To change my diet, I focused on making simple swaps instead of counting calories or grams of fat.
Before 271 lbs
After 131 lbs!
Yolanda Silveri, a 31-year-old single mom and teacher from Douglasville, GA, broke her unhealthy eating habits one small step at a time.
“I had been overweight for as long as I could remember, but high school was particularly tough because I was the “big girl” on the cheerleading squad. When our team visited other schools I could hear kids saying “boom” when I jumped and landed, which was mortifying. My family and friends told me I was “big-boned” and that was my lot in life. I tried many diet and exercise programs throughout the years, but my weight loss was always temporary. I turned to food for comfort when I was sad and as a reward when I was happy.”
The Shocking Photo
“In November 2009, I attended my 10-year high school reunion and had a great time catching up with old friends. But when I looked at pictures from that night, I was surprised and embarrassed by how big I was compared to everyone else. I weighed 271 pounds. That’s when I realized I needed to do something about my weight, but it took a few months to start. Faith has always been a big part of my life, so in January 2010, I decided to incorporate it into my weight loss strategy. I resolved to turn to prayer instead of food when I was upset or stressed.”
“My favorite TV show was The Biggest Loser—seeing how hard they trained spurred me to exercise. As I watched it, I walked in place. During commercials I counted how many sprints I could run across the first floor of my house, then I would try to beat that number during the next break.
To change my diet, I focused on making simple swaps instead of counting calories or grams of fat. I traded ground beef for lean ground turkey. I started using skim milk instead of whole, ate whole-grain sandwich rounds instead of white bread and replaced chocolate ice cream with lowfat chocolate pudding. Overall, I stuck to a lowfat diet that incorporated fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins like chicken, turkey and fish.”
“In five months, I lost 50 pounds and had the confidence to join a six-week boot camp with a group of coworkers. At that point, I gave up processed foods and started drinking more water. To stay on track, I counted my daily calories (fine-tuning my diet beyond the initial swaps), then logged them into a free app called Calorie Counter on my phone. I weighed myself every few days, made small changes—including “closing the kitchen” after 7:30 P.M. to stop snacking—and kept moving toward my goal.
Thanks to my at-home workouts and boot camp, I discovered that I loved running, so I joined the Atlanta Track Club and signed up for the Resolution Run 5K on New Year’s Day. I finished the first year of my weight loss adventure 85 pounds lighter and eventually reached my goal weight 18 months to the day I started. Whenever I feel like skipping a workout or stress-eating a plate of brownies, I ask God to give me strength to resist. Taking that time out helps me refocus and return to my healthy habits.”
My stick-with-it secret: Reward yourself—but give back.
“As I lost weight, I donated my too-big clothes to Goodwill and treated myself to a few outfits from there or other thrift stores. I limited purchases to only the essentials so I wouldn’t become too attached to a particular size until I reached my goal weight. I hope someone who is on her own weight loss journey will be happy to find my clothes in a thrift store.”
My best tip
“Find creative ways to stay active. I started a Recess Running Club with my students to challenge them to do more exercise. I compete with them in races on the playground, and try to match their total miles each week with my own running.”