05/28/2012 09:19 am ET

Weight Loss Success: Lily Lin Overhauled Her Eating Habits And Lost 70 Pounds

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Lily C. Lin
Age: 32
Before Weight: 
245 pounds

How I Gained It:
 I guess I can't answer this question with "I was just born fat," but it sure feels that way. For as long as I can remember, I have always been chubby. It was cute when I was 8 years old, with pigtails and pink cheeks, and as adolescence hit, I was lucky that I carried my weight well and never seemed as heavy as I actually weighed.

My family was never concerned with watching their weight or choosing particularly healthy foods. It didn't mean we ate badly, we were just not conscientious or aware of the concept of healthy eating. Coming from a Chinese family, our home-cooked meals mostly consisted of rice, assorted vegetable and meat dishes and lots of traditional flour-oriented foods, like dumplings, buns and noodles. We ate until we were full and that's that, no portion control. My mom had a sweet tooth as well, and if she ate a slice of cake, I ate it with her.

But while the rest of my family ate without worry, I was steadily gaining weight as the years went by. Nobody took notice, because on the outside I simply looked a few extra pounds overweight. I was active and played sports throughout junior high and high school, so my parents simply thought I was muscular, not fat. I continued to eat with no portion control. When my parents were too busy to cook, we ate fried chicken, burgers, pizza and fried fish at fast food places without thinking about how unhealthy those foods are.

I graduated high school at 180 pounds. As college went by, my weight started rapidly increasing. I stopped playing sports because I had no time with studying and internships. Every year of college I gained 10 pounds. At the end of the four years, I weighed 235 pounds. All of a sudden, one day my mom said to me, “Honey, you're too fat, you need to go on a diet.”

I thought to myself, “You tell me this now, when I'm too fat? How come you didn't do anything when I was younger and just a little fat?” I didn't even know what a diet was, and I wished that someone had told me about the concept of losing weight when I was younger and not as heavy. My mom suggested I join this new spa that she read about in the newspaper. I plunked down $3,000 for a masseuse to squeeze, poke and prod my fat away and wrap me up in a heating blanket to sweat out the fat. Along with my mom's strict control of my food, I lost over 30 pounds in three months. But I was always hungry.

Then, life happened. I met the love of my life and put losing weight on hold, because you can't eat like a rabbit on every date in every restaurant. Soon, the weight slowly started to slip back on. After five years, all the weight I lost came back, and more. I kept losing and gaining the same 15 pounds over and over again. I wasn't just fat, I was obese.

Breaking Point: My grandmother passed away in January of 2011. I owe her my life. Her death was the hardest thing my family had to go through, and a few months later I lost my job. I had truly hit rock bottom; I lost my grandmother and I lost my identity and success. I thought to myself, "What is God trying to tell me? What kind of test is this?" I looked back at all that had happened to me in the past two years. At the age of 29, my doctor put me on high blood pressure medication and told me I would be on it forever. At the age of 30, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Yet still I didn't wake up and see what I was doing to my body, to my health. I was so focused on working and being successful that everything else came after. That is when my realization point came. I said to myself there had to be a silver lining. This would not be the worst year of my life, I would not go down without a fight. I then made a promise to my grandmother that her death would not be in vain, it would be my wake-up call, my motivation, my inspiration to change my life forever and with her watching me from heaven, I couldn't fail.

How I Lost It:
 This time it wasn't about looking good, it was about being healthy from the inside out. After a few months of research, I found the Pritikin Longevity Center. I knew that I needed help, not just support from my family or attending weekly Weight Watchers meetings, I needed to be taken out of my unhealthy environment and be immersed into change. Going to Pritikin was the best decision of my life.

The program is a complete lifestyle change, not a gimmick. The eating plan is low in sodium, sugar, fat and animal protein, and high in vegetable protein, vegetables and fruits. I became more aware and appreciative of the natural flavors of foods rather than the extra added seasonings that you find in restaurants. Food tastes good on its own, in its natural form, you don't need to cover it up in butter and gravy.

Pritikin also helped instill good habits of exercising in me. I used to hate exercising and moving around. I made a million excuses. But I participated in daily exercise classes, like interval cardio training, weight training and stretching, and I felt stronger every day. After exercising daily for three weeks in a row, it became a habit and I looked forward to it instead of dreading it. In fact, now, when a day goes by and I haven't exercised, it actually feels unsettling, like there is something I forgot to do.

Now, I start my day off with a bowl of oatmeal and fruit. For lunch, I have either a salad or mixed vegetables with grilled fish. For dinner, a cup of brown rice or a baked potato with broccoli or other green vegetables, and either fish or bean stew. I only have animal protein once a day, and I have tofu or beans as my vegetable protein for my other meals. I've lowered my total cholesterol and greatly improved my HDL.

I exercise on a daily basis for at least 45 minutes each day, no excuses. I went from being someone who huffed and puffed walking to a fit 32-year-old woman who can run longer and faster than ever. I no longer fear that the seat belt will be too tight on the airplane, or that I might not fit into the amusement park ride. On a crowded subway car when a seat opens up, I can sit down without feeling embarrassed that I might squish my neighbors. The simple act of being able to cross my legs when sitting is something I will be never take for granted.

My doctors have taken me off my high blood pressure and polycystic ovary syndrome medications. Finally I am medication free. And I am no longer embarrassed that I used to be fat. In fact, I am proud to tell people of my journey. My friends and family who witnessed my transformation have also been inspired to live healthier, and look up to me as a role model. I am now who I was supposed to be and can live my life to its fullest.

After Weight: 175 pounds

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