Shannon Robinson’s 59-Pound Weight Loss: ‘I Had to Learn to Strive to Be a Better Me, Not to Be Someone Else’

Shannon Robinson is 26, 5′8″, and currently weighs 159 pounds. But in 2007, she weighed 218 pounds. This is the story of her weight-loss journey.

During my senior year of high school, I wore a size 18 or 20 pants. I was self-conscious, but not overly concerned. Naturally, I wanted to be “skinny” like “all the other girls,” but I wasn’t making any plans to change my appearance — until the day when one of the boys in my class called me “big and sexy.” I didn’t want to be big and sexy. I just wanted to be sexy. That same day, a girl in my class made a comment about the “fat rolls” that were hanging over my pants. Those two comments broke me. That was the day I decided I was going to change my body.

At first, I pretty much cut out all food. There was a yearlong period where I had an eating disorder. I got pretty thin. I was so harsh on my body and had such an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. Something in me just snapped, and I realized that I wasn’t doing this for me; I was doing it for everyone who thought I was too big. Of course I couldn’t keep that up. I started eating all my feelings, and my weight shot back up to its unhealthy overweight range. I decided to start over. This time, I was going to do it for me.

I cut out all fast food, sugar-filled drinks, junk food, and as many processed foods as I could. I started going to the school track a few times a week. I really had no idea what I was doing, so I just went to the track and started running. I could not run one full lap. Each time I went there, I was determined to run farther than the time before. I remember how proud I was when I first ran one full mile. An elderly couple, whom I saw and waved to regularly, cheered for me and told me that I was doing great and to never stop trying. I have now run one full marathon and five half-marathons. I never stopped trying.

There were so many times while losing weight that I wanted to give up. There were so many times when I felt like I was working so hard and nothing was happening. I had to ask myself over and over, “How bad do you want it?” And each time, I decided I wanted it pretty bad.

The physical changes are so much less significant to me than the mental and emotional changes. It has definitely been an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I get so focused on the scale and so focused on outward appearance that I lose sight of what really matters. Sometimes I recognize how often I criticize myself.

You’re still fat. Why can’t you run faster?

Other girls run way faster than you.

That girl is eating pizza, and she’s a size 2. Why can’t I eat pizza and be a size 2?

Oh, great! Another stretch mark. You might as well just eat brownies and ice cream all day, because what you’re doing isn’t working.

I had to reevaluate my goals, desires, and motivations until I truly found myself. I’ve learned to love myself from every angle and at every stage. I’ve gained confidence and joy and drive. I have a passion for life and for learning and for becoming the best possible version of myself. For me, it isn’t about the pounds. I actually haven’t gotten on the scale in two months. The scale can drive a girl insane! I want to be stronger, faster, and better than I was yesterday. That’s it. No more “just five more pounds and I’ll be happy,” or, “If I could just have a little more definition in my stomach, I’ll be happy.” I am happy NOW — at this weight, at this pants size, at this stage in my journey and in my life. I am happy.

I eat and I train. I practice intuitive eating. I eat what I’m hungry for, when I’m hungry for it. If it’s “snack time” but I’m not hungry, I’ll wait until my body tells me that it needs food. Our bodies are so much stronger and smarter than we give them credit for. I eat as healthy as possible without losing my sanity. I view food as fuel for my body and for my workouts, which usually means eating five or six times a day. I always pack more than enough snacks, so I never get that “Oh, my gosh. I’m starving. If I don’t eat eight pieces of pizza, four brownies, and seven bags of chips in five seconds, I might die” feeling. I eat lots of protein, raw fruits, veggies, complex carbs, and healthy fats. I bring my lunch to work every day and rarely eat out. I very rarely eat bread, dairy, and sugar, and I stay away from fast food. I mainly drink water (and wine) and avoid high-calorie and high-sugar liquids.

I work out five days a week, and I love to challenge myself and push my body to the limits. I wake up before 5 a.m. three days a week to run before work. Sometimes I’ll do a faster run or add intervals and repeated hills for a little variety. I love lifting weights, HIIT training, and circuit training. I do hot yoga a few times a month for restoration and recovery. Fitness is my passion. On my journey, I have instructed spin classes, weight lifting, and boot camp for a corporate gym. I’ve also conducted my own outdoor boot camp. Who would have thought?!

I’m pretty committed to food and fitness, but I’m also committed to myself. If I have plans to hit the gym but one of my girlfriends texts me with, “Wings and beer after work?” I am definitely in. I never want to miss out on memories and moments with my friends and family because I’m too busy working out and eating salad.

It’s all about balance. When I first started, it was really hard not to eat the whole dang cake. You tell yourself just one bite. Just one more bite. Deprivation can often lead to bingeing. After I lost the weight, I would have one or two “cheat meals” during the week — usually on Friday nights after work while watching Netflix in my stretchy pants! I would make sure to eat my other meals and snacks as I normally would on a “cheat day” so I wouldn’t feel starving and want to eat the cheat meal plus the whole world and a bag of chips.

Maintaining can be just as difficult as losing. I view it not as a “diet” but as a lifestyle. You have to eat healthy to live healthy. I’ve seen lots of times where people get down to their goal weight and then add back all the foods and habits that they had previously eliminated. The pounds and fat can come running back in a heartbeat. I think it’s important to be mindful of everything that you’re putting into your body and of the purpose that it’s serving.

I am a food lover. And that is OK. I just had to find a balance. Balance is the most important thing for me. There are lots of times when I feel the urge to eat everything and skip the gym for a year. When I get in those ruts, I try and find the “why.” Sometimes my body is just begging for a break and actually needs to sit at home and do nothing. When I start craving huge high-calorie meals or every dessert in existence, I take a step back and examine what I’ve been eating. Am I lacking a nutrient? Do I need to splurge on some Mexican food? I try and listen to what my body is telling me. Usually, I’ll take a few rest days, and by day three my body is telling me it wants to run fast and lift heavy stuff again.

As a woman in today’s society, it’s so easy for me to compare myself to other women. One of my goals used to be to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. … WHAT!! Ain’t gonna happen! And doesn’t need to happen. Of course, those models are beautiful, but so is everyone else who is not a model. Comparisons can be so detrimental. I had to learn to strive to be a better me, not to be someone else. Self-love plays the biggest role in learning to compete with myself rather than other girls. Who cares if that girl over there, who is 8 inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than me, can run a mile two minutes faster? The only time I care about comparing is if it’s a meathead man squatting next to me and he has 90 pounds less on his bar than me and is making those loud grunting noises every time he moves. … Then I would be extra proud!   

Compare yourself to no one else. You are enough. The opinions of others do not, and will never, define you. The opinions of others will never make you love you. Whatever you do, do it for yourself. You have to love yourself regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. You cannot compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20, so embrace your journey and live a life you can be proud of.

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