Health

How I Got This Body: Running on the Treadmill While Thinking About the Ex Who Called Me a “Big Girl”

Photographs courtesy Nikki Thomas.

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: Nikki Thomas, 34, meeting planner from DC

What Inspired Me: “My parents both worked two jobs when we were growing up and didn’t have time to teach us about nutrition. My father refused to eat a salad his entire life and passed away five years ago. We all miss him. What pushed me over the edge and started me on my weight loss journey, though, was shortly after college, when I clocked in at about 275 pounds. A guy I was dating thought he was giving me a compliment by telling a group of friends that he liked the ‘big girls.’ I was mortified. I wasn’t okay with that classification. I had never realized that was how people saw me. It really lit a fire under me. I also feared starting to have serious health problems, like my father, if I didn’t start changing my ways. I broke up with the guy and thought about kicking his ass for the next year while I was running on the treadmill.”

How My Body Changed: “Endurance, muscles, being able to shop in the ‘regular’ size sections in stores. My body is more toned, and I tend to impress myself these days as opposed to being frustrated by what I cannot do. I can go up stairs without getting winded, and doctors commend me on my weight and health. My body doesn’t ache like it used to. I don’t dread exercise. My skin is clear, which I attribute to drinking more water and eating clean.”

I broke up with the guy and thought about kicking his ass for the next year while I was running on the treadmill.

How Long it Took: “It took about two years to lose 107 pounds. I started with running and Weight Watchers. I would walk for five minutes then run for 30 seconds. I slowly increased my running time and decreased my walking time. I worked my way up to the Army Ten-Miler and the Iron Girl Half marathon. I got a new job at the same time I needed a break from running, and during that break gained back about 70 pounds. Clearly I needed to work on the nutrition piece of the puzzle but it’s hard to say no to free lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. When I hit 200 pounds I knew it was time to nip it in the bud. I went back to running. After losing half the 70 pounds, rewarded myself with signing up for six months with a personal trainer, who pushed me to the next level. I lost the remaining weight I had gained and then some. From where I was at the beginning at 275 pounds to where I am now, 145 pounds, I’ve lost 130 pounds. I have been maintaining for about five now.”

My Exercise Plan: “I lift weights in the mornings for about 30 to 45 minutes and run in the evenings with my husband. I take breaks when I need to but don’t schedule them—I listen to my body. I rest when I need to and listen to my body. Rest is important too. It is important to push yourself but not to the point where you resent it. Balance is part of success.”

My Healthy Eating Plan: “My husband and I have a couple different meal plans and prep for the week on Sundays. He cooks the meat, I cook the veggies and sides. Snacks usually are rice cakes, protein bars, almonds, cottage cheese, and peanut butter toast. We do our best to keep our food choices clean but I’ve learned it’s okay to have seasons where you just coast.”

How I Stuck to My Goals: “A lot of it is the fear of not going back to how I used to feel and wanting to be around to see my nieces and nephews grow up. If they want to run a 5K, I want to be able to register with them and not think about it. I got married in May so the other part of it now is living a long life with my husband and setting a good example for my family and friends.”

How I Feel Now: “Like a completely different person. I look back at old pictures and it is hard for me to remember that person. My heart for my family and friends is the same but pretty much everything else is different.”

One Piece of Advice: “Don’t forget to reward yourself—but not with food. Very motivating rewards are: new shoes, new workout clothes, a mani/pedi, or a personal trainer when you hit a big goal. Small numbers add up and time goes by fast. Find something to celebrate about yourself and your progress every day.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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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.