For most of her life, Maranda Boiter, 41, of South Carolina, never worried about her weight, holding steady at a size 8. But once she reached her early 30s, the pounds began to creep up.
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Part of the problem was due to her metabolism slowing down with age, but her diet was also a factor. "I would eat like a frat boy — I am all about the cheeseburger," she says. "And I would go large. I'd never get the regular candy bar — I had to have the king-sized, and that would be once or twice a day."
By age 38, Boiter topped 200 pounds, and her weight had begun to affect her wellbeing. "I dreaded getting dressed every day because I hated the way I looked," she says. "I avoided activities I used to love because I was constantly winded and uncomfortable doing almost anything — even tying my shoes."
After the birth of her first child in 2017, Boiter was 230 pounds and determined to make a change. Here, she shares the inspiring story of her 100-pound weight loss and how it transformed not just the way she looks, but more importantly, the way she lives.
'I Lost 30 Pounds — Then I Got Pregnant'
In the spring of 2016, I went on a trip to Washington, DC, with my husband and 17-year-old son. We were visiting the National Zoo, and my knee was so swollen and sore that I couldn't even walk on it.
I'd already had one knee surgery, which was caused by the stress on my body of carrying around extra weight. So I just sat while the rest of my family wandered around. I'd try to hobble along with them, but I missed most of the zoo. The next day, they went to the National Archives and I never even left the hotel room.
When we got home, I had a complete breakdown. I remember sobbing and telling my husband I was miserable. I couldn't stand to look at myself. I was tired all the time. I used to be so outgoing, and now I just wanted to eat and sleep.
The very next day I joined the gym and signed up for a personal trainer who worked with me once a week and gave me a plan for the rest of the week. Every weekday morning I got up at 5:00 a.m. to go the gym. I did a cardio HIIT workout twice a week and strength training three times a week.
"Although thrilled about the addition to our family, I was devastated at the thought of my efforts being 'wasted.' So I threw in the towel. I stopped working out and counting macros and went back to my old habits. I justified eating more because, hey, I was eating for two, right?"
I also changed my diet. I had been eating 2,500 calories on an everyday basis. My trainer told me to cut 500 calories per day. To make sure I was keeping up with that deficit, I started tracking my meals using LIVESTRONG.com's MyPlate app.
The first week I lost 7 pounds. I knew it was water weight, but it still felt great. I was motivated.
After six months of laser focus, I had lost 30 pounds and was on my way to reaching my goal of 50 to 60 pounds.
Then, in September, I found out I was pregnant at age 39. The pregnancy came out of nowhere and I think it was 100 percent due to my weight loss and exercise. My husband and I had been married for almost 10 years and had never used protection. Then I started getting healthy, and bam.
Although thrilled about the addition to our family, I was devastated at the thought of my efforts being 'wasted.' So I threw in the towel. I stopped working out and counting macros and went back to my old habits. I justified eating more because, hey, I was eating for two, right?
In July 2017, I had a baby boy. I had gained 70 pounds and was up to 230, the highest I'd ever been.
When my son was six weeks old, a friend of mine had a bachelorette party — a day at the pool before going out at night. I was sitting there feeling like a whale among the other girls. It was awful. My support system would say things like, Everyone gains weight when they're pregnant, and You'll lose it again, and No one expects you to look perfect. But this was not baby weight — I did this to myself. I knew I had to do something about it.
How I Lost the Baby Weight — and Then Some
I couldn't cut calories because I was breastfeeding, but I started tracking my food intake again using MyPlate, which kept me from going off the rails. I input everything I eat, and MyPlate estimates the calories and tells me what percent of carbs, fat and protein I'm taking in.
I had no idea what I was actually eating until I started tracking. For example, on Halloween I consumed 1,200 calories in fun-sized candy bars. I thought, "Oh, it's the fun size, it's just 90 calories." But then I ate eight of them throughout the day without even realizing it. So when I saw my weight jump up, I knew it was because I had raided the Halloween bucket.
Within a couple of months, I started meal prepping, which I learned about from the LIVESTRONG.com newsletter. On Sunday morning, I get up and cook all of my lunches for the week. My family is a big fan of pizza, pasta and hot dogs for dinner. So if I can keep lunch under control by eating low-carb, high-protein meals, I'll have a little more latitude in the evening.
Chicken and veggies is my go-to. Sometimes I prepare it Asian style with lots of ginger and garlic, sometimes I use Italian seasonings, or I make a burrito bowl. With all those veggies, who needs the rice or noodles? I box everything up into five containers.
"I also started intermittent fasting. This helped me get over the plateau and I lost 30 more pounds."
I also grill meat for dinner so I have something on hand when I'm not cooking for the family. I'll usually have a grilled chicken breast on a salad.
I even meal-prep snacks. I chop veggies and pre-proportion out hummus, or make a tomato-feta salad. In the fridge, I have "Mom's Shelf" with all my little snack baggies and to-go ramekins, and people know they have to stay off that shelf.
I also drink six to eight 20-ounce bottles of water a day, which is a tip I read in a LIVESTRONG.com article. I used to drink juice, soda or sweet tea, but now, if I start to think I need a snack, I drink half a water bottle or more and typically find the craving will subside.
I was feeling better and losing a little weight. By January 2018, I was down to 200 pounds. Then I had to stop breastfeeding due to a medication I needed to take. I felt terrible not to be breastfeeding, but it was also the green flag to cut calories again because I didn't have to worry about the baby.
I went down to eating 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day and cut carbs down to 25 percent of my diet. I lost 10 more pounds the next month, but my body didn't look any different. I wasn't toning up or getting trim. I had been taking short walks around the office, but I knew I needed to work out. I started doing at-home bodyweight exercises — squats, planks and pushups. I also walked laps with a friend around a pond near our office. The weight continued to come off, but very slowly.
"One of the biggest misconceptions I had was that I didn't have time to go to the gym. But a lot can be done in 30 minutes."
In the summer, I also started intermittent fasting, which I heard about from LIVESTRONG.com. I limit my food intake to the hours between 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with the exception of my morning coffee, in which I have creamer and Splenda. This helped me get over the plateau and I lost 30 more pounds.
That Thanksgiving, my cousin told me that before her 40th birthday she wanted to run a 10K. I never thought I would enjoy running, but the next week I sent her a text that said, "If you want to do that race, let's do it." We started training, and it was one of the best things I've ever done.
At first, we met three times a week and ran for 30 minutes before we had to get the kids to daycare. We worked up to 60 to 90 minutes and ran a 5K race as a warm-up. Last April, we did the 10K and completed it 15 minutes under our goal time.
I only lost about 10 pounds while training, but I went straight from a size 10 to a 6. I was down to about 140 pounds.
After the race, my cousin and I switched to strength training to get rid of our back fat. Now we meet at the gym three times a week.
One of the biggest misconceptions I had was that I didn't have time to go to the gym. But a lot can be done in 30 minutes. I do five minutes on the elliptical to get my heart going, and then a couple of circuits. I focus on upper body one day, lower body the next. I tend to get in a rut, so to switch things up I do the LIVESTRONG.com 30-day challenges, like the burpee challenge and the squat challenge. I lost 10 more pounds by summer, reaching 129.
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Join the LIVESTRONG.com Challenge Group on Facebook to learn about the latest 30-day challenges and get support and encouragement from other members along the way!
It's hard to stay committed, but every time I slack off I can tell immediately. I travel for work every now and then, and when I do, I go out to eat every day and alcohol is incidental. When I come home, it's hard to motivate myself to get back into the groove — I start coming up with excuses.
When that happens, I try to remember what it would be like to go backwards. The simplest things, like tying my shoes or walking around the pond, are not a big deal anymore. I no longer have issues with my knee and have so much more energy.
My Biggest Challenges: Sugar Cravings and Emotional Eating
I can get down on myself and it's a struggle not to give up when I've had a bad day. I'm an emotional eater, and I tend to go overboard when I get stressed. But I have learned to be more forgiving of myself and teach myself that even if I screwed up this morning, I can turn it around.
At first, it was also hard to deal with sugar cravings. So I made small changes. Instead of a king-sized Reese's cup, I would get a dark chocolate bar and give it to my husband to hide and tell him to give me a third of it at a time.
After I started meal prepping, I would feel really full off of just protein and veggies, and then I wouldn't have room for sweets. Once I got accustomed to not having sugar, which took about a month, it's almost gross. Now, I eat a regular Reese's cup and I'm like, "I can't believe I used to eat four of these things!"
Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Sugar
I'm six months pregnant again — with a girl this time — and I knew from the beginning that this pregnancy would be different. I am still meal prepping and counting calories. I'm 24 weeks along and have gained 26 pounds.
But one of the hardest things is that people really don't understand. The older generation has always gone by that "you're eating for two" philosophy. My mom and my aunt will say, "Oh, you can have the cake because you're pregnant," or, "You're supposed to be gaining weight because you're pregnant." But it's supposed to be a pound a week, not 10 pounds a month. So I just politely say, "That's right, but I already had my snack for the day."
The One Thing That Has Really Helped Me Succeed
My son gave me the motivation to be healthy. I love that I can get onto the floor with my toddler and throw him around and do flips and burpees with him. I could never have done that three years ago.
I'm an older mom, so I'll be in my late 50s or 60s when he's in high school and college. I want to be able to participate in all those things with my kids that I couldn't even do when I was in my 30s — like going to theme parks where I am just as energetic as they are, and even running Spartan races with them.
My Best Advice for Others
If you fail at one thing, try something else. It took me a long time to figure out which weight-loss strategies were going to work for me. And it's not quick. Losing a pound a week is healthy. Don't rush it. Keep trying.
One thing that really helped is my Facebook group. It started with just eight friends, but now we're almost 50. We post healthy recipes, pictures of what we're eating, tips and words of motivation. I encouraged the group to participate in the LIVESTRONG.com 30-day challenges and we post updates as we complete the workouts. Having people who are working to make a lifestyle change along with me is huge. We offer each other forgiveness when we fail, and also accountability.
This transformation has changed my life in every aspect. I not only look better, I feel amazing. I can truly say that I am happier and have a more positive outlook on everything.