‘I was over 400 pounds. I felt like a failure as a woman and wife. I lost jobs because I didn’t ‘look’ the part. When I’d walk my dog, people would scream things at me out their car window.’

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“My names Maria Odugba and I’m 25 years old. As a child, I spent much of my time in my father’s pizza restaurant. I didn’t eat very many ‘home cooked’ meals and restaurant food was pretty much my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I didn’t have a problem eating my fruits and vegetables like most children. I just liked to eat excess amounts. I had no idea what was a correct portion of food. Because of this I’ve been overweight the majority of my life.

Being overweight as a child opens many opportunities to being bullied. I couldn’t wear the same clothes the other kids wore; I didn’t get invited to any of the birthday/slumber parties. I knew I was different…and I hated it. I wanted to change and at 11 years old I already had a gym membership and a personal trainer. I wanted to be healthier and fit in like every one else, so that’s when my weight loss goals started. No matter how hard I tried to lose weight I was unable. When I turned 12, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). As a teenager, I went to many doctors, dietitians, and wellness facilities. Everyone told me what to do but didn’t teach me very much about how to take those skills and implement them into my every day life. I was given about 5 different medications by the age of 13 and everything kept getting worse.

By the time I graduated high school, I weighed over 350 pounds. By my second year of college, I weighed over 400 pounds. I decided to pursue a degree in Sport and Exercise Science because even though I was overweight, I had a strong interest in how the body worked and wanted to help athletes become the best version of themselves. I had no idea I was going to begin creating the best version of myself.

Courtesy of Maria Odugba

I remember going to the doctor, getting on the scale, and seeing the number reach over 400 pounds. That was when I realized it was time to do something about my weight. I got a gym membership, started to clean up my diet, and focused on reaching small goals one step at a time.

I lost the first 100 pounds in about a year through diet and exercise alone. The problem is when you weigh over 400 pounds and you lose 100 pounds, you’re still considered morbidly obese (300 lbs). I constantly got picked on by people who had no clue that I’d reached such a huge goal in my life. I would walk my dog down the sidewalk and people would scream things out of their car windows. I would get terrible looks in restaurants and I even lost out on a few job opportunities because I did not ‘look’ the part. I still had to walk around in my obese body. I struggled with that. I saw so many people losing 100 lbs and being ‘smaller’ and I still had so much to go. I think that’s when things started to go downhill.

Courtesy of Maria Odugba

I got married in the beginning of 2017 and was the happiest I had ever been. I was at my lowest weight of 285 and felt so good about myself mentally and physically. I was off the majority of the medications I had been on since a child and I was able to share my story with millions. My husband supported me 100% with the goals I had for myself. I was in a great place in my life. Then, all of the sudden, the weight loss stopped. It wasn’t the usual plateau I’d experienced before. I ate super clean, worked out every day, and couldn’t lose a pound. I was constantly tired and I would yawn through my workouts. I never wanted to cook at home, I wanted to eat something quick and convenient and go to bed. Something was wrong. At the end of 2017, my doctor diagnosed me with Hashimotos Hypothyroidism. All the side effects I was having finally made sense.

2018 was a time of healing for me. I was struggling very badly with the idea of PCOS keeping me from losing weight and getting pregnant. I was struggling with having to take more medication than I originally started with. If I wasn’t dealing with fatigue, I was extremely sick due to medication side effects. I almost gave up on myself. I didn’t lose a pound in 2018. I gained a bit back. It was hard for me at first to deal with it all. I didn’t feel like myself. Some times I even felt like a failure as a woman and wife. I never imagined that I wanted to have a baby when I was that 12 year old girl being diagnosed with PCOS but now the 25 year old me wants to. My husband tries his best to understand my crazy moods, random naps, and monthly cry sessions. I had to teach myself that it just wasn’t me going through this it was him too. If he can put his faith in me then I should be able to put faith in myself as well.

Courtesy of Maria Odugba

Through the support of my friends, family, and online followers I’ve been able to balance out my levels and gain the motivation that I lost a while ago. I’ve learned that I just have to keep trying. I’m on the road to finish what I’ve started. I have so many followers that reach out to me sending me kind words and motivation. Random people will stop me at the gym and push me to keep going. My husband is doing a great job of understanding how things work (PCOS and Hypothyroidism) and how he can help and motivate me to keep going. I’m currently working out 4-5 days a week and cleaning up my diet. I’m not as strict as I used to be years ago but I also know that you can’t outwork a bad diet so I’m doing the best I can to put clean foods into my body. My workouts are my favorite parts of my day. I keep my cardio as fun as possible (Zumba, boxing…etc) and I enjoy strength training more than I probably should.

If there’s anything I could tell people it would be that weight loss is not black and white. There are so many factors. I firmly believe that you should love yourself no matter what but I love myself enough to know that I need to be the healthiest me I can be.”

Courtesy of Maria Odugba

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Maria Odugba. Follow her journey on Instagram hereSubmit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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