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Name: Sarah Swagler
Before Weight: 313 pounds
Before Weight: As with many other I Lost Weight contributors, I was also a "bigger" girl growing up. I was a theater and choir "nerd" and dreaded physical activity. In high school, I was lucky in that even though I was teased for being overweight, I had an amazing support system and a plethora of friends. My senior year of high school, my best friend -- my mom -- passed away suddenly from a heart attack. She was the family rock, a single parent who raised three beautiful women. Wherever I was, there my mom was as well, cheering me on in whatever I put my heart to. In my devastation, I did not eat and lost about 30 to 40 pounds. I very distinctly remember going to the doctor before starting college and weighing in at 198 pounds. I couldn't remember a time that I weighed less than 200.
While an undergraduate student, I gained the almost-requisite amount of weight due to late-night food excursions and that dreaded ice cream machine. My third year, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Within a few months, I gained 40+ pounds, was incredibly lethargic and couldn't walk a block without extreme pain in my legs. I did not have insurance during the summer, so I had to wait until the fall semester began to have my levels checked. When the results returned, the doctor asked how I had been functioning. Not well, actually. I was swollen, sore, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
I started a prescription medication that began to make me feel "normal" but I still carried all the extra weight. During graduate school, I got engaged to the love of my life and weighed in at about 270 pounds at our wedding. I vowed to lose weight and get healthier. And then I gained 40 more pounds. I remained a steady weight for the next four years, trying diet programs here and there, but they never stuck. I had become complacent and learned to love my body at the weight I thought I was meant to be.
Breaking Point: It all clicked at a doctor's appointment in May 2013. All along, my doctor had been supportive of me, saying that I would lose weight when I wanted to and not to make that my priority over getting pregnant. At that appointment, though, after complaining about missed periods and ankles that were swollen to two and three times their usual size by the end of the day, she finally said something I had been waiting for someone to tell me: "It's time for you to lose some weight." Her initial goal for me was to lose 10 percent of my body weight -- about 30 pounds -- within six to nine months. And so it began.
How I Lost It: I wish I could say that there was surgery or a magic pill that I took that made everything better. There wasn't and isn't. I downloaded a popular application, MyFitnessPal, and away I went. Logging my first meal I knew I had to make a change. My "healthy" breakfast consisting of a popular cereal with almond milk ended up having twice as much sugar as I was allowed for the entire day! I began scouring for healthy recipes, cut back on my sugar and gluten intake, upped my fruits and vegetables and, most importantly, began walking. Every day. Hundred-degree weather or 30-degree weather, I started moving at lunch instead of staying sedentary at my desk for nine hours every day.
My goal now is maintaining my healthy eating habits and current weight. People who didn't know me before can't imagine that at one time I weighed in at 310 pounds. In October 2013, I completed my first 5K and have been hooked on running ever since. I used to say I would never run unless I was being chased, and I always used knee issues as an excuse. There were days when I thought I was nuts for even thinking I could run three miles, but I kept at it, using the Couch to 5K application. Now, I can't imagine going a few days without at least getting in a mile or two. I have a goal of doing at least one race a month during 2014. I completed my first 8K in March. With half a mile to go, I was fairly worn out and knew that I was tired. A woman on the side caught my eye and told me that I was almost done and to keep it up. I smiled and told her that was exactly what I needed to hear and kept going.
What keeps me going? Knowing that my mom is still at my side every step of the way and encouraging me to be healthy so that I don't miss out on the things that she hasn't been physically here to see: her daughters growing up to be the phenomenal women she taught us to be, four beautiful nephews for me and grandsons for her, any future children my husband and I might have (hopefully sooner rather than later, now!). My rock and best friend, my husband, also keeps me going. He's always been athletic and now we run, hike, bike and explore the world together without fear of pain. And I can be assured knowing that I'm blessed with a life partner who loves me no matter what I weigh.
I want to let the world know that if I can do it, anyone can do it. If you ever need support, there are people like me out there to give it to you.
Current Weight: 191 pounds. I would like to lose about 10 to 15 more pounds, but that will come. The Huffington Post publishes photographs as they are submitted to us by our readers.
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As told to Sarah Klein