For many of us, the very idea of returning to high school can elicit strong emotions. Most of us oscillate between nostalgia and dread while reflecting on that youthful time in our lives. But for one woman, the idea of seeing all of her high school friends again was so overwhelming, it launched her on a transformation journey.
Lawyer Liz Ash’s weight gain was subtle and steady over the years but by the time she was in her late 30’s, Liz weighed 260 lbs.
“I was always the big kid,” Liz tells POPSUGAR.
She said, “I was about a size 16 and a shade under 200 pounds when I graduated high school.”
While she played soccer and was a competitive swimmer as well growing up, she still didn’t lose the weight.
Then, when she grew up, poor nutritional choices led the weight gain to progress. “I was so controlled in my professional life that food became something I just felt like I could let loose and enjoy.”
Liz used food as a coping mechanism
Like many of us, we often use food as a comfort however, there is a slippery slope in doing that. As Liz says, “But moderation didn’t seem to have much of a role in that pattern, and before I knew it, I had put on almost 75 pounds, heading into a size 20 jeans and a size 22/24 jacket.”
While Liz had gained weight, she had also been experiencing pain in her hip, heel, sciatica nerve, and low energy overall.
Then, Liz’s 20th high school reunion invitation arrived in the mail in the fall of 2015. “As I scrolled through the list of names on Facebook — people I hadn’t seen or thought much about for a couple of decades — I remember feeling a hot wave of anxiety rising through my chest.”
“As I saw all those familiar names from the past, it all felt as if none of my achievements would be noticed or acknowledged, despite everything I’d done to become the woman I am. I was afraid all anyone would see was how big I was, because I felt like that’s all anyone had ever seen.”
I ultimately decided that my insecurity over the whole reunion was less about them and more about me, and it wasn’t in my nature to back down or slink away in shame and hide.
That was the turning point. It was that moment that sparked the change that Liz would need to transform her life.
She says moderation is the key
Liz lost 105 lbs after she recognized that losing the weight would require an authentic lifestyle change, beginning with her diet.
She explains her approach to nutrition saying, “I pretty much stick to the outside aisles of the supermarket, and my cart is usually three quarters full of veggies and lean proteins like ground turkey, chicken breasts, and fresh fish. I try to keep processed foods to a minimum, although I’m definitely not above getting a cauliflower-crust frozen pizza on occasion.”
Liz’s mantra is, “Don’t exclude; choose.”
Liz uses the Lose It! app to help her with her nutritional choices. “Lose It! helps by putting each item in the context of my daily budget, because it keeps me honest without having to add or multiply the nutritional value on my own.”
“For me, modifying my diet has never been about portion control. Instead, it’s been about making better choices about ingredients and proportions so that I can still eat real food and feel full at a fraction of the calorie load.”
Liz taught herself how to cook healthier meals, explaining that for a given meal, “My 2019 version would come in somewhere around 450 calories instead of the 1,800-calorie bomb from 2014 — not to mention that it would still be delicious and filling!”
I used to walk into a room full of people I’d never met before, and I’d feel like I was being judged. I would have a running dialogue of negativity in my head of the things I’d imagine people were thinking, and it played on a constant loop for the better part of 40 years.Liz Ash
According to Liz, changing her diet has accounted for about 85% of her success. Exercise is another important element. She says, “I like having the ability to do a lot of different physical activities that I never imagined I’d be able to do.”
Variety was crucial to keep Liz actively engaged in exercise. Liz knows herself and what works saying, “If I try to stick to a routine, I’ll just get bored and stop.”
Liz shares, “I find it hard to schedule work and life around fitness classes, so I find videos on YouTube that I can try in my home gym.” She enjoys walking, the elliptical, yoga, step aerobics, running among other activities and swimming is her favorite type of workout.
Liz is doing more than she ever thought imaginable. She shares, “I recently signed up to run my first 5K in June and my first sprint triathlon in August. Even though they both intimidate me.”
“I’m really enjoying having fitness-related goals to look forward to.”
“I figure if I’m as honest and authentic as I can possibly be about my journey, it will help keep me accountable over the long-term.”
Liz admits that she has gained a lot of confidence
One major difference Liz Ash has experienced since embarking upon her transformation journey is the way she feels around other people. She explains, “I used to walk into a room full of people I’d never met before, and I’d feel like I was being judged. I would have a running dialogue of negativity in my head of the things I’d imagine people were thinking, and it played on a constant loop for the better part of 40 years.”
“Now, when I walk into a room, I don’t feel that anymore,”
Liz continues proudly saying, “I hold my head a little higher. I’m more genuine and authentic because I don’t feel like I have to have a guard up. The burden of that negativity is something I never realized I was carrying until it was gone — and it’s wonderfully freeing.”
Liz wants for those embarking upon a transformation journey to know that is is a marathon and not a sprint. Liz says that, “sometimes it’s okay to say yes — balance has always been important to me.”
I’m working hard to be patient with myself as I learn and grow, and it’s not always easy…At the end of the day, I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve invested a lot of work in this body, and I’m not giving it up without a fight!Liz Ash
“Sometimes I make healthier choices like ordering a salad, but sometimes I approach a good meal at a fun new restaurant as though calories aren’t a thing, and it’s heaven. I enjoy my friends and go with the flow for an evening, and I appreciate and value every second of it.”
“Then I get back on track the next day.”
While the physical aspects of a weight loss journey are clear to the human eye, there are certain internal factors still to be sorted out with time. Liz says, “There are physical, emotional, psychological, behavioral, and identity-related by-products of being overweight that you still have to sort out even once the number on the scale tells you that’s not who you are anymore,”
She describes the mental side of the journey saying, “I’m working hard to be patient with myself as I learn and grow, and it’s not always easy.”
“At the end of the day, I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve invested a lot of work in this body, and I’m not giving it up without a fight!”
Don’t forget: prioritizing mental health is also important
Liz Ash was catalyzed by the very thought of walking into her high school reunion, with all of the eyes of her peers on her, focusing on her weight. While this launched her onto an incredible weight loss journey, it also allowed her to recognize the journey she still had to take with her mind.
When we experience that moment where we say ‘enough is enough’ with bad habits, we are often looking for physical results stemming from mental changes. And when we experience success and see those results come to life, we often still have to allow our minds to catch up.
No matter what your health goals, prioritize what your body and mind needs in order to achieve them. Be kind to yourself along the way and exercise patience above all else. Success doesn’t happen overnight but embarking upon the path towards success can. You can wake up one morning and decide to change your life for the better any day of the week.
No matter what your reason, or what your turning point, if you’re walking on a path towards better health that also makes you happy, continue walking. And make sure to pause and enjoy the journey along the way.
More inspiring stories: