Weight Loss Transformation: Sarah Bickel
I knew I was obese over the years as far as body mass indexes and dress sizes were concerned, but I never felt obese. I was social and lively like most of my friends who are healthy, so why was I doomed to live life trapped inside of an enormous blob of a body? I was so ashamed of how big I allowed myself to become. Simple activities like climbing a flight of stairs or jogging to my car left me out of breath and begging for better quality of life. But like most in my generation, I was blaming everything but myself. I figured I drew the short straw from the metabolic gene pool, so I took it for what I thought it was: bad luck. In retrospect I still have no idea how I thought there was nothing wrong with rationalizing my obesity with bad genes. Deep down I knew who the real culprit was. It took years to admit to myself that my chromosomes had nothing to do with my perpetual weight gain and that the problem was staring at me every time I looked in the mirror.
Food was my best friend and my worst enemy. I’d eat to celebrate, cope, or because I had nothing else to do. It controlled my life; no matter how full I was, I never had a problem eating another meal or snack. It was easy to recognize that my bad habits made me feel awful, but instead of changing my behavior, I’d reach for the nearest pint of ice cream or bag of potato chips and stuff my face until I forgot why I was upset.
My diet left me drained, cranky, and acne-ridden; but for some reason I couldn’t put the pieces together. My eating habits were literally sucking the life out of me, slowly turning me into all of the empty calories and saturated fats I’d consumed my whole life. I was on the fast track to high blood pressure and diabetes, not to mention heart disease, which runs in my family.
I tried my fair share of fad-diets: Atkins, Weight Watchers, Sensa, even weird pills that do nothing but expand in my stomach to make me feel full. I’m sure you’re shocked to know that none of those worked. I’ve had plenty of little bouts of inspiration that had me at least attempting to eat clean(ish) and exercise, but any time I hit a bump in the road I went right back to my old ways and gained the weight back plus a few extra pounds. After my last unsuccessful attempt at a healthier lifestyle, I gave up and accepted the fact that I would be obese for the rest of my life.
My last giant leap toward a better life happened while working with my friend Britany; she was always sharing tips on eating clean. My intentions were always in the right place, but I could never put my plans into action. However, after this particular shift with Britany, I was extra pumped about giving it another try. She left work and returned shortly after with a grocery bag overflowing with groceries like oats, almond milk, and fruits instead of sweets to get me started on my journey. She also left an incredibly inspiring note that gave me the push I needed to stay committed. It meant so much that someone genuinely believed I could change when I couldn’t believe in myself. With newfound excitement and the tools to get started, I began my final journey to a healthier life.
I started the end of August of 2013 at a hefty 225 pounds, setting an ultimate goal to lose 75 pounds. I never truly saw myself losing that much weight, but it was nice to think about. I then set what I felt were more realistic goals like having a single-digit pant size and fitting into a size medium top. At first the changes were small. I only drank water, stopped eating out, and dropped the unnecessary snacking. I saw instant results and took it a step further by joining a gym, going 4-6 times a week doing an hour of cardio and getting the hang of the resistance equipment. My best friend Catherine also helped keep me on track. She bought me a Fitbit for my birthday and helped make sure I made my step goal every day. We’d cook meals, workout, and even set goals together. Having her active support really helped me power through some of the rough patches on my journey.
Before I knew it, the weight was melting off. In a few short months I lost almost 30 pounds and started to feel confident for the first time in my life. I was cooking all of my meals and eating heathier overall while staying on top of portion control. I could finally shop at the mall and fit into clothes from most of the stores. It was easier to climb stairs and even stepping out of my car seemed less strenuous. The changes were profound, I could finally see and feel the progress I was making. Friends and acquaintances were also noticing my transformation, giving me more motivation to push forward.
It’s never a real journey without a few speed bumps along the way, and the holiday season was only happy to oblige. Between all of the pumpkin-flavored goodies, Thanksgiving pies, and Christmas cookies, I had stumbled into 2014 with about 15 pounds back under my belt. I knew I was stuck in reverse, but I couldn’t grasp the discipline to get back on track. I was petrified of gaining the weight back and destroying the progress I had made physically and emotionally.
My boss Dayna noticed me slipping back into my old ways and was quick to act. She’s never been shy to tell me when to kick a bad habit (she even helped me to quit smoking cigarettes), and I’ve always appreciated her honesty regarding my lifestyle. Dayna has been the largest chunk of my support system on my journey, acting as a mentor, a mother-figure, and most importantly, a friend. She got me started with her personal trainer, Shaun, who guided me through workouts and wrote me a specialized diet along with what to do outside of the gym to maximize my results. It was rough in the beginning, but being held accountable for my food and activity choices made staying on track much easier. I was so grateful for the opportunity, and made sure to show that by training as hard as I could and staying 100% true to my diet. The results with Shaun were mind-blowing. I learned how to prep all of my meals so grabbing something unhealthy would never be an option. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with my new lifestyle.
I lost over 40 pounds training with Shaun, finally reaching my ultimate weight goal. Thanks to him, I understand more about how food affects my body and how training and cardio aid with metabolism and fat loss. When it comes to sticking with a healthy lifestyle, education is everything. You can’t expect to eat clean if have no clue what “clean food” really is. I love Quest Bars and they have been an enormous help in allowing me to stay out of the pantry at night. When my sweet tooth is calling, I like to substitute my evening protein shake for a bar. Double Chocolate Chunk and S’mores are my favorites. They’re indulgent enough to taste like a dessert but without the guilt!
Never in a million years did I ever think I’d be here, losing 75 pounds in just one short year. The entire experience has been incredibly life-changing. For the first time in my life, I have a healthy relationship with food. Lifting weights and running have replaced watching tv and binge eating. I can run up five flights of stairs and catch my breath in no time. I’m the happiest, healthiest, and most confident Sarah I’ve ever been. This is my second chance at life and I plan on leaving a huge impression this time. It’s now my passion to share what I have gained on this journey with everyone around me. I want to change lives the way mine has been changed. I’ve come a long way, but my journey is far from over. Always proud, never satisfied.
- Don’t sell yourself short. I never thought I’d be where I am today and I regret not believing in myself. Believing is achieving and trust me, if a food-addicted, terribly out-of-shape girl can make her weight and fitness dreams come true then so can all of you; I’m no more special than any of you. You get out what you put in to your lifestyle, so work your ass off (literally), keep your passion strong and you can accomplish anything in the world.
- You WILL make mistakes. It’s a natural part of the journey. I still have my days where I binge and feel like crap about it the next few days. You can’t succeed without failing first, so take those moments of weakness, reflect on them, and make them learning experiences. Think about how the food made you feel and associate the two the next time you’re tempted to cheat.
- Enjoy the journey! It took time to put that weight on, so naturally it’s going to take some time to get it off. This is tough if you’re impatient like me, but if you make this a lifestyle instead of a diet, the results you want will naturally grace you in time.
- Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Food is the most important part of leading a healthy lifestyle, so it’s important to know exactly what you are going to eat so you’re less likely to make poor food choices. I seriously recommend investing some time in learning how meal plan. I owe a huge chunk of my success to it.
- It’s SO important to surround yourself with friends and family who will support you on every step of your journey. It’s empowering to have those kinds of people pumping you up with love, positivity, and faith in your own capabilities. I wouldn’t be sharing this story if I didn’t have some truly amazing people in my inner circle.