The following is an adaptation of a speech presented in September 2017 in Chicago by Andrea Butler aka Sunshine, From Fat to Finish Line member and popular Instagram influencer, about her weight loss journey. Sunshine is a graduate of FFTFL’s Run Your First Mile Training Program and is training to run her first Half Marathon at the Rock ‘n’ Roll races in Las Vegas in November.
Maybe I’m supposed to be Obese and Unhealthy
If you’re like me in my earlier years, you may have thought to yourself perhaps you were just meant to be overweight. Back then, the end goal seemed impossible. I’d think, “How could I lose weight? There’s no way. Maybe I’m supposed to be obese and unhealthy. It’s just too late for me. I’ve done irreparable damage to myself.” If this sounds like you, I want you to say to yourself instead, “This all changes today.”
Many of us in the From Fat to Finish Line community had to decide that enough was enough. We had to quit saying “I’ll start tomorrow, or Monday, or on the first of next month.” Change starts when YOU CHANGE. There is a perfect day to start living healthier and that day is TODAY.
When people ask how I’ve lost weight, I think they often expect some sort of magic formula. Or that I am some wellness wizard who has all the answers. The truth is relatively simple. You only need to do three things to change your life and we can all do them. Eat better, move more, and figure out how to change your relationship with food.
I’ve been overweight my whole life, and have never weighed under 200 pounds as an adult. My childhood was split between my mother’s and father’s homes. Dad’s was literally something out of the television show Hoarders. I couldn’t have friends over, and we almost never had food in the house. At Mom’s there were full cupboards and a full fridge. Making up for what we lacked at Dad’s, she took us out to eat a lot. I would overeat at Mom’s because I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from once back at Dad’s. He would also keep weird hours, so it wasn’t rare for him to get us in the car at 1:00 am and announce we were driving from our place in Milwaukee to Chicago for gyros.
Over the years, and to this day, I need to remind myself that I am no longer a child. I am an adult, who can buy food anytime I want. Food is not going anywhere and there is no need to overeat. Addressing this has been huge in my recovery and I say recovery because food addiction is a real thing.
In college, I tipped the scales at 391 pounds. A few years ago I decided to join a weight loss challenge at my former restaurant job and took a second job at a gym for women called Curves. During that period of time, I went from 391 to 245 pounds and started my first social media page on Facebook called, Sunshine’s Journey to 199. I created the public page as a way to hold myself accountable and I can still remember how excited I was when I hit 1000 followers. I couldn’t believe it!
It was around that time I met my ex-fiancé. Being my first real relationship, I was blind to a lot of “the bad” because I was so excited to finally be with someone I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. One of our favorite activities together was eating. About 6 months after meeting him, I quit my job of 10 years and moved with him to Chicago. I didn’t work for the first couple of months and wasn’t as active as I had been. In stark contrast to my kitchen back in Milwaukee, our cupboards were filled with food and not food that was good for us. We’d often go to McDonald’s for lunch where we’d each get a double quarter pounder meal and split a 20-piece chicken nugget order. He was also very jealous, to the point that it had me, someone who talks to everyone, avoiding eye contact with strangers. I didn’t want him accusing me of knowing them or wanting to ‘be with them.’
Things really got bad when I found out he had been cheating on me. We did the whole break up and make up thing several times. In March 2013, we were back together, and I thought in a good place. I went to Miami on vacation and during that trip I got an email at 4:00 am. He said it was over, he had moved out and I needed to find my own way home from the airport. Back up to 365 pounds, I had regained over 100 pounds while we were together. I had a pity party for a few days and then decided I wasn’t going to let that bad relationship ruin the work I’d done prior to meeting him. I snapped out of worrying what the future held and began to get excited about it.
Incredible Loss Didn’t Stop Progress
In 2014, I suffered two tragic losses. My Dad passed away on Thanksgiving 2014 and we buried his ashes on December 29th. Less than 24 hours later, my Mom passed away unexpectedly at only 55 years old.
I could have easily let any one or all of these events cause me to spiral back into all of my old habits and gain back up to and over 400 pounds. But I didn’t. I remembered that my current situation is not my final destination, that life is short and we don’t get another shot at it. Diabetes and heart disease and a slew of other ailments don’t care how good of a person you are – they will come for you if you don’t take care of yourself.
Setting Goals and Inspiring Others
Every day is a challenge. I have to remind myself that I’m worth it and that I am inspiring others to change their lives too. It’s important to have long-term goals, but don’t forget to set small ones too; every 10 pounds lost for example. Celebrate all of the wins in between. Non-scale victories for me included returning to Six Flags after staying away for 20 years. I was publicly embarrassed when I didn’t fit in the Batman roller coaster and had to get off the ride in front of everyone. Another victory is not having to worry if my seat belt would buckle on an airplane. And I’m no longer the girl in the hoodie and jeans in 90-degree weather when everyone else is wearing tank tops and dresses.
My weight has been up and down even since then, but what I’ve come to realize is that this is a process that isn’t quick and easy. Once we hit our goals it’s not like we have everything figured out. It’s important to practice making smart choices when it comes to moving every day, what we are eating, getting enough sleep, and everything else that comes along with striving for a healthy lifestyle. We all have bad days. But what makes the difference between the old me and the new me is that when I get knocked down I come back up fighting. I will not allow myself to keep backsliding until I’ve really setback my progress. It’s important to remember how far I’ve have come and where I want to go. We only live once. If we are not here to do something extraordinary then what are we here for? Live every day like it’s your last and never take your life for granted.“Do it for those who can’t.” Inspiration that I live by. - Sunshine Click To Tweet
Something that has stuck with me over the last several years is a comment someone wrote on my Facebook page when I was at the Biggest Loser Resort in June of 2012. Up in weight again, was finding the daily activity extremely difficult. She wrote, “Do it for those who can’t.” While we are complaining about exercising for 30 minutes, there are people out there without legs, people stuck in hospital beds or without money for any food. There are people battling disease and people who can’t breathe without the help of machines. On days when I am feeling lazy, I remind myself that I have been blessed with a decently healthy body. I have the luxury of having a roof over my head, a gym membership, and a body that works. How dare I be lazy when there are people out there who want nothing more than to have just one of the opportunities I have. Remind yourself of what you have and what you can do.
Step by Step
Make deals with yourself. Oh, you want that double cheeseburger, do you? Sure, you can have it. But first, you have to work out for an hour. Chances are, once you’ve busted your butt in the gym for an hour, you are not going to want to ruin the hard work you just completed. Feel like skipping the gym? Tell yourself, “Nope. You cannot skip it. Just go for 10 minutes. If you still want to leave after 10 minutes, fine, then leave.” But you better give yourself that 10 minutes first. Most of the time once you are there, you will not want to leave after 10 minutes. And if you do, you still got in 10 minutes which is better than nothing. Don’t be afraid to make little deals with yourself. I do it all the time.
Ultimately, getting healthy is the biggest gift you can give yourself and you can find motivation everywhere. Do you want to run around with your kids or do you want to sit on the sidelines while they make memories without you? My Mom remains a huge motivation in my life and my wellness journey every single day. She used to tell me that I’m capable of doing everything and anything I want and she believed it. She gave me everything when she had nothing. She was my biggest cheerleader and had a heart of gold. I wish she could be here today to see my accomplishments and yours as well.
Keep in the fight. There are people worse off doing it every day and you can too. Take it day by day, bite by bite and step by step.
Follow Sunshine’s Journey
I want to inspire everyone out there who has lost hope and let them know that it is NEVER too late to change your life. Just because you fail once does not mean that one day you will not succeed. You just have to get up every day and keep fighting!