118: Victoria Stevens: Confidence and Self-Acceptance By Focusing on Health

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“If things don’t change, are you okay with that?”

Weight Gain Background and Contributing Factors

Victoria says that from childhood she was always a little overweight—she grew up taught to clean her plate, and she always enjoyed food and baking.

Once she was out of sigh school and she stopped playing sports Victoria’s weight started to increase further. Still, she says that only about 3 years ago it fully hit her how heavy she’d become.

How Being Overweight Impacted Victoria’s Life

Growing up, Victoria says that she wouldn’t go shopping with her friends, and couldn’t swap clothes with her girlfriends like others could. She would always opt out of getting ready for parties or going out with them because she felt self-conscious, both of her weight and her height.

Victoria remembers trying her first diet at about age 14, a program she ordered through the mail. Victoria tried many diet and exercise plans over the years, really “everything you can think of.

She would go to sleep many nights promising herself that she would start a diet in the morning, only to eat cake a co-worker had brought in, or something else.

“It’s really bothered me my whole life.”

The Turning Point

About six months before ending a long-term relationship, Victoria joined roller derby. The new sport of roller derby brought a lot of exercise into her life, and Victoria shares that the breakup itself helped shed some stress.

Victoria moved in with her brother, who she describes as someone who lives very healthy. Her brother and her new roller derby friends helped keep her on track at the start of her journey.

Victoria shares that there is a pattern in her life of when she is around people who have an unhealthy lifestyle, she joins in, and when that relationship or friendship ends, she gets healthier. Looking back, Victoria can see it unfolding several times.

“It’s easy and it’s comfortable and it’s what you know, so…it’s not worth rocking the boat for.”

Victoria’s peak recorded weight was 295 pounds, (134kg) but says she was probably more in the 320-330 pound range, (145.4-150kg) going by pants sizes.

Starting The Weight Loss Journey

Victoria says that her pattern of changes was a gradual shift into more conscious and healthy eating habits.

She began by reducing her portion sizes and adding lots of salads to her diet. She also added exercise that was fun into her life.

“I play sports, because it tricks me into exercising.”

Victoria runs a bit, walks her dog, plays roller derby, and stands up all day at work. The changes in her body that she could see—pants that fit better, more energy—were encouraging to her, and kept her motivated.

Victoria didn’t tell many people around her that she was actively trying to lose weight, just that she was eating healthier. She didn’t want to feel like folks were policing everything she was eating at all times.

As Victoria grew happier with her life and felt more positive mentally, it was easier to make physical changes and to feel better in general.

“Every other time I tried to make a change…you look in the mirror, and you go ‘Well, why bother? Why bother trying?’”

Victoria chooses to focus on health and happiness versus a number target on a scale or a clothing size, an outlook that has caused her less stress throughout her journey.

Victoria is a vegetarian, so she keeps close tabs on her protein intake and iron levels. She doesn’t buy junk food for her own house, so that temptation of unhealthy eating at home is totally eliminated. Now when she’s out with friends, she’s able to stick with her healthy eating despite what anyone else in the group is eating.

Victoria eats lots of vegetables, and cucumbers are her go-to snack. Victoria likes to bake, which she calls her “kryptonite.” She shares her belief that over time you can actually change the food you crave, from fast food to vegetables.

“I find that eating healthy on a regular basis has just changed my palette.”

Challenges Victoria Faced Along The Way

The biggest challenge Victoria had faced throughout her life was accepting herself as she is.

While some self-esteem issues still crop up, now they are more related to her body after the weight loss. Victoria feels uncomfortable with the new and different attention she gets now while out in public. Even though she is the same person, people in stores, waiters at restaurants, people who she may not have seen as a friend now approached her in a different way.

“People liked me more.”

The dramatic difference in how she is received by others has led Victoria to often question the motives of others, wondering if those people would give her attention if she was still heavy. Victoria shares that having been prepared for this aspect of her weight-loss journey would have been very helpful.

She encourages people on a weight loss journey to mentally prepare for this possibility.

What Victoria Learned About Food, Exercise, and Herself

“I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was.”

Starting at age 30, Victoria made a conscious effort to make decisions that were best for her, and not to make make them simply to make others happy. Her choices have become stronger and she is now surer of herself and not swayed by anyone around her.

Ending a bad relationship allowed Victoria to be more comfortable in her own skin. Even though she lost some friends in the transition out of that relationship and into a healthier lifestyle, she gained a new set of friends.

“It was really hard at the beginning.”

Still, Victoria thinks that when you can find friends who are not critical of who you are, it’s easier to be less critical of yourself. Sometimes her first reaction is still to be negative and put up a wall—to say ‘I’ll never see my abs’—but now instead she tells herself, ‘yep, I’ll get there.

While there may never be things you love about your physique, Victoria tries to look in the mirror and focus on the good things.

“The more I focus on the positives, I find those negative things, they become smaller. Like they’re not as big of a deal”

Victoria’s job as a hairdresser is fairly unpredictable, so it’s often difficult for her to have a structured and predictable eating plan. Even though she says: “my eating habits are not ideal,” through being mindful of her food and activity, Victoria has lost between 100-120 pounds. (45.5-54.5 kg)

Victoria isn’t sure whether “the old her” would have believed she could actually get to this healthy place where she is today; in the past she lacked the mental strength and support network to get there.

Victoria says that today she is still working towards health and she wants to play derby at a higher level. In her journey, Victoria always focused on some aspect of health, and now that focus is getting stronger.

Victoria’s Advice For Your Journey

“Find something that makes you happy, and do that.”

  • Life, and stress, are a little easier to handle when you are at peace and happy with yourself.
  • Focus on being happy and healthy instead of focusing on numbers. The weight and the size will go along with that.

Resources Discussed In This Podcast

  • Couch To 5K (C25K) – 9 week program to take you from the couch to running a 5k at 30 minutes’ pace
  • Zombies Run! – fun phone app to add excitement to your runs
  • MyFitnessPal – online calorie tracking & community

On Victoria’s Workout Playlist

Contacting Victoria

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