10/21/2013 03:18 EDT | Updated 10/21/2013 03:28 EDT

Weight Lost: How This Mom Dropped 145 Pounds

Leigh Costa

WHO: Leigh Costa, youth support worker

AGE: 43

CITY: Hamilton, Ont.

By The Numbers: 310 pounds at my starting point, and currently 165, total weight loss 145 pounds.

The Weight Gain: I grew up in a European and Scottish family. I was adopted as a baby and my adoptive family did not have weight issues. I was a normal-sized child and at the age of seven I started gaining weight steadily. I had spent the majority of my life morbidly obese.

I began to hoard food and eat in secret when I was seven. I'm not 100 per cent sure why I started binging at such a young age, but I do know it was around the same time I learned I was adopted. I can't say if one thing had to do with the other, but it seemed likely because up until I knew I was adopted, I did not look to food for comfort.

My mother had me seeing a pediatrician regularly. It wasn't until I was 14 that I was referred to the Eating Disorders Clinic at the Hospital for Sick Children and put on a Protein Sparing Modified Fast Diet. Although it was very restrictive, it helped me lose weight at the beginning of high school. I was able to stay just under 200 pounds during my teen years, but it was due mostly in part to me becoming bulimic. I continued to struggle with binging and then bulimia throughout my teen years. My mother discovered my "secret" and I stopped binging and purging when I was 19. I did continued binge and saw my weight go up to over 300 pounds in my early 20s. When I was 27, I went to a weight-loss clinic where I paid a huge amount of money to go on a very low calorie diet. I lost over 100 pounds, got to my (then) lowest adult weight of 185 and proceeded to put all the weight back on plus another 20 pounds within a year. I have tried every diet you can think of.

The Final Straw:

My family and I were vacationing in Williamsburg, VA, in the summer of 2011. My son, who was three at the time, wanted me to go on rides with him at Busch Gardens. They were kiddie rides, but were built to fit adults as well. I went to go on one with him and couldn't fit. It was embarrassing and devastated me. But it was also the wake-up call I needed.

I felt like my son thought I was rejecting him because he wanted me to go on rides with him and I had to tell him I couldn't. That was definitely my lowest point because I know that he did not deserve this childhood with a parent who couldn't play with him.

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The Plan Of Attack:

I was introduced to Dr. Poon's Metabolic Clinic first. I had already made the decision to have bariatric surgery but I decided I would check out the weight-loss clinic. I knew that if I decided to follow the clinic diet, I would have to give up all processed carbs, refined sugar, grains, legumes and lentils...everything I loved. I went for the consultation and even though I was very hesitant to even try it, the doctor I saw was completely honest with me in regards to my weight and what it was doing to my health.

It was just the wake-up call I needed. I was living in denial for much too long. I decided then that I would try the diet for two weeks, then make a decision as to whether I'd continue with it or not. In the first two weeks I lost over 11 pounds. It motivated me to do the diet for two more weeks and I kept making two week goals for myself. Before I knew it, 15 months passed and I reached my goal of 165.

The Food Element: I followed a high protein, low carb, low sodium, low fat diet. I ate a mostly lean protein (including eggs, chicken, pork, beef, seafood) and veggie (leafy greens and vegetables that grow above ground) diet. I drank water (120 ml a day) and morning coffee. I ate this way for six months before incorporating some starchier veggies, fruits and dairy into my diet.

I gave up everything I was used to. Processed carbs and refined sugar, those were my major adjustments. I was definitely a sugar and carb addict. This was hard for me, but I made a promise to my son that I would go on rides with him in the summer of 2012. I was not going to go back on my promise.

The first week of the diet I went through carb and sugar withdrawal. It was very similar to an addict giving up their fix. I felt horrible. But once the withdrawal symptoms passed, it became easier and easier to reject my former favorite foods. Even today I do not have cravings for sweets or breads. I've been grain and sugar free for two years now.

The Exercise Factor: I didn't get a trainer or join the gym, but became a runner instead. I started running at 230 pounds. Even though I was painfully slow, I built up my endurance enough to complete a half marathon just shy of my one year running anniversary. I have since completed another half marathon and was in the process of training for a marathon. I broke my ankle on Sept. 4th, 2013, when I was more than half way through my marathon training. I'm grounded from running until the end of November. Once I'm able to run again, I'll begin training for my third half marathon (beginning of March 2014) and A 30k road race at the end of March 2014.

The Current Day-To-Day:

I followed Dr. Poon's Diet for weight loss and I currently follow the Paleo Diet for maintenance. Although it is still a restrictive diet (I do not eat dairy, processed carbs, refined sugar, grains, legumes, artificial sweeteners), it is a very clean way of eating. I realized that I needed a structured eating plan to be successful with weight-loss. Because I'm a binge eater, it is best for me to cut out the foods that will trigger binge episodes. Right now I'm in a cast and since I'm unable to work on my cardio, I am focusing on strengthening exercises. I'm also very careful about what I eat right now. I'm not burning the calories I was when I was running. My diet right now consists of mostly lean protein and vegetables. I'll add back fruit and nuts when I'm running again.

I'm proud that I kept my promise to my son. I told him that I'd go on rides with him during the summer of 2012, and I did. He doesn't remember me morbidly obese and that's a good thing. Even though he may not remember what went down in Williamsburg, I do and that memory will stay ingrained in my brain forever.

I am also proud of the blog I write called Poonapalooza. I began blogging from the beginning of my weight loss efforts and continue to blog about maintenance.

My advice? Be kind to yourself and love yourself enough to be the healthiest you can be. Pick a reasonable diet plan that will work for you long term. You will have to follow this way of eating for the rest of your life. Make short goals for yourself. When I began my weight loss journey, I had over 130 pounds to lose. It seemed like an astronomical amount of weight. It's a whole person!

That way of thinking was much less overwhelming and kept me focused. I had started diets and quit many times in the past because I focused on what I had to give up. This time I focused on what I would be gaining. My good health and being able to be a part of my son's childhood. These things are much too precious for me to throw away. I did this out of love for my son but learned to love myself in the process. I'm just your average working wife and mother. If I can do this, anyone can.

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