Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Emma Passe is 34 years old, stands 5-foot-8, and weighs 145 pounds. In 2015, after realizing that a lifetime of being overweight was taking a significant toll on her health, she made a commitment to her doctor to try to lose weight. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.
The turning point
I have always been heavyset. The last time I recall being slim was as a child. As soon as I hit my teenage years, I started gaining weight. I lived as a heavier person for a long time and tried to embrace it for a while. I looked into body-positivity movements for plus-size women and searched for self-love in order to accept myself as I was, but I found that I couldn’t. The many physical symptoms of obesity and limitations due to my size really overshadowed my ability to truly participate in life, and I could not find happiness within it. I knew I was sick and unhealthy. I knew I was not going to live a long life if I continued to be obese.
I had a routine physical in 2015 with my family doctor. My bloodwork showed high levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol, I was prediabetic, I had body acne that I couldn’t seem to treat, I had frequent heart palpitations, and I struggled to manage physical activity. Meanwhile, I was using a CPAP machine to sleep because of severe sleep apnea.
When my doctor told me I would need to consider starting a lifelong treatment of statin medications for my poor health at the age of 31, I knew that I had no choice but to try to turn things around. I did not want to rely on prescription drugs to cure myself, and I knew that my problems came from obesity. My doctor and I made a deal — she asked me to give weight loss my best and most committed effort for 30 days, and to see what happened.
On May 1, 2015, I downloaded MyFitnessPal to my phone and calculated the amount of calories I needed to eat to lose weight. I also purchased a membership to a local gym near my home. From that day on, I tracked, scanned, and wrote down everything that I ate or drank until I hit my calories for the day. I very quickly learned how to stretch my allotted calories and make the most out of them. I drank 150 ounces of water every day, and eventually I went to the gym.
When I arrived for my first day at the gym, at 280 pounds with very little experience exercising, I sat in my car and talked myself out of an anxiety attack. I was so terrified of going inside — just the thought of being exposed to other people as this unhealthy and out-of-shape person felt so overwhelming — but I came back to my commitment to my doctor and I went into the gym. I started out stretching and walking on the treadmill. Soon I could walk faster and farther, and after many YouTube videos and a lot of Instagram research, I copied what I saw other people doing on the other machines and in the weight rooms. I tried to do 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weightlifting every time I went to the gym.
In the first month, I lost 15 pounds — probably a lot of water weight initially, but having that success and feeling accomplished for sticking to my 30-day commitment urged me on. Being successful became more important than cheating for a burger. I wanted to see what I could do in the next 30 days, and in the next.
They say it takes just three weeks to form a habit, and I quickly found that I could create and modify recipes, and it was fun! Every day was a new challenge to try to eat as much as I could but keep it all under my calorie goal. And in the gym, I was able to slowly jog instead of walk — my first mile was completed in 17 minutes! My kids and family and friends were a huge support. They would all mention how they noticed my weight loss, and it felt great to be recognized for the hard work I was putting in.
I lost 100 pounds in the first year, and by that point I had fallen in love with weightlifting. The ability to be a strong and fit woman was within my reach, and I loved competing with myself. In year two, I switched from calorie counting to tracking macronutrients and shifting my workouts to a more bodybuilding style. During the second year, I lost an additional 35 pounds and focused more and more on physique. For me, weightlifting is therapy. It allows me to connect with myself completely and gives me an hour a day that is just for me.
Outside of being a parent, a partner, an employee, or a friend, when I’m at the gym, I can focus on myself and my goals. Emotionally I am more invested in caring for myself and projecting that out to others. I live to inspire people who are starting where I did. I know how overwhelming that is, but I want to advocate for people who are in the place where I once was. I’ve lost weight and grown tremendously as a person. Having confidence physically also gave me the bravery to share more of my heart with others as well.
What surprised me was my body’s ability to keep up. It is truly incredible to consider where I started and where I am now. How my skin and muscles respond to the challenge I present. I am always in awe of what my body can really do. Another surprising thing, one that is kind of sad, is that people talk to me so much more now — but it is not because of them, it is because of me. Because now I invite people to engage with me, whereas before I always hid in a place of insecurity.
These days I train five times a week and follow a macronutrient diet, dense in protein, moderate in carbs, and low in fat. I mix powerlifting with bodybuilding, and I aim to increase my strength. I am no longer trying to lose weight, as I am happy with my number, but I do keep an eye on my body fat and muscle mass, and I choose to continue to eat healthy, protein-rich foods.
Habit is key. I have tracked my food every single day for two years. It is part of my daily routine. I also prep most of my food on Sundays for the week ahead. This helps me organize my meals and keeps me from making poorer nutritional choices out of convenience. I maintain a busy Instagram account, where I share my food, my workouts, and my progress with followers. I even share the bad days too — this helps me a lot in terms of having a support system and reaching my goal of helping others.
I am inspired by many other social media figures — some who have lost a lot of weight, as I have, or just those who set a goal and made a commitment to accomplish it. I am inspired by my friends who go out of their way to help me stay on track at our social barbecues or dinners out — I am encouraged by them and always feel very well supported. I am inspired by my kids, who like to point out that now they can reach their arms all the way around me! I stay motivated because I can’t wait to see what I can do next. As I set goals and eventually achieve them, I get to set a new course each time, and the journey morphs and changes depending on what I’m going after. Having something to work for keeps my motivation high.
I struggle with my self-image, just like everyone else. I have good days, great days, and really bad ones. I have days where my stomach is bloated and I just don’t feel great about myself. It happens to us all. Again, I turn to my Instagram, where I can look back and see where I was six months ago and a year ago. Making something like this public is a very scary thing, but it really gives perspective on those days when I can see a real-life visual of the progress I’ve made over time. If I am having a bad day, I will share that with someone, or everyone. I just put it out there and lean on my support system to help me get back into gear.
My best advice is to try. You may not be successful the first time, or the second, or even the third, but eventually it will become a habit and you’ll find your way. Learn to prioritize yourself — you are important, worthy, and beautiful. We all are. Give yourself a chance to be successful — it won’t always feel good while you’re doing it, but you will never regret a good workout.
The time is going to pass anyway, so make it count. Find your network or build it. Ask for help — I am here, and so are thousands of other people who would be glad to support, encourage, or coach you. Never be afraid to put yourself first — you matter.
Follow more of Emma’s journey on Instagram @koffay.
All photos courtesy of Emma Passe.
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