Wadeana Williams, 40, 5'8", from Holly Springs, North Carolina
Before: 232 lb., size 22
After: 160 lb., size 6
Total lost: 72 lb., 8 sizes
I’d never been the best eater. In fact, Italian and Chinese takeout were my mainstays for years. And when two of my three kids were diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, I focused on their well-being rather than my own. It wasn’t until a 2009 Super Bowl party that I realized I needed to take care of myself, too. At 220 pounds, I was frustrated when my clothes didn’t fit. I felt even more upset when I got to the party and realized I was the biggest one there. I decided then that enough was enough.
I started with 30-minute walks daily. I’d been sedentary for years, so even a stroll made me breathless at first. In May 2009, I joined Weight Watchers and learned how to dial back my portions and cook balanced meals, like grilled salmon with steamed broccoli and sweet potatoes. In just three months, I was down to 190 pounds. But soon my weight loss stalled. Feeling discouraged, I left the program and attempted to push past the plateau on my own. I integrated jogging into my walks, first for two minutes, then five, and eventually for a half hour or more. “Empowered” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt when I ran my first 5K in 2011.
My new normal
I got hooked on taking care of my body when I realized that living healthy makes me feel my happiest. These days I crush 30 minutes of cardio, followed by an hour of weight training, five days a week. Hard-core sweat sessions and a commitment to clean eating helped me reach my goal weight of 165 pounds in August 2016. Getting fit hasn’t just brought me joy; it’s also helped me become a better mother, play buddy, caregiver, and role model for my kids (now ages 10, 13, and 15). And I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.
Wadeana’s wellness tips
1. Scale back. I used to get so caught up in the number staring back at me on the scale that I'd forget my main goal: getting stronger. These days I weigh myself monthly, not daily, and focus on how I look and feel.
2. Try extra credit. I always tack on an extra challenge to my workouts. Before, it was walking five more minutes each day. Now I might go for five more reps at the end of a strength session or finish with 10 minutes of stretching. These may seem like small things, but they add up.
3. Speak your truth. My motto is "Get fit and live trying." Even if I don't always get it right, I try to give my best effort for a healthy life every single day.
4. Mind your macros. I track how much protein, carbs, and fat I consume at my meals. I've learned that fueling my body with the right balance keeps me completely satisfied, so I don't overeat.
As told to Anthea Levi