One day I'm gonna tell my kids the story about how I ran two marathons in two different countries in one week, and (hopefully) they'll think I'm a badass.
In life, we go through a lot of major milestones worth celebrating. For me, graduating college was pretty epic. So was landing my first NY big-girl job. Moving out of my mom's house — also monumental. Paying my first $1,175 rent bill on my own — flat out amazing for a girl-turned-woman who used to deliver her college newspaper for $20 a day. But my biggest accomplishment to date? Losing — and keeping off — 70 pounds.
I remember the night my journey started like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my college dorm room working on statistics homework when I spotted it out of the corner of my eye. The silver digital scale resting below my bed in the same place I stashed it on move-in day. At the time, it wasn't that I didn't know that I had a weight issue. I knew I wasn't skinny. I never liked to look at photos of myself. But until that point, I had never felt the need to confront my weight head on. As the homework procrastination grew, my curiosity piqued.
So I did it. I pulled the scale out from under my bed and tapped it with my big toe. I stepped on. Those three seconds felt like three hours as I stood there waiting to be confronted with the truth. And then it happened. I was mortified. Momentarily frozen. How did I get here? I wondered, as tears instantly welled up in my eyes — momentarily obscuring the number on the scale. Two-hundred and four pounds.
I had to do something. Without hesitation, I walked over to the dresser and pulled out a high school volleyball sweatshirt. After tripping over myself pulling on a pair of black cotton leggings, I put on sneakers and left my dorm room and headed for the staircase. Breath labored, pulse high, I flung open the exit door.
I took off down the long stretch of road into the night alongside my dorm, sprinting as fast as my legs could carry me. Within 30 seconds, I collapsed onto the grass, overtaken with emotion. How did I get here? I asked myself again. It hit me like daggers in my 18-year-old stomach. Two-hundred and four pounds. I replayed the numbers on that small, dusty screen over and over in my head. It didn't take long, lying there, before I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to make a change. I knew I had to lose weight. I knew I couldn't live like that anymore. In that moment, I promised myself I wouldn't.
Seven years later, a lot has happened since that night lying in the grass freshman year. There was a point when I joined Weight Watchers and went to weekly meetings, sometimes with my mom. I picked up running and completed my first half-marathon. I trained for and ran a full marathon. And another. And another. And then I was crazy enough to run another two marathons on different continents within six days, something 204-pound Emily would've never in her wildest dreams ever fathomed.
Still, as a woman in my late 20s, I'm well aware that maintaining this weight loss and an active, healthy lifestyle is a daily commitment. I know that my journey is lifelong. Here are the three biggest lessons I learned that helped me to lose 70 pounds:
1. Never Completely Eliminate Anything
Fad diets almost all have one thing in common: you have to get rid of something. Eliminating things like french fries or bread entirely just made me want them more. For me, the guilt that surrounded the consumption of these "bad" foods was so difficult to manage. Instead of labeling these troublesome foods as "bad," I learned about proper portion sizes. And although it's not always easy to stop at a half-cup serving of gelato, I've come to appreciate and savor every last bite.
2. Find an Activity That Makes You Feel Happy
I can't even begin to estimate how many days I spent logging 45 minutes on an elliptical overlooking the campus pool. Despite staring at the shirtless guys swimming laps, I dreaded it. I hated going to the gym. To be real, there wasn't a single activity that I loved doing. Exercise wasn't my thing.
Then, I started running outside. At first, I most definitely did not love it. At the time, I worked at an overnight Summer camp without any fitness equipment. Running seemed like my only option. Every day for the entire Summer, I laced up, ran a single mile, and then went on with my day. Soon, that single mile became two miles. Then a 5K, and, well, you get the picture.
Running has become my release. When I'm pounding pavement, I'm happy. I feel comfortable. I blast beats from my Apple Music playlist and decompress. If you don't love what you do, you won't keep it up. Find an activity that feels true to who you are, and know that you don't have to be the best at it. You just have to like doing it.
3. Surround Yourself With a Solid Support System
It's one thing to go out on a Saturday afternoon with girlfriends to an Insta-worthy spot to snag a few ice cream cones. It's another thing to surround yourself with "friends" who give you crap for not wanting to binge drink come Friday night. Excessive calories aside, there's nothing wrong with not wanting to be hungover for your early morning workout class the next day. Find the people who support you in your personal health goals. While your best friends may not want to crush sprints on the treadmill next to you, they'll understand that it's a part of your life that's important.