128: Amy Bounced Back From Rock Bottom & Suicidal Thoughts | Amy Riggs (F/34)

“Just keep moving.”

“Everything in moderation.”

Weight Gain Background and Contributing Factors

Amy first noticed being heavier than her peers around age 8 or 9. It was at that time her mom talked to Amy one-on-one about trying not to put on extra weight, because her mother had dealt with her own weight problem her whole life.

Through high school Amy always thought of herself as being the “fat girl.” She now looks back on that as silly—she was heavier than her peers, but now she would not describe the girl in her high school photos as fat, at all.

Amy weighed over 200 pounds (90.9 kg) when graduating from high school, and then she yo yo-ed higher.

How Being Overweight Impacted Amy’s Life

Amy tends to have a quieter and introverted personality, so having the extra weight made her even more self-conscious in public. She shares that her weight kept her isolated and made going out socially even more difficult.

In the summer before her last year of college, Amy lost 40 pounds (18.2 kg), due to her mother deciding that in the summer when she was home she would only be allowed to eat “health foods.”

Upon returning to college Amy gained this weight back, as she no longer had someone buying and preparing certain foods for her every day—she was back in the real world.

Amy discusses that when a person has a substantial amount of weight to lose, going on their journey will most likely be a fairly drastic change in a their life. This is contrasted sharply with a person who wants to drop 10-15 pounds for a wedding, and might be able to accomplish that through some small eating changes here and there.

With this in mind, Amy wanted to seek out a sustainable way to lose weight, something she could maintain for the rest of her life. Amy’s peak weight was 249.7 pounds. (113.5 kg)

The Turning Point

About one year before she embarked on losing weight, many life events conspired together to cause Amy to fall into a big depression, and she became very withdrawn and reclusive.

Amy lost her job as a teacher. She and her husband had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for quite a few years. Her parents moved away from her town, and they had always been very close.

One night in particular was Amy’s breaking point, and she began to have terrible depressive thoughts of suicide. That scared Amy, and in hindsight, she knows now that it was her turning point to start the journey. Amy thought to herself that while she may not be in control of many things in her life, she could be in charge of what she ate.

Starting The Weight Loss Journey

At this time in her life Amy says she ate a lot of prepackaged and processed food. She describes it as basically:

“Eating whatever I wanted and whatever I felt like… I have a massive sweet tooth.”

Therefore, it was a good first step to just start with tracking her food. Amy says that from the very beginning she was very conscious of making only small adjustments in her eating, because she knew she wanted to make a complete lifestyle change that would stick, and that she didn’t want to have to diet again.

Once she found her target daily calorie range Amy was surprised to find how much she could eat, and still be within her calorie budget:

“I didn’t need to starve myself in order to lose the weight.”

amy-riggs-raceAmy says she was both surprised and pleased that she could still lose weight with moderation, and that she didn’t have to go for full deprivation or a super-strict diet. Things like fruit now taste sweet to Amy, and she can tell that over time her taste buds have changed. She also knows now that her body craves healthier options, which makes it easier to continue to eat well and healthily.

Amy says the transition to healthier choices wasn’t especially tough for her because she made small changes over time rather than going headfirst into a difficult/strict diet plan.

Her husband and Amy don’t always eat the same things, but Amy hasn’t found it particularly difficult to be around tempting foods she used to eat. Now she knows that she can just have one bite of something (she is a strong advocate for moderation, after all) instead of needing to eat it for her whole meal.

Staying Motivated

The initial decision to just delve into exercise was an intimidating choice for Amy. She shares that in the past her husband had always tried to get her to work out with him, but she always felt too self-conscious.

Amy says that since she had become something of a recluse because of her appearance, she didn’t share that she was on a weight loss journey with friends, etc.

When friends noticed that Amy’s eating habits were different when she was going to dinner out, they were supportive. She has encouraged others in her group of friends to lose weight as well. Amy’s mom has been losing weight, and has even now run a few 5Ks, inspired by Amy.

“That has meant the most to me.”

Current Eating Habits

These days, Amy has a pretty routine way of eating that helps her keep on track. For breakfast she usually eats an egg, veggies, and maybe bread with peanut butter. She says she “always, always” brings her lunch, which might be salad, brown rice, chicken, or fish. She snacks throughout the day, usually on fruit.

People at work sometimes tease her for her healthy eating while at work. She likes the fact that people are watching her meal choices, and the fact that they are watching her helps keep her accountable.

Amy enjoys dinners with her husband. One of her focuses this past year is eating more natural and whole foods rather than processed foods. Amy still tracks her food every day, although maybe she doesn’t always track at parties or other special occasion meals. She doesn’t feel the tracking is an addiction; it just helps her to be accountable to herself.

What Amy Learned About Food, Exercise, and Herself

Regarding holidays and the holiday season:

“It is something that can completely derail you if you’re not careful.”

Even if Amy has saved up her calories, if she is at an event and sees a dessert she wants to try, she will take a bite or 2, but not go overboard on it.

Keeping an upcoming event in mind keeps her exercise on track. Amy has run 5K races and triathlons now, and also participates in yoga and lifting. She likes to have a date planned in the future to keep her motivated and pushing herself before the event. She tries not to let 2 days go between her workouts.

If she doesn’t have a goal date set in the future, she feels like she needs to have a program or exercise schedule so that she doesn’t need to figure out every day what her exercise plan is. When the plan is ‘pre-decided’ for her it takes less energy to get revved up to do it. She puts exercise on her calendar or to-do list, just like an appointment or a mundane task like checking her email.

Amy shares that if she could go back in time and talk to her old self, she would tell ‘past-Amy’ that life “can be so much better!

Amy’s Advice For Your Journey

  • Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and your journey.
  • Stay away from people who are afraid of change.
  • You can do it! It takes determination and hard work, but it can be done.

Resources Discussed In This Podcast

  • MyFitnessPal – calorie counting website, community, and phone apps

On Amy’s Workout Playlist

Contacting Amy

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