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Name: Kate Riley
Before Weight: 265 pounds
How I Gained It: I had been overweight for pretty much my entire life. I began gaining weight when I was about 5 years old and was never really sure of the reason. Throughout school I had always been one of the biggest kids and was bullied because of my weight. This caused me to find comfort in food. At that point I did not know that all the cookies and ice cream I was eating were making me unhealthy. All I knew was when I was eating, it I felt good.
I lost about 80 pounds during my junior and senior years of high school by following a "fad" diet. I never actually learned how to eat real food, and when I hit a plateau, my diet consultant would cut my calories down to where I was only eating about 700 calories a day. I was hungry, miserable and my hair was falling out, but I was losing some weight. When I left for college, the idea was to stick to the plan, but this was the first time I was without my parents, who helped me keep track of what I was eating. I no longer had someone else making my meals and for the first time I was in charge of choosing what went into my body. I ate Chinese food, dessert at every meal, lots of sugar and of course the college student staple: pizza! I quickly gained back all the weight I had lost, plus about 40 pounds. I had ballooned up to 265 pounds by the time I graduated with my master's degree. I had no clue how this happened because I thought I was being healthy. I ate salads and low-calorie frozen meals. The snacks I ate all had words like "skinny" or "light" in them! At this point, I really did not see myself as heavy. I kept thinking, "Wow, these clothing manufacturers are getting ridiculous. They need to stop making their sizes smaller!" I rarely worked out even though I worked at an all-women's gym, and even walking would leave me winded. I always felt like I was going to pass out taking my groceries up to the fourth floor of my dorm building, but figured anyone would be winded climbing all those stairs. In reality, I was killing myself, and I was depressed. I rarely left my room because I was embarrassed and afraid of what other people would think.
Breaking Point: I don't know if it was a specific moment. All I knew was I was very unhappy. I had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder my senior year of college, and I had missed out on most of my college years because I was too afraid to leave my dorm, make new friends or try new things. I would go to class, then go right back to my room. On the weekends I would come home to spend time with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and even then I would be too nervous to do anything but sit around. I was depressed and afraid of everything. I was also struggling with what I wanted to do with my life. I had a master's degree but was thinking about a job in a completely different field, and that was when I was introduced to Jason Porter, the owner of Power of One Sport MMA and Fitness, a mixed martial arts school.
All I knew about MMA at the time was there were two guys in a cage who beat each other up. That was it. When Jason presented me the opportunity to do a little internship with him I had no clue what to expect. When I first met him, I was expecting a scary MMA fighter who would probably kick me out when he saw how out of shape I was. I couldn't have been more wrong. He was so encouraging that he even talked me into coming to my first MMA class. This was something my husband had always wanted to try, so I mustered up some courage and went. I was extremely nervous, and I could barely make it through 15 seconds of punching, but the people there were encouraging and told me to keep going at my own pace and just keep moving. That night I made a promise to myself that my goal would be to get out of my comfort zone and deal with my anxiety. I had held myself back in life for way to long and it was time that I fought for it back. The weight loss was an added bonus.
How I Lost It: I first started out just working out. I never really focused on my diet, but I kept focusing on the goals that were built into MMA (belt ranks, learning new moves, just going to class and dealing with my anxiety). Since I had never really exercised, the weight began coming off quickly. I actually never really weighed myself, but I was excited when two weeks before my wedding they had to take my dress in two sizes. When I hit a plateau I learned that I had to start setting other goals to get outside my comfort zone, like competing in a small school-wide grappling tournament. When I was setting goals and meeting them, I noticed I would breakthrough my weight plateau. The further along I went, the bigger my goals got, and I ran my first few 5Ks, two half-marathons and competed in my first nationally-recognized grappling tournament. These goals really helped my overcome my fear and become stronger and more confident, which helped in all aspects of my life.
My goals have gotten even bigger now. I am now training to hopefully compete in my first amateur MMA competition, something that from the beginning I told myself would never be possible. With this goal in mind, it became extremely important that I learned how to eat to fuel my body with the proper foods. It has taken me over three years to get this weight off, but I would not change my journey in any way. Each day I am reminded of how hard I had to work to get where I am, and because of this I will never take my life or my health for granted. It has been wonderful to have so many supportive people around me who encouraged me every time I wanted to quit. It was not easy, there were lots of tears, sweat and a little blood -- but for the first time I am very proud of myself.
People who knew me when I first started MMA joke around with me saying I am not the same person that walked through the door. My nickname at MMA is actually "Super Kate," which was a superhero I created to help me deal with my anxiety. I used to ask myself if I were "Super Kate" what would I do? Would I stop myself from a goal I really wanted to achieve? I have finally started becoming that superhero I created, and I am more confident with who I am. This is the first time in my life I am actually putting myself out there, meeting new people and helping them with their goals, and that is the most rewarding part for me. My goal throughout this process has been to give back what has been given to me. I am excited for what the future brings, and I cannot wait to set and meet some even crazier goals.
After Weight: 155 pounds After photo courtesy of Upstate Imagery.
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