of the time. And since it's within my calorie budget, I don't feel guilty at all.
Total daily caloric intake: Between 1200 - 1500 calories.
What exercise, if any, do you do?
Taekwondo: 1 class Mondays, 2 classes Thursdays, 2 classes Fridays.
Gym (running and weights): I try to go 3x per week, running for 30 minutes and weights for 30-45 minutes. Lately, due to the holiday season I haven't been able to go as much, but I will be back to it as soon as my other obligations calm down.
Gymnastics: Beginning in January 2010, 1 90-minute class once a week.
What was the most difficult for you while losing the weight? At first, it was trying to make separate meals for myself and for the rest of the family. I had (have) picky kids and a hubby who likes what he likes. I soon became tired of being a short-order chef and began figuring out how to make a single meal that we all could enjoy. I learned how to make flavorful food that wasn't full of calories and fat, so we all could benefit.
What helped you the most? Tracking my food. Without a doubt, this was the most important aspect for me. When you don't know how much you're eating, you don't know how much exercise you need to work it off and not gain weight. I am living proof of that! I had been taking Taekwondo for 3-4 years and hadn't lost weight at all, despite going to class up to 6 times per week!
Any tips for others trying to lose weight? IMHO, staying away from overly processed foods, foods that are "low fat" or "non fat" (other than those which are naturally low fat like skim milk), have helped my body to maintain itself. All those chemicals that are put into processed foods to replace the fat that has been taken out seem to confuse our bodies. I've seen this in other family members who have tried to lose weight by following programs that encourage eating mostly highly processed "low fat" and "fat free" foods... and they have not lost the weight.
So my advice is this:
Track your food. Eat whole foods, food you prepare yourself as much as you can (or make healthy choices when you eat out), and leave the processed "low fat" foods behind. There are plenty of alternatives that are naturally low in fat, your body knows how to use them, and in the end you'll have a much easier time losing the weight and maintaining your weight.
The weight loss tool I swear by:
If Valerie's story has inspired and impressed you, please take a moment to let her know in the comments below.