Name: Zoe Elizabeth Conrad
Before Weight: 340 pounds
How I Gained It: I have been heavy since I was 12 or 13, and my weight slowly crept up over the years. I have arthritis in my hips and spine, so I was never athletic, but I was quite active. I did lots of walking, and had no trouble getting around. Still, I would always be the member of my social group who couldn’t quite keep up on a day of shopping, exploring or adventuring. I got tired faster than everyone else and was usually looking for a bench. I have a very large frame and am very tall, so I justified it by allowing myself to believe that even though I was large and maybe a bit slow, I wasn’t unhealthy.
Food has always been my comfort, and I would secretly binge eat when I was stressed out about work or my personal life. I enjoyed cooking and found food to be easy and social. I suffer from PTSD and anxiety, and food was an answer that made sense and made me feel good, most of the time. I loved eating and drinking in excess and it caught up with me over time.
Breaking Point: I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in late October of 2014. As I researched the disease and how to live with it, I learned that the healthier life you lead, the better your body can treat itself. As always, I thought “Well, I am pretty healthy for the most part, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Around that same time, I looked at a picture taken of myself on Halloween with some coworkers, and I was shocked by the person staring back at me in that photo. I was floored. Since when was I so heavy? What had changed? I was crushed by the realization and embarrassed by how I had obviously gained at least 70 pounds in the last year and a half. I decided that day I was going to learn what it meant to live clean and live healthy.
How I Lost It: Starting November 1, 2014, my man and I joined a gym, and I downloaded MyFitnessPal on my iPhone. I did a 360 on my diet and my life. No more processed food, junk, soda, alcohol, grease or sugar. I learned a lot about clean eating and started working out five or six days a week. I immediately saw a difference in my energy levels, my skin, my hair and my arthritis. I was 100-percent dedicated to my goal. My boyfriend stood by me, and kept me feeling confident from day one that I could achieve my 100-pounds-down goal. He held my hand the entire time and I never doubted myself -- even in the beginning, when I was really struggling.
It was a slow start. After about a month, I started losing 2 to 4 pounds per week. I was walking 5 or 6 miles a day. As time went on, I felt like a new person. I was hiking multiple times a week, going to the gym, trying hot yoga, eating great, walking on all my breaks at work and... shrinking.
I felt good. I felt happy and proud. I was getting into the best shape of my life, so I decided to try something that I had never thought I could do: jogging. It started with walk/jogs, jogging around a quarter mile (which was hard!) and then walking again. I pushed myself and got so much support from everyone. One of my sisters and her husband especially inspired me. They are athletes and just amazing people, and thanks to them I was invited to do a 10K marathon. I felt like I could actually do it. My sister and brother-in-law trained with me at every possible chance and were there every step of the way.
On May 9, having crossed the 100-pounds-down goal line a few weeks before, I ran a 10K with some of my best friends and did so much better than I thought I could. I cried a little when I crossed the finish line, mostly out of shock. If you had told me 7 months ago that I would be finishing a 10K with a smile on my face, I would have laughed at you! Yet there I stood, feeling like I could probably do just about anything I decided to do.
How My Life Is Different Now: My life doesn’t revolve around food. I am off all anxiety medication. I don’t worry about doing activities with my fit friends, and most of all, I am healthy. Because of my lifestyle changes, I avoided having 4 feet of my intestines removed. I still live with arthritis, but I do not have the crippling back pain or the limp I had the majority of the time before. I am living every day without the setbacks that consumed my mind.
I can take a deep breath and know that I have the tools to fight my anxiety, my health hiccups, and my hard days within myself. I don’t need a double cheeseburger when I’ve had a hard day, I just need to work out the stress by racing my own mile time or hiking to the top of a mountain in beautiful Northern California to scream it out. I never knew I had the tools to take care of myself in the ways I felt food was taking care of me.
Once I started making lifestyle changes, I felt weight start to lift off my shoulders -- both figuratively and literally. "I am 6-feet, 3-inches tall, and will always be a big person" -- I had accepted that label too easily. "I am big. I will always be big. No point in trying to diet because I can’t get away from 'big.'" It feels amazing to be wrong. I was described as the tall, slim lady when someone was pointing me out in my doctor’s office a few days ago, and I wanted to sing from the rooftops.
After Weight: 210 pounds
Got a success story of your own? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in our I Lost Weight series!
The Huffington Post publishes photographs as they are submitted to us by our readers. As told to Erin Schumaker.
Check out more of our inspiring weight loss stories below:
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more