Welcome to the How They Did It series, where we spotlight one individual and their body transformation. Learn what they did, and how they did it to succeed at their weight loss journey. Today we are featuring Stephanie Whelan.
Tell Us a Little About Yourself
I am 46 years old, married with no children. I live in Dublin with my husband. I work as a nurse manager caring for people with intellectual disabilities. I was overweight all of my adult life and was always ‘happy’. Friends and family always commented on how well I looked (it was easy to hide behind nice clothes) so I kidded myself that I was happy and that it was ok to be overweight. For special occasions I would diet, lose a few pounds then put it all back on again once the occasion had passed. I was confident in my job and managed to fool people into thinking I was confident in myself but the truth is that I wasn’t a bit confident and deep down wasn’t at all happy.
What Made You Decide to Get Fit and Healthy?
I decided to try to lose weight initially after seeing myself at the work’s Christmas party in my size 20 red dress that I thought looked OK. I delayed getting the photos developed and when I eventually did, I couldn’t believe how bad I looked. That same week a very good friend was visiting from England and none of my size 20 (UK size) clothes felt comfortable and I was forced to buy a size 22 dress. That was it, I decided things had to change, and the next day I joined weight watchers and was horrified to find that I weighed 15st 8.5lbs (218.5lbs).
After four weeks and 10lbs lighter, I had enough courage to join the local gym. I used the swimming pool every morning at 6am (before others arrived). It took me about 4 months to venture upstairs into the gym area encouraged by the gym staff. I soon became hooked doing spin classes, rebounding and lift classes. The staff were really friendly and gave lots of encouragement. Within a year I had lost 4 stone…then I hit a plateau. I was exercising five times a week and sticking to the diet but the weight just seemed to stay the same. I foolishly began eating less, and after a few weeks and still no further weight loss I began losing my hair. I got advice from a nutritional therapist who helped me to see that I was eating way too little for the amount of exercise I was doing. I began eating more protein and good carbs and was soon back on track and lost a further stone in weight.
What is Your Nutrition Philosophy?
Having been on every type of diet there is, the message has finally hit home…it’s not a diet that is needed, it is a change of lifestyle. I eat three meals a day with a couple of snacks in between main meals. I try not to go more than 3-4 hours without eating. Eating regularly is the biggest change I have made, as previously I would skip breakfast, have a couple of coffees throughout the morning, a very unhealthy lunch, and then a huge meal at about 6pm. The evening meal was always followed by an ice cream, and usually washed down with a couple of Bacardis.
I now eat lots of fresh fruit (mainly berries) and vegetables (until a few months ago I never touched vegetables except potatoes – unbelievable to think I reached 46 years of age before trying asparagus, butternut squash, broccoli and lots of other everyday vegetables). I add seeds and nuts to my food and I avoid any processed foods. I eat organic produce as much as possible, and drink 2-3 liters of water a day. I take fish oil supplements because I don’t like fish, and I avoid red meat. Don’t get me wrong, I am no angel, but I have learned that by eating well most of the time I can still enjoy a meal out with friends or an occasional sweet treat without feeling guilty.
What is Your Exercise Philosophy?
I have gone from complete couch potato who never exercised and would drive to the shops a couple of hundred meters away to someone who enjoys exercise and feels 10 years younger. I have lots of energy these days. I exercise five times a week and am always careful to have two recovery days. I now concentrate on strength training and cardio – usually running as I am hoping to complete the Dublin Marathon in October. I work with a personal trainer twice a week and still enjoy a few classes, especially Zumba. I do anti-gravity yoga for flexibility. I always use the stairs instead of taking the lift and have done several 5 and 10km runs plus a half marathon.
What Was the Most Important Thing You Learned During Your Transformation?
The most important thing I learned during my weight loss journey is that you need to eat enough good nutritious food in order to lose weight. Skipping meals is not an option, and a good breakfast really does stave off the hunger pangs and keeps you going throughout the morning.
What Mistake(s) Should People Avoid When Trying to Lose Weight?
When trying to lose weight I would advise people that a loss of one or two pounds a week is the best way to go. Exercise is very important but rest is just as important so that the body can recover. Try not to look at the ideal weight at the beginning of your journey, and focus on small steps. For example, every 7 lbs reward yourself at regular intervals (a new item of clothing for each step or some other non food reward). I cannot even begin to put into words how exciting it was being able to buy clothes in an ordinary shop and not having to go to the outsize section.
What Advice Do You Have For Others?
My advice is “never give up”. It won’t always be easy, but it is definitely worth it…YOU are worth it. If you have a bad day, chalk it up to experience and get going again the next day. I can guarantee that the end result will be a happier, healthier, more confident you.
Be sure to check out the past editions of How They Did It. If you or someone you know would like to be featured in the How They Did It body transformation series, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know you’re interested. More details will be provided. Don’t be shy. Your story will inspire others!