Guest Post: Ashley’s Transformation

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Today I am featuring a guest post from a friend of mine, and a good friend of Kyle’s. I first met Ashley in 2009 when she came to visit Kyle at Purdue. I immediately loved her! She’s so fun and a great person to be around. In the last couple years, she has made amazing progress at learning to live a healthier lifestyle and how to get over struggling with addictions. I wanted her to share her story with you all, because it deserves to be heard!

Ashley’s Transformation

My weight gain didn’t start any different than a lot of 20 something aged college kids.  My nights were filled with endless booze, late night Taco Bell runs, and sleeping half the day away. It wasn’t until July 2010 when I picked up a bridesmaid dress that I was really faced with just how out of control my weight had gotten. When I took it for alterations, the dress wouldn’t even begin to zip. The seamstress asked if I had gained a bunch of weight since ordering the dress and she even commented that I had to have gained as much as 40 pounds based on how small the dress was. That was a devastating realization. By some miracle, the seamstress was able to let the seams out and refit the dress, but even with it fitting better I still felt terrible about myself. Standing in front of that mirror, I knew something needed to change, but I wasn’t sure how or if I was even ready.

A few weeks passed and I caught wind of a weight loss incentive program through my health insurance company. Lose weight, get paid….easy, right? I could earn $1,500 if I could just lose 10% of my weight and keep it off. I scheduled an appointment with my physician to find out my starting weight.  Much to my surprise, I tipped the scale at 199 pounds.  How did this happen?  Surely the scale was wrong.  For someone who is only 5’2″, that’s a lot of weight. I cried that day and vowed to never hit 200 pounds. But, even with the scale screaming in my face, I couldn’t seem to find the willpower to change. I even remember having to lay on my bed to get my size 16 jeans to zip because they were getting so tight.  I didn’t know where to start and I sort of thought I was just destined to be this way. My whole family was overweight, and my mom even had bariatric bypass surgery in 2003.  I was headed down that same path if I didn’t figure this out sooner rather than later.

Several more months passed and I hadn’t lost a pound. Thankfully, I hadn’t gained either. At least I don’t think I did, but who knows because I never even stepped on a scale.  I was still binging on fast food daily, drinking tons of alcohol, and getting no exercise.  I was still a 20-something living that same unhealthy lifestyle, and probably living it enough for five people! During this time, my parents’ marriage of 27 years was ending through a bitter divorce. Crappy food and alcohol were the two things that gave me comfort during that time.  I did have a boyfriend that I lived with off and on. He was my only stability at a time of uncertainty, but it was a very unhealthy relationship.  He had poor health habits as well, so I had very little of a support system.  He liked to eat fast food or dine out and I couldn’t say no and always picked the most fattening foods.  He didn’t seem to care that I was at the bar every single night and I wasn’t being held accountable for any of the decisions I was making.

It wasn’t until March of 2011, nearly eight months after signing up for the weight loss incentive, that I really decided I needed a change.  I had a chance at $1,500 just sitting on a platter waiting for me to earn it. What was wrong with me?!  That’s a lot of money and I really needed it.  Another friend had asked me to be in her November wedding and I vowed that I would not be a fat bridesmaid again. On March 1st, 2011 I made my first step towards a new lifestyle. I started counting calories religiously and added in a little exercise.  Mostly just walking, but nothing majorly consistent.  I did manage to drop enough weight by May to get the first insurance incentive of $500. I had only lost about 10% of my weight, but I actually thought maybe this was something I could do.

I continued to lose slowly and by the wedding in November 2011, I had lost a total of 40 pounds and outwardly acted like I felt great. People were noticing my success and it felt good to finally have some recognition for what I had been doing. Inwardly, I was feeling worse than before I had lost any weight.  People giving me compliments on my loss was an ego boost that I needed in order to feel like I was doing something right in my life, even though I felt that I was doing so many things wrong. The unhealthy relationship with my boyfriend didn’t get any better. I had a falling out with one of my very best friends. I was still trying to adjust to my parents being split and all the family drama that came along with it. My performance at work was lacking as well. The drinking got worse, and I had refocused my food addiction to gambling. Sitting on a bar stool was my escape from reality.  From the reality that my relationship was a dead end road, from the fact that I had been a really crappy friend, and from the fact that my gambling was a much, much worse problem than anyone knew.

By January of 2012, I had managed to keep the 40 pounds off, but my rock bottom was straight ahead. As a result of the gambling, my car was repossessed on my 26th birthday. I spent that afternoon in an attorney’s office, filing bankruptcy, because it was my only option. As embarrassing as this all was, it was the wake-up call I needed. I thought this would help my relationship since my demons were all on the table and I had nothing to hide. I thought for two months that things would get better, but nothing changed.  It was time to move on from my past and start the rest of my life. I couldn’t make anyone else happy until I was happy with myself. Cliché, but so true.

I moved back in with my dad, my dad’s girlfriend Karen, and younger brother in March of 2012.  It was a bigger adjustment than I had bargained for. I was no longer in control of my own kitchen and Karen happens to be a fabulous “Paula Dean-type” cook!  I gained back 15 pounds rather quickly. Luckily, I managed to at least keep off the first 10% I had lost, so I did receive my $1,000 check from the weight loss incentive after maintaining the original loss for one year. Shortly after moving back home, I met a wonderful man, Brad, who really inspired me to make a more serious change both physically and mentally.

I joined Weight Watchers about a year ago and really starting learning what it means to live healthy.  When I was counting calories in the past, I wasn’t necessarily making healthy choices.  If I wanted to consume 600 calories at Taco Bell, I would, even several times a week. Or I might have just drank my calories and didn’t even eat. I learned through Weight Watchers that there is so much more to a healthy lifestyle than just the amount of calories going into your body. They taught me about portion control and mindful eating. Tracking everything I eat was and is still a huge part of my lifestyle.  Brad was very supportive in eating the types of foods that I chose and he would go on walks with me anytime I wanted.  He even bought me a bike last summer so we could go riding together. Between Weight Watchers and Brad, their support and encouragement is a huge reason that I was able to change things around once and for all.

Brad and I are now engaged and bought our first house in March.  It is AMAZING to have 100% control of my very own kitchen and to have someone that is 100% supportive of the way I am choosing to live. Today, we eat lots of lean protein like fish, shrimp, and chicken.  Fruits and vegetables are constantly in our refrigerator, something you would have never seen when I was strictly calorie counting. When we eat bread and pasta, its only whole grain varieties and we also have switched to brown rice.  EVOO is a staple in our pantry, and actually Weight Watchers recommends one serving a day as one of their good health guidelines. We use low or non-fat dairy products only in moderation.  Oh, and good old fashioned H2O! I drink TONS of water. I would say easily over 100 ounces a day. We do some sort of physical activity 4-5 times a week.  I do a lot of walking still, but I am trying to jog a little, although I really hate it! I enjoy weight training and circuit workouts at my gym, Planet Fitness.  I am allowed to bring a guest with me each visit so Brad always tags along.  I tried a SkyFit indoor trampoline aerobics class last week that was amazing and I can’t wait to go back.  We always make sure to get plenty of sleep each night too.

So, I’ve rambled about what I’ve been doing, but how about the numbers?  My official weigh in this week was 134.6 pounds for a total weight loss of 64.4 pounds. That is half of a person! I finally feel like this is something maintainable and a lifestyle that I can continue to live.  I have found that balance keeps me sane and keeps me on track.  If I want a Double Decker taco, I have one every once in a while.  I still have cocktails socially.  I enjoy the things I love, just in moderation.  I like to think of it like a 90/10 plan.  I eat clean and healthy 90% of the time and leave that other 10% for the things I really love, but maybe aren’t the greatest for me.  I still have moments of weakness and struggle with the emotion of a weight loss journey.  I often times see the 199 pounds Ashley in mirror even though I know she is long gone. Brad is always there to remind me of how far I have come because I don’t always remember.

I still hope to lose a few more pounds and hope to continue toning up, but that will all come in good time. I just became a lifetime Weight Watchers member and have a possible opportunity to work part time for them. I think being able to support someone else the way I have been supported would be a great way to pay it forward. I would love to be an inspiration for someone else who has ever struggled with their weight, or any other type of addiction.  Now that I am becoming 100% happy with myself, it is amazing how everything else starts to fall back into place. My finances are back on track, my relationship with Brad is absolutely amazing, and the broken friendships are being mended.  And I have to add, the best feeling in the world was seeing myself in my wedding dress that is a very figure hugging size eight. That’s a far cry from the size 18 that wouldn’t even zip! I was even able to buy pants in sizes smaller than what I wore in high school.

I may be nearing the end of my weight loss journey, but this is just the start of what is going to be a great, healthy life.

I want to give a special thanks to Alysia for inviting me to write a guest post.  I have never talked about my journey quite so candidly and it was rather emotional to dive back into some of those negative feelings. I think I needed this to keep on keepin’ onthough, and I really appreciate it.  Thank you, Alysia!

Do you have a story you’d like to share? I love reading these inspiring posts from people overcoming unhealthy habits and doing amazing things! E-mail me at slimsanity@gmail.com if you’d like to contribute a guest post!

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