After Struggling With Addiction, Getting Active and Eating Healthier Helped Erin Stay Sober
Prior to becoming sober in May 2018, Erin Laraia struggled with alcohol and drug abuse for years, since age 21 through 25. "In a weird way, I felt like I had control over something," Laraia explained, telling POPSUGAR that, when she got sober, she proceeded to feel many things in her life were out of her control, which was a "real hardship" for her. Her weight-loss journey that started that fall, though, grounded her in a different sense of control and gave her a specific goal to continue bettering herself as a person inside and out.
At the beginning of her sobriety, Laraia went to outpatient rehab and did continued care until February of 2019. In the past, she's tried many different methods of weight loss from WW (formerly Weight Watchers) to supplements such as Hydroxycut, which were not sustainable. "There really is no quick fix that will yield long-term results," she said. "It is truly a lifestyle change, and that means changing the way you think, talk to yourself, and your everyday routine."
Now 28, Laraia has lost 90 pounds in fewer than two years. Most importantly, though, "weight loss gave me something every day to work for," Laraia said. Ahead, check out more on how she stays active, nourishes her body, and balances her weight-loss and sobriety journeys, both of which she's seeing healthy results from.
Laraia's Workout Routine Before COVID-19 and During
When Laraia had a job as a medical transporter, it required her to be on her feet a lot. She started losing weight and felt more energized. Then, after moving to a desk job in January of 2019, she began a strict routine of going to the gym in the mornings — she'd walk a mile or two, then transitioned to jogging, and within two months, she was jogging four to five miles up to five times per week. This is also when she started religiously wearing her Fitbit. She did weight-training circuits as well at least twice weekly, or sessions on the StairMaster, but her workout routine has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walking and hiking has been Laraia's tried and true method of exercise to maintain her current weight during the pandemic. She typically does between 350 and 450 minutes a week of strictly walking (that's up to seven and a half hours!) — and wearing her Fitbit helps her keep track of that goal. She also bought resistance bands from Amazon to use at home.
Laraia Changed Her Eating Habits
When Laraia first started making changes to what she ate, she began by cutting out soda. Now she focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods. She and her boyfriend have relied on the meal delivery service Hello Fresh for dinners — her favorites are the ones under 600 or 700 calories that "broadened our horizons in terms of recipe ideas." She also still goes out to eat once or twice weekly.
Here's a sample of what a day of meals might look like for Laraia:
- Breakfast: two hard-boiled eggs and fruit
- Snack: Lenny & Larry's cookie with some peanut butter
- Lunch: chicken salad with Triscuits or pineapple curry from her favorite Thai place
- Snack: cucumbers and hummus, baked Brussels sprouts, Craisins and almonds with cinnamon, or fruit (like cherries)
- Dinner: Hello Fresh meal
- Dessert: frozen yogurt
Where Laraia Wishes to Go From Here
Laraia's goals for the future are to take part in a walking marathon, something she did back when she was 19. "I don't know if I could run 26 miles now, but that would be a good goal," she added. She also wants to do some 5K races for charity.
Laraia has been able to give herself something to look forward to throughout her journey, which, she noted, helped her. "For instance, many holidays I spent alone in sobriety," Laraia, who grew up in New York and now lives in Las Vegas, said. "I mean, I was 2,500 miles away from home, and I was doing it by myself, but I set up a trip or an event to kind of keep myself looking forward to the next thing."
A big plus for Laraia is that she feels as though her anxiety levels are down, and she isn't so quick to second-guess her ability to do something. She also has come to terms with the fact that there are parts of life you can control, but there are others you cannot. That's one realization she wishes to hold on to.
Sobriety Brought Clarity and Helps Laraia Stay Focused on Her Goals
"My sobriety opened my eyes enough to acknowledge where I was and where I wished to be," Laraia said, "and it allowed me the clarity and motivation to take the steps necessary to get there." Becoming sober prompted her to make changes — changes she could control — to the other aspects of her life that she felt unhappy or uncomfortable with.
Especially in the early stages of her sobriety, fitness and revising her diet gave Laraia something to focus her "heart and soul into during a time where things felt so daunting, difficult, and even impossible." This journey reminds her every day "literally and metaphorically that if you keep your head down and put one foot in front of the other, one day you'll look up and be in total awe of how far you've come."