Hilary pictured here after her 90 pound weight loss.

The Struggle is Real: Amateur Competitor Shares Tips on Her 90lb Weight Loss Journey

I was fat. Even now, it is hard to put that statement into writing. But, I was. I know it. And, it wasn’t like everyone around me couldn’t see it. I weighed 260 lbs when I decided I needed to change.

They say that to make life-changing modifications to our habits; we need proper motivation. Many women decide to lose weight to improve their health or look better in a wedding party or at a class reunion. Although I would love to say that I found my motivation and drive from a sincere desire to improve my health and well being, my motivation came from horses.

I had always said that to look better while showing, I didn’t need to call the amazing and talented Paula…I needed to call Jenny Craig. And, although my weight had not stopped me from showing in western riding and western pleasure, it did destroy the confidence I had to compete in horsemanship and showmanship. But, when AQHA instituted the novice rollback program, I became novice eligible in horsemanship (which I hadn’t shown in 15 years) and, like a switch getting flipped, my competitive drive propelled me to make a change. So, in January 2013, I decided to lose the weight.

I started by substituting protein shakes for breakfast and lunch. And, slowly, the pounds began to come off. I added in calorie counting using the MyFitnessPal app. I learned where my hidden calories came from – wine! I hit a plateau when I had lost 40 lbs. So, I met with a nutritionist to discuss my diet. I learned how to make healthier choices. And, the scale started moving again. When I hit another plateau, I started running. I started with the Couch to 25k program, a run/walk program that slowly builds the endurance required to complete a 5k run. And, the weight continued to drop.

In May of 2014, I ran in the Bay to Breakers race held annually in San Francisco. While I admit, it’s more of a festival that happens to include a 12k road race, I still had to walk/run the entire course. Something I would have never thought I would do two years earlier. And, just as surprising, my brother, who had been inspired by my weight loss and had started eating healthier and running, completed the race with me.

My weight loss journey confirmed a few things I already knew. And, I discovered a few things. Losing weight won’t make your life happier or more comfortable or make people like you more. It also won’t make you a great rider if you aren’t already a great rider. You won’t be guaranteed a ribbon no matter how much weight you’ve lost. Judges don’t know our back stories and personal struggles. They judge what is in front of them on that day. But, you will look better on a horse. Wearing a belt buckle is more comfortable. And, being able to get on without a step stool is liberating.

I decided to change for myself. But, I have been surprised at the ripple effect it has had on others. My brother has now lost 80 lbs and, together, we have completed three road races. Others around me have also started working towards being healthier. I didn’t start this process to become an inspiration. But, watching others succeed is a bonus.

The struggle to maintain is just as tough as the struggle to lose. Setbacks happen. And, I am scared to death that I will revert to my old habits. After reaching my goal of losing 90 lbs, I relaxed on my calorie counting and allowed work and life to sideline my exercise routine. The weight started to come back. Slowly, I think it crept back on at night while I slept. But, it happened. This December when my Spanx could no longer control my middle, I met with my nutritionist and I found out I had gained 25 lbs. So, with horse show season looming, I started back on my diet and exercise program. Fitting into expensive show clothes is hugely motivating.

I’ve also found that the clichés contain bits of truth. Find your motivation. Find what works for you. Don’t give up. Don’t let setbacks stop progress. Forgive yourself for being human. The struggle is real. But, the struggle is worth it.

Here are some of the methods and tips that have work for Hilary:

  • Track what you eat and your calorie intake. I use MyFitnessPal. It’s a free app and made calorie counting easy.
    Replace all diet sodas with water or sparkling water. Cutting out most of the diet drinks from my diet helped me lose additional weight when I had hit a plateau. It was hard to adjust at first because I wasn’t a fan of water and Perrier, but it was worth it.

  • Replace ‘white’ carbohydrates with healthier alternatives. For instance, I have transitioned from eating white rice to eating quinoa. I also choose wraps or wheat bread instead of white bread for sandwiches.

  • Find a protein drink that works for you. When I am home and have a blender available, I will make a smoothie with protein powder, frozen berries and unsweetened almond milk. When I’m at horse shows, I use Proti-diet
    concentrated drinks. You can buy them on Amazon. They are easy to pack and mix easily in a bottle of water.

  • If you drink alcohol, choose a mixer that doesn’t contain sugar or sugar alternatives. For instance, I’ve switched from drinking Vodka Collins to vodka with Perrier and lime.

  • Start an exercise program that works for you. I live some distance away from a gym, but I can easily run during the day. The Couch to 5K program I started with is a run/walk interval program that builds stamina and fitness. C25K is a free app available for download that can get you started.

  • Plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks that you can easily grab instead of going for junk food. I try to keep salads, quinoa and chicken breasts on hand for when I get hungry.

  • Substitute ground turkey for ground beef. In most recipes you can’t tell the difference. And it can lower the fat content of meals.

  • Forgive yourself when you go ‘off plan’. It’s okay. Everyone does. Just get back on track. It’s what you do most of the time that makes a difference. Not what you do once.

Dieting is hard, so do things that make it easy so it’s easier to achieve results.

Thanks Hilary for sharing your inspiring story and tips with us. Do you have any tips that have helped you lose weight? Let us know.