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Name: Ellen Olstein
Before Weight: 247 pounds
How I Gained It: I was never a "skinny" person. As a child, I always carried a bit of extra weight on my frame compared to the other children in my neighborhood and at the small, Catholic school that I attended. I was always very conscious of the fact that I was "heavier" than the other girls, and this realization bothered me a great deal until I went to college.
During my college years, I lost a bit of weight, but not through healthy means. I ate sporadically, never got enough sleep and generally kept very odd hours. I also worked, attended classes as a full-time student and was a tireless social butterfly. Thanks to this busy lifestyle, combined with still having the metabolism of a young adult, I was able to maintain a fairly healthy weight of approximately 150 pounds throughout my college career. It wasn't until I graduated with my bachelor's degree in May 2000 and began working at my first full-time desk job that I began to pack on the pounds.
After college, I continued to eat like a college student. I never cooked or prepared homemade meals. I ate out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I watched my waistline quickly expand past the "regular" women's clothing section and into the plus-sizes. As I continued to gain weight, I repeatedly asked myself how I could've let myself go in such a way. I would regularly beat myself up about the excessive amount of weight that I gained, but would never take the necessary steps to improve my situation and try to lose it. I continued to eat my favorite foods, which included gyros, French fries and pizza. I joined a gym located only one block away from my apartment, but I rarely went. When I would go, I would quickly become frustrated and would end my workout prematurely.
Breaking Point: My husband and I moved to Philadelphia in 2005 when I luckily found a new job in the Center City area. We had been trying to move from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia for a two-year period of time, and I decided to use the opportunity as a new beginning not only career-wise, but also health-wise.
How I Lost It: Before making the move to Philly, I immediately got rid of my car. I decided that I would take public transit everywhere that I needed to go in the city. This led to the habit of walking. At first, walking for even 30 minutes was incredibly difficult. My feet would swell, and I hated the feeling of "huffing and puffing" everywhere I had to go. However, after only a few months of walking, I found myself enjoying the act of walking anywhere that was within walking distance. After one year of this newfound habit, I bought a bike and used it as my main form of transportation for one full year. I lost 20 pounds during that year of cycling my way to-and-from work, the grocery store and anywhere else that I needed to or felt like going.
The following year, inspired by my husband, I joined a neighborhood gym and immediately fell in love with it. I discovered that the gym was a place where I could constantly challenge myself, and I continue to view it in this positive way. These days, I am constantly looking for new ways to raise the bar. I have become addicted to Spinning, and take three classes per week. I have also started taking a boot camp class once a week. On Sundays, I take my morning three-mile run into the city. Every single day, I try to do something that gets me up and moving. I still have a desk job, but I am constantly dreaming about exercise. I look forward to my regular gym trips.
Additionally, I have done a great deal of online research about diet and nutrition. I am a pescatarian, and I believe that eating a healthy, balanced diet is best. My favorite foods now include fruit, vegetables, salmon, whole grain breads, Greek yogurt and dark chocolate (in moderation, of course). I have learned that you can still love food while getting and staying healthy. I absolutely love to cook these days, and I look forward to coming home and making a wholesome meal after work. Some regular dinner staples in our house are tofu-and- veggie stir-fry dishes and vegetarian tacos and various other Mexican dishes. For breakfast, I make myself a homemade smoothie or an English muffin with sliced hard-boiled egg or peanut butter. I make sure that lunch is my biggest meal of the day and dinner is my smallest. I also count my calories using the Lose It! app for my IPhone.
Losing weight is one of the most difficult endeavors that I have ever taken on in my life. As a woman, I feel that I am constantly being judged by my weight and my looks. However, it is important to remember that I am the same loving, caring, friendly person that I was when I was 247 pounds. The difference is that I have grown mentally and emotionally throughout this journey. I love the mind/body connection that is associated with weight loss and physical exertion. For years, as far back as my childhood, I was made to feel that I was never "good enough" or worthy of respect and happiness. Pushing myself and dedicating every ounce of my being to my weight loss journey has proven those assumptions and negative thoughts wrong. My goal is to lose 15 more pounds, and I hope to one day become a certified Spin instructor. I want to inspire others to put their health first, and to communicate the message that they are also worthy of self-respect and happiness.
After Weight: 165 pounds
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