I have been overweight my entire life, but the weight gain became noticeably more significant around fifth grade. My home life as a child was far from ideal. Although I didn't realize what I was doing as a small child, I used food and my increased weight as a bandage and a form of protection.
The event that spurred me to make a major change was when my husband asked for a divorce in November 2007. I took the following month to really look at my life. I started by asking myself one simple question, “Are you happy?” I quickly realized that if I was honest with myself, the answer was no. I was only going through the motions. I had hit rock bottom, and was just so tired of being tired. I began by making a list of what I really wanted my life to look like. I wrote down everything that came to mind. Nothing was too big or too little. It included things like “Go back to college and finish my nursing degree,” “Dare to have my beautician cut my hair with a razor instead of scissors,” “Lose weight,” “Take a vacation just because I want to,” and “Tip a waiter/waitress $100 regardless of the price of the bill and make his/her day.” I carried that list around with me for the full month of December, and any time something came to mind, I'd grab a pen and add it to the list. At the end of the month, I looked at all the things I'd written on my list and reevaluated my life. I decided to start with two items: a large change and a small one. On January 5, I had my hair cut with a razor and I began my weight-loss journey.
I had never watched The Biggest Loser, but I'd heard of Jillian's reputation and decided to give her online program a try. Once I'd joined JillianMichaels.com and spent a few minutes browsing the site, I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had tried to lose weight on my own countless times throughout my life, but I'd always failed. Jillian's approach made sense. Weight loss is a simple math equation: calories in, calories out. You had to burn more calories than you ate. Simple. Not easy, but simple.
When I first began my journey, I followed Jillian's program strictly. I worked out five days a week with two rest days, used her circuit training workouts and DVDs, and followed her suggested calorie limit — between 1200-1400 per day. I also kept a diary of my food intake each day. In the beginning, I was ashamed of my size and very self-conscious about being in a gym with other people. I joined a 24-hour gym and would workout between midnight and 2 a.m. to increase my chances of being alone. After following this routine for four months, I decided to change to a gym that offered classes. I soon discovered that not only did I not care what other people thought (or whether they might be watching me), I actually enjoyed working out with people around. Their presence helps push me further in my workouts and keeps me moving when I'd rather stop. Today you'll find me in the gym only three days out of the seven. I work with my trainer twice a week and take strength-training classes, kickboxing classes, boot camps, and also run occasionally. I still use Jillian's circuit-training routines from the site as well as her DVDs to enhance my workout.
The same day I began this journey, I joined a local weight-loss competition. I competed against 24 other people for a prize worth $2,500. I didn't win the competition — I placed third behind two men — but the prize I won was far greater than any amount of money: I lost 45.5 pounds in 10 weeks. The competitiveness and having something to strive toward helped me remain focused in those beginning weeks. Then in April, it was announced that I was the winner of Jillian's New Year Challenge, and I learned that Jillian would be coming to my home to spend the day with me and give me a one-on-one training session. My upcoming day with Jillian kept me motivated and on the right path. Having had the opportunity of a lifetime to spend the day with the person I respect and admire most in this world continues to be what drives me to reach my goal. Having said that, I realize that not everyone has the same situations or opportunities I was blessed with, but find whatever it is that encourages you — something you can strive toward or look forward to. Focus your sights on that goal and keep moving forward.
Obviously, I am physically different from the way I was, but I am emotionally different too. Physically, I can exercise for hours, I can run, clothes fit me, I have muscles, I am strong. But I think the bigger changes, for me, have been the emotional ones. We all know Jillian is a fantastic trainer — she can pull hundreds of pounds off people and “beat” them like no other — but what sets her apart from everyone else is the love and compassion she gives. I truly believe the battle of weight loss is 98 percent emotional, and that is where Jillian does her best work. Her heart is so much bigger than her beatings! The hardest and most productive workout was the beating given between my ears. She made me see how strong I truly am, and what I can do, not what I can't.
I believe in myself more than I ever have before. I have a greater sense of self-worth; I put myself first often; I am able to make decisions and follow through with them even if it hurts or is scary; and I've learned that change can be a good thing and an opportunity to grow. One of the most rewarding changes has been that I've gained people in my life whom I consider invaluable, and whose paths most likely would never have crossed my own had I not made the decision to change my life. My journey will never be over — this was a lifestyle change for me. I am currently one pound from my goal weight, and I have no doubt I will reach the finish line!
Best compliment: Each compliment I am blessed to receive touches my heart and means the world to me, but the greatest compliment came from Morgan, the 3-year-old girl I take care of as a private nanny. One day a friend and I had lunch together, and I had Morgan with me. The waitress came to the table to take our drink order and asked Morgan what she would like to drink. She answered, "Water with lemon because it's healthy for you." The waitress giggled and said, "You're right! That is healthy!" Morgan then said, "I'm gonna grow up to be strong like Tam." She made my eyes well with tears. It made quite an impression on me, and I'll never forget it. Her life will be different and healthier because of the way I'm changing my own life.
Activities now: Since beginning my journey, I have ran many 5 and 10K races, completed a marathon, participated in obstacle course runs, taken aggressive spin classes, climbed rock walls and rang the bell at the top… But it's the little, everyday things that most people take for granted that have made such a difference to me. I can fit into any chair. I can climb stairs and not lose my breath. I can lean over the bathtub to bathe a baby, cut the lawn without stopping, tie my shoes with ease, and scratch the center of my back. When I go shopping, I can find something that fits me in any store. On an airplane, I can easily buckle the seat belt and have to tighten it. Also, for the first time in my life, I can cross my legs at the knees, not only at the ankles.
Advice for others:
- Educate yourself on weight loss and health as much as possible. Listen to those who've been there before you, and allow them to help you.
- Find a workout buddy, a partner in crime. Pick someone who will push you when you need the encouragement but who can also comfort you when the stress gets hard to manage.
- Use JillianMichaels.com to your advantage. Ask questions, get to know people on the Message Boards, use the circuit-training workouts and the recipes, the Weight Tracker, and the Fitness Diary.
- Take pictures along the way. I have trouble seeing changes in the mirror, but I can tell the difference in photos.
- Believe in yourself and know that you'll cross the finish line. No one can want it bad enough for you. You have to want it for yourself — and more than anything.
I love that for the first time in my life, I believe in myself, feel I am worth something in this world, and know I can do and have anything I want. I am strong… The next step is always mine to take.
*Participants can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per