The first time I remember being aware of the size of my body was in middle school. I remember going to try on dresses with my mom and leaving department stores sobbing because nothing fit me. High school was better because I was an athlete, but soon after I went to college, I endured some emotional trauma and started nursing school around the same time.

The stress from those two things was enough for me to seek a coping mechanism, and that ended up being food. I refused to buy nice clothes, fix my hair, go on vacations or do anything that I couldn't wear sweatpants to. I genuinely didn't believe I deserved to have any of those things or experiences because of my weight.

During the summer of 2015, I remember waking up, getting dressed, and realizing that such a simple task shouldn't cause pain and self-hate.

I was 22 at the time. I fell to my knees in my closet and just cried that morning. That night, I made a list for the grocery store, and that was the day I changed my life.

Since I am in the medical field and have a basic knowledge of how metabolism works, I knew that a temporary diet wouldn't work. I needed to change my lifestyle to something I could maintain. I made a list of foods that I enjoyed and started to pay attention to my portion size. Eventually I wanted to learn even more about how metabolism responded to weight loss and what I would have to do to repair my metabolism afterwards, so I studied.

This led me to counting my macros so that I could control my intake a little better and eventually add back in calories when I was ready to maintain my weight. This works for me because I can eat essentially *any* foods I want without having to restrict. I believe in having a healthy relationship with food, and for me that means not having a list of "bad" or "good" foods. Counting macros allowed me to look at food objectively and not with emotion. Mentally, this was the healthiest and least restrictive option.

Actually learning about how and why your body loses weight allowed me to feel educated on what I was doing. There are a lot of pieces of misinformation and myths out there about weight-loss products and techniquesand knowing the truth can be the difference in success or failure. I didn't blindly accept information from the internet. I read and learned constantly.

I change up what I eat, but these meals are my favorites, or what an "ideal" day of eating looks like for me.

  • Breakfast: Avocado toast , fruit, and turkey bacon
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken, white rice, and greens cooked together and seasoned well
  • Snacks: Cheese, banana with peanut butter, chocolate hummus with Nilla wafers, carrots, or hard-boiled eggs
  • Dinner: Feta cheese and jalapeo turkey burger with cauliflower tater tots
  • Dessert: Plain vanilla ice cream with light whipped cream, or my special version of cheesecake made with Greek yogurt

I've always loved to lift, so it came naturally to me when I decided to start getting active again.

Once I got back in touch with weight lifting and remembered just how how much I loved it, I decided to start competing as a powerlifter . I started locally and then eventually went to nationals in Las Vegas this past summer.

I typically train four days a week now. I will do squats for one day, bench/upper body one day, deadlift/posterior chain one day, and back/cardio one day. I spend three days a week recovering from those lifts so my body can rest and build muscle.

I love lifting because feeling strong is extremely empowering. It does not make you bulky and gives me the curves that I now love *so* much. It challenges me every day, and there is always more weight to lift, which means I can always make new goals. Muscle also burns fat, so building muscle allows me to eat more, which makes my weight loss more maintainable.

Hands down, started to lift again has made the biggest difference in my outer appearance and my mental health. Lifting makes me feel strong and that is one of the best feelings in the world. Picking up 360 pounds off the ground makes you feel like you can do anything. When you find an activity that makes you feel this good, you keep going back for more. Thats the key: finding something you love so much that you're excited to get active.

I lost a total of 80 poundsan average of 1.2 pounds a weekand it took me two years.

For the girl out there that thinks it's too late, it's not. For the girl out there who cries when she looks in the mirror, you are capable and worthy. For the mom who doesn't know her body anymore, you aren't defined by the tag on your clothes. To anyone out there who is questioning whether or not they can do it...you can. Your body is not a jail cell, it is your home. Above all else, be kind to yourself and do not give up. All you need is a little knowledge and some major grit.