How I Lost 90 Pounds & Became An Athlete!

Written by: on Monday, January 6th, 2014
Weight Loss Success Story

BEFORE: Rachel At 236 pounds, 11 weeks after giving birth.

Weight Loss Success Story

AFTER: Rachel at 144 pounds…happy, healthy, and slim.

It was eleven weeks after Rachel Shapiro Cooper, 33, had her daughter, Colbie, and she distinctly remembers the moment. “I was sitting on the couch next to my beautiful new baby and my mother in law—and all I could think about was how physically uncomfortable I was. It completely devastated me. I didn’t want to be sitting next to my beautiful family feeling this way.”

At 236 pounds, Rachel—a theatre teacher at a charter school in Newark, NJ—had reached her highest weight, ever. “When I look at that picture now, I looked enormous and sad,” she says. “My thighs are as big as the couch. It was at that moment that I said I was never ever going to feel this way ever again.”

“Changing My Mindset”

“No one sits there and says I want to be obese one day,” says Rachel, “but it happens. And it happened to me because I ignored how my body was feeling—for so long. And that’s not normal.”

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel, after, with her husband Brandon.

“Everything about your health is a choice,” she says, adding that you have the power to change your health and your weight—for the better. “For so long, I was told I was overweight when I wasn’t overweight. That was a really damaging thing. People around me created this false reality for me. I wasn’t as thin as other kids, but I wasn’t the fat kid either.”

“But then I started to believe what every one else was saying about me—and I believed I’d always be the fat kid. Then I told myself that it was okay to be chubby and I started developing these habits where I felt like I could eat more. And when I got pregnant, it got worse: I had two breakfasts because I felt like I was entitled to it.”

“But I’m done with that part of my life: I’m not going to eat more just to eat more,” says Rachel, who is now pregnant with her second child and is thinner, happier, and has more energy during this pregnancy than she ever did during her first pregnancy. “I’m proud to say I ran a 10K already during this pregnancy—and I felt great while I was doing it.”

“Learning About My Body”

Right after she gave birth the first time, Rachel received bad news about her health. “I found out that I was pre-diabetic; my sugar was high,” she explains. “Plus, my total cholesterol level was over 300.”

Motivational Sayings

One of Rachel’s favorite motivational sayings.

“And I thought: ‘Who have I become? I knew when I saw this picture that I couldn’t walk through life this way anymore. Before I was overweight, now I was sick and I had to get well.”

“Between being a new mom and feeling totally out of my element, I felt like some obese imposter walking around in my world in this huge unhealthy body,” she says.

After Rachel started losing weight, running, and feeling great about her body, she found a lump in her breast. “I have very dense breast tissue, but because I had been overweight, I hadn’t really known my breasts—or my body. And I thought: ‘How is it possible that I’m healthy for first time in my life and this happens? Thankfully everything turned out fine [it was fibrocystic breasts], but it’s amazing how many women are not familiar with their body and miss things like this.”

“When I was overweight, I didn’t want to know my body,” she says, explaining that so many people who are overweight feel the same way—and aren’t able to recognize bumps and lumps, aches and pains because they’re out of touch with themselves. “But I was killing myself by not wanting to know my body.”

“How I Lost the Weight”

Rachel shared the go-to strategies, below, that helped her to lose the 90 pounds (it took a year and a half)—and helped to make her a runner, too.

woman stepping on scale

You will lose pounds, says Rachel, if you address your food entitlement issues up front.

First and foremost, though, Rachel says you have to change your mindset about food. “We all have this absurd sense of entitlement about food: We tell ourselves that ‘We deserve to eat this or that’. It’s like a petulant child—and we need to remove the petulant child from weight loss,” explains Rachel. ‘This need for immediate gratification is why people are fat. We have no patience. We’re not willing to wait until another day to eat something.”

“But the truth is: If you didn’t get to eat it today, you can eat it another day,” she says. “That’s a huge part of what I had to master. There will other chances to eat that food, there will be other parties.”

The bottom line, Rachel says, is this: “If you don’t do anything to fix your weight issues, nothing will change. Taking charge of your life and your weight is completely in your hands.”

1. Make the decision to put yourself first. It’s so easy for people—particularly mothers—to put others first, says Rachel, but changing this is key to dropping pounds. “You have to retrain yourself. “I said ‘I’m going to lose weight’ and

Weight Loss Success Story after finishing a race.

Rachel—already pregnant with her second child—and Brandon after finishing her second half marathon.

‘I’m putting myself before everyone and everything’,” she says, explaining that by doing that it made her weight loss a priority. She made it a priority every week to attend Weight Watchers meetings, which were key to her success. She made it a priority to cook healthy foods and pack a healthy lunch—and snacks—for work every day. And she made it a priority to exercise.

“Now I get up at 5 am and run on the treadmill. On Saturdays and Sunday, my husband and I trade. I spend an hour and 10 minutes doing a long run and then he takes time to do it. And that’s part of my life now.”

“After making this decision to put myself first, my life completely opened up,” she says. “I was happy and completely present in my life—with my daughter, my husband, my friends, my job.”

2. Create do-able goals. “At first, I never thought I’d reach my goal,” says Rachel. “I kept trying to lose weight and would step on the scale after a week and had lost nothing. I was so depressed—which made me want to give up. I stopped caring, stopped believing. I had so much to go, I felt like it was impossible. I didn’t have faith in my body. I felt like it was broken, like it was not like other people’s. I was deeply ashamed.”

Calendar for Weight Loss

“I stopped looking at weight loss week by week—and instead looked at it over the course of 30 days,” says Rachel.

“Then my husband, my beautiful, wise, forgiving sweet husband brought me a proposal,” Rachel explains. “He thought my issues with weight loss had to do with the fear of not seeing results. I would stay on program and then not see a loss and then collapse and binge and then not see a loss and it was a vicious cycle. He knew the Weight Watchers plan was realistic and healthy (he is a doctor after all). He knew that if I could just take the pressure off of each week, I might see success and that might lead to momentum. Well, that it did! We embarked on the 30-day calendar.”

“Brandon helped me create a calendar with goals for my life on it and each day I simply stayed on program I crossed off a box and at the end of 30 days we would re-assess” she explains. “I kept going to my weekly meetings and by the end of the month I had lost 8 pounds after not losing any weight for the six months prior.”

“We kept using the calendar for 90 days and then I made it below 200 lbs. Then I noticed myself starting to feel like, ‘I may be able to do this’. “

3. Believe in everything YOU can accomplish. “I was never a runner and

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel, and her friend Marianne, after successfully completing a race.

now I run countless 4 milers, four 10Ks, and even a half marathon. There are all these lies I was telling myself,” says Rachel, who says that believing in how you want to be—not how others see you or how you saw yourself—is key to turning your life around.

4. Keep track of everything you eat. Rachel credits her local Weight

Weight Watchers Mobile App

Rachel used the Weight Watchers Mobile App to keep track of what she ate. (Available free on the iTunes app store.)

Watchers meetings, which she attended regularly, with helping her learn how much she should be eating every day— and staying motivated. “I never used to write down what I ate. Who wants to write down that you ate a quart of lo mein?” she says, explaining a key weight-loss strategy of Weight Watchers. “Now I write down everything I eat every single day. I have a Weight Watchers tracker app on my phone that I write my food in. It takes two minutes—and it keeps me accountable.”

5. Be honest about what (and how much) you’re eating. While the food tracker app helps, Rachel also relies on friends to keep her accountable. “I have a friend, Marianne, and we e-mail our food to each other every day,” says Rachel, crediting Marianne with being “instrumental” to her success.

“We follow up with each other. We send the good, the bad, and the ugly to each other. There’s no greater gift you can give yourself than absolute dead honesty. The act of being accountable and honest transforms how I relate to food now. It’s not a secret anymore. Your secrets make you sick, and I was no longer willing to stay sick.”

“Having people around you, like Marianne, who know your goals and remind you of them, even when you’ve forgotten is key,” says Rachel. “Real friends don’t tell you it’s okay when you make a poor food choice. Real friends aren’t afraid to be your ‘mirror up to nature’.”

6. Take it one meal at a time. “Don’t think about how much weight you have to lose, focus on one meal at a time. Once you get through breakfast, that’s an accomplishment. Then you can move on to the next meal,” says Rachel. “What matters is how you manage your food in each moment.”

7. Prepare for ups and downs. Know that—despite everything you’re doing—you may not lose weight some weeks, says Rachel. “Weight loss is not one of those things that accidentally happens. The scale doesn’t lie. It will take a

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel, with her friend Marianne, outside Weight Watchers, which guided her and helped her reach her goal.

while. There were weeks that I worked my butt off and I lost not one single pound. But again, I had to take the power away from immediate gratification and that feeling that ‘If I do everything I’m supposed to do, I should lose weight.’ Sometimes that just doesn’t happen. But you have to stick with it over the long haul to see the results—and you will see results.”

The Weight Watchers meetings helped Rachel with this aspect of her weight loss—as well as her entire journey. (After having reached her goal, she’s now a lifetime member.) “The Weight Watchers meetings were a place I went each week, on good weeks and bad,” she says. “It was the place where, for 30 minutes, I could brainstorm a challenge and get support. My leader, Kelly, (now my friend) and my fellow members shared in my victories and built me up when I felt like I could not keep going.”

8. Plan what you’re going to eat—before you go out. “I make a plan about food—and what I’m going to eat in social situations—and I stick to it,” says Rachel. “I determine beforehand if I’m going to have one glass of wine at a cocktail party. I write before I bite. Food is not a relationship I should be having. I want to put my emotions back into my relationships.”

“I always look at restaurant menu before going out to eat so I know what I’m going to have,” explains Rachel. “I always commit to a lean protein like seafood and sushi. And the best part: I eat it and can still leave the restaurant feeling great.”

“I mostly stay away from Mexican and Indian though because these cuisines are harder to portion out,” she says, “but nothing is off limits anymore. Generally, though, I try to stick to cuisines that are satisfying and healthy. I also have a two-drink minimum. My rule is: if I drink I’m never having dessert, and if I’m having dessert, I don’t drink.”

9. Add extra vegetables to everything. “I bulk up on veggies,” says Rachel.

Roasted Carrots and Zucchini

Every Sunday, Rachel roasts a big batch of vegetables to add to lunches, dinners, and snacks during the week.

“On Sundays, I roast a bunch of vegetables so I can chop them up and add them to meals all week long. I make sure to have lots of vegetables with every meal.”

10.  Steer clear of packaged foods. “It’s so much easier to cook things for yourself,” says Rachel. “Cooking really doesn’t take that much time—just a little bit of prep work.” For example, Rachel makes frozen white fillets of fish with puttanesca sauce. “It takes 20 minutes to cook,” she explains. Another favorite: Chicken sausage with diced veggies, sautéed with beets and mushrooms on bed of polenta. Turkey meatloaf is another go-to dish: Rachel makes a big batch on the weekends so she has enough for lunch during the week.

Communicating with your partner about your goals is so important, too, particularly when it comes to meals. Rachel credits her husband with helping her stay on track. “Brandon would find my Weight Watchers Point allowance for the day and make us romantic dinners that were delicious and good for me, too,” she explains.

“Putting it All Together”

Reaching Weight Watchers Goal

Rachel is now a lifetime member of Weight Watchers after having reached her goal.

When asked how it feels to be a Weight-Loss Success Story, Rachel had this to say: “I feel very blessed to be able to tell my story. The more you isolate yourself and tell yourself you have it all together, the worse you do. When you surrender to the fact that you need help, the more successful you are.”

“It’s okay to not be able to do it all by yourself. I was paralyzed because I never wanted to do the hard work, the soul searching.”

Weight Loss Success Story

“One of the reasons I love this picture is I’m completely in the moment with my daughter, Colbie Laia, and not worried about having it captured in a photo—which was always the case before I lost the weight,” says Rachel.

“I make no claims to be a master of this or a perfectionist. I just need to eat the right food every day. I need to drink 6 to 8 cups of water every day. And I need to work out 4 to 5 days a week.”

But the results are so worth it: “Now I get up in the morning and go to my job without worrying about what to wear or what’s going to fit. That’s so damaging to your confidence,” says Rachel, who admits to never having worn pants with zippers before. “I would always wear dresses and stockings because that’s what felt comfortable. I didn’t own a pair of jeans or black pants. In fact, I couldn’t stand buying clothes. Now I buy 6s and 8s—and they fit perfectly. I don’t have to worry about buying clothes any more.”

“Suddenly I’m the person who can manage my live and thrive and not feel like I’m drowning,” explains Rachel. “Now I don’t look at things that are hard and feel like I can’t do them. I look at things and think about how I can achieve them. That’s an amazing gift.”

Weight Loss Success Story

Rachel at her sister’s wedding—radiating happiness and confidence.

“I was at the mercy of food for 30 years,” she says. “Enough is enough. The way I look at it: Food is either going to nurture and sustain me or it’s going to bring me back to a place where I never want to go again. It’s my choice. And I’ve decided I’m not going back to that place ever again.”

“But weight is just the beginning. What I learned about myself and my potential and the resilience of the human spirit has honestly transformed my entire perspective,” says Rachel. “I am an athlete. Together with my husband, we race through 5ks and 10ks and a half marathon. I’ve crossed the finish line in my healthy, strong body that birthed my daughter, that danced at my wedding, that crumbled in sadness and hopelessness, and that healed itself from a lifetime of pain. I am so incredibly grateful and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

 

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Mom of Four: “I Never Thought I Could Be an Athlete”

Written by: on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
TriathleteAuroraGonzalezColello

Aurora with her four children and husband.

Just five years ago, San Diego-based Aurora Gonzalez Colello—now 40—was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis); 10 lesions were discovered on her brain, through an MRI, after excruciating pain caused vision loss in one eye. She was told by her doctor not to exercise (heating up the body during exercise has been known to trigger MS symptoms like vision loss, fatigue, numbness, dizziness, memory problems, and balance problems) and to accept the fact that she had a progressive incurable disease and might never gain her full vision back.

This year, on Saturday, September 7—along with 5, 499 other athletes—she’ll swim almost a mile in the Pacific Ocean, bike almost 25 miles along

AuroraGonzalezColelloRunningDuringaTriathlon

Aurora finds time to train whenever she can—sometimes fitting it in while her kids are at sports practice.

the Pacific Coast Highway in California, and run more than 6 miles along the sands of Zuma Beach—one of the largest beaches in Los Angeles County. Despite her doctor’s warnings about exercise and accepting her “fate”, Aurora is planning on finishing strong in the 27th annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon presented by Equinox.

“This is a race that I’ve been wanting to do. It’s a great race; it’s a beautiful place to race. I’ve been training hard for it,” says Aurora, who has taken not one of the 21 triathlons she’s already participated in for granted. “I started off with a sprint distance triathlon in a bay and gradually worked my way up to this point, with ocean swims.” Last year, she did a half IronMan (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1 mile run).

But ask this mom of four kids (ages 12, 10, 7, and 5)—all of whom are home-schooled by her—how she finds the time to train for an event like this, and she says: “If you want something bad enough, you’ll let go of the stuff that’s not important and fit it in.”

How she transformed her body—and took charge of her disease

Before she was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in 2008, at the age of 35, Aurora never worried much about her body—or her health. “I was thin. I ate whatever I wanted (and didn’t really eat well) and never really needed to work out,” she says. “I thought: ‘I’m skinny so I’m healthy’. I couldn’t run a mile without stopping.”

AuroraGonzalezColello

Aurora finishing the ocean swim part of a triathlon (not easy!).

And then everything changed. Aurora started getting a pain in the back of her right eye that became excruciating. Then she lost her vision in that same eye.

After her diagnosis, she panicked. “I was scared,” she says. “I was in this constant paranoia about my health—and about what was going to happen to me and my body.”

Having been told she has a progressive incurable disease—and might never get her vision back—Aurora sent an e-mail to everyone she knew, asking their advice, experts they knew of who treated MS, and anyone they knew of with the disease. “I got a list of 15 to 20 names of people who I could talk to,” she explains. “One of those people was going to a holistic center. Another recommended an Ayurvedic neurologist. I went to see both.” That decision to break out of her box with regard to what could help her is what changed the course of Aurora’s illness—and her health—for the better.

“I had a lot of blood tests—and they came back saying I was deficient in just about every vitamin and mineral, including vitamin D and all the B vitamins,” says Aurora, who explains that’s what prompted her to radically change her diet and her lifestyle.

Exercise: While her conventional doctor told to be careful with exercise, Aurora researched the benefits of exercise and found that it could help MS patients. (One study, in particular, found that highly fit MS patients perform significantly better on tests of cognitive function

AuroraGonzalezColelloTriathlete

Fit, happy, and healthy—Aurora's whole life changed when she overhauled her diet and started training for triathlons.

than those less fit peers. The study, published in the journal Brain Research, found that highly fit MS patients actually had fewer brain lesions—which could account for the cognitive differences.

“The truth is I started training for a triathlon because my doctors told me I couldn’t,” she says. “I was very scared when I started training, but I started slow.” She also overhauled her diet with the help of the holistic medical center—and her Ayurvedic neurologist.

Diet:“My Ayurvedic neurologist taught me about herbs and eating to

TriathleteAuroraGonzalezColello

Crossing the finish line with her kids!

prevent inflammation,” says Aurora. “Now I’m on an anti-inflammatory diet—no boxed or processed foods, only natural whole foods. It’s a Paleo way of eating.”

“I used to be addicted to sugar,” she says.  “I used to need my coffee with tons of sugar—and candy bars every day at 3 p.m. But the first thing I noticed when I changed my diet is that I wasn’t craving sugar any more.” (Sugar has been shown to create inflammation in the body.)

Lifestyle: “I have to get enough sleep,” says Aurora. “Sleep is huge for me. My neurologist told me I need to be in bed by 10 every night and get 11 or 12 hours of sleep. When I start slacking off on sleep, on my diet, on my supplements, the symptoms start: my arms get numb, I get shooting pain along the side of my face. As a result, I don’t slack off any more. I can’t.”

“It’s been 5 years now,” says Aurora. “All my lesions, every single one of them, are gone right now—and I know exactly what I need to do to keep the disease at bay. But the lesions and symptoms will come back if I start slacking off.”

“I didn’t know what healthy was until I experienced true health,” says Aurora, who founded a blog healthyinheels.net about living a healthy lifestyle. “I just wish more women would be open to this fact—so much of it is fitness and diet and how you’re living; just make these changes and you’ll see big benefits.”

“I’m an athlete now but I’d never thought I’d be this person,” says Aurora. “My husband even told me, ‘I can’t believe this is you.’”

Aurora’s Healthy Living Tips:

 • Re-think your mindset. “When I was first diagnosed, I was crying and so upset after hearing about the course of the disease and all the symptoms I’d be experiencing,” says Aurora. “But what I quickly came to realize is that having an illness is so much about your mindset. All the experts tell you what to expect; they put you in a box with symptoms. But each disease is unique to each individual; you don’t have to experience those symptoms.”

• Be open to things. “Whether you’re diagnosed with a disease or not, live a preventive life,” says Aurora. “Be open to things that may seem weird or out of the box like Ayurveda and natural or holistic or integrative medicine. These may be the things that can really help you; they’re about finding the root cause of your problem. They look at the whole person.”

Don’t be intimated by fitness. “Don’t ever say, “I could never run or do a race.’ Anyone can do it. Anyone can improve their fitness level,” says Aurora, who adds: “Work toward something. So many of us don’t ever give ourselves a chance to be what we want in the future. We limit ourselves. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

The quote I live my life by: “Life your life today like no one else so you’re not regretting it later on; don’t follow what everyone else is doing.”

 

 

 

 

 

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