‘263 lbs, I loaded the stroller and walked 3 miles a day. Rain, wind, or shine.’: PCOS warrior, mom of 6 urges ‘find your why’ after losing life-saving 130 pounds

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“Okay, let me take you back to where it all began. My childhood. Up until age 6, I was a very petite, average-sized child. Very happy, healthy, active. That was until my dad was diagnosed with ALS. It was then that everything changed. Both my mom and I were coping with the stress of his illness with eating. I remember ordering pizza and eating almost an entire one…at age 7. The weight piled on. I was becoming an outcast at school, not only because I was known as the ‘one with a dying dad,’ but also because of my weight.

little girl standing by a railing posing
Courtesy of Whitney King

Kids made fun of me constantly and I had no friends. It was the summer going into 5th grade that I finally decided I needed to make a change. The stress and depression of having zero friends was greatly impacting me. I decided to lose the weight, but not because of health reasons or for myself, but strictly out of fear of never having friends. That summer I busted my butt and lost close to 50 pounds. 50 pounds at age 10 was HUGE, which may give you an idea of how large I really was.

When I got back to school, my mission was accomplished. Suddenly I had a lot of friends and became the ‘popular’ one. It’s sad really that we are programmed from a young age to believe that being skinny is cool and being fat is unworthy of being liked or loved. I continued to maintain my weight until my dad passed at age 12. But this time, instead of putting the weight back on due to depression, I continued to lose more weight. I remember getting down to 97 pounds, and I was 5’8” at the time. It became an unhealthy obsession.

Being so young, I never really knew the healthy way to lose weight. I did countless hours of cardio and only ate low-fat or fat-free options. I never looked at calories or carbs, only fat. The amount of plain white rice I ate was insane. But I didn’t have any guidance or education. I was doing this completely on my own. I was happy and content with my weight until age 15. Suddenly, the weight started to pile back on out of nowhere. I hadn’t changed anything in my routine, so the weight gain was very puzzling. I put on close to 80 pounds in one year.

little girl doing the charlie's angel pose
Courtesy of Whitney King

I remember a very vivid memory of overhearing my then boyfriend’s friends asking if he had ‘knocked me up’ because I had gotten so big. That scared me and led me to finally go to the doctor. I was diagnosed with a very common condition called PCOS. Polycystic ovarian syndrome. It basically creates many small cysts on the ovaries as well as a hormone imbalance leading to all sorts of issues. Weight gain, acne, facial hair, irregular periods, insulin resistance, etc. At the time, I was very uneducated and figured I was stuck with this for life. I remember being so petrified of never being able to have children. I remember vividly asking my doctor if I’d be able to get pregnant and his response was, ‘It’s possible, but usually you’ll need some help from medications.’

He also addressed the importance of losing weight to help control the symptoms. He said weight loss was the best thing I could do for myself; it would also give me a better chance at having kids naturally. I was only 16 though, so having kids was a long time away. Ultimately, I cared about how I looked, but it was never enough to make the change to lose the weight. I knew that losing weight was important and I knew what the doctor said was right, but I didn’t want to hear it. I avoided going to doctors offices because I didn’t want another lecture or to ever see the number on the scale again.

When I was done with high school, I took a job at a call center where I often worked long hours sitting down at a computer with zero breaks. I would eat my meals and snacks while working. That job led to an even more unhealthy lifestyle. Sitting for 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week, and always ordering takeout made me gain even more weight. I can’t count the number of pizzas, Chinese food, and sandwiches that were ordered. Not to mention, I would often not eat until noon and then I’d binge eat.

woman sitting outside in a chair
Courtesy of Whitney King

I was the biggest I had ever been, but still, I didn’t care enough to make the change. I knew I was big. I knew I was unhealthy. I wore maternity work pants to work because they were the only thing I could find that would fit me. Due to my PCOS, I carried the majority of my weight in my midsection making it impossible to find normal clothes. I overhead many family members criticizing my weight. I figured no one would ever find me attractive. I figured I’d have a hard time ever finding a boyfriend.

That is until I met my now-husband at age 21. We worked together over the phone. In the beginning, I was very self-conscious about my weight. Especially because his previous wife was the complete opposite of me. Very petite and had a great body. She was someone everyone thought was ‘hot,’ so I couldn’t figure out why he would have ever downgraded to me. Those feelings continued every day, yet I knew he loved me for me. We fell pregnant only a few months into dating but I ultimately lost the baby, a boy, at 19 weeks pregnant. I felt ultimately responsible for it.

It was a miracle I even became pregnant, but I felt because of my weight that I was the reason for the loss. My body wasn’t in good enough health to carry a baby. That loss led to even more depression and even more weight gain. I remember feeling like I had to make the change if I wanted to have a shot at ever being healthy and having a baby. I decided to join a new doctor-supervised program called ‘Ideal Protein.’ It was a very high protein, zero carb diet that was administered through a doctor with weekly weigh-ins. The initial appointment was a wake-up call for sure. I weighed in at 230 pounds and had a body fat percentage of 48%. I was almost HALF fat. I decided to make the full commitment and go all in.

woman on her wedding day smiling and happy
Courtesy of Whitney King

It was the worst diet I had ever been on and trust me, I had done my fair share of fad diets. I thought because this one was done in a doctor’s office that it would be healthy. It wasn’t. I was miserable but I was seeing progress. I lost 30 pounds in 6 weeks. That sounds great, but it wasn’t healthy. I knew I couldn’t do it long-term. I had no energy, was cranky, miserable to live with (ask my husband and stepkids). I stopped the diet in August of 2012.

3 months after my miscarriage, I felt defeated. I was never going to find something that worked. For the next 9 months, I continued to eat my feelings. My husband and I got married in June of 2013 and we decided to try again for a baby. I did it the right way by going back to my doctor for help with medications and ultrasounds. We tried for several months with no good news. We were told to ‘take a few months off’ and try again.

To my surprise, we ended up getting pregnant naturally during that ‘time off.’ I was shocked, happy, but terrified. This time the pregnancy stuck. He is my now almost 8-year-old amazing boy. But the pregnancy was HARD. Due to my weight, I was considered ‘high risk.’ I had almost weekly ultrasounds and blood draws and ended up with gestational diabetes and hypertension. I was terrified of every appointment. Always anticipating bad news and always telling the nurse ‘please don’t tell me my weight’ as I looked away from the scale.

Despite the complications, he arrived in April of 2014 and was perfectly healthy. He became the most important person in my life. He became my WHY. My purpose and my reason for actually committing to being healthy. I knew this time was different. It wasn’t like all of the other times I had attempted because this reason was greater than life. It was life. I knew how hard it was growing up losing a parent and I wasn’t going to let my son live the same life I did. Especially when it was preventable.

woman holding a baby on her chest
Courtesy of Whitney King

When he was 3 months old, I went ALL IN. I started making small changes to my diet and doing what exercise I could. But at 263 lbs, that wasn’t much. It started with just walking. I loaded him up in the stroller and we would walk for about 3 miles a day. Rain, wind, or shine. I didn’t enjoy it at first. It sucked and I wanted to quit. But I couldn’t. I looked down at him every time I wanted to quit. He was my little workout buddy.

I started to see gradual changes which made me excited. But deciding to do this journey with an infant and first-time mom came with its own set of challenges. It was hard finding time and motivation to commit when I was so exhausted, but I did it anyway. Even if it was just 20-30 minutes a day. Soon I began changing my workouts from just walking to at-home workouts. We lived in rural Montana at the time so having access to a gym wasn’t an option. I did Beachbody workouts at home or used my treadmill on cold winter days where running outside wasn’t an option.

woman dressed up for a special occasion
Courtesy of Whitney King

I was seeing big changes not only on the scale, but the way my clothes were fitting. My confidence was growing and it made continuing that much easier. I finally felt like I was doing it the ‘right’ way. By exercising and educating myself on the proper way to eat. No crash diets, no fad diets, no cutting of certain food groups. In 8 months, I had lost 80 pounds. My husband and I had decided to start trying for baby #2 since my weight was in the healthy range knowing it may still take a while to get pregnant.

My first son was only 9 months old at the time. To our surprise, we got pregnant the very first month of trying. I credit my weight loss and overall health to that. My pregnancy with my second son was completely different. Completely normal and healthy. Zero complications. I felt so proud of myself for knowing that I not only changed my first son’s life but now my second son. In the fall of 2015, I had 2 kids under age 2. Continuing my weight loss and health journey was even harder with multiple kids. It was harder finding the time to work out and the motivation to not eat their leftover mac and cheese because I was too tired to meal prep my own food.

To add to it, I was dealing with the stress of having my husband working out of state 20-23 days a month. But somehow I took it day by day and did it anyway. I went on to have one more child, a daughter, in April of 2017. I then had 3 kids aged 3 and under. My weight was fluctuating up and down due to childbirth and breastfeeding. I started to feel defeated because the weight started piling back on despite breastfeeding. I knew it was because my body was so tired from never sleeping and having 3 kids so close together in age. That takes a big toll on your body. I needed to give myself some grace to recover.

woman smiling by palm trees
Courtesy of Whitney King

I took 1 year off to rest and really try to enjoy my last baby. It was in that year off that I discovered how big exercising and eating healthy was to my overall mental health. That 1 hour of workout time was ‘my time.’ My time where I could focus on myself and not need to be a mom or wife. My entire life revolved around everyone else’s needs. I realized how miserable of a person I was when I didn’t work out or eat healthily. I tried several anti-anxiety/depression meds but I hated how they made me feel.

The best medication for me personally was a good diet and exercise routine. When I weaned my daughter from nursing I decided to hit it hard. I was done having kids and I knew I wanted to be in the best shape of my life, but I knew I was also having to start over again. I gained back about 40 of the 80 pounds lost. In August of 2019, I started watching what I was eating again and working out 5-6 days a week. A mix of cardio and heavyweights. Not only was I seeing changes on the scale again, but my mental health was improving. I was back to meal prepping and squeezing workouts in during naptimes or pickups from school.

I was often picking up my kids completely sweaty and in the same workout clothes for days. I started to become obsessed with the journey. I initially always did a lot of cardio workouts but my goals started to switch from being skinny to being strong. Fast forward 1 year and I had reached my goal weight in August of 2020. I had lost a total of 125 pounds. I thought id be ecstatic, but I was miserable. I was a shell of the old me. Skin hanging everywhere, always have to tuck my skin into high-waisted leggings. Wanting to hide from my husband because I was ashamed of the skin. Not wanting to be intimate with him because I was afraid he wouldn’t find me attractive. Which made zero logical sense because he has loved me at every single size.

The skin was like a constant reminder of the old me and no matter what I did and how much I worked out, it was never going away. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for this part of my journey. I never thought of what happens after you hit your goal weight. I figured I’d be happy, confident, feel fulfilled, and proud. At times I actually felt worse than I did when I was 263 pounds. Surgery was the only option. I decided to undergo skin removal surgery in December of 2020 and a 2nd round in July of 2021.

woman showing off her muscles
Courtesy of Whitney King
woman with her husband after losing weight
Courtesy of Whitney King
woman in the gym working out
Courtesy of Whitney King

The surgeries were life-changing. They came with their own set of challenges, but I will never regret making that decision. I finally feel free of the old me. During this last year, I have had to take some time off for recovery but I am back and stronger than ever. Health and fitness is now my biggest passion in life, besides my husband and kids of course. I live for my daily workouts and make up healthy recipes in the evenings after my kids go to bed. I am a better mom because of it. It has truly become a lifestyle for me and I love that my kids see me setting a good example of what it means to be healthy. I often get asked or told, ‘I want your motivation.’ ‘I want your dedication.’ ‘Must be nice.’ ‘I wish I could do THAT.’ And the one thing I always say is… You CAN! You have to find your why.

It took me years and years of trial and error to find mine. And as far as motivation. I struggle with that at times too. I’m human. I’m not always motivated. It’s a conscious choice I make every day to work out and be mindful of what I put in my body. It’s become so habitual to me that I don’t even think I don’t have time for a workout each day. I just do it. I make it a priority just as I would with a job or being a parent. And as of today, I am 130 pounds down. I have no intention of losing any more weight, but I will continue my journey until the day I die.

woman after losing weight in a bikini on a bach
Courtesy of Whitney King
woman showing off her muscles
Courtesy of Whitney King
woman in a skirt posing in a mirror
Courtesy of Whitney King

I fully plan on competing in a fitness competition next year. If you would have asked me 10 years ago that I would be getting ready to compete, I would have laughed in your face. It’s true that anything is possible and time can truly change everything. Find your why. Find your strength. Find your motivation. Find your determination. Find what works for you. Find your partner. Find your inner badass. Surround yourself with support and set yourself up for success. I give so much credit to myself, but also to the people that helped and supported me along the way. My husband and kids. All 6 of them! They have loved me through every shape and size.”

woman taking a mirror selfie
Courtesy of Whitney King

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Whitney King. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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