For most of my life, I would make this promise to myself every night: Ashley, you're going to start being healthy tomorrow.
But without fail, the next day would come and I'd treat myself to a donut or fast food and end up frustrated because I'd ruined the whole day and would have to try again tomorrow.
I was also a very emotional eater: If I was bored I ate, if I was alone I ate, if I was depressed I ate. My mornings kicked off with a sugary drink from Starbucks followed by Pop-Tarts or a huge bowl of cereal. From there, it was mostly fast food for the rest of the day. Honestly, looking back now, I can't help but wonder how I'm still alive.
At 22, I finally broke the cycle after being diagnosed with PCOS.
I was about 360 pounds when I found out I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance which can affect fertility. That was a huge wakeup call, because I've always wanted to be a mom.
I knew I was going to have to get healthy in order to regulate my hormones and improve my chances at motherhood, so at that moment I decided I was going to join WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) — which ultimately turned out to be my winning ticket. It was honestly the best choice I could've made.
WW forced me to become intentional about what I was eating.
WW is a points-based system where no food is off-limits. Instead, the plan focuses on regulating portion-sizes — which had always been my biggest struggle. The program put me in a situation where I had to measure things out and take a minute to think about it, track it, and log it before moving on to the next meal.
I also focused on eating more nutritious, whole foods, instead of eating mostly takeout or fast-food options. Today, I make sure I get three meals plus two snacks (a.k.a., I'm never left feeling unsatisfied or hungry). Here's what my daily diet typically looks like:
- Breakfast: At least 32 ounces of water before my coffee, a CLIF Builder's Protein Bar (if I'm in a rush), or three or four eggs with turkey bacon (if I have time to cook).
- Snack: A banana.
- Lunch: A bowl of soup (my fave: Progresso Light Zesty Santa Fe Style Chicken Soup).
- Snack: String cheese or an apple.
- Dinner: Two-ingredient pizza dough made with Greek yogurt and self-rising flour (seriously, try it!) cooked and topped with a light sauce, reduced-fat cheese, and turkey pepperoni (even my husband will eat it, and he's not on a diet).
Losing weight also made it easier for me to work out — something I shied away from when I was heavier.
Because of my size, I stayed away from the gym at first. I was super self-conscious and thought everyone would stare at me. But looking back, I realize no one would have cared — most people are only looking at themselves, anyway.
Before joining a gym, I'd go on really long walks and work out by following Jillian Michaels DVDs at home. Once I started losing weight, I got the confidence to go the gym five to six times per week.
The weirdest part: I actually started looking forward to my gym workouts. I'd make strict daily schedules planning when I'd exercise and thought of it like a date with myself. If a workout was in the books, I was not missing it. It was hard, but the moments after a good sweat are so worth it.
While losing weight was amazing, there was still something holding me back: loose skin.
After I'd lost about 143 pounds, I realized how much my loose skin was getting in my way. I wanted to add running to my routine, for example, but the rubbing and chafing was really painful.
I knew I had to do something, so I reached out to my insurance company, who almost completely covered a tummy tuck and skin-removal surgery on my arms. I ended up getting rid of five pounds of loose skin, and hitting my lowest-ever weight of 215 pounds.
After that happened (and I took the proper amount of time to heal and train, of course), I was finally able to start running like I'd always wanted. I was even able to complete a half marathon and a 25K run. Running became therapeutic for me,
Even more good news: After losing weight, I was able to get pregnant — I gave birth to my daughter in June.
Now, four months after giving birth to my daughter, I have to admit that my workout schedule has changed.
For example, instead of spending time at the gym before or after work, I'm now taking 30 minutes during lunch to use the gym at my office. I'll crank out a couple of miles on the treadmill or spin bike. It's a great way to break up my day. And if I've got more time after work, I'll finish off my workout with a HIIT session, or yoga at home.
Overall, my weight-loss journey helped me become the healthiest mom that I can be — and if I'm healthier, that means my daughter can be healthier too.
No one taught me about nutrition and health growing up, and I went through hell and back to figure it out, but I did. Now, I'll be raising my daughter with everything I've learned, while still encouraging her to take care of herself and love herself regardless of what she looks like.