“Hello, my name is Kaylin Gealy. I am 25 years old and was born and raised in the beautiful city of Greenville, South Carolina. We have beautiful weather almost every month out of the year and plenty of outdoor activities and sites to see. Growing up, we always explored as a family and sports were a big part of schools around here. From middle school up until my graduation, I was always drawn to softball. Starting out on the JV team and eventually making it to the varsity team, I was always motivated to excel and I got a thrill out of being active. When graduation came and went, my activities diminished while my ways of ‘eating like an athlete’ remained. The sports were over and it was time to get a job and set new goals for myself! I’ve always been a people person, so it just makes sense that my first job was as a waitress.
Growing Love For Food
You can guarantee I picked working around my favorite foods as well! I could sell anyone on a garlicy, cheese covered Italian dish. And how nice were my bosses to let me have a free meal every shift? I loved waitressing so much I would even pick up extra shifts! I thought to myself, ‘Surely all this walking around the restaurant will balance out the free meals every day.’ That was not the case. The calories far exceeded the steps. Extra cheese? Yes please! And add the extra garlic bread as well. My love was quickly growing toward food and indulging in all of the flavors of Italy that were always at my fingertips. But as my love for food grew, my love for myself was fading.
I will never forget the day where my life felt to have turned upside down. As a waitress, I had many regulars come request my section and we would catch up during their meal as friends. ‘Hey Sandra! Are you having the usual today?’ She was! I fixed her unsweet tea and put her order into the computer before making my way to sit with her for a few minutes before my section would be sat again. She told me about how work was going and then she got a serious look on her face and asked, ‘Are you taking any new medications?’ I was completely caught off guard because the extent of my medication usage was an occasional Advil.
My brain started turning trying to think of why she would ask me this, but I couldn’t put my finger on it so I simply responded back to her, ‘No, why?’ She pulled her phone out of her purse and scrolled for a second before showing me a photo she had taken of me about one year prior, when I had worn a costume to work for Halloween. ‘You have doubled in size over the year and I thought it must be from some kind of medication.’ My smile started to quiver, and I felt my vision blur as the tears started filling my eyes. I kept my composure the best I could and walked back to the kitchen cooler. I didn’t make it to the cooler; I only made it through the kitchen door before the waterworks exploded. I knew I had been gaining weight but hearing it from a stranger really hurts. This was a big factor in why I wanted to change my life. I never wanted to feel that way again and every time I thought about it, I found myself missing that athletic girl in school.
Weight Loss Motivation
Before starting my weight loss journey, I was constantly tired and struggling to find energy. I found myself canceling plans with friends and not participating in any events that required exerting energy or moving for long periods of time. I found comfort in going to the store and indulging in sweet treats by myself. I liked getting takeout, and drive thru fast food was so convenient. I was supposed to be living the best years of my life, having just entered my 20s, but I was not. I was going through some of the most trying times of my life. My doctor was also concerned about my diet and lifestyle. My blood pressure was high, as well as my cholesterol, and health problems relating to both of these issues run on both sides of my family.
While the health issues scared me, and I now knew how strangers would judge my appearance, my motivation eventually came from watching YouTube videos, looking at Instagram transformation pictures, and hearing testimonies of women just like me who had lost weight and how their lives had been positively impacted. I had gotten a new job transitioning from waitressing to office work, and I wanted to change even more in my life. I probably searched ‘my weight loss journey’ more times than anyone that year. Every video and post, I would pay close attention to what worked for them and start taking mental notes. I was forming my own plan. I was feeling really empowered to feel healthy and happy again and find that self love I lost.
I vividly remember driving home from work (the new office job) one day and seeing a treadmill by a trash can. It had a sign on it that read ‘FREE.’ In my eyes, it was a sign that now was the time to start. I wasn’t even asking for a ‘sign’ per say, but that did it for me! I couldn’t keep telling myself I would start next Monday or make any other excuse. It was now or never. And that treadmill came home with me! The day I decided to start was May 10, 2018. I barely had room for the machine, but it was an important tool for me because I was still too self-conscious to get outside and walk. The incline function on the treadmill didn’t even work, but it got me moving. I set a goal to walk on it every day, and I started my Instagram page to hold myself accountable. I wanted to document my exercise, size, and meals.
Finding What Works
Diets have always been trial and error for me. I saw many people have success with watching portion sizes, but I like big plates full of food. Once I realized cutting down on portion size wasn’t going to be sustainable for me, I read up on intermittent fasting. Eating only between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. worked well for the first few months. I could still eat what I wanted but in a smaller window of time. But after some time, I realized I would feel hungry in the morning or later at night, and would feel like I let myself down if I ate before 12 p.m. or after 8 p.m. Not a healthy mindset. I decided I needed to try something else because I wanted to improve my mental health, not only my weight.
That’s when I discovered calorie counting, or the CICO rule. CICO stands for ‘calories in, calories out.’ I read so many documents and listened to many dietitians talk about how, in order to lose weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit. I loved vegetables, so I downloaded an app where I could track what I ate and started learning about the volume of food and how different kinds could fuel my body differently. I was able to eat when I was hungry, eat bigger portions, and still lose weight by eating more vegetables, fewer carbs, and more lean proteins. It was awesome! I would put together some of the best salads and come up with awesome recipes by simply replacing some of the high-calorie low-volume foods with vegetables and other low-calorie high-volume foods. The bulk of my weight loss came simply from being in a calorie deficit. I lost 75 pounds my first year! The last 25 were the most difficult but I had already made it so far, nothing was going to keep me from achieving my goal.
I have since then transitioned to a low-carb, keto eating to see how my body reacts. So far it has been the best eating plan for me energy wise. I started with exercising just by walking. My goal was to walk every day, and I have stuck with it. Some days it was indoor walking on the treadmill, other days it was walking outside. I even started making plans with friends again to go hiking or just get my steps in while downtown. At first it was hard because I was used to sitting down on the couch, snacking, and watching TV. I made the switch to walk on the treadmill at first while still watching my favorite shows, and now I will walk around my neighborhood listening to podcasts. True Crime podcasts are my favorite, and I find if I am watching or listening to something interesting, it makes time fly by and it’s more enjoyable. I try to walk five days a week. Walking is free, good for you, and effective. It is amazing for cardiovascular health. In addition to walking, I do yard work and gardening. I have added push-ups and crunches to my daily exercise, but nothing major. I once heard weight loss is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise, and for me that has proven true.
These three changes made the biggest difference in my weight loss results.
- I started eating more vegetables, and reduced carbs and sugar. Finding substitutions for things you love is easy and can reduce caloric intake. You don’t realize how little volume a serving of pasta is until you read the serving size on the box. It is mind blowing to realize what 100 calories of pasta or bread versus 100 calories of vegetables or fruit looks like, almond milk instead of regular, cauliflower and cheese instead of macaroni, and water or seltzer water instead of soda or juice.
- I started moving. Parking further from the door of a store or work helped me get in more steps/movement throughout the day. Halfway through my lifestyle changing I purchased an activity tracking watch and I would feel so proud hitting my step goals for the day.
- I set small goals and rewarded myself when I hit each one. All progress is good progress, and even if you have a stall or mess up sometimes, you have to remember it isn’t a failure. For me, weight loss was never linear. I decided to reward myself when I hit a goal with things like buying a new piece of clothing for every 20 pounds I lost or taking a weekend trip whenever I hit a goal.
Overall, I have lost 100 pounds. It took around two years to lose it, and I have been maintaining it over the past two years. I would say when it comes to any kind of health journey, you yourself will be your biggest motivator! You have to believe in yourself and have patience, but also have the mental strength to keep going and not give up! Of course, there were days when I woke up and just wanted to give up, but if you push yourself, you’ll be so happy you did. No one ever regrets a healthy meal or any form of exercise. If I truly felt there was absolutely no way I could do a 30 minute walk, I would aim for 10 and ask myself after, ‘Didn’t that feel great?!’ And 9 times out of 10 I’d end up walking again that day. Maintaining has been just as much of a journey! I reached that goal weight, but I have created new goals to build strength and find even healthier meals I love that are great for me.
You start feeling like yourself more and more when you set a goal like this and achieve it. My confidence, happiness, anxiety, health, stress, sleep, energy, and so much more have improved more than I could have ever imagined. I am so proud of myself and I don’t think I could love myself any more than I do today. I feel like an entirely new person.
Weight Loss Advice
If I could give advice to others trying to lose weight and become healthier, it would be the following: First of all, you have to ask yourself why. Why do you want to do it? My reason was that I wanted my energy back, I wanted to live life to the fullest. I wanted to love myself again and not make my doctor worry about where I was going to be 5 years down the road. Once you figure out your ‘why,’ ask yourself how. How are you going to do it? Get a game plan! I always suggest starting with one swap a week. The first thing I swapped was sugary coffee creamer and instead started using Unsweetened almond milk and stevia. Was it just as delicious? Yes! And could I keep it up for life? Yes!
You have to really remove yourself from the ‘diet’ mindset. It isn’t a diet, you are creating a new life for yourself. If you ever make a healthy swap and think, ‘Wow this is terrible!,’ don’t make that swap. Find something else to try. If you can’t do it for life, keep trying other options. That is the reason my goal has always been to walk 30 minutes a day for my form of exercise. If I had told myself I needed to go to the gym ‘X’ amount of days a week, I would have failed. I do not like the gym; that wasn’t a good thing for me to include in my game plan. Consistency is key. Find what you can be consistent with and form those healthy habits. Lastly, I would say patience is a huge part of a weight loss journey. We all want to lose weight super fast but that isn’t how it works. ‘You didn’t gain the weight overnight, you aren’t going to lose it overnight.’ Ughhh, but why? I know we wish we could but it is a journey, not a sprint, so just tell yourself, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’
Some things I wish I did when starting out-
I wish I had taken pictures and measurements throughout my journey. The scale WILL fluctuate and it’s great to have other tools to keep you going. I didn’t have very many pictures of me at the start and I avoided cameras at family events at all costs! If my mom took a picture of me, I would try to delete it.
Not compare myself to others. When I was losing weight, I would always ask people on social media, ‘Well how long did it take you to lose 20 pounds?’ Or, ‘How long until you had energy again?’ But it isn’t a one size fits all answer. I needed to realize what happened with someone else was not necessarily what would happen with me on my journey.
I also wish I had found a little support community to be a part of, like what I use my Instagram for now! I love motivating others and inspiring them. My all time favorite thing is to receive messages about how I have helped someone. When I get a message, ‘I’m 5 pounds down!,’ I reminisce on when that was me. I can feel the excitement and joy all over again. It’s incredible.
I never thought I would be where I am today, but I am so happy I was patient with myself. I love that I am able to help others now, because it helps me too!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kaylin Gealy of Greenville, SC. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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