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Ashley's Story - From Albany, Georgia (amazing 157 pound loss!) cblessum on 2/21/2007

Ashley Before

Ashley's Pants

Ashley After

I've struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I've always been described as fat, overweight, chunky, chubby or told that I have such a pretty face, if only my body matched it. I've been tormented, ridiculed, made fun of & treated as a second class citizen because of my weight. I hit my all time highest weight when I was 25 years old. Its an understatement to say that I was miserable in my own skin. I was unable to do the things that people take for granted. I was unable to walk to my mailbox & back to the house without breathing trouble & joint pain. I was unable to tie my shoes with out great difficulty. A bath towel would not fit around me. I struggled to buy clothes because few stores carried my size. I often special ordered clothes & just hoped that they would fit when they arrived. I was scared to sit in a chair with arms because I wasn't sure that I could get out of the chair without getting stuck. My weight not only played havoc on my life, but also on my health. I suffered from severe joint pain. I've had numerous operations as a result of the stress my weight put on my body. I also suffered from high blood pressure, breathing problems, stomach problems, & diabetes among other health related issues.

I had no social life. I usually only left the house to go to work, get food or it I absolutely had to. I didn't want to face the stares & comments that my weight afforded me. Any time that I was invited to a function I'd spend a long time getting ready. Not because I was making sure that each hair was in place. But because I would try on every outfit in the closet to find one that wasn't too tight & made me look less overweight. I'd often make up excuses to try to get out of going. I almost missed my cousin's baby shower because I was uncomfortable in every outfit in the closet. Truth is that I was embarrassed by myself & knew in my heart that my family was embarrassed by me too.

I have tried nearly every diet on the market & even some that I made up. Nothing seemed to work. I tried to have weight loss surgery. I even promised to try to buy myself a convertible if I lost weight (I'd never been able to comfortably fit in one at my weight). I was desperate for help from somewhere & motivation from everyone. Its not that these diets weren't great diets. But I wasn't ready for a diet. What I needed was a lifestyle change. I also was seeking motivation from everyone else. But needed to learn to turn inside & be motivated enough to change things for myself. I needed to realize that I was worth the effort that it would take to be successful.

I joined Weight Watchers in April of 2004. That was possibly the best thing to ever happen to me. It has been the lifestyle change (not a diet) that I truly needed. It has changed my life in ways that I never dreamed possible.

Through Weight Watchers & exercise I have lost a total of 157 pounds. However, its not about the weight that I've lost, but about the life that I've gained. I can do things today that I would have never imagined possible . I love to spend time with people. I enjoy going to the gym. I can shop off of the rack. I love to walk distances with my dog. I can fit in an airplane seat without a seatbelt extension. I went to a fair this past fall & was allowed to ride the rides because I fit in the seat & wasn't too much weight for the ride. I can climb stairs. I can get the mail. I can tie my shoes. And, oh yes, a bath towel finally fits around me.

Most importantly, I no longer suffer from the health problems that I once did. Although I can't reverse most of the damage that has been done over the years of my obesity, I am probably healthier now that I have ever been before. I am no longer a prisoner within my the limitations of my own body & my fears of facing daily lifeI recently attended my high school class reunion. What a great feeling to be mistaken for someone's date rather than a classmate I was voted the most changed female in the class. The reunion allowed me to wear a formal gown for the first time in my life. I also joined my classmates on the dance floor. The person who had been tormented by weight her whole life, was no longer held back by the limitations & the ridicule. Probably the phrase that I heard most at the reunion second to how different I looked, was that everyone thought I had died. No one thought that I would show up & certainly no one realized how much I'd changed. My outsides have changed, but my personality is what has really changed.

My life change didn't happen overnight. It has been a journey of gradual changes & small victories. I've learned to take things one step at a time. This is a constant journey, not a destination. I couldn't have been successful on my journey without the support of my friends. They've never let me give up on myself.

I've completely changed my eating habits. The 4 meals a day through the drive-thru girl now understand portion control & healthy eating habits. I now understand that ketchup & french fries cannot be classified as vegetables. I also understand that cheese on a cheeseburger & a milkshake isn't what dieticians had in mind as dairy when they developed the food pyramid. Not that I don't indulge every now & then. But I understand the importance of moderation. I also understand the concept of eating to live, not living to eat.

I am dedicated to continuing my healthy lifestyle forever. I am at the gym nearly every morning by 5 am. No excuses I found that I waited until after work that I found excuses or other things got in my way. My dog is a big support in my fitness schedule. Most afternoons she reminds me that she gets a run in the yard or a walk. She's even learned to rattle her leash if I'm not moving fast enough to take her.

I now share my success story with anyone who will listen. My hope is that my experience will make a difference to someone else. When I share my story I get lots of questions. The most frequent question that people ask is about wether I have excess skin. The answer is yes It is my hope to someday be able to have that skin removed. Sometimes when I look in the mirror & see the excess skin & sagging skin I feel like my body has betrayed me. No matter how much working out I do, the skin won't go away. But then I remind myself that I am the one that betrayed my body by subjecting it to the unhealthiness that I did for so long.

When I was 22 years old, my doctor told me that I was essentially killing myself with my eating habits & sedentary lifestyle. He told me that I probably wouldn't live for 5 more years (my 27th birthday) if I continued on the path that I was on. He also thought that if I did outlive his predictions that I would have to use a cane or walker to get around because of the joint damage that I had already done & was continuing to do. I wasn't overly concerned with his comment & hide it away from everyone. But recently I proved my doctor wrong. Not only did I just celebrate my 28th birthday, but I'm not using any assistive device to walk with. On the contrary, it takes an awful lot to slow me down these days.

For the first time in my life I am physically & emotionally healthy. I'm accomplishing things that my weight once robbed me of. I also feel happy & beautiful for the first time in my life. I no longer dread life, but look forward to what the future holds I have dreams & goals that I look forward to achieving.