“When I Chose to Conquer Weight Loss, I Learned that I Can Do Anything.”

Ashley Romano's Story
The woman behind BigGirlFitGirl shares how she lost half of her weight, and gained a new perspective on her life.
before after pics

I had always been big. I was a chubby baby, I was an overweight kid, and I eventually grew into an obese adult. I had a few insecurities, but my family was chubby and being big was all I knew, so I embraced that I was just “meant to be big.” I was always offended when people would say it was unhealthy to be overweight. I didn’t match that description; I didn’t have diabetes and my blood pressure was normal!

But one day in 2011, in the midst of fully embracing all of my big, beautiful, glory, I was informed that my blood pressure was “finally getting up there.” I immediately knew I had to do something. I was officialy going to be "fat and unhealthy" and I refused to fit that stereotype.

But I also understood that this was happening as a direct result of choices I was making. For years, the only exercise I got was walking my dog around the block to use the bathroom a few times a day. I was eating the cheapest food I could buy and shopping according to my taste buds. Although I always liked vegetables, I paired them with tons of processed crap; I ate blocks of processed cheese and large pizzas by myself on a regular basis. Even if I took my size out of the equation, living like that was setting me up for sickness. I had to change.

When I started my lifestyle change, I weighed in at 284 pounds. I began with simple changes: counting calories, walking around my neighborhood, and working out in my living room. At first I just did a couple sets of lunges and jumping jacks and simple exercises like that, but after a few weeks in I got a copy of the INSANITY workout program. (In retrospect, going for INSANITY wasn’t the right choice for me at the time—it’s truly an “insane” workout that involves tons of jumping, which can wreak havoc on joints when you’re as big as I was. I ended up modifying the moves to suit my level, which still burned a lot of calories, but I definitely recommend talking with a doctor, coach, or sports therapist about your specific needs before getting started on any sort of intense training program). As my confidence grew, I started jogging outside and got a gym membership.

I didn't know much about “health food,” so I started saturating my brain with as many nutrition books and documentaries as I could. Food Matters, a personal favorite, had a huge impact on me. The more information I learned, the less I could deny the damage I had done to my body and the easier it became for me to make the choices I had to in order to reach my goals. I had treat meals once a week (it's not "cheating" if its portioned and planned!), and took this seriously.

It sounds crazy, but I also started talking to myself on a regular basis. You can do this. Your body was made for this. Look how well your body responds to being treated right. I changed my thinking from "I am trying to lose weight" to "I AM losing weight." There was no more "let's see what happens"—I was committed to doing what was required to MAKE it happen. I was refusing to give up this time.

I lost 100 pounds in my first year and another 40 the following year.

Along the way, I had so many victories that had nothing to do with the scale: Getting into a pants size in the teens. Getting into a size 12, 10, and finally a single digit 8. Running a mile for the first time! Running in public for the first time! Wearing shorts in public! Wearing a sports bra in public! (Shoutout #dietbetnsv!)

Most of these first brought up a lot of feelings in me, so I started a blog. It was a great place to scream from the rooftops to celebrate my victories, but it served me well for the tough times too, like when the scale stopped moving or when I got insecure about my loose skin. Connecting to other people via my website and social media helped me to not only express myself and let go of emotions I was feeling, but also kept me from feeling like I was alone. When you share your story, others share back, and it's a lot easier to see we're all a lot more alike, and a lot less alone, than we think.

Three years later, I have maintained my losses and am working every day to continue being the best and most fit version of me that I can be. I like to think that my ideal shape, weight, and size are wherever I am at while I am still enjoying this lifestyle and the process. Right now, I am happy to say I LOVE this life—the life I created when I took control.

Prior to making these lifestyle changes I had never run, with the exception of a lap in gym class. Today I am not only a regular at 5k’s and obstacle races, but I am a super proud marathoner (26.2 miles!!!). This journey has forced me out of my comfort zone so many times, grown my confidence, and given me the courage I needed to make changes in areas of my life completely unrelated to weight. Since overcoming this giant demon, I've found it easier to let go of relationships and jobs that don't serve me and started my own mentoring business to help people make the changes I've made. I've paid off tons of debt. I've crawled out of a lifelong depression diagnosis (I was on medication for 12 years and have been off, and mentally healthy, for more than three!).

This is what they’re talking about when they say: “It’s a lifestyle change.” These accomplishments didn't happen because I was suddenly "average size." They happened because when I chose to conquer weight loss, I learned that I can do anything. When we take the time to really make the changes rather than hopping on the next fad, we don’t just change our bodies: We change our minds and we change our lives.

Ashley Romano is a DietBet host and a member of the DietBet Coaches Club. She regularly hosts games and has helped hundreds of players lose thousands of pounds together.

Individual results may vary from Success Stories.