HuffPost Canada's Lost It series chronicles the stories of everyday Canadians who have struggled with their weight — and won. We talk to people about what they eat, how they exercise and generally, what their healthy lifestyle is to maintain their weight now that they've lost it.
You can read more stories from Lost It here.
Name: Jennifer Velardi
Occupation: Teacher, but about to embark on a career in fitness
City: Greater Toronto Area
By The Numbers: 237lbs. at my heaviest, 136lbs. currently for a total weight loss of 101lbs.
The Weight Gain: I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I was obese as a child, pre-teen, teenager, and adult.
As a child, I began putting on weight because my home life was difficult. My mother suffered from severe depression (PTSD). When I was in my early teens, she attempted suicide for the first time. Over the next 5 years, she attempted suicide over 10 times. I worried about her all the time and kept her very close to me. I ate a lot to quiet my fears and anxieties.
When I was 27, my mom was successful in taking her own life. This was an event that left me feeling like I was broken beyond repair. Words really cannot describe the pain, emptiness, guilt, and anger that I felt. I began eating even more. I was trying to fill the emptiness that I felt inside and tried to stifle all the pain I was feeling. I slept all the time and didn't exercise at all. My weight reached an all-time high and I didn't even care. I let myself go for three years.
The Final Straw: When my husband left me, I felt as though I was at a crossroad. He went home to the Dominican Republic to visit his family and never returned. On the day I was to pick him up at the airport, I received an email from him stating that he would not be returning.
It was sort of like a slap in the face to me and woke me up from the emotional coma that I was in after my mom passed. I knew I wanted to stop the cycle. I wanted to lose weight and I was tired of waiting around for a hero to come and save the day. I looked in the mirror at myself one morning after a night of laying awake crying and realized the only person that was going to be able to save me, was ME!
The Plan Of Attack: Throughout my life I attempted half-heartedly to battle my weight. I tried all kinds of diets ranging from Weight Watchers to The Cabbage Soup diet. I tried teas, pills, nothing worked long-term.
I knew that many of my past failures with weight loss stemmed from being overwhelmed. I attempted too much, too quickly. This time, I decided right from the beginning to approach my journey in a different way. I mindfully made the decision to make this a lifestyle change, NOT a quick fix or a diet. I started by adjusting my diet and nutrition only. I downloaded the app, Lose It!, to help me track my calories and learn about good choices in the beginning. After I lost my first 20lbs., I began adding exercise. Little bits at first, mainly walking.
Story continues below.
Check out more of our inspiring weight loss stories:
The Food Element: I started by simply removing junk food and soda from my home. From there, I started cutting back on portions. Then, I started cutting back on simple carbs and began eating more lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. I also found healthier alternatives to the meals and snacks that I enjoyed prior to beginning my journey. I never deprive myself. If I want something, I enjoy it in moderation.
In the first year I used an app to help me keep track of the calories I was consuming. However, the app also taught me many things about food. I learned about macros and how to balance my meals and my eating habits in a day to lose or maintain weight. With the app, I learned balance and what worked for my body. I currently do not track calories because after retraining myself to be mindful and learning about food, I am able to maintain my weight loss on my own.
I felt like I was alive but I wasn't living.
The Exercise Factor: Being obese was exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. I slept all the time. I very rarely exercised, ever. I wasn't really into sports. I felt like I wasn't worth it. I felt like I couldn't do it, even if I wanted to. I felt weak. I felt like I was a victim. I was constantly waiting for someone or something to come along and save me. I felt like I was alive but I wasn't living. Especially after my mom died. I was an empty shell.
I joined a gym after a few months into my journey. I was very nervous to go at first. I felt really inexperienced and I was so scared to look foolish or to do something incorrectly and injure myself. About three months into my journey, I met a close friend who is a personal trainer. Although he did not take over my health journey, he was always there to help and support me when I need him on my own terms and at my own pace. He has taught me a lot, answered many of my questions, and been there for me when I feel like I can't do it anymore but at the same time has allowed me to be independent in my pursuit of health and wellness.
The Current Day-To-Day: My days are a lot more active than they were before my weight loss. I am more in control of my anxieties and do not turn to food anymore for comfort or coping. I have developed healthy coping skills such as exercise, meditation, speaking positive affirmations, and connecting with other women on similar journeys on Instagram.
These days, I love exercising! I work out every day. Whether it's walking on my lunch break or hitting up the gym for a workout. Physical activity has become a huge part of my life. It is no longer 'work' for me. It is an amazing stress reliever, even on the days that I feel unmotivated.
Whenever people ask me how long it has taken me to lose the weight, I always answer, 'the rest of my life.'
Maintenance: I maintain the weight simply by living the healthy lifestyle that I established for myself three years ago, at the beginning of this journey. I continue to make slow but steady improvements each day. I continue to learn and grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am very committed to living a healthy lifestyle for the rest of my life. Whenever people ask me how long it has taken me to lose the weight, I always answer, 'the rest of my life.'
Whenever I have reached a plateau in my weight loss, I have been very patient, but also very persistent. I have trusted the process. I have worked harder, pushed harder, and changed things up in my routine.
Remembering how tired, trapped, and helpless I felt before my weight loss is what motivates me to keep going without looking back.
Final Thoughts: At times I will look back at old photos of myself and there is a sense of sadness. I have wished that I could have been successful at achieving a healthy lifestyle at a younger age. However, I have come to accept that my journey has moulded me into the person I am today. It was exactly what it needed to be. I didn't 'lose time' because it took each and every obstacle and struggle that I endured to bring me to the place where I am now. And my 'now', is right on time!
Do you have a weight loss story to share? Send us an email at CanadaLiving@huffingtonpost.com to be featured on our Lost It series.
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.