When we interview women for before-and-after weight-loss stories, our favorite question to ask has nothing to do with diet or exercise. In fact, it's: "What was the first big difference — other than the number on the scale — that really made you feel proud and excited?"
These nonscale victories paint an incredibly powerful picture about a woman's journey — where she's come from, what she's gone through, and oftentimes the little things we can all take for granted. You don't even need to be on a weight-loss journey to be inspired by these beautiful responses.
So what is that big difference for these weight-loss champions? Eighteen women shared triumphant and vulnerable details about what their weight loss meant for them and how it has impacted their everyday lives.
"I've always been big — even in high school I was wearing size-18 pants. I think the moment I wriggled into a size 16 was my first big, proud moment. I now wear size 8!" — Sarah Thornton
"The first nonscale victory for me was being able to shop in the regular-size section at the store. I was so excited being able to buy my first size-16 pants!" — Rachelle Hosick
"Being able to fit into clothes that I never thought I'd fit into again . . . it's a surreal feeling."
"Being able to fit into clothes that I never thought I'd fit into again . . . it's a surreal feeling. I vividly recall trying on a dress again that hadn't fit in years and finding that it was way too big. I was drowning in it. And I just looked at myself in the mirror and broke down in tears. I was so damn proud of myself; never did I imagine I would ever lose weight and get healthier. I never believed in myself until that moment. That was a very cathartic moment for me!" — Kaitlyn van Brunschot
"I think every woman has clothes in their closest that are a size or two too small that we're hoping to fit into 'one day.' I had this pair of shorts my 'skinny' friend gave me as a hand-me-down. When I began my weight-loss journey, I would look at them and think, 'These are so small; I can't imagine ever fitting into them!' After being on Jenny Craig for a while, I finally had the courage to try them on. They fit perfectly! That was so exciting!" — Angela Estrada
"My life has been transformed dramatically. People tell me that on the outside, I am the person who I always was inside. I am happier, more vibrant, more engaged in all aspects in life. I believe in myself and I am empowered to develop more areas of my life. I am more active with my family and am open to new experiences . . . ones that I felt were closed off to me prior." — Esther Hollander
"The biggest thing for me has been the mental change. That's what I am most proud of. I was always intimidated to try anything new, or even ashamed, and had the mentality that I could never do something or wasn't strong enough to even try. I've proven myself wrong so many times now that my mindset has completely shifted to 'why not?' and now I LOVE pushing my limits and finding new ways to challenge myself. I was holding myself back and didn't even realize it!" — Jessica Forseth
"Weight loss has dramatically changed every aspect of my life. I feel so much better: I'm happier, more confident, and a lot healthier. I am more confident now and, because of that, applied for my dream job as a behavioral therapist and have been doing that now for 10 months now. I am more confident in myself and can now wear clothes that I always wanted to." — Amber Anderson
"It was the confidence I gained while losing weight. Not only did I feel so much better and more alive, but I also started to love how I looked as a result. My skin was glowing, I was smiling more, and I started enjoying clothes shopping again." — Lobke Meulemeester
"My ability to say no to food that once controlled me. When I began to see willpower developing around tempting unhealthy food, I felt like I was a new person. I got stronger with it every day. And I was eating delicious healthy food, too." — Jennifer Ginley
Improved Energy Levels
"The energy I now have, the way the stress levels have decreased dramatically, but most importantly the fact that my doctor has removed me from THREE prescription medications. Additionally, all my numbers are now in good, healthy ranges (i.e., cholesterol)." — Ellie Carter
""Weight loss has dramatically changed every aspect of my life. I feel so much better: I'm happier, more confident, and a lot healthier."
"For me, honestly, it wasn't really about the pounds lost, but more that I felt so much better. I came back to life again, and my energy was back. I found the old 'Ashley' again, and that is what made me so proud. I didn't ever think that would be possible." — Ashley Witter
Becoming Motivation For Others
"When people I looked up to in the gym approached me and told me that I was motivation for them. Talk about a totally surreal feeling!" — Chelsea Martin
"I remember when I lost about 20 pounds, I didn't feel like I looked very different, but my coworkers started noticing my weight loss and asking if I had been losing weight. I remember feeling really proud that other people were noticing and so many people were being supportive of my weight-loss journey." — Julie Ana Kim
"The moment Karena and Katrina featured me on their Instagram. I may not have been able to see my progress (and I was so impacted by the number on the scale) but they could see my progress." — Taylor Quigg
Seeing Muscle Tone
"Finding muscles I didn't know I had! I remember how excited I was to see my calf muscle! That and wrapping a towel all the way around my body . . . and having room to spare!" — Katie Hug
A New Sense of Space
"When my son was small, he was never able to sit on my lap . . . because I did not have a lap for him to sit on! My biggest accomplishment was picking up my son (even though he was TOO BIG at this point to sit on my lap) and putting him on my lap and giving him the biggest bear hug ever. That was an emotional moment for me, and one I will never forget! The other big one was the first time I crossed my legs for the first time in my life! There have been so many more accomplishments, especially those almost all 'normal-size' people take for granted. So many proud moments." — Pam Horrocks
"It wasn't really about the pounds lost, but more that I felt so much better. I came back to life again."
"Wow! Where do I start? I went from dependent on my husband to take a shower, dress, cook dinner, and much of the care of our children because my body was in so much pain all the time. I wasn't able to walk a half a mile to the bus stop to get my kids without being out of breath and sweating like crazy. I would knock off items at the store with my stomach and people would stand there and look at me as I attempted to bend over and pick up the items, or I would kick them under something to hide it so I wouldn't have the embarrassment of having to pick it up. I not only couldn't fit in my seat belt . . . I couldn't fit in our car! I had to always drive our large SUV. Even then, my stomach was tight against the steering wheel, causing rub burns. I fell asleep throughout my day from exhaustion, even while helping my kids with their homework." — Katie Patterson
"For me the first big difference was having a different sense of space. I remember when I was overweight, I took up so much more of an area; my arms could not simply sit at my side, they instead jutted out, or when I was sitting in class in university, I could not put down the little side table attached to my seat as it did not sit flat. Once I lost the weight, this changed; I felt more confident when I was walking around and didn't feel awkward about where I stood or if I was in the way, like I had felt before. I also enjoyed a new sense of self-esteem that I hadn't had; I was able to work on being more assertive and was able to feel worthy enough to start focusing my energy on what I wanted out of life. I overall felt a lot happier and more able to enjoy where I was in life." — Hailey Hechtman