How I Got This Body: Saying “No” to Artificial Sweeteners and Signing Up for My First Half Marathon

Photographs courtesy Elizabeth Himel.

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

Who I am: Elizabeth Himel, 28, dental student at Howard University College from Brookland

What inspired me: “I avoided cameras for a long time, but unfortunately a series of unflattering pictures taken over the Fourth of July weekend made their way to my Facebook page, and I could no longer avoid the cold hard truth. I am someone who thrives off goals, so that very day I signed up for the Baltimore Running Festival. That day was July 27, 2016, and I had a little under three months to train for my first half marathon.”

How long it took: “Initially six months to lose the weight [Himel lost 36 pounds], but I’ve concentrated on maintenance and body composition (from fat to muscle) the last three months.”

My exercise plan: “While training for a race, I run three times to five times a week with Zengo Cycle for my cross-training days. I could spin everyday if my wallet would allow for it. Figuring out what works best for you is key. I get bored easily, so I love circuits. I downloaded several apps like Seconds and Couch to Half Marathon that really helped me focus on my training. Essentially what I have learned is the more movement the better.”

My healthy eating plan: “Absolutely no artificial sweeteners. I’d rather have a real soda (not too often) than touch the stuff again. I also cut alcohol from my diet. With the constant stress of my profession, there are too many days that I could end with a glass of wine. One glass turns two and two glasses turns to a couple pounds a month. I avoid eating out as much as I can and bring my lunch every day. It’s too easy to eat whatever when you are hungry.”

Essentially what I have learned is the more movement the better.

How I stuck to my goals: “I read once that if you physically write a to-do list down you are 40 percent more likely to finish the goal. So that’s what I do, and it works.”

How my perception changed: “If I glanced over or took a selfie and looked fat, it could ruin my entire day. Now I love taking pictures and focus on enjoying myself not how I look.”

One piece of advice: “Consistency is key, and every meal and every workout is a new chance to get it right if you didn’t before.”

 This interview has been edited and condensed.
Associate Editor

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.