Transformation of the Day: Amber lost 128 pounds. From a very young age, she has been on the weight loss rollercoaster. After her troubled marriage ended, she had time to reflect on all the trauma she’d experienced, the failed attempts at weight loss, and the self-love she deserves. With her health as her primary motivation, she decided to have Gastric Sleeve surgery and begin a new phase of life.
What was your motivation? What inspired you to keep going, even when you wanted to give up?
My motivation was, first and foremost, my health. We only get one life and one body. We should treat it the best we can while providing it with the fruits of love and encouragement. My son also motivates me. He is an only child. I took him to amusement parks, and not being able to ride the rides along with him hurt. Hearing, “You can’t fit.” and having to explain that to my son was always heartbreaking.
My divorce didn’t help either. I was in such a miserable marriage with my son’s father that I hated the person I saw reflected in the mirror. His dad’s words were traumatizing. “You need to lose some weight.” “No man will ever want you.” “I don’t like fat girls, and you weren’t this fat when I met you.”
Those words stick with me to this day. I fight through emotions every single da,y trying to exude confidence along the way.
After my divorce, I really had nothing but self-healing time to sit with my demons of being obese my entire life, and I wasn’t proud of it. Losing weight four times in my life caught the attention of my ex and others. Weight loss also gave me a feeling of “normalcy.” I was buying average-sized clothing and not snoring in bed. There were times when I felt mentally sound and wanted those feelings back.
Through all my trauma, I realized that my self-love and my health is the one and only thing no one can take from me. I decided to take control of my health for the last time and give myself a second chance at life. This time I was going to keep it off and truly live.
When did you start your journey? How long did your transformation take?
I remember being out in a “diet” from my primary care doctor at seven years old. I honestly do not think my journey has ever stopped. It has always been a long battle of yo-yo seasons that came with a lot of health problems. On April 25, 2019, I had Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy weight loss surgery. And it took on year to get to my current weight. My focus now is strength training for toning and maintaining my current weight, minus a few pounds.
I look at my surgery date as a second birthday—my second chance at life. Before the procedure, for 20+ years, I struggled with losing 50 lbs, gaining 60 lbs, losing 100 lbs, gaining 120 lbs, etc. Each time I lost weight, I gained more because I needed to change my relationship with food. My breaking point came when I couldn’t bend down and tie my shoe without holding my breath, to alleviate the pressure from my knee to my chest as I took those 10 seconds to do something that should have been so simple. I also started having an eye issue where when I would go to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night, my right eye would not adjust to the darkness. Instead, it would remain “blackened” for 10+ minutes. I went into the eye doctor, who confirmed it was a condition due to my being African American and Obese. I was put on a prescription and told I had to lose weight for the condition to go away, and it did. Getting the VSG procedure for me was the best thing that could have happened to me. I honestly wish I would have gotten the procedure earlier in life to avoid the large amount of loose skin I have.
How did you change your eating habits?
Eating was always an issue for me. It wasn’t so much what I was eating but how much food I was eating. Having had a dietician since the age of 10, I knew how to read a food label like the back of my hand. I was always so uncomfortable eating in front of anyone. I was so afraid of being judged that I would wait until I got home in my safe space to wreak havoc on my impulses and really get down with my food choices.
It was always a lose-lose situation for me to eat in public and around family, especially on holidays. If you put too little on your plate because you are “watching your portions”, you hear, “Now you know you gonna eat more than that.” If you pack your plate normally, you hear, “Now you know your big butt shouldn’t be eating all that food.” or “Dang, that’s a lot of food on your plate.”, etc.
To avoid the embarrassment, you eat a little to satisfy your craving, maybe a few fork fills. Then you stop at a McDonald’s on your way home, order everything you were dying to have plus ice cream, and head to your safe space where no judgment exists – in your home alone.
Now that I’ve had weight loss surgery, I cannot physically eat as much as I used. I am also more conscious of healthier foods while not depriving myself of a cheat treat now and again.
What did your workout routine consist of?
Before weight loss surgery, I worked out seven days a week. After surgery, I still committed to the same 5-7 day a week schedule. It’s hard working full-time, being a full-time mother, and going to college, but you can make it work. Having “you-time” in the gym is so important to your mental health.
My current routine consists of lots of cardio and weight training. I enjoy the sweat, but it’s now time for me to focus more on toning and lifting. Getting a gym family is what I believe to be the most important thing you can do. Having accountability sisters who won’t let you give up or cave into not coming to work out is essential to your journey. Surround yourself with beautiful black women who will push you past your comfort and keep you accountable for showing up and working out.
What was your starting weight? What is your current weight?
My starting weight was 285 pounds, and my current weight is 157 pounds.
What is your height?
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
Trust the process, and enjoy the journey. I was so fixated on the “end result” that I forgot to cherish to process. Notice the small changes. Examples:
- Going from hating my hanging “fupa” to noticing it lifting.
- Going from not being able to tie my shoes without holding my breath to crossing my legs to tie my shoes.
Those non-scale victories went right over my head, and I didn’t give myself the proper kudos.
What advice do you have for women who want to lose weight?
Get in-tune with your body. What’s working? What’s not working? Are you losing weight but gaining it back, plus more? Do you need assistance, or are you too prideful for a tool?
Sometimes, as humans, we look too closely at things being the “easy way out,” and we are too proud to admit it when we are failing to do something on our own. If losing weight for your health is something you WANT to do or something you NEED to do, get it done. Do your research and find the best path to take you to that end-goal. Don’t be afraid to receive help if all else has failed. You are not a quitter. You have not given up. You just needed a little assistance. For me, bariatric surgery was something I needed to stop looking at as the easy way out and start looking at as a tool created to save my life.
Also, changing your eating habits is extremely difficult, but you can do it: plan ahead and meal prep. Most importantly, say a prayer each day for God to take away your cravings. Take it one minute, one hour, one day at a time. Food is an addiction, like any other addiction. Never get down on yourself about needing help from others while dealing with it.