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Being overweight or unhappy with your body is something a lot of people suffer through. I too dealt with being overweight and would wake up daily, fighting depression. I was so unhappy with my life in general. It definitely took a toll on me mentally and physically.

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure when I was in middle school, and for many years, I took high blood pressure pills. Then, in 2015, I had issues with my thyroid, which was probably my lowest point emotionally. I felt down about my weight and that is when I decided to do something about it. I tried many yo-yo diets in the past and would lose 10-20 pounds, but always eventually gain it back. I wasn’t taught about proper nutrition and how to maintain my weight loss. I believe that most people who are trying to lose weight face this issue. Often, we want the fast results and lack the knowledge about the discipline which is needed to maintain our results. In the beginning, my goal was to lose weight – 51 pounds to be exact – and to feel good about the way I looked in the mirror. I thought that if I lost weight, I would feel happier, but as I continued through my journey it became so much more.

Losing 55 pounds in 5 months was huge for me. On my yo-yo diets, I would lose twenty pounds in 6 months and that was good for me, but 55 was incredible. You may hear people say it’s about a lifestyle change when it comes to maintaining weight loss, but what is a lifestyle change? Losing weight like everything else goes from level to level. You lose weight, you feel good, and then you find another flaw. You convince yourself that you want to lose more weight, or you want to add boobs or take away excessive skin. No matter what you do, you are going to be unhappy until your why changes (The reason why you are doing it). You must be thankful for your journey and the process by learning to love and accept yourself.

For me, a lifestyle change meant that I had to figure out how to eat healthy, while also enjoying what I ate, without feeling restricted from the foods I loved. I wanted to be able to balance healthy eating and still be a foodie. My goal was finding the right foods and eat enough without overindulging. I wanted to give my body what it needed without starving it. My biggest question to myself was, “Can I do this for the rest of my life?” If I couldn’t, then it wasn’t right for me, because I didn’t want to end up right back where I started.

I heard this saying before in church, “When Purpose Is Unknown, Abuse Is Inevitable,” meaning when my intentions don’t have a known value, improper usage is impossible to avoid. There were even times when I overindulged on healthy snacks. I love peanut butter, and it was always my go-to when I had cravings. Could I overindulge peanut butter? Yes, I could. What I found helpful on my journey is that real strength is found in restraint.

Once, I went on a girl’s trip to New Orleans, and I had just started my life style change. Would I start over when I get back? Or would I stay focused enough to make better choices? Fortunately, I persevered. Instead of fried food, I ate grilled food. Instead of eating fast food, I brought fruit. I even brought thin wheat bread in case we stopped at Chick-fil-a, and when we eventually did, I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and swapped the bread for my healthier 100 calories bread. There were other things that I just said no to. I constantly reminded myself that I already knew what it tasted like, and what it would do to my body. My goal was worth so much more, and it forced me to remain focused. I know that it might sound like I was doing too much, but I had already failed with my health for so long I had to make a change.

I gained so much more than just a pat on the back or a hoorah for reaching my goal. I began to put my strength to the test in other areas of my life. I started to go after other goals that I planted but had yet to water. I started seeing myself as more and enough. I realized my potential, and that I was qualified to do other things. I started to see mental, physical, and spiritual growth. Something new began to blossom. I became whole and complete, not because of my physical appearance, but because of the renewing of my mind.

This journey truly meant a lot to me, because now I’m able to share it with others. I’m able to walk out the things that others struggle with and document my journey, being an example. My life has shifted in so many ways. I go hiking, work out 5-6 days a week, create healthier versions of the foods that I love, and mentor others on their weight loss journeys.

The hardest part about anything is getting started. Whenever we take on something new, it’s not easy. There is always that small voice in your head that says, “You can’t do this. It’s ok to be comfortable,” and sometimes all you want to do is stay within your comfort zone. But whenever you want something, you must step away from the norm, get uncomfortable, and push yourself. Everything of value is going to cost you something. It’s all about what are you willing to give up in order to get the results you are looking for. I consistently ask myself, what I am willing to sacrifice?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with eating right and making the right choices, but I came to the conclusion that I am worth it. I’m valuable, worthy of great things, and fully capable of being confident. My self-worth needed a boost, and I had to find it from within. It was time that I loved myself just as much as I criticized myself. When I look in the mirror now, I see value, beauty, love, and confidence. That is what I’m wearing now.

I remember when I dreamt of buying clothes that weren’t in the PLUS size section. I would look through catalogs and wish I was as thin as the models. Have you ever daydreamed, saying to yourself, “One day that will be me.”

I am so proud of everything that I have accomplished and even more proud because I had the endurance to keep pushing. There were many days that I felt like giving up. Every day isn’t always good and no matter what we start, life is going to happen. As a reminder, what ever has started within you, it will be completed if you don’t give up.

This feature was submitted by Twanja Windley

Twanja Windley is a Real Estate Agent, with Keller Williams Greenville Central, and a health & fitness influencer. After completing her undergrad at the University of South Carolina, she received a Master of Arts in Management & Leadership, along with an MBA, from Webster University.

Twanja has taken on a writing career and is looking forward to publishing her script titled About That Pain: Changing Your Mindset Changes Your Circumstances. She is also in the process of starting The Twindle Foundation Scholarship Fund. She resides in Greer, SC.

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All images provided by Twanja Windley