My Turn: A Bridesmaid's Fitness Inspiration

I can run two miles. It takes me at least 15 minutes for each mile, but I can do it. This has not always been the case.

I grew up being the oldest, the shortest and the heaviest between my tall, slender mother and my taller, slender, athletic blond sister. When I hit my 20s, I also hit 200 pounds and stayed there. Except, when my weight went up. Food was my addiction. I justified my junk food habit as rewards for good behavior and comfort for when things went wrong. Sugar and pastas provided the greatest source of happiness for me, as long as I was eating them.

I had always been aware that I was heavy. When I was 13, I wanted a pair of jeans that didn't fit. Determined, I would put them on by lying on my bed and tugging them over my belly. I wore long bulky sweaters so no one could see that they wouldn't zip or button shut.

Then, last year, my sister announced that she was getting married. Rather than be as happy for her as I could be, I felt a thick black cloud hanging over that happiness: I would have to fit into a bridesmaid gown. And walk up the aisle with all my sister's tiny-waisted girlfriends. To make matters worse, we had to be measured for the dresses. That was in August, and I got the depressing news that I had to order a size 22 gown. I went home and bawled for an hour. Then, I ate pizza and drank a beer—my comfort foods.

Four months before the wedding, in early October, I announced to my boyfriend that I was finally going to make a change. Dinnertime would consist of some different menu items. I was planning on cutting out pastas, breads, starches and, most importantly, sugar. I would increase my fresh-vegetable intake and get most of my carbohydrates from beans and sweet potatoes. My goal for the wedding was to lose 20 to 25 pounds. There was no way I was going near that church in a size 22 bridesmaid dress. I also told my boyfriend that I believed I had an addiction problem with food and that I could no longer live my life not fitting into clothing, having breakdown after breakdown in dressing rooms and on vacations, and that with the history of diabetes in my family, the amount of fat in my midsection was dangerous to my health. My boyfriend, who has got to be the most supportive person in the universe, never uttered a negative statement during this talk. All he did was hold me and tell me that he'd be there for me. And, that he could probably stand to lose a few, too.

We got a membership at the YMCA and started swimming two or three nights a week. When the weather was nice, we went for walks in the evenings. I wanted to get as much exercise as possible because my new job consisted of sitting at a desk for nine hours a day. When it finally got cold enough to snow, I fulfilled a goal I had always wanted: I learned how to ski. After a while, my lungs stopped feeling like they were going to explode each time I exercised.

We both managed to cut our portions down, and split a lot of chicken breasts and sweet potatoes, rather than each eating a whole one. I began to drink a lot more water. For breakfast I ate cheese, low-carb yogurts and hard-boiled eggs. I had a smaller lunch but began to also eat more frequently, snacking on carrots in the afternoons.

I am probably the most impatient person you'll ever meet. I wanted results immediately. But it's never that easy. My pants were a bit looser, but I couldn't see any difference. I weighed myself weekly only to find that it was coming off in half-pound increments, instead of the two to three pounds a week I was hoping for. I had taken a "before" picture of myself at 210 pounds, and it was three months before I could see any difference.

But, it was there.

Fast forward to the few weeks before the wedding. I had to take the dress to the tailors, because it would not stay up. It was the first time in my life my chest couldn't hold something up! I spent almost as much on the tailoring as I had on the dress itself, but it was worth it: I walked down the aisle in a dress that was two sizes smaller than it had been.

I had lost 20 pounds. The process was slow and grueling, but it had come off.

I am still sticking to my diet. I have lost a total of about 30 pounds. Clothes that have been sitting in my closet for three years or more finally fit me. People have started to ask me if I'm losing weight, and I can proudly tell them yes. My next goal is to shed weight not just in time for my family's annual vacation but also for my best friend's wedding in August and, yes, another fancy gown. Only this time, I'm not going home in tears.