Jessica’s Weight Loss Journey

23 02 2012

Jessica Peacock

As many of you may know, I have my own history of successful weight loss. In fact, some of you have asked me how I did it and what worked for me, so I thought I would share a little more about my experience.

I struggled with weight for most of my life – I was the chubby kid and teenager, and my weight continued to increase thanks to the college lifestyle. Being overweight is something that affected me greatly, contributing to decreased confidence and self-esteem as well as a pretty negative body image. I imagine this is pretty common for a lot of other young women in our society who are constantly exposed to images of the “ideal” woman and feel they will never be able to achieve this standard of beauty.

Despite my weight, I was somewhat active as a young person, playing tennis and basketball through high school. In college I attended the student rec center sporadically, but was so concerned that others were looking at me that I never really felt comfortable enough to try more than just an elliptical or treadmill.

My turning point (and we call this ‘dramatic relief’ using a model of behavior change called the Transtheoretical Model – I encourage you to look it up) occurred when I was about 24 years old. I was working at a dead-end job, disliked my living situation, and was overall just unhappy. I decided to make a visit home, and my older sister happened to be visiting the same weekend. We hadn’t seen one another in several months, and during that time, she had taken up running. And she looked great! My sister and I used to have a very similar body type and we looked a lot alike; now, it was very clear that I had become the heaviest person in my family.

I figured if my sister could start running and lose weight, so could I (I guess a healthy dose of sibling rivalry can be a good thing!). Now, I didn’t start off exercising very regularly, but at least I was doing something. After I started becoming a little more comfortable in the gym I tried strength training and realized I really liked it. Eventually I noticed that with the exercise I was getting I was losing weight – and that got me so excited that I began exercising more. I was also running every day (slowly at first and for short distances) and as time went on I could set goals for myself, such as running 1 mile consistently without stopping.

Exercise was a life-changer for me. Strength training made me feel strong and powerful, which helped me appreciate my body more and what it could do that is positive (rather than just focusing on the negatives or things I don’t like). And every time I set a small goal for myself and achieved it, my confidence and self-esteem would go up just a little bit. I was slowly beginning to realize that I had been defining myself by my weight, and I didn’t have to. I could change, and I could be an active and healthy woman.

In addition to exercise, I started keeping a food journal online. This was quite the eye-opening experience for me! Since I would often emotionally eat to compensate for my low self-esteem, it took me a few months before I was really honest in my journal and made sure everything I recorded was accurate (like, when I ate peanut butter out of the jar I did not in fact have only 1 tablespoon!). Once I was recording everything accurately I realized that while I didn’t eat a lot of unhealthy foods, I did eat way more than my body needed. Slowly I began to learn that I could adjust what I was eating without trying to eliminate the foods I enjoyed, and could use exercise to help me burn off extra calories when I slipped up. It took a few years to really understand my nutrition and get the hang of things, but I am so happy to say that I now have a healthy relationship with food and eat what I want, when I want. But as I’ve told many of you: I like to eat, so I also like to work out! Exercise is most definitely my number one strategy for maintaining my weight.

Once I began to really lose a lot of weight, I realized that to keep it up I would probably have to change many aspects of my life to support my new habits. Exercise was now so important to me and my identity, that I knew I needed to make it a central part of who I was. So, I began studying for my ACSM certification and found a job working with kids in a physical activity program after school. I soon began doing personal training after that, continued to work on my own fitness/weight loss goals, and decided I would (like my older sister) run a marathon one day (and this from the girl who used to hate to run!).

Since I first made the commitment to change my life I have lost about 70lbs (I don’t really know for sure, because I refused to weigh myself at my heaviest due to my own shame). I ran the Baltimore marathon in 2005, and have completed lots of other 10k’s and half-marathons since then. I returned to school to study exercise psychology, with the hope that I could better understand how exercise and weight loss can improve our mental health and well-being, as well as how to best help others experience the positive changes that I have.

I became a different person thanks to exercise, good nutrition, and weight loss. I feel better about myself, I am happier, I am more optimistic, and I feel in control of my life – all things I was missing out on for years. These are the things that keep me going. When I look back on my experience, the weight loss was great; but more important to me is how different I feel now. And the most amazing thing about it is this: there is nothing special about me. It took dedication and hard work, but if I could do it, ANYONE can do it. YOU can do it!




One response

27 02 2012
Randy McCoy

thanks so much for sharing! Very inspiring!

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