My Weight Loss Story: Taking the Long, Bumpy Road Home

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Saturday was my second Spark-versary. I technically joined the site before I was hired, but I really didn't have time or energy to spend much time on the site.

The woman I was on April 24, 2008, seems wholly unrecognizable now.

Two years ago, I was stressed and exhausted. Moments of happiness were fleeting, and the real me struggled to emerge. I knew what I wanted, but I was having trouble reaching it.

Today, I'm a yoga teacher. I'm running my first half marathon in two weeks. I am well-rested, I like getting out of bed in the morning, and I like coming to work. I have a new home, a wonderful boyfriend, and the world's best cat.

At 28, I am healthier and happier than ever. For the first time, I am content with my body. I accept my flaws, love myself and focus on the positive. Today I feel strong, strong enough to share my own story about weight loss. (It's long, so bear with me.)

After graduating college in 2003, I gained 40 pounds. In 2005, while living in South Korea, I lost it. Though I was "overweight" for less than two years, my issues with weight and food date back 16 years.

It's hard to remember exactly what triggered it, but the summer before I started junior high I fell into a decade-long struggle with eating disorders. I was 12 years old, 5' 7" and 120 pounds. I wore women's clothes while all of my friends were still in girls sizes. I was flat as a board and quite thin, but I felt gigantic and out of place. On top of that, I was transferring schools, had just moved in with my dad and stepmom and was dealing with my mom's second divorce. Life sucked--and it was spiraling out of control.

I started by skipping breakfast, then lunch. I stood up in choir class one morning and the world went black. I didn't pass out, but I got scared. I hadn't eaten in three days.

By that summer I was subsisting on saltines and jam, and fat-free yogurt. I baby-sat all day, so my parents didn't know that I counted calories religiously and never ventured above 500 before 5 o'clock. I ate dinner in my room and flushed most of it.

The week that eighth grade started, my weight was 98 pounds--and I was 5' 8" by then. I had dropped to a size 1--that was before stores carried size 0. My parents confronted me, and instead of starting school with the rest of my class, I spent a week in the hospital.

My willpower was broken, and though I never dropped that low again, I continued to hate my body. To me, thin meant pretty. I was a smart girl in a small town, and I felt like an alien. I was tall, flat-chested and pale with black hair. I couldn't be blonde or tan, but I could be skinny, which I thought would make people like me more. I was a giant ball of emotions, and the only way I knew to control them was to control my food. I judged myself constantly, comparing my weight and clothing size to every other girl I saw.

By 10th grade, I weighed 120 pounds, still underweight for my height. I starved myself all day--for four years my lunch was a handful of pretzels and a blueberry cereal bar--then binged when I came home from school. Soon, I started throwing up, and I lost 10 pounds. My parents found out and I stopped for awhile, but for another 10 years, I made myself throw up when I was stressed or felt fat.

When I graduated from high school, I weighed 125 pounds. At college, I finally felt free to be myself. Away from the small town that stifled me, I ate freely. Beer, pizza and dining hall food packed on the freshmen 15, but for about two years I didn't care about my weight. I was too busy living. For the first time in years, my thoughts weren't consumed by food and weight.

I had another battle with anorexia my senior year of college, when the stress of my future became too much to handle. I lost 15 pounds but gained it back throughout the year. My weight stayed stable until my first post-college job.

I worked nights at a large daily newspaper, and the only time I really socialized was after midnight when my co-workers went out for drinks. A cocktail (or three) and deep-fried bar food, fast food and takeout piled on the pounds. I joined a gym, but working out just made me want to eat more. I added expensive twice-monthly Pilates reformer classes, but it wasn't enough. I was eating (and socially drinking) to fill a void. At 183 pounds and 5' 10", I was unhappy.

I worked nights and weekends, I was dating a guy that no one in my life liked, and I didn't do much besides go to work and go out.

I was, in short, a hot mess. I was that girl--the girl who cried too much, dragged her emotional baggage out at inappropriate times and turned to food for comfort. I took too many risks and wasn't very responsible.

So I made the decision, at 23, to flee my life.

I gave notice, started studying Korean, dumped my boyfriend, and moved to Seoul to teach English. While I still wasn't in the best place emotionally, I did make some significant changes to improve my life.

I envisioned a new life, one that started with a major goal: to lose the 40 pounds I had gained.

With no car, I walked to the supermarket and carry my groceries home, sometimes up 15 flights of stairs (the elevator in my building was often out of order). Because my Korean wasn't very good, I couldn't read menus or labels very well at first, so I was forced to cook, something I had always loved. Eventually, as my literacy improved, I was able to branch out. By then, I had adopted a Korean style of eating: plenty of vegetables, a bit of meat and rice, and flavorful, low-fat condiments--and very few sweets.

I was on my feet all day at school (we were reprimanded if we were caught sitting), and I was constantly on the move, exploring Seoul. I only worked about 30 hours a week at most, and with few responsibilities or commitments, I had plenty of free time.

I started walking the two miles home instead of taking the bus. My friends and I spent all day Saturday wandering the city. I even climbed a small mountain. (Suraksan, which was within walking distance of my apartment.)

I joined a gym and spent two hours a night there: A half-hour of cardio, then either weights or a Pilates/stretching class (taught in Korean!) and a few minutes in the steam shower. As the only wae-guk saram (foreigner) at my gym, I drew some stares at first. I was taller and much bigger than most Korean women.

It would be a few more years before I really found peace in my life, but that year in Korea was pivotal. I learned how strong--and weak--I really was. I didn't see my family for an entire year. I made new friends from all over the world. I convinced my childhood best friend to move to Korea. I navigated a city of 10 million people, learned to read, write and speak a new language, and I fell on my face both literally and figuratively. I fell in love, had my heart broken, and mended fences with my sister, who is now one of my closest friends. I paid off debt, traveled to six countries and took the long way home with a two-month trip through Europe.

I wasn't perfect, and I probably made more mistakes in that one year than I have during the other 27 years of my life. Still, I have no regrets.

I returned home, and all my new-found confidence evaporated.

The school I had worked for had been stealing money from its employees. The month's wages of severance pay (standard in Korea) wasn't waiting on me as it was supposed to be. The money I was going to use to get me through the summer--before I headed off for another year in Korea--wasn't there. My parents were paying for my sister's wedding, so aside from a car and a place to live (very generous), they weren't able to help me. (I got the money six months later, after many emails and a few early-morning calls to the Korean department of immigration.)

After two months of living with my mom and stepdad in the small town I fled at 18, I decided to stay in the States and get a job. Eventually I landed in Cincinnati, a decision I now regard as fortuitous. I didn't want to be back in journalism, and I wanted to flee again. I was experiencing what I now know is called situational depression, or adjustment disorder. My family had no idea what to do with me. Neither did I. I was such a mess at my sister's wedding that her friends referred to me as Sister "Cray-Cray" (as in crazy) for years.

For about six months, I cried all the time, missed Korea desperately and generally had an awful time trying to adjust to my life. I felt trapped, and suddenly thought all the progress I'd made had evanesced. During that time, I clung to a healthy diet and exercise. I was eating better, working out and practicing yoga.

Eventually the black cloud lifted, I found my niche in Cincinnati, and I came to terms with my decision to stay. I learned to take responsibility, listen and think before speaking, and keep superfluous emotional outbursts to a minimum.

Today, I look back on my life, and I'm proud of who I am and who I was. I'm not proud of every decision, but they brought me here.

I am strong, inside and out. I am beautiful, inside and out. And I am happy.

I took the long road getting here, but every bump and sharp curve was worth it.

Thank you for reading.

Have you learned more from the good times in your life or the bad?

Photo: Me, in Philadelphia, practicing padmasana (lotus pose), a moment of peace on a cold winter's day.

Follow stepfanie on Twitter

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


GEORGE815 1/9/2020
Thanks Report
I don't understand why these articles that are almost 10 years old don't end with at least an update. It seems silly to talk about 2010 as if it's now. This story is a good one, it's just SO old!!! Report
Thanks Report
Congratulations on your success. Thank you for sharing your story. Report
Life is the painting that's never the same. Keep up the good work. Report
Have you learned more from the good times in your life or the bad?

I haven't had a lot of good times. But I don't really feel there are a lot of 'teachable moments' in bad times. You just find a way of coping somehow. I have learned to avoid men. I'd rather be lonely than have a man around. Report
I think you are amazing to have turned your struggles around before age 25. I am 62 & still working at problems you overcame in your 20's. Your's is an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. Report
Life can be such a struggle. I know the hard times are when I learned the most. I learned in fourth grade that missed spelling words stayed with you (corrected spelling) than the ones you spelled correctly on the test. I never forgot how to spell the ones that embarrassed me on a test. And learning from embarrassing mistakes never leave you either. Report
I would answer your question by saying I learned more from difficult times than through the good times. I had a child with special needs & I had to rely on God to get through those tough times. My biggest problem now is trying to get this weight off. I just haven't had any success. Report
I've definitely learned more from the bad times...dang it.

Thanks for sharing. And Cincinnati is a great place. Lots of great people there. Report
Thank you for sharing. I am gratefull you told us about your journey. Namaste Report
I would hope we all have learned lessons from the good and the bad. We may always get it right away but learn yes. Report
Thanks for posting. i can so relate to you about the emotional outburts, depression and adjustment issues.

You are an inspiration and have reminded that there is always hope. Report
Thank you for sharing your story. I didn't know about situational depression. I think I must have had this for four months before starting up with SP. We just moved in February and I've had a heck of a time adjusting to a new life. Doing much better now, but it took a long time before I popped my head out of the sand to say "hello". Report
It feels so wonderful to know that this is a true story. I have my own struggles in the mental health arena along with history of eating too little which was now ballooned out in the opposite direction and I have put on 30 kilos from my lowest weight.

I'm so pleased to hear that being pro-active worked so well for you eventually! I can be hit and miss for a while. You have motivated me and given me hope. Report
Beau story..but the conclusion was a bit abrupt! Any ways I loved it. felt like a little and more interesting version of "Eat, pray, love" by Elizabeth Gilbert :D
Thank you for sharing your story. Life is a journey that shapes who we are. I've never heard of "situational depression" but I'm glad I can put a finger on it and know I'm not alone. Thank you. Report
Gives me hope of finding my balance. Report
Stephanie, Best Wishes on your half marathon!
Exercise does a lot to help create emotional stability and balance. Running is great for burning that extra energy and alleviating anxiety. Yoga in particular, helps with creating a sense of peace and gratefullness. I am so glad for your transformation! Report
Thank you so much for sharing your story, it's very uplifting to know that it is ok to fall down and get back up. :) Report
What an amazing story! You have had a roller coaster ride and not only survived but thrived. Good luck with your half marathon. Report
Your journey is so awesome!!! Wonderful job!!! Report
Wow. Very inspiring! Report
Stepfanie, thank you for sharing this story. It is amazing how much I can relate to it. I just finished school, got my heart broken by the man I've been dating all year (he is already with another woman) and I'm flying off to teach science in Thailand in just two months. My battle with weight has been a rollercoaster as well and the emotional ups and downs you describe are exactly what I'm experiencing in what so far, has been an absolutely crazy year. The upcoming year in Thailand will prove to be another. Thank you for reminding me that this is all a learning experience and even tears and heartbreak, as much as they are so painful in the moment, take us down the road we're supposed to be on. Report
Great story. glad you found your inner peace Report
Your story is beautiful and motivating. Thank you so much for sharing it. Be careful, though- my story is remarkably similar and now I'm struggling with osteoporosis. Ladies get a bone scan so that you can do something about it before it's bad, like mine is. Stay strong and healthy- remember how wonderful it felt to be on top of that mountain. Be healthy for that moment and so that you can do it again (you can't do that if your bones could break at any moment...).
Thanks so much for sharing. You're a beautiful daughter of God with an amazing story! Report
I loooooooove your story. Thanks so much for sharing it. Report
I have always learned from my mistakes or misfortunes in life. When it is happening I am never happy but when you look back it happened for a reason and I have taken some knowledge from the situation. I continue to learn and now I am not on a diet but a lifestyle. I want to be healthy and enjoy life. I change things as needed and continue to learn from my chooses. Report
Thanks for sharing. What an incredible journey! So glad to have you here. Report
Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story! Report
Thanks for sharing. Life is incredible journey of ups and downs. I am glad you found the "up" side. Report
Thank you for your story Stepf. Now I don't feel like "fleeing "my life so much. Ok, just a little. Overcoming obstacles is the lesson and your story is a great testimony to that. Hugs to you and Namaste. Report
Stepf, your story is very moving, and especially inspirational to me in your resolve to make a radical change and move to Korea. You are so brave to try something completely different, challenge yourself, and do what you believe you need to do to make yourself happy. It is so timely for me, as I have been floundering the last few months, just ended a long term relationship, am less than thrilled with my current employment situation, and itching for a change. I think I've finally reconciled with my desire to break out on my own and pursue change... so in a month, I may be living in Los Angeles or Pittsburgh. I'll miss Cincinnati a lot, but I know I'll learn so much about myself and test my limits. :) Report
Yours is one of the most motivating, inspiring things I've read in the last two days (I'm new here). Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this with me. Report
I had my battle with anorexia when I was in my mid-late 20s. I got down to a size 0. I got out of it with the help of my therapist and husband, who was my boyfriend at the time.

Seeing strong women who have beat anorexia is always an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story. It isn't easy to talk about , at least for me.

After I got over anorexia, like you, I binged. I gained weight, got up to a 12, and hated myself for it.

One night, my husband and I decided together that we were overweight, and that we were going to change our lifestyle. Shortly thereafter I found Spark and started exercising and eating right. This has resulted in a 16 lb weight loss so far. That's a current weight loss though. What I mean is that it includes a few pounds up and a few pounds down, up and down...I'm 16 lbs down as of right now.

I have to think on what you said about strength. I know I have my own as well, but finding it is a difficult thing. Thank you again. Report
thanks for sharing. You have been through a lot! I can fully feel for you feeling fat..... I have always been suffering under the "Family trait"which is a full & round butt..... too African for the average German and even though I had a 22 inch waist I felt fat.... I had to come to Africa to understand that there are people who think i am beautiful because of what i hated most about myself. So I know the emotional rollercoaster you have been through.

steph Report
Great blog. Thanks for sharing. We all need to keep remembering to take advantage of our second chances because we all make poor decisions at some point. I'm so happy for you. Report
WOW!!! It is simply amazing where life takes us, both good & bad. As you said, it makes us who we are today. I too am going through a rough patch, but reading your story gives me hope & I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Your story & journey is such an inspiration!
What a wonderful ending and journey. Daily, sparkpeople has kept me connected to my goals and my whys. Often, this journey is long, arduous and feels terrible, but slowly, I am understanding that this is my thing, the thing that I must wrestle with that makes me stronger. Report
thanks so much for sharing, you are amazing! what doesnt kill us makes us tougher... stay strong, peace always Report
Thank you for sharing! It was a wonderful story. Report
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It really touched me. Report
Thanks for sharing, I have learned more from the bad times and things that has happened in my life, sometimes I wish I could change some of it but they always say you learn from your mistakes and trails you have in your life and that is what makes us stronger and able get through the better parts and rest of our life. It does bring us to who, where and what we are today. " What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" Thanks again. Report
I have learned from both the good and bad times in my life! I believe that God gives us trials to learn how to pray, listen and wait for his responses. I think then we can help others better because we have been through it. Report
Your story spoke to me. I too was the grown woman who cried too much, dragged her emotional baggage out at innappropriate times & turned to food for comfort. I stole money from my dad when I was in 8th grade to get a friend to buy diet pills for me. I turned to bulimia when I was 23 and the married mother of two girls ages 2 & 6 months. Several years of ups & downs & sloooooow progress @ 40 everything finally clicked. I am so proud of you for being so self aware at such a young age & for sharing your story with the rest of us. I have a sense of peace as I write this & thank you for your part in that. Report
I have to say I have learned a lot from the bad moments and as painful as they may have been they have made me into the woman i am today... so I can only be grateful :) Thank you for sharing... so nice to know we are not alone, in the big and even the not so big things :) Report
Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed your story! Report
Great story! You've had some great adventures, & learned some good and valuable lessons in your life so far. I think rough times make us strong & show our true character. I try to learn & grow all the time. Hopefully I can look back on these struggles, & see wisdom & lessons learned. Congrats on all your successes! Report
What a beautiful life journey....thus far. Thank you for sharing.
Though I know that I mostly learn from the bad things that life throws my way more so than the good, I have to admit that I learn from other peoples' actions as well (regardless of what they get from themselves). I think it's all about balance. There is no light without the dark. Report
Congratulations on staying strong and changing your life.... Report