The Life Changes That Helped Me Lose 120 Pounds And Cope With My Anxiety And Depression

Kayla Woodward says finally finding a support system changed her entire life.

By Alexandria Gomez, Prevention
Kayla Woodward says finally finding a support system changed her entire life. This is her story.

Before: 300 
After: 180 

My weight has been an issue my entire life, but I really started to put on pounds when I began college. In high school, I’d always felt unnoticed because of my weight and my shy personality, but I preferred that to being bullied. But when I got to college, I felt completely alone and wasn’t sure how to make friends or reach out to people. Even sitting on a bus, people wouldn't sit next to me or look me in the eye. It was heartbreaking. I got used to being invisible and started believing that I just shouldn't exist. During this time, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and insomnia with self-harm tendencies.

[post_ads]I continued to put on more and more weight until my senior year when I hit 300 pounds. Since I was living on campus and struggling for money, I ate in the dining halls, which meant I was eating at a buffet every night. I had no self-control and was an emotional binge eater with an addiction to sugar. When I wasn't getting invited to parties anymore, I would just stay home and eat Oreos. I didn't understand portions or calorie intake, and my only form of exercise was just walking to class.

I hated what I had become, but I had no tools or motivation to change it. All of this was magnified by the fact that I didn't feel like I had a support system.

I tried to get involved in fat acceptance and body positivity groups—but I couldn't accept the same love that I was able to give to others. My relationship with myself became toxic.
The Change
The best thing that ever happened to me was getting lost in Springfield, MO, and seeing a roller rink with a sign that read, "Roller Derby Here!"

I swear it was fate. I went home, Googled it, watched the movie Whip It, and was hooked. I went to see the next game in Springfield and there were women of all shapes and sizes being idolized by a crowd of people. Each body type was appreciated and was doing something totally badass. It was like this crack in the universe I had no idea existed. I knew it needed to be my future.
After a couple of months of reigning in my anxiety and finding specialized pads that fit my body correctly, I went to my first practice. I'd never roller-skated before, but I'd found something that I knew I could be proud of for once. My fear of failure was still there, but I knew I needed this.
The Workouts
I was terrible at derby when I first started. But every time it knocked me down (literally and figuratively), it inspired me to get back up and rebuild myself. It taught me that there is power in my thighs.

I wanted to lose weight, but my main priority was to become a better athlete—so that meant going to the gym. I would entice myself by saying I could only watch my TV show if I was watching it at the gym on the elliptical. Free weights and weight lifting were very intimidating at first, so I started by using the cardio machines. Over the years, I've gotten more confident and curious. But taking small steps helped me create long-term goals.
I have fitness ADD. I like to do strange and fun things to keep from getting bored. I actually created my own fitness mantra: “Have fun to keep yourself motivated. Motivate others to make friends. Make friends to have more fun.” If I’m not having fun, I won’t do it.

Over the years, I've discovered a love for weight lifting. I can’t afford CrossFit, so I make it work at my local YMCA by using their strength-training equipment. I also love taking intense cycling classes and practicing yoga, specifically inversions and doing anything challenging. (Start working up a sweat with Women's Health's Look Better Naked DVD.) 

[post_ads]During the heat of my roller derby season, I skate at practice four to five times a week for 2 hours at a time and go to the gym or a class almost every day. My workouts are all dependent on what's going to make me a better athlete, so they change based on whether I'm in season and if my body needs recovery.
The Food
When I started working out, I also began tracking all the food I ate using MyFitnessPal to see how much I was actually taking in. I was astounded by all the calories hiding in things like ranch dressing and peanut butter! I quickly cut out soda and white bread products. Then, I made a daily calorie goal calculated by what I hoped to achieve and my body type.

Eventually, I started worrying too much about numbers and began undereating. I was plateauing more often and still didn’t feel great. Finally, in 2014, a year after setting out on this journey, I did an elimination diet and found that I was sensitive to gluten. When I went gluten-free it changed my health in many positive ways.
On a typical day, I'll eat about 1,670 calories, 1 gallon of water, and probably coffee (I can’t quit this addiction). My favorite breakfast meal is a Fuji apple, banana, and organic cinnamon with a dollop of organic almond butter, sliced finely and put in the microwave for three minutes. It is heavenly. 

Lunch is usually a bag of frozen veggies with a lean protein and guacamole or salsa.

My husband is an amazing cook, so we like to mix it up at dinnertime. We’ll try a sweet potato, chicken, ground turkey, or chorizo, a veggie like brussels sprouts, green beans, or carrots, and top it with an egg, and fajita veggies. It’s a filling, instant meal with a rainbow of colors.

For a treat, I try to use dairy alternatives like coconut and cashew products as much as possible, but sometimes a girl has to have ice cream! I also sample recipes from different healthy plans like Whole30, but I don't follow those strict plans.
Sticking With It
I just try to be real with myself. It's OK to loosen the reigns and fall off the wagon. Success is not linear. If I start to feel down on myself, that's when I turn to my friends and focus on their successes. I get a lot of motivation from seeing people prosper and succeed. It makes me want to continue my own success.
Then, I share my story and struggle with my online friends. It is amazing how connecting with other people who are on the outside of your life looking in can give you a new perspective.
Since I still struggle with depression and anxiety, it’s really important for me to practice self-care and forgiveness. 
The Reward
Losing 120 pounds and getting in shape has given me the ability to try new things, be visible, and conquer my goals. Before, I didn’t have confidence in any aspect of my life. Now, I know I am worthy. At work, at derby, walking down the street, meeting new people, I am able to be a presence and feel strong without crumbling from anxiety.
My Number-One Tip
One thing that people don’t tell you about weight loss is that this journey is not just about the pounds. It is about the internal you. I didn’t deal with my demons at first, which led to me becoming super focused on the superficial parts of weight loss. This turned into scale addiction, becoming afraid of food, and undereating. I needed to fix the reason why I let myself become a person I never wanted to be.

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Health Magazine: The Life Changes That Helped Me Lose 120 Pounds And Cope With My Anxiety And Depression
The Life Changes That Helped Me Lose 120 Pounds And Cope With My Anxiety And Depression
Kayla Woodward says finally finding a support system changed her entire life.
Health Magazine
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