Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Folland O’Connor is 31 and 5’1″ tall, and she currently weighs 135 pounds. In 2011, she saw an unflattering picture of herself that motivated her to change her lifestyle. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The turning point
I hate to say it, but I really never thought my weight was an issue. When I was fat, I never wanted to do anything active, or anything at all really, besides watch TV, eat food, and hang out with my friends. I never had high energy levels or interest in sports when I was bigger, so I never ran into major issues because of my size. What prompted the weight loss was mostly an aesthetic choice. I always wanted to be “skinny” but never had the willpower to actually get there. I just kind of accepted my body as it was and figured I wasn’t built to be skinny. I thought I could never actually lose weight and that I was just built to be curvy or I was “big boned.”
My parents started expressing their concern for my health more often as I got bigger, but I thought they were just exaggerating and that I was an average weight. Looking back now, I just can’t even fathom how I was so ignorant about my size.
I never realized how big I was until I saw a picture of myself from the side. The picture was taken at an event I attended and I happened to be painting something on a canvas when the photo was snapped. I wasn’t able to pose or work my angles; it was just a picture of me from the side, not paying attention and I looked huge. The moment I saw that picture I vividly remember thinking, Oh my gosh … I’m fat. I had this huge epiphany.
I was wearing size 22 jeans, I couldn’t buy a shirt in less than an XL, I had to buy bras in a plus-size store, but still, it was seeing myself in that photo that actually hit home. I was 25, 5’1″, 220 pounds, and I was obese.
Since college, I had always had some diet plan in mind or some workout routine I swore I would finally follow, but I never really committed to anything. I tried to eat “healthy” for a day or two but quickly fell off the wagon. I had zero self-control and knew absolutely nothing about losing weight or healthy eating.
When I finally accepted the fact that I was fat, I decided to simply start researching diets and weight loss as a whole. It was so overwhelming and complicated. I couldn’t figure out whether carbs were bad or good, whether fat made me fat or not, whether artificial sweeteners would kill me, make me skinny or make me bigger.
Working out was a whole other bag of complications. How I should work out. Cardio? Weights? Yoga? I just couldn’t get it straight. I decided to find a strict, clean, basic diet plan and just focus on eating first, because, more than anything, I hated working out.
Through my research I found some random site for a naturopath who touted a crazy weight-loss plan, so I met with her and she introduced me to the hCG Diet. Most people will have heard of it by now, and it is pretty controversial, but it’s what got me on the road to a healthy weight.
For those that don’t know, hCG is an extremely strict, very low-calorie diet combined with a hormone shot. It was completely bonkers and probably not the healthiest way for me to lose weight, but it promised immediate results. So I bought all of the ingredients from this holistic voodoo doctor and tried it out.
I did two rounds of hCG, losing 60 pounds over the course of about four months. Losing that much weight that quickly was completely surreal and I fell off the wagon pretty fast once the rounds were finished. Over the next year or so I gained 30 back, but my life had been changed forever. I started becoming more active, my self-confidence skyrocketed, and I actually started to realize how unhealthy I was. Even after keeping 30 pounds off, I was still overweight, so eventually I started hitting the gym and actually focused on living a healthy lifestyle. I got my life under control, and my weight followed.
While losing weight, I felt like I could do anything. I realized that everything in my life was able to be changed. I changed careers, left my cheating boyfriend, bought a condo, joined a gym, and started playing roller derby. I felt confident and powerful, and my life was changing drastically in so many positive ways.
Keeping motivated isn’t hard when everything in your life is positive. People were constantly complimenting me, my job got easier, I was succeeding in a new sport that I loved, and the weight kept falling off of me.
When I did hit a plateau, I just gave myself a small break, focused on maintenance and then reassessed my diet plan. My new boyfriend was also very interested in fitness, and he always had some awesome advice or a new recipe for us to try out together. He kept me strong, confident, and on track through the entire process. Even to this day, he is who I look to for inspiration.
Everything in my life changed. The obvious things of course, my energy levels, my clothing size, and my health, but less obvious things also changed. My self-esteem and confidence levels sky rocketed, and my willingness to take more risks and be more outgoing all changed for the better, but the biggest change I experienced was in how people treated me. People are nicer to me now, they try harder for me to like them, strangers gravitate toward me, and I have to put in much less effort to forge relationships. It’s amazing how people treat me like a completely different person, but in the most positive ways.
A few things surprised me about the weight-loss process. It was not actually that hard to lose weight when I was 220 pounds, even though it seemed so daunting at the time. But, with all of the knowledge I’ve gained, I’ve realized that I was so large I actually had to eat a lot of calories every day to maintain that weight. As soon as I started eating less, I lost weight. It was truly quite simple. It’s much harder to cut weight now that I’m smaller — every calorie counts.
I lost ring sizes and a whole shoe size! I knew I was losing weight, and a lot of it, but it never occurred to me that my fingers and my feet may have also been carrying extra weight. I went from a size 9 ring to a size 6.5, and I went from a size 8 1/2 shoe to a 7 1/2 shoe. That still totally amazes me.
I follow the Strong Lifts weight routine and hit the gym three to four times per week. I also play competitive-level roller derby with the Anarchy Angels Roller Derby team and practice on skates two times per week. I eat a low-carb diet and try to keep my calorie intake around 1,200. That might sound low, but keep in mind, I’m only 5’1″.
I eat with purpose and awareness. No more mindless snacking unless I’m on a cheat meal and, yes, I allow myself cheat meals — not cheat days — every so often. I live life with moderation and try not to reward myself with food. Whatever I do eat, I really try to enjoy. Dieting doesn’t need to mean bad food.
My boyfriend has lost 55 pounds himself and trains harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. He wants to be the best version of himself and pushes me to be the best version of myself. We make tons of different low-carb recipes together and support each other through all of our transitions. He keeps me on the right track and always pulls me back on that wagon when I’m distracted by Thai food and doughnuts.
Obviously, I have impulse-control issues with food. You don’t become 220 pounds without having some issues with eating. I am still constantly fighting my own urges when it comes to my diet. To this day, I can easily out-eat a grown man (including my 6’4″ boyfriend). If I let myself go, stop being diligent, or give up my gym routines, I will quickly lose control again. It is a constant battle, but it is worth it because every pound I lose and every pound I keep off means one more minute on this earth living my life to its fullest.
It’s calories in versus calories out. At the end of the day, diet was always the most important part. No matter how hard I tried, I could never outrun my fork. I work out, but that’s mostly because it makes me better at sports. Diet to look good, lift weights to look good naked.
All photos courtesy of Folland O’Connor.
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