My story begins at a very young age when I learned to “love” food and found comfort in overindulging in fast food. I remember very vividly at the age of 12 being deeply mortified and embarrassed at having to shop for clothes in the women’s section of the store – being in a ladies’ size 14 and too big to fit into the “juniors” section. I rarely engaged in any sort of physical activity. I tried crash diets a few times as a teenager, and a few exercise regimens (if you can call a brisk walk a regimen!), but never saw any weight loss, and certainly not any health gain. I would quickly give up.
The abuse to my body continued into my adulthood. I was partying and drinking heavily, and was even less physically active. I was sad. I was lonely. I was very depressed. Add in my ignorance of basic health and nutrition and you have an equation for a health disaster. My dependence on food was at an all-time high in my early twenties, and I often engaged in weekend food binges to the tune of 5–7 thousand calories a day to cope with daily stresses of life.
At the age of 26, I found myself at the shocking weight of 310 pounds, size 22 jeans (only 18 months ago!). I finally made the decision to try working out at a gym. This wasn’t the first time I had worked out at a gym and it wasn’t the first time I had tried to get healthy. People often ask me, “What changed? Why did you decide to get healthy?” And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure.
I wish I could say I had some romantic moment where I had the whip cream aerosol can in my mouth and heard a divine voice say, “Taryn, this is not the life for you,” but no. I had no “this is the time I’m going to succeed!” mentality, no “aha, I’ve hit rock bottom, I need to climb my way out!” moment. I had a few motivators, sure, including wanting to conceive a child with my husband, and a far-away dream of being a certain size and looking a certain way. But mainly the reason I started getting healthy is…well…that’s what you do when you’re heavy – you think about losing weight and being thin, yet never really thinking you will.
While working out at the gym, I was approached by a personal trainer that I felt comfortable enough to work with, and what an investment he was! He showed me just how much I didn’t know about getting healthy. I realized I had no clue about how to work out (who knew you were supposed to sweat?!), what to eat or when to eat it. This person was pivotal in my journey and helped set the foundation for my success. Not only did he show me that results were achievable, he sparked my curiosity and my eagerness to learn as much about nutrition and exercise as I could.
The first step for me was to get educated on what I was feeding my body. Understanding the number of calories I was consuming was shocking, even on days I thought I was “being good.” From there, I cut down (and eventually cut out) fast food, most processed food, sugar and sugar substitutes, red meat, and simple carbohydrates. I relied heavily on lean proteins and vegetables to fuel my body. I committed to and began to love my time at the gym. My workouts consisted of alternating three days per week of straight cardio on the treadmill, elliptical, or my personal favorite – the Stair Master, and three days combining heavy lifting and cardio. I joined Facebook fitness support groups, spent hours on Pinterest re-pinning healthy recipes, motivational phrases, and workout routines. I read books about emotional eating, food science, and overall self-help. I took in as much information as I could and acted accordingly.
My work ended with my trainer at about a 50 pound weight loss. But no way was my journey over – I kept going. Why quit now? I was seeing results! Not only was I feeling better, more energetic, more confident, but most importantly, I saw that number on the scale go down and down. Being the perfectionist-seeker that I am, seeing the pounds drop was equivalent to getting an A on a report card – it was a direct result of my hard work, and I liked it. So I continued to chase it. The more weight I lost, the more I felt compelled to keep going, to focus on being disciplined, and setting goals. I realized that my body was a direct reflection of the amount of work I was (or wasn’t) putting into it, and let’s be honest, where else in your life do you get back exactly what you put in?
Having said that… today…18 months older, I am at 159 pounds and size 8 jeans. Yes, that’s a 151 lb. weight loss in a year and a half. At the age of 28 I weigh less than I did in elementary school, and that’s no exaggeration. All of this was achieved solely through a commitment to a healthy life style. No magic, no secret, just clean eating and lots of hard work.
I’ve continued my journey, set more goals, continuing to learn all I can about health and exercise. I wholeheartedly believe I will never be “done” with my health journey; this is the new lifestyle I have chosen.
What keeps me going today is the side effect of sharing my weight loss journey that I never anticipated nor sought, and that’s the positive impact I’ve had on those around me. Friends, family, and friends of friends and family, have come to me and said “Wow, Taryn, you’re an inspiration!” Me? An inspiration? Never at any point in all of my work did I believe I had any capability of inspiring anybody, but it’s happened. People around me are working out, they’re questioning what they’re eating and making small steps to live a more active lifestyle. They look at me and think, “Wow, if she can do it, so can I!” And they’re right. I have nothing in me, no special gene or switch, no strength of will more than my next fellow human, which has allowed me to have the kind of success I’ve had.
You lose weight and get healthy by saying, “Ok, I stumbled just now…but my next meal, my next workout, my next day, I will try again, and I will succeed.” My ability to help influence healthy lifestyles in those around me has been incredibly rewarding, and has continued to fuel my passion for clean eating and working out.
Beginning this year, I decided to commit to running a road race every month. I had done two road races prior to this year, both 5k, and one of which was early on in my weight loss and I had to walk the whole thing to avoid getting too winded. Today I’m proud to say that I’ve run four 5k races, two 10k, and 1 that was a 10k/5k double road race. I have aspirations of running a half marathon by the end of the year and a marathon sometime the next. The girl who couldn’t run on a treadmill 18 months ago is now on a quest to run in a marathon…yep, that’s me…I can’t even believe the words as I write them!
You can find Taryn Denton at: