Extreme Weight Loss

My journey on Extreme Weight Loss has been by far, one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, but one of the most rewarding and beneficial journeys I’ve ever embarked on and completed. My journey started on a gorgeous summer day in Hawaii. Thursday, June 26, 2014. I will never forget this day. I was in the fabric store, looking for inspiration for a new dress I wanted to design when the clerk suggested a new fabric that she thought I might like. When she unrolled the fabric, it had the words “I Choose You” in bold black lettering on an electric blue cotton swatch. I was confused at first; not reading what the words said since the message originally was facing the clerk. When I turned around there was Heidi! I couldn’t believe it. Everything went from a chill Hawaii moment to a New York minute within seconds! I could barely gather my thoughts before she announced she had a challenge for me…from Tim Gunn himself!

1907406_10101096890379876_1605164962624644220_nI’ve met Tim Gunn back in 2008 during my first semester at Parsons the New School for Design. It was a full circle moment for me. The man who is the former Chairman of the school I graduated from, and the heart of Project Runway, a show that I watched and helped push me to follow my dreams of designing, was now giving ME a challenge. The challenge was to make my finale dress in the size I want to be at the end of the year…in 1 hour!!!! The pressure was never heavier than in that moment. First of all, I’ve never been below a size 16 in my adult life so thinking of what my shape would be to create this dream gown for my finale was something I had a hard time wrapping my brain over. I came up with something as quick as I could given the time limit I had. Next thing I knew time was up and Heidi was at my door! I knew it wasn’t my best work and it didn’t showcase any skill I had. I didn’t want to show her the dress but I had to. She made me feel good about the work I did do in that hour and next thing I know she’s telling me the magical words, “I choose you for the transformation of your life!” I’m crying right now as I write this, one year later. It’s as if all my prayers had be answered. My prayer was not to be a reality TV show; my prayer was for help.

The biggest flaw I have as a person is the inability to ask for help. For 30 years I thought if I asked for help that meant I wasn’t smart enough to figure things out and it showed that I was weak. I knew for a very long time I had a weight problem. For me, it wasn’t about the aesthetics of my image, but rather about my declining health. Here I was, 29 years old, about 300 pounds but standing tall at 5’1” and I’m on high blood pressure medication, my feet and ankles were swollen, I couldn’t fit into anything but stretch knits, I was losing site of body parts, I had no neck, no elbow, my back fat was eating my bra which caused black marks on my body, I had asthma and couldn’t breathe and I was out of breath within 30 seconds of any physical activity. Not to mention, I couldn’t get in and out of my car if I was parked closely to another! There were times I cried myself to sleep at night thinking “How did I get to this point?” But I was too prideful to sincerely ask for professional help. I kept saying “You can do this, you’ve lost weight on your own once, you can do it again” even though I knew this time I had gone too far and I had no idea how to pull it together. I would laugh with others in regards to my weight, and most times I would be the first one to joke about my weight to take the pressure off people. I wore a lot of makeup and wore my hair big, I dressed as nice as I could and I was selective with who I shared a meal with so I wouldn’t have to be judged by others. Everyone knew me as a happy person, but no one knew I was secretly depressed, hated everything about myself, and I was self destructive in many ways. I drank in excess, I indulged in fried foods, and I dated the wrong type of men. The worst part of it all, I had no idea how to break the cycle I put myself in.

1972380_10101096890140356_3716139888832398937_n copyWhen Heidi came to get me and take me to Colorado for the summer, I thought, “Yes! Here’s my solution!” Wrong! For anyone who thinks that being on a TV show to lose weight is the solution to your problem, then your issues are bigger than weight loss. One thing I feel the need to address is the notion that “People who are on television to lose weight are so lucky! I can’t take time off of my life to do that, if I could then I would lose weight”. I’m going to address this because at one point of my life when I watched weight loss shows I felt the same. We, as humans, always think the grass is greener on the other side. The reality is the grass can be green on YOUR side of the fence with TLC. The same is true with our bodies. I’ve lost a lot this past year. I’ve lost my job, I’ve lost my source of income and couldn’t figure out how to pay my rent or my student loans, I’ve lost relationships with friends and family, and more. I’m not the only one. My cast mates have gone through their own various losses and most of them are parents. Just because we on a TV show doesn’t mean our weight loss journey is any easier or any harder than someone who is not on TV.   At the end of the day, the cast and I still had to lose the weight! Chris and Heidi don’t come into our lives and give us a magic pill to swallow and then we’re half our body size. We had to prep our own meals, we had to learn how to feed our bodies properly, we had to dive into our past and confront the things that trigger us and scare us in order to free ourselves from the mental prison we were in, and we had to put in the 4 hours of work in the gym daily. On top of all that we had to work our full time jobs, keep up with friends and family, tend to our spouses, and raise our children. No pills, no powders, no BS; just pure hard work, dedication, discipline, and determination to be better than we were yesterday day in, day out for 365 days. Needless to say, mental toughness was key in our perseverance to see the journey to the end.

Two things I learned on my journey that will be with me forever and that I want to pass on to anyone who wants to begin a journey, is on a journey, or is just beginning a journey is the concept of choosing your hard and what it is to be a promise keeper. Life is hard. If it were easy we would all be happy 100% of the time. You have the power to choose your hard and the capability to change it. Being unhealthy is hard, but being healthy is hard too! You can choose to the go to the gym and eat right which is a hard thing to do 100% of the time, or your can choose to go to the nearest drive thru and not work out which is also a hard thing to do. The other concept comes from Chris and Heidi, be a promise keeper. If you say you are going to do something for someone else, chances are you are going to do it! What happens when you tell yourself you’re going to do something positive for yourself? Do you see it through? A promise keeper is someone who keeps promises especially to themselves. If you promise to drink a gallon of water a day and you don’t you are breaking your promise to yourself. If you say “Diet starts Monday” and you end up going to dinner with friends on Monday, you broke your promise. When you successfully keep all your promises to yourself you are a true promise keeper. Promise to do healthy things for your body and keep that promise. The more promises you keep to yourself the more self esteem you create and the more you hold yourself accountable to your personal goals.

Last thing I want to share about my journey, and the biggest lesson I learned about myself is that I am a food addict. That is my drug of choice. On my worst days I use it to numb myself from all the chaotic emotions I feel and there are times I receive a euphoric high after a binge session. That is my personal addiction and trust me when I tell you it is hard. Just because I lost 136 pounds in 1 year doesn’t mean I am not an addict, I’m cured and I don’t binge. It is a daily struggle as with any addiction. It is my hard and most times, I can choose to give into temptation and not workout or I can choose to actively assess myself and create ways to stop myself from binging before it happens. I’m not always successful but I’ve gotten to a point that I have implemented certain tools to help me. For instance, I’ve deleted all food delivery service apps from my phone and I have blocked them from my web browser. That takes the power away from myself to have food I shouldn’t eat brought to the house. Instead, I would have to walk someone to get the food. I constantly walk in New York and every so often I change up my routine, walking on different streets so I don’t look at the same restaurants every time.  If I’m having a weak moment I have a point person I contact or I will go and find a healthier alternative to satisfy a craving such as sugar free chocolate or protein ice cream. Instead of having an all out binge, I will have a clean cheat. I will be honest, there are times I’m not strong enough to stop myself from every binge. I am human and I am an addict. When it gets to be times like this the best thing I’ve done for myself is to confess. Chris and Heidi taught us early on, confess assess, and recommit. I will confess to someone I trust about what I just did, but the first person I’m honest with is myself. I log in everything, every single crumb that touched my lips gets logged into my calorie counting app. Then I assess the damage I just did and I recommit to making conscious healthy choices. I make sure I get my booty in the gym and reward my honesty with a brutal workout! One thing about addictions is if you hide them from people and if you lie to yourself you are only protecting your addiction and creating a world of denial. I am flawed. I am human. I am, as Heidi says, “Perfectly Imperfect” and I am okay with it.

Over a year ago, I prayed for professional help so I could be healthy and my prayers were answered with two angels, Chris and Heidi, who showed me that ANYTHING is possible in this life with hard work and perseverance. The program that these two have created goes beyond losing weight. Unless you conquer your fears and forgive your past you won’t lose the weight forever. I am still a work in progress and there are new goals I am working towards in my fitness and healthy life journey. I would not be where I am today if Heidi did not fly to Hawaii, take my hand, and take me under her wing. I would still be filled with sadness, anger, resentments, and grudges that I’ve built up over time. She and Chris showed me that it is okay to ask for help. It doesn’t make you less than as a person and it doesn’t mean you’re weak. The strongest people are the ones who ask for help and the strongest people are those who fall 7 times and get up 8. I’ve learned more about myself this past year than I’ve learned in 30 years and one thing I learned is that when I put my mind to something I can do it. You can do it too! We ALL can do it!

Life is about being open, being vulnerable, helping each other, and uplifting one another. On my journey on Extreme Weight Loss, I’ve lost weight, but the best part of my journey is that I gained much more than I’ve lost! I’ve gained a new sense of courage I’ve never had, I’ve gained the confidence I needed to pursue my dreams and see them through and rebrand my beauty company so I can have the dream job I’ve always wanted. I’ve gained not only Chris and Heidi as mentors but I’ve gained their friendship, I’ve gained a feeling of pure joy in my heart and a new spirit filled with optimism. I’ve met amazing people along the way. I’ve gained a lot of new friendships and a handful of new mentors who have taught me about fitness, mental strength, and what it takes to be successful in all areas of life.  I’ve gained a new home away from home at my Crossfit box, and I’ve gained a new love for life and fitness.

IMG950378 copyAt the end of my year on Extreme Weight Loss I stood on the stage in the dress that I designed, in a size I seriously never thought I would wear. I went from a size 26 to a size 4! I’ll never forget the feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of pure joy radiating through my face, and the feeling of self love that I never had. It didn’t matter what the scale said. It didn’t matter what size my dress was. The feelings I felt in that moment was priceless and what mattered most. Losing the weight this year, for me, wasn’t about the number on the scale. It was about losing the emotional and mental baggage I carried around for years that I felt married to. To be able to drop those bags and not look back was the most freeing experience and although I still struggle with my addiction I have more knowledge on what it is and I have a pocket of tools to use and if I fail I know not to beat myself up, throw my hands in the air and continue on that road. I’m going to fall. That’s life. But the true success is in dusting yourself off and getting back on the saddle. In my 31st year of life, I am healthier and happier and life is worth the ride. Life is not about the destination; it’s about the journey.