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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who I am: Bran’De Byrd, 38, nanny from Reston
Why I wanted to make a change: “My sister had a picture of me her house and I couldn’t believe how big I was. Then when I got home and weighed myself, the scale said 310lbs. I was devastated and I cried. I wallowed in my sorrow for about a week, and then I decided to do something about it. That is when I signed up at Onelife Fitness in Reston and went to my primary care doctor for help. Thank God for Kaiser—they have a terrific weight loss program with an amazing team of doctors and support staff. I didn’t want to live my life like this. I needed to do this for myself; I wanted to be healthy and happy with who I am.”
What changed: “I have lost a total of 143lbs [from a starting weight of 310lbs]. I went from a 3XL shirt to a small and from a size 24 jeans to a size 6. My BMI went from 46 to a 24. I have loose skin on my stomach and thighs, but I choose to embrace my looseness. My body is never going to be perfect and I am not going to have zero percent body fat, but I plan on continuing to work hard. My strength and stamina changed immensely: I can walkup a flight of stairs without getting winded, play with my nieces and nephews and cross my legs. I can go on six mile walks/hikes without breaking a sweat or feeling like I am going to pass out.”
How long it took: “Fifteen months to hit my goal weight, but a lifestyle change like this is everlasting.”
My exercise plan: “Five to six days a week at Onelife Fitness in Reston. Without the support of Chris (general manager) and Tammy (trainer) my journey would be a lot harder. Onelife fitness is a very important part of my life; they are like family. I start off with at least 45 minutes of cardio (usually interval training) lots of core (crunches, sit up, and planks, etc.). I alternate legs and arms every other day with strength training.”
I have a newfound respect for my mind and my determination to not give up, and to make the best of this body I live in.
My healthy eating plan: “I elected to have gastric bypass surgery, but it is only a tool, not a quick fix. My portion sizes decreased substantially thanks to the bypass, but I also stick to the strict guidelines post-procedure as you can easily regain the weight back. I always count grams of protein to carbs and still do. I try to eat at least 80 grams of protein and stay under 30 grams of carbs per day. My friend Amy, on many occasions, told me if she hears me say the word ‘protein’ one more time she might throw a chicken at me. I told her, Preferably a drumstick! I do indulge from time to time. Nobody should keep delicious foods out of their lives, but moderation has been the key.”
The biggest surprises: “Not long after my bypass, I discovered I had a benign but aggressive tumor in my big toe. I’m thinking Really? Is this a joke? But it wasn’t. The tumor was damaging my bone. I ended up having my toe amputated in November. I also had breast surgery for atypical cancerous cells in March, which came with a complication and emergency surgery the next morning. Having things like this happen all while I’m trying to stay focused on my nutrition and exercise were pretty big curve balls to say the least! But I have a newfound respect for my mind and my determination to not give up, and to make the best of this body I live in! So now I may be ‘Nine-Toe’ Bran’De, but I’m ‘Nine-Toe’ Bran’De who looks great, feels great, and lives every day to the fullest.”
How I felt before: “I felt tired. I had low standards of myself. I would constantly think, ‘Well, that will never be me.’ It was just sad. I’d look at healthy people and wonder ‘What’s that like?’ I’d get mad when Amy would say she felt fat.”
How I feel now: “I move so much more and with such ease. I don’t feel alone and ashamed. It’s not all fun and laughter though: I also, on a daily basis, have a level of fear—a fear that I’ll go back to that person. I have to check myself and remind myself that as long as I continue doing what I’m doing, I won’t go back. I also now understand what Amy meant. Even if you aren’t obese/overweight, you can have discouraging times where you lose focus. It’s all about pulling out of that slump when it happens.”
One piece of advice: “For anybody to think, ‘I’m just too far gone, it’s pointless’—you can’t think that way. This has by no means been easy, but I took it day by day, and with every passing day that resulted in progress, the determination built and built. The encouragement built, the energy in my body built, and my confidence built. Always live, love, and believe in yourself because you are your number-one fan.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.