Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!
Today I wanted to share with you an inspiring story of an amazing young woman whom I was lucky enough to meet while in college at Ohio State.
Danielle is an inspiring person. She has been on a healthy living journey for the past few years and was gracious enough to share her story with all of you today.
Lisa: Tell us a little about yourself.
Danielle: My name is Danielle, I am 26 years old, and I am getting married in September to my high school love. I have been overweight my entire life and I strive daily to live a healthy lifestyle.
Lisa: You look amazing! What inspired you to begin your healthy lifestyle journey?
Danielle: Thanks for your kind words, I feel amazing. I began my lifestyle change almost four years ago when I graduated OSU. I was gearing up to start my master’s program in Europe and I wanted to be less than 300 pound before doing so. At this point in May of 2010 I weighed 320 pounds at 23. When I arrived to Holland, Netherlands in August of 2010 I weighed 295 and I was ecstatic, but still wanting to lose more I continued to exercise daily with a goal of burning 340 calories a day, accompanied with healthy eating. I had gave up beef and pork years ago, but I was conscience of what I ate making sure it was lean and nutritious instead of carb loaded and negative on the body. Within the first year of changing my life for the better I had lost 101 pounds and became a vegetarian. 3 years later I am 120 pounds lighter, still a vegetarian, a runner of half marathons and various races, and a healthy individual.
Lisa: What keeps you motivated?
Danielle: By 23 I had experienced my first round of mammograms in which they found a lump in one breast, had been diabetic for 10 years and my health seemed to be declining at a rate that was alarming. At 24 years old right after completing my graduating my master’s program, I underwent a double lumpectomy due to the increasing number of lumps growing in my breasts. Although, I had turned my life around and was the healthiest and the lightest I have ever been my body was still enduring the consequences of my previous lifestyle. I woke up one morning after surgery much smaller in my breast region, sore, without the possibility to breastfeed, and begged God to allow me to live a healthy life going forward. This prayer and decree to myself is what motivates me. I love what being healthy has done for me. I no longer have to take my diabetes medicine, which I had been on for 10 years because I can now control it through diet and exercise. I love running now, something I never thought I was capable of doing. Most importantly, I am a living health story for my family. Yes, bad habits can be broken, yes, you (of course You reading this) can turn your life around for the better, and it will feel amazing! It is hard work, and trusts me, there will be moments when defeat reins your head, but remind yourself of this, you didn’t gain that weight overnight, and so it won’t fall off overnight. You’re not a failure because at least you’re trying to change and believe me, you have. Give yourself time and be patient with yourself.
Lisa: How did/do you deal with setbacks?
Danielle: I deal with setbacks by allowing myself to feel what I feel and validate it. Then I jump back on the horse and continue to work out and eat healthy. I just remind myself of how far I’ve come, and that anything worth having is worth working hard for. Sometimes, I groan about how unfair it is that some are naturally small and do not have to work out or eat well. But then, I come back to reality and out of self- pity and realize how grateful I am to be alive, and able to do the things I need to do to live an active healthy lifestyle. Lastly, I have to remind myself not to be so hard on myself, because failure is not me falling back into eating a few more fries than I should or not working out for a couple weeks. Failure is me never trying, and letting those bad thoughts and comments about me win; those that tell me I am not capable of being the very best me I can be, which is a happy healthy and active me.
Lisa: What is your favorite workout?
Danielle: My favorite workout is running. Although, we have a love hate relationship, there is nothing like running off a set of feelings, or the feeling of finishing your first race, albeit, a 5k, a half marathon, a marathon or any other distance when you never thought you could. And of course, reaching that runner’s high makes me feel like superwoman, and I feel happy and free.
Lisa: What is your favorite healthy meal?
Danielle: My favorite meal is salad! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Lettuce is one of my favorite foods, and I crave salads. There’s nothing better than a fresh salad with tomatoes onions and vinegar and oil based dressing to fill up the tummy!
Lisa: What advice would you give to people who want to start a healthy lifestyle journey?
Danielle: Take it one day at a time, and celebrate each milestone reached, not by eating but by a new physical activity. With each new milestone I added a new activity I wanted to do, but was too afraid to. I would take a new dance class from bachata to belly dancing. I started spinning, running, water aerobics, riding horses, and even hiking. When I was at my heaviest I thought I could never do these activities, not because I was too heavy, but the fear of others seeing my body move paralyzed me. However, I realized that I too deserve to live the life I want regardless of my size or how it may offend some. Guess what happened? I realized, I love to dance, I love to spin, I love to hike, I love to run, and I love to stay active. So, my rewards all became things I can’t see my life without now.
Lisa: What is your ultimate goal for your healthy living journey?
Danielle: Ultimately, I just want to stay healthy and active. Size and numbers will become less important and the joy of living healthy will become the most important.
Lisa: What is the secret to being successful in healthy living?
Danielle: The secret to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to have FUN! If you’re having fun doing the activities you are more inclined to stay with it. I love to dance so taking dance class wasn’t to lose weight but to have fun. It just so happened that I lost weight in the process.
Lisa: Who has helped you the most in your journey?
Danielle: The most influential person throughout my journey has been my fiancé. He loved me at my heaviest and has always made me feel beautiful. He keeps me grounded and relaxes me when I feel manic about achieving a certain weight goal. He rubs my calves after each half and he’s always my number 1 cheerleader. Most importantly he loves me exactly how I am and that’s a feeling that doesn’t come with a number.
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A big THANKS goes out to Danielle, again, for sharing her story and being an inspiration for so many people out there starting and living a healthy lifestyle!