Health

How I Got This Body: Losing 80 Pounds in 10 Months Without Giving Up Pizza

Photographs courtesy Rachel Weatherly.

Welcome to How I Got This Body, our look at some of the amazing things the human body is capable of and the Washingtonians who put their bodies to the test. Want to share your transformation story? Email ccunningham@washingtonian.com.

Who I am: Rachel Weatherly, 41, a strategist and designer from Falls Church

What inspired me: “When I turned 40, I was an obese, asthmatic, arthritic woman with clinical depression and OCD. I didn’t feel good about myself or feel good in general really. Not to sound too cliché, but I looked at pictures of myself from my 40th birthday trip to Las Vegas, and I knew I had to do something. I did not recognize the person I’d become.”

The exercise I’d been doing: “I started running half marathons in 2011 to raise money for LLS after losing six people to cancer in one year. Over the next three years or so, I gained around 40 pounds, even with all the running. I was overweight before I started running. I thought it might help. Talk about frustrating!”

 The exercise plan I started: “A regimen for losing weight is different from maintaining. While I was in ‘lose’ mode, I worked out with my personal trainer, Errick McAdams, (who truly kicked my hind parts) for one hour, three times per week. Errick has never had me do the same workout twice, but it’s always a combination of cardio and strength training circuits. I was supposed to do 30 minutes of “off-day cardio” (a horribly contradictory term to my thinking) three of the four remaining days per week. I wasn’t as good about that as I should have been. One misconception many have is the time commitment exercise takes. That’s another perspective Errick changed for me. If I need to get 30 minutes of cardio in, they don’t necessarily have to be continuous. Take a ten-minute break and briskly walk the block or run up and down the stairs in your office building. This is where fitness trackers are great. Get your heart rate up for 30 minutes anyway you can, however you can. Incremental exercise counts.”

How I changed my relationship with food: “I mentioned that I have clinical depression with OCD, and like many people, I turn to food for comfort. I had to learn about nutrition, of course, but I also had to change how I thought about food period. That said, I do love good food, and I had no intention of giving up the foods I love. I just needed to find balance. One of the first things I told Errick was if he told me I couldn’t have pizza, we’d have the shortest relationship in history. He told me something that is true on so many levels: ‘If you’re on a diet that has someone else’s name on it (Jenny Craig, Dr. Atkins, whatever), you will not succeed long-term. We have to find the “Rachel” diet.'”

How I changed my eating: “I used a free app and started writing down every single thing I ate or drank without fail. All. Of. It. Every bite counts. I learned so much because it forced me to read labels to see what I was putting in my body and it forced me to account for all the little nibbles that added up over the day. Some of the things I didn’t think were a big deal and even some things I thought were healthier choices turned out to be quite the opposite. I don’t eat as many carbs because they tend to make you more tired, whether you realize it or not. I used to eat a lot of pasta and bread, so those things have been replaced with more vegetables. I will never eat as much broccoli as Errick, but I really love Brussels sprouts and kale. Not wasting any calories in my budget on drinks is big. I’m still not a huge fan of water, but sparkling water and plain seltzer with lime are great.”

One of the first things I told Errick was if he told me I couldn’t have pizza, we’d have the shortest relationship in history.

How long it took: “Roughly ten months. I started in September 2015 and stabilized around my goal weight in June 2016. I’ve been in my ‘window’ ever since.”

How I feel now: Mental illness is a lifelong battle. My depression will always be part of me, but putting my mind to overcoming a physical challenge and exceeding my expectations is empowering. I’m strong and healthy. I just had my annual physical, and my doctor is over the moon with my transformation. I am so grateful to have had a guide like Errick on this journey. He saw strength in me from day one and made me see it.”

One piece of advice: “All things in moderation. Don’t tell yourself you can never have [insert your version of pizza here] again. There are few things you can’t ever have if you practice a little self control. Having one or two double-stuffed Oreos once in a while isn’t terrible. Having one or two sleeves of Oreos is. If you can’t have just one or two, don’t buy them. There’s a reason there are no Doritos in my house!”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Want to share your transformation story? Email ccunningham@washingtonian.com with details. 

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Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.