Melissa DeJesus says she feels like she’s been on a diet since she was 10 years old. As a shy awkward kid, she preferred to read or watch TV and didn’t participate in sports. She also remembers hiding candy in her room. As a teenager and young adult, her yo-yo dieting and string of what she calls, “crazy diets,” never led her down a healthy path to weight loss. Instead, she found herself a month away from her 31st birthday, out of shape and weighing 246 pounds.
That was the day Melissa made a list of all the reasons she wanted to lose weight:
- I’m 30 years old and I’m tired all of the time and I feel unhealthy.
- I don’t want to get diabetes or other obesity related illness
- I’m a young person and my feet hurt.
- I can’t go up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing and feeling like my chest is going to explode.
- I’m unable to keep up with my niece and nephew. I want to be a fun aunt who can play with them.
- I take up more than one seat on the subway.
- I want to walk into any clothing store and be able to buy anything I want instead of anything that just fits.
“I took that journal entry and taped it to my bedroom door,” Melissa said. “At the time I wasn’t sure how I was going to lose the weight, but I knew I would get it off. I would repeat this mantra to myself, “Ounce by ounce, inch by inch, this weight is coming off. I don’t care how long it takes or how hard it will be.”
She decided not to overwhelm herself with too many new changes at once so she started with food. She joined a commercial weight loss plan, started keeping a food journal, began cooking more meals at home and making sure she drank enough water. Each week she incorporated something new. Once she felt comfortable with her new eating habits, she started walking in her neighborhood. Each day she’d go a little further and as a bonus, even discovered a park she never knew existed even though she’d lived there for seven years.
On her neighborhood walks, Melissa encountered joggers and thought, “I want to do that.” She started the Couch to 5K program but wasn’t progressing so she joined a gym. It was there she found one of her biggest cheerleaders, her personal trainer, Ben Sweeney. “Since Ben also had struggles with his weight, he knew where I was coming from but he never took it easy on me,” she explained. “He helped push me in a way that I wouldn’t have pushed myself and he made working out fun.”
One of the biggest struggles on her journey was not turning to food for comfort and one of the biggest triumphs was the day she ran her first 5K. “I realized that I was just like the people at the park that I had so admired.” Her ultimate goal is to run the NYC Marathon.
Advice she’d give to other people struggling with their weight loss journey? Surround yourself with supportive people and don’t give up when you face a set-back.
“The day I hit my goal, I realized all the struggles that I had in my journey were worth it. Nothing can compare to setting a goal and achieving it, especially when I had failed to reach that goal so many times before.”