''I lost more than 90 pounds—and found myself.''

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Can someone be addicted to eating? For Amberlynn, the answer was a resounding “yes.” At her lowest point—and her highest weight, 213 pounds—food was in complete control of her thoughts, emotions and actions. Today, after years of hard work, determination and the support of a strong online community, she has reclaimed her life and found true happiness.
If you ask Amberlynn to describe the person she used to be—the one who used food as a drug—her choice of adjectives isn't very flattering. Small-minded. Selfish. Depressed. Negative. She paints a picture of a young woman who was lost, lacked empathy for others, blamed others for her own misfortunes and pushed away the very people who loved her most. Today, Amberlynn recognizes that her callous ways were just a mask, one she wore to hide her self-hatred and insecurities.
"When so much of life felt dark and hopeless, food was the one thing that made me feel good," she says. "It was like a treat after a long, hard day." After years of this food abuse, Amberlynn found herself at the brink of obesity.

The Turning Point

After gaining 85 pounds, Amberlynn woke up one day and decided that something had to change. There wasn't any specific event or trigger, but more a series of little moments that added up to a moment of realization.
"That very day, I threw away my cigarettes and did a workout video in my room," she says. "Then I went to my kitchen and started clearing out all the junk food." After so many years of feeling hopeless and sad, Amberlynn was suddenly angry. "I was mad at myself for letting it go that way for so long," she says. "I felt something in myself that I hadn't felt in a long time: Determination. It was scary, but also exciting."
After so many years of neglecting her health, Amberlynn knew there was no quick fix, but she was finally ready to start down the path to recovery.

Small Sparks Toward Big Success

Amberlynn started slow, with small changes. She cut out unhealthy foods from her diet one at a time. "I gradually realized I needed to avoid certain things, like sugar and greasy foods. Both are big enemies to my waistline, skin, mood, gut...you name it!" She also began exercising every day, for small amounts of time.
She stopped making excuses.
"Every day, I got a little stronger, ran a little farther, breathed a little harder and got a little smaller," she says. The chronic back pain that had plagued her for years—and had even impacted her ability to work—was gone. Her clothes no longer fit, and she had to shop for smaller sizes.
The improvements weren't limited to just losing pounds and inches: Before long, Amberlynn started gaining a stronger sense of discipline and self-respect. She worked on strengthening her communication skills, accepting her past and learning to forgive people's transgressions, including her own. She realized that before she could change her body, she had to change her mind.
"I stopped looking for all the things I did wrong and started paying more attention to the things I did right, which was quite a bit when I actually looked for them," she says. "I stopped telling myself I wasn't enough, and started proving to myself that I was plenty."
Four years later, Amberlynn is finally the person she has always wanted to become—not a millionaire or a super star or a president, but simply the best version of herself: A healthy, happy and confident person.
"When I started this whole thing, I just wanted to be skinny," she admits. "I never even realized all the other benefits to being fit. This process doesn't just change your body; it completely rearranges your insides, too. The emotional baggage you shed amounts to more than the physical weight. And that's the real beauty!"

Running Down a Dream

A weight loss journey is filled with ups and downs, a mix of trivial, tedious routines and moments of triumph. For Amberlynn, one of the high points came the day she ran her longest distance yet without stopping. She'd always claimed to hate running, mainly because she couldn't physically do it. That day, she decided to try it, just to see how far she could go.
"I didn't get tired for a long time, and all the while I felt a smile start to spread across my face," she says. "Joy! I felt joy while running! I've heard so many people tell me it's not so bad once you start doing it, and I would look at them like they were crazy. Now here I was, with no more back pain and more energy than I'd ever had before—and I was running!"

Appetite for Success

Amberlynn has a busy schedule, so she usually chooses easy foods that are high in protein and fiber to keep her full and energized.
Breakfast usually includes fruit and Greek yogurt or oatmeal. Because she works in a restaurant, the temptation to eat out can be tough. She always packs her lunch, typically a turkey sandwich on honey wheat bread with yogurt, a portion of mixed unsalted nuts, string cheese and a granola bar.
On the occasions when Amberlynn does order from the menu at work, she makes healthy choices like fruit, a salad, grilled chicken breast and broccoli. "When eating out, I don't hesitate to place special orders and ask questions," she says.
For dinner, Amberlynn usually makes a typical household meal, but substitutes for the not-so-healthy ingredients. "One of my staple meals is spaghetti, and I like to use fiber-filled noodles and ground turkey instead of beef."

Amberlynn's Weight Loss Tips

If there's one thing Amberlynn has learned about weight loss, it's that no single strategy fits all. "Everyone is different, and everyone loses weight differently," she says. That said, she does want to share these tips that helped during her journey.
  • Take your time. "Don't force it," she says. "Change is a process, not a race." Amberlynn's path wasn't without its plateaus or setbacks—she recalls one three-week period when she didn't lose a single pound, and another rough stretch when she gained back 15 pounds—but she never lost sight of her goals. "Patience is one of the hardest things to learn, but when you do learn it, you will know peace of mind."
  • Start today. "For those of you who are reading this and thinking about how you want to make a change, I was you! I talked about it, I thought about it and I kept saying, 'Tomorrow. I'll do something tomorrow.’ My advice to you is to get up and make the change—today!”
  • Embrace baby steps. Amberlynn's results began when she decided to ditch the "all or nothing" mentality. "Use whatever time you have, whether it's 10 minutes or an hour," she recommends. "Make small changes to your diet."
  • Make a list of goals to motivate you. With her journey underway, Amberlynn made a list of things she wanted to accomplish in her "new life." These included going camping, going hiking, running a marathon, taking dance classes and becoming a personal trainer—all things the "old" Amberlynn would never have had the confidence or ability to tackle.
  • Make it a lifestyle. After losing more than 90 pounds, Amberlynn faced the arguably tougher challenge of keeping the weight off. To continue with her new healthy habits, she learned to listen to her body and heed its cues. "Your body will tell you what it needs," she says. "You learn what makes you gain weight, and what exercises work best for you. You learn what foods make you feel the best."
  • Don't be shy about selfies. Amberlynn took photos of herself every week so she could see the small changes along the way. Even during those weeks when the scale didn't budge, the images showed her that all the hard work was paying off.
  • Never put yourself down. "If you think a bad thought, immediately take it back and replace it with a positive one," she says. "It's exhausting to be negative all the time. Letting go of the pain and the guilt and the anger is just as rewarding, if not more so, than shedding the weight."
  • Skip the fad diets. Amberlynn reiterates that there are no tricks or shortcuts to achieve real results. "The only thing that works is work."
  • Ditch processed and preserved foods. "If a food has a long shelf life, it doesn't belong in your life." She also recommends cutting out sugar.
  • Invest in good gear. When she made the commitment to regular exercise, Amberlynn's first purchase was a good pair of athletic shoes. "I love Nike's line for men and women, but there are many good brands out there to fit what you need." She also recommends a speedometer or fitness tracker to track your progress, music to boost motivation, and a camera and measuring tape to gauge results.
  • Portion control is key. Learn how to moderate what goes on your plate.
  • Set small goals and celebrate them. "No victory is a small one, so rejoice in each one. Be proud of every effort you make, because even the smallest of them are leading you to a better life."

Inspiring Others to Make a Change

Amberlynn's transformation has sparked her husband to start his own journey. Since joining her on the path to health and wellness, he's lost 70 pounds. Today, their relationship is stronger than it's ever been.
For those who are where she was just a few years ago, feeling hopeless and dejected, Amberlynn has a message. "I can't tell you how to find your path or what it will look like, only that it is possible. It's your journey, and one you will never forget and will never regret. Are you ready to take the first step?"

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Wow! That's quite a journey! You really persevered. I am having a hard time losing the last 7 lbs. If you can lose 90 lbs, I'm sure i can lose 7! Report
Thank you for sharing! Report
Congrats!! Report
Congratulations and thank you very much for sharing your story. I am also an "all or nothing" kind of person and can be very harsh on myself. Baby steps is what I'm looking for. Thank you for the the motivation! Report
Congratulations! Report
Congrats -- I need some inspiration and especially motivation. I love your tips -- make a list of goals, that is what I'm going to do.
Thank you!! Report
I agree very inspiring but would love to see the selfies you took. Report
So inspiring! Congrats! to you for making a change in your life. So wonderful to read about. Thank you for sharing! Report
As with any social media site, there's always going to be remarks, opinions, etc...it's never seems to be enough. That's why I hate reading members comments. But, you have really defeated a huge beast! I've never had to lose 90 lbs. My greatest loss was 27 lbs. Your hard work paid off! Thank you for sharing your journey. I'm happy for you! Proud too! Report
90 lbs loss is a huge accomplishment. Before and after photo would have been nice to see. To actually see proof is always much more inspiring. Report
Amazing, inspirational and motivating. The struggle of weight loss is real and I agree with you that no single strategy fits all. Thanks for sharing. Report
Good story, but... I'm inclined to agree with FITVENTI. Where are the photographs? Even one set of "Before" and "After" would be really inspiring. And I guess Amberlynn must have a different username on SP - it would be nice to leave a note on her page. :-/ Report
great inspiration.
Thanks for the great tips! Report
Nice work, I have lost too my unwanted weight with the help of drinking mummy magic weight loss tea. I used to drink this tea for three times a day half an hour before each meal. Report
This is awesome.You are so inspirational. Several of your quotes and tips are going into my journal. Thank you for sharing. Report
Great journey and so inspiring. I'm writing goals down as I read it. Thank you so much for sharing your story! Report
So inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing your story.:) Report
Reading this was just the extra motivation I needed. So true that we all sometimes get caught up with the "all or nothing" mentality! Report
Indeed, where are the pics? And, where is this sparkmember? Assuming she is a member? I'd like to see her page.
Want to know more about 'waking up one day', ready to make changes. I know few people who had this. But many who sit around waiting for that day.
WOW! Thank you for sharing your journey. I can't even imagine that kind of struggle!! I am really proud of you! You must be very excited and much, much healthier! Report
Wow, this was powerful to read! Mostly because we have the same name so I was picturing how it would feel to be where she is and if this article was about me. Years ago I had lost 60lbs (using sparkpeople and meal replacements) and then I gained it all back (mostly during grad school). I feel like I have a lot of her same habits and approach- I love baby steps for change. But I can't seem to get myself back to the mindset I had before. Articles like this really help, just need to go do it! Report
90 pds!! AWESOME!! Congrats!!! Very inspirational story!! Hope I can start again.... TODAY!! in doing what it truly takes to be a success story!! Report
Thanks for sharing such a great story! It helps to remind me that I'm on the right track and it's ok to be patient. Report
Very inspiring article with practical tips I can really use - thanks so much! Report
Enjoyed reading this article! It is filled with the things I've learned in my journey and then some. This is a good article for those just starting on their fitness journey and a good article to check back on periodically for reminders! It's not all about the scale!!! Report
Right on. That's exactly the approach I'm taking! Report
Great story of success with sane, doable tips. Thank you! Report
This article needs pictures. Report
While the story is great, I would love to see before/after pics and a link to a Sparkpage. Amberlynn, I do hope you are successfully maintaining your new weight. Report
Congratulations so proud of you good job sparks family Report
Wow, you have a big accomplishment! How are you keeping it off/ Report
if you need to see pictures , your not going to do it anyway , I lost 75 lbs and thought I was good and found out after putting the weight back on and coming down with diabetes that I have to continue daily
went up to 337 now 220 still taking shots daily . do not hunt for excuses do it before life slaps you in the face if you do not try to make yourself better time will not i'm 67 driver lic furnished on requests Report
The timing of your story is perfect. I had my yearly physical and my doctor mentioned that I may be addicted to food. After reading your story I am determined to take one day at a time, start today and take baby steps! Report
This was a wonderful story. How are you doing now? Just as determined, I hope! Getting the weight off is so hard. Keeping it off is even harder. Thanks for the inspiration. Report
There are no dates or photos with this story, have read it several years before, hope the person is still able to keep it up, addictions being the way they are and all that.... Report
So motivating! "I never even realized all the other benefits to being fit." This is so true, when I feel myself start to slide into bad habits, I remember how terrible I felt both mentally and physically when I wasn't taking care of myself and it motivates me to get my butt in gear Report
Very inspiring and what I needed to read. I'm going through this right now. I need to stop the food addiction! This blog has given me the information to get started on the right path. Report
So Good for you! Congratulations! I had that kind of determination when I was 40 years old. I ran the NYC marathon in 1990 and 1991. Except in 91 I came up short 5 miles. Long story! Now at 66 yrs, I'm struggling, with my body. Just doesn't work like it used to. I haven't given up, but it's harder today. That's ok! Just have to scale back! Report
Great story. Would be really nice to have some pics, esp. since she says they're important. Report
thank you for the inspiration Report
: / pics or it didn't happen. Report