Meet Meredith, from @bear_gets_skinny. She has lost an impressive 105 pounds over the last year. At 29, she was pushing 300 and her doctor recommended bariatric surgery. Instead, she started making changes in her daily habits and transformed her life. After watching her reach the 100-pound milestone, I was inspired to learn more about her story. Graciously, Meredith openly answered my questions, sharing her history and hopes for the future. I hope you will enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.
What's your history with your weight and body?
I’ve struggled with weight my whole life. As a kid, I always felt “fat”—even as young as 8 years old. There was a lot of family pressure to be thin, and it was glorified as a means to success. I was constantly criticized for what I ate. A family member even bought me running shoes when I was 9 or 10 so that I could start working out. That same person used to stand me in front of the mirror and teach me how to “suck it in” because I had a belly. I couldn’t have been more than 9. In my family, it was eating disorder central; you either didn’t eat or you ate too much, and there was a lot of tension that resulted.
As I entered puberty, the baby fat was slow to come off, but it did. It wasn’t until college that I really lost it all, but I didn’t do so healthily. My first two weeks on campus I lost 15 lbs and ate only lettuce. I then gained a few back, but starved myself for another two weeks and dropped a further 15. I went from 195 to 165. I felt great. I felt successful. And I was hungry. I came to associate hunger and emptiness with happiness and social acceptance. For the first time, I was the pretty one, and I loved that feeling. I started putting schoolwork aside and focusing only on weight loss and fitness. I got down to 150.
I came to associate hunger and emptiness with happiness and social acceptance.
Eventually I gained a lot of it back. From there on out it was a constant yo-yo scenario between 150 and 190. I don’t even remember how many times I went up and down. It’s dizzying, but I was never satisfied. I was never thin enough. I mean, I wanted to be THIN.
In 2007 I finally got there. I started starving myself again, to the point where a foot-long subway sandwich would last me 4 days. I would cut it into quarters and eat one a day, but the guilt from even putting that into my body was immense. I got down to 134 pounds, my lowest, and I loved the high I got from being empty. The flipside of that was ugly though; I was starving, I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on school. I was a zombie.
After destroying my metabolism, I couldn’t take it anymore. I started to eat again, and I started to binge. My weight soared from a low of 134 to a high of 290+. I don’t know the exact number because I was too embarrassed to even step on the scale. I could’ve been over 300. In just a year I gained over 100 pounds. By 2013 I hit my high.
My weight soared from a low of 134 to a high of 290+. I don’t know the exact number because I was too embarrassed to even step on the scale. I could’ve been over 300.
Over the past year I have maintained these changes, and continued to lose. I’m now down 105+ pounds from my highest weight, and I feel like a different person. I’m also not the sad, starving girl I was in my early 20’s. This new me lives an active and healthy life, and I’m figuring out how to do everything in moderation. Life, after all, is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you could go back and give advice to yourself at the beginning, what would it be?
The only advice I would give myself is to not be so scared. I had a lot of anxieties starting out, many of them social. I thought I was too fat for the gym, I hated being in public, etc. I did face all of these anxieties head on, but with so much trepidation. I would tell myself to relax a little!
Do you have a daily routine?
I do have a routine, and it keeps me sane. I like to wake up relatively early and sit and have my coffee. I need this “me time.” I like working out in the morning as well when I have a lot of energy. In the evenings all I want to do it curl up on the couch, especially now that the weather has gotten colder. I have been known to work out in the evenings though if I simply don’t have time earlier in the day. I’m generally in bed by 11 pm, although I do wish it was a bit earlier.
What are your favorite internal changes since losing 100 pounds?
My favorite internal changes are both physical and psychological. Most obviously, I love that I can walk without running out of breath, and I can climb stairs without pause. I remember climbing five stories to the top of the Empire State Building to avoid the elevator line, and I thought I was going to die. Now I routinely take the stairs to my high-rise apartment. Mentally, everything is different as well. All those anxieties that kept me cooped up before are gone. I faced them head on, and it paid off. I sold my car and started taking the train to force myself to be around other people. I dragged myself to the gym at almost 300 pounds despite girls snickering, and now I look like I belong there. My whole outlook on life has gone from bleak and limited to “I can do anything.”
What are your favorite external changes since losing 100 pounds?
My favorite external change has to be my face and neck. At around 300 pounds I was quite literally choking on my fat. I couldn’t breathe because it was pressing on my windpipe. I couldn’t lay down on my back because it was crushing. I missed my cheekbones, my collarbones, and my jawline. But, one year later, they’re back! And I love it.
How has your relationship with food changed?
I still love food, don’t get me wrong. Food and overeating will always be a struggle for me. I’ve learned the willpower to say no, however. I manage my diet through MyFitnessPal. I definitely count calories; for me, it’s the only way. I also say no to carbs. They make me feel sluggish and bloated. I eat protein, fat, and vegetables, which are my sole source of carbohydrates. It’s worked well for me.
What are your go-to quick and easy meal(s) when you're tired or short on time?
Eggs, eggs, eggs! You can top and egg with pretty much anything, but my favorite is guacamole. If I’m on the go, sometimes I’ll take hardboiled eggs and some cheese, like string cheese.
How has your relationship with exercise changed? I’ve always been an active person, despite my lifelong struggle with weight. Growing up I was a swimmer, and that took up a lot of my time. In college I got into running and biking. The only time I really haven’t been active was when I was gaining all that weight. Now, physical activity is part of my life again. It’s my hobby, and it’s what I do when I’m bored or stressed. I like solo workouts, although recently I’ve been forcing myself to take classes to expand my horizons. My favorite is boot camp. I also really love high-intensity workouts that get my heart rate up. The harder the better. It’s probably why I sleep so well! I occasionally lift, but my true love is cardio. I used to use a fitbit but took it off because knowing the exact numbers was hindering my progress. It made me obsess, which in turn led to overworking myself. Now I just estimate my calorie burn from the readout on the machines and call it a day. It’s much less stressful for me, and works better.
How do you motivate yourself to stay active when you are stressed and short on time?
Well, since working out is how I relieve stress, that’s not really an issue! If I’m short on time I’ll wake up earlier to make it to the gym. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, though, and I’ve come to learn that sometimes taking a day off isn’t the worst thing in the world. I have a tendency to overdo everything, so this is actually progress for me!
How have your relationships with people changed since losing 100 pounds
My relationships have changed immensely. The whole world treats you differently. People in my apartment building used to be so rude to me, but now they’re all smiles. On the subway, as a big girl, people give you dirty looks because you take up so much room on the seats. I remember distinctly one time a man literally sat on me and shoved me into the poles cursing. I was humiliated. I also used to get looks of terror from people sitting down when I would eye the seat next to them. I know they were thinking they were about to get crushed. Now there are no strange looks. Even better, I don’t even need to sit anymore. Before I would experience so much pain in my knees and feet even standing 20 minutes, but now it’s an afterthought.
What are your current goals?
I don’t have an exact number in mind, since after going through the ups and downs my body is completely different than it used to be. I’ll tentatively say 145 lbs, or a size 8. I’ll know when I get there! I’m definitely still losing though.
Anything else you want to share with others in the weightloss community?
Be strong! Stick it out! Don’t give up! No matter how daunting it seems, don’t quit. Focus on one day at a time, and you will get through it. The pain and struggle of losing weight is NOTHING compared to the pain and struggle of obesity. If I can do this, so can you.
Where can we find you online?
You can follow my journey on Instagram! My username is @bear_gets_skinny.