12/30/2011 07:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Leesa Got Smart About Portion Sizes And Lost 150 Pounds

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Name: Leesa D. Hagen
Age: 51
Height: 5'3"
Before Weight: 330 pounds

How I Gained It: Most of my life, I weighed around 150 pounds. I went to the gym regularly, took taekwondo classes and rode my 10-speed bicycle. When I was six months pregnant with my daughter, my husband had a heart attack and passed away. I was devastated. My daughter was born with many medical problems. It was a very difficult time in my life to handle everything.

I lost weight from stress, and about a year and a half later I was down to 135 pounds when I met another man. I got pregnant with my son and we decided to get married. I later found out he was an alcoholic with rage problems. I thought I could help him, but you can't help anyone if they are not ready to admit they have a problem.

After two years of marriage and all the arguments and drama, I got a divorce and decided to focus on raising my children on my own. I turned to food to help me through. I gained weight quickly and steadily until I went up to over 330 pounds. It was hard to even find a scale that could measure my weight since many only go up to 300 pounds. People looked down on me because of my weight. My doctor told me I was inviting health problems.

Breaking Point: My friend told me she was afraid I would end up with major medical problems and could see me walking with a cane if I didn't lose weight soon. It was very overwhelming to me to think about how much weight I had to lose. I decided to join a gym, but when I would go everyone would stare at me, so I quit. I figured I would start walking around town instead, but I was afraid I would be out of breath after just a few feet. Then my car broke down. While it was being fixed, I had to walk to the store. I realized I could do it! I had to stop often to catch my breath, but it made me realize I could walk and not pass out!

How I Lost It: It was a slow process, but I kept making the effort. I would walk once a week around a track in town. It was hard to stop eating snacks that I liked, like chocolate and potato chips, so I decided to still eat them, but eat less. I also started to replace certain foods with healthier alternatives. If I wanted a crunch, I would replace chips with celery. If I wanted a Boston cream doughnut, I would replace that with a Boston Creme Pie Yoplait yogurt. People started noticing the weight coming off me, which felt really good and helped me to continue. I went down to 260 pounds and hit a plateau, where I stayed for about a year.

Then I got serious. I knew I had a problem with portion control: If I made something I really liked, I would eat two or more servings of the food. Instead, I would have one large serving and put the rest in the refrigerator. I switched from using vegetable oil to extra virgin olive oil when I cooked. When I would go to the food store, instead of getting the family-sized bag of chips because it was on sale, I would by the one-serving size for $1. I stopped going by saving money and focused on saving my life!

I still have chocolate and chips for snacks, but in moderation. I will eat pizza, sausage, anything I want really, but in small amounts and only once in a while. I have found that when I have a craving for something, it helps to eat it; otherwise, I will eat three things instead to fill the craving!

I also started bringing a water bottle on my walks around town. I never used to drink water, but I found out sometimes when I thought I was hungry I was just dehydrated.

It is so nice to go to a regular department store and buy clothes! I don't have to go to the plus-size section, or to stores that carry plus-size clothing and charge almost twice the price! I went from a triple extra large in men's shirts to a large in women's and from a size 28 to a 13 or 14 now. I also wear a belt now to keep my pants up! It felt really good as my clothes started to fall off of me and gave me incentive to continue losing weight and firming my body.

I've lost 150 pounds so far -- that is a whole person! I am going to continue losing until I reach my goal weight of 150 pounds. The most exciting part of the whole process, aside from being healthier and getting my life back, is when I go out people do not recognize me! Plus, my dating life has picked up, too.

I want to thank my family and friends for being supportive during this process. Don't hesitate to reach out to friends and family who are positive and will offer you their support -- you are not alone!

After Weight: 180 pounds


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