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Name: Cory Ayers
Before Weight: I was 294 pounds at my heaviest
How I Gained It: In September of 2010, I was more than 100 pounds overweight and had been obese for about six years. I gained most of the weight in a very short period of time between the winter of 2004 and the fall of 2005, after a severe depressive episode that caused a lot of upheaval in my life and for my family. I didn't know how to deal with my emotions in a positive way. Eating was one way I dealt with my feelings; eating when I was dealing with major emotions became a habit and to a certain extent, an addiction.
I come from a family that loves real, wholesome food, but due to issues with portion control, most of us have weight problems. I always liked nutritious foods like vegetables and whole grains and lean meats, but I ate too much of them. My really poor food choices happened in the privacy of my home when no one was around. In private, I could eat an entire bag of chips or candy in one sitting.
I was only 26, but I felt closer to 50. I was tired all of the time. My feet were always swollen and my joints ached. I was seriously depressed. I had approximately 56 percent body fat. I wore size 24 pants, double-extra-large shirts and size 20 dresses.
Breaking Point: I probably would have continued on in exactly the same ways, but I went to the doctor for my depression. She recommended that I do a little exercise to release some endorphins. I figured if I had to exercise to get my mind healthy, I might as well go all out and get the rest of me healthy, too.
How I Lost It: I stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains and other nutritious foods. I started drinking water instead of chugging lemonade and learned to practice portion control. It was tough to get my body moving; I was in such terrible shape that all I could manage was a walk around my neighborhood.
It was also hard to give up the junk food, but when I was tempted, I reminded myself that every choice I made about what I put in my body and how I moved it would either put me one step closer to good health or one step further away.
Gradually, things got easier. I started learning (and, surprisingly, enjoying!) new recipes and finding ways to make old favorites healthier. I increased my endurance and speed when walking and eventually tried some new exercises like Zumba, yoga and strength training. I learned if you find something you like doing, you're less likely to skip your workout.
Then my body started to change. First, it wasn't that noticeable. My feet stopped swelling, and my double chin started shrinking. It was easier to tie my shoes. Then I was out of the plus-size section at stores. I had more energy in fitness classes. I kept going, focusing on getting healthy, getting fit and setting a good example for my family.
Today, I'm a completely different person. I've shed about 125 pounds. I have a little over 23 percent body fat, I wear a size six or eight in pants, small (or sometimes extra-small!) shirts and a size four or six in dresses. I'm so glad I made the decision to change the way I live my life, to replace my unhealthy habits with regular exercise and proper nutrition and portion sizes.
Now, I love to exercise! I try to incorporate being active into my everyday life, so I will do a few jumping jacks or pushups whenever I get a chance at work, and I sometimes jump on the trampoline with my nine-year-old son. I'm not a strong runner, but I have participated in several 5K races, and I plan to do more soon. I love eating healthy foods and making nutritious meals. I am fit, healthy and have a ton of energy. In losing weight, I have also gained some things: good health, confidence and the knowledge that I am setting a positive example for my family and friends!
After Weight: 168 pounds
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