Making Lives Better: Vanessa
Vanessa is a beacon of positivity and inspiration to everyone she meets. Like many, she has overcome setbacks and plateaus along her fitness journey, but she didn’t give up. Having lost 200 pounds, her weight-loss journey is remarkable. And this is only the beginning for Vanessa on her quest for overall health, healing, and happiness!
Where did you start your fitness journey?
I started my weight-loss journey at 389 pounds. I’ve been obese my entire life. At 13, I surpassed 300 pounds. I finally decided I wanted to be a better, healthier Vanessa. I was depressed that I wasn’t embracing life, and I realized it was up to me to change that. Walking up a flight of stairs left me breathless. I couldn’t fit on an airplane seat, ride a horse or roller coaster, or shop at a regular clothing store. I knew I wanted to get healthy, but the journey ahead felt overwhelming!
What was your turning point when deciding to get in shape?
I tried out for a well-known weight-loss TV show, made it to the finals, and waited for the official phone call. This two-month waiting period was life-changing. I never got that call, but I did start to get my health back! I lost 50 pounds while waiting and 161 pounds total in one year to prove they should’ve chosen me!
What made you decide to work out at LVAC?
LVAC offered many classes, and I loved that it’s a women’s gym. Weighing 389 pounds and walking into a gym alone is scary. Being surrounded by women made me feel safe and less intimidated. I was also lucky that many of my friends are members; they made me try group fitness classes!
How often do you train/work out?
I work out 60-90 minutes six to seven days a week (depending on the intensity). I love the feeling of my muscles burning from exertion after a great workout!
What’s your favorite amenity within LVAC?
I love classes like Body Pump that help sculpt my body and also Spin Saturday mornings. I love that LVAC has a healthy juice bar. I appreciate that LVAC is NEVER closed and that there’s a women’s sauna.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment at LVAC?
I love the hip abduction machines, leg press, elliptical, treadmill, and bike.
What else do you enjoy about LVAC? Culture? Community? Friendship?
LVAC feels like a fitness family. It’s nice to be around like-minded people! LVAC is also welcoming, and I love the friends I’ve made.
Did you have any plateaus or setbacks?
This is where I’ll get real. When I lost 161 pounds in 2013, I was focused on getting healthy to prove something to a TV show. However, a few months after hitting my lowest weight at that time (227 pounds), I stayed around 235-240 pounds. A plastic surgeon heard my story and donated his services for my abdominoplasty and arm skin-removal surgery. Surgery went well, results were wonderful, and everyone admired how amazing I looked. But six weeks post-op, I didn’t admire myself. I had always been that funny, sweet, outgoing, pretty-faced fat friend. Now I was severely depressed and confused because I didn’t know who I was. My anxiety was so bad that I developed a new addiction for 18 months. Before, I turned to food; now I turned to bulimia. I didn’t do this to lose weight—I actually gained 60 pounds by purging. When I felt anxious I would eat, then purge until the anxiety stopped. I would also get headaches and feel both physically and emotionally depleted. I was lost in my own body and didn’t know what to do.
What helped you overcome these setbacks?
I bumped into a trainer I knew at the juice bar and openly told him what was happening. A group fitness coach overheard us and confessed she was a binge eater and that she’d never told anyone. She thankfully invited me to come with her to a weekly women’s group, where I completed a 12-step addiction program in 12 weeks. It was nice being surrounded by women who understood my struggles. I started to feel like myself again, while also embracing the “new me.”
Why are you publicly talking about this?
Coming to terms with my past addiction and healing from it, I learned I wasn’t alone. Gym friends and trainers all experienced something similar—bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating, overexercising, etc. Whenever I’d share my story, people felt comfortable to open up and share their struggles. I’m honest and real about my journey because I own it, and I hope my story will help someone. After recovering from bulimia, I weighed 319 pounds. I remember seeing the scale in December 2017 and vowing to myself I’d get healthy the right way.
How do you feel now?
Currently, I’m 189 pounds. I’m shocked any time I say this number out loud, but I remind myself it’s just a number. I’m also trying to find balance; I want to have a healthy mind and soul too.
Who has been your biggest support system?
My LVAC family is a blessing; I’ve made lifelong friends! Of course, my friends and family—whether we made healthy recipes, went hiking, or talked when things were difficult—gave me tremendous support. And the biggest support comes from within yourself.
What’s your favorite thing to do on rest day?
I like to relax, but I’m still active—walking or doing garden work. I also enjoy spending time with loved ones—going for coffee, movies, massages, or just chatting.
If you got to choose—leg day or upper body?
Leg day! I enjoy working my biggest muscle.
Favorite cheat meal?
Being born in Brooklyn, my favorite cheat meal is pizza. I like something sweet too—usually ice cream. I think it’s good to have treats at least one meal a week!
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with your extra time?
I would be helping more people with their goals on their own journey. When people hear my story, they get inspired to start their own. I usually have a phone chat or meet them here at LVAC for a workout. I really enjoy giving back and helping people; I’ve always felt that was my calling.
It seems unthinkable to lose 200 pounds naturally. But if I can do it, anyone can! You just need drive, dedication, and determination! If you want to join me on my journey, follow me on Instagram @shrinkingvanessa702.
Share your story! Has LVAC changed your life—physically, mentally, or emotionally? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.