How one woman battled depression and an eating disorder to lose 160 pounds the healthy way

Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Susan Elizabeth Chaney is 25, 5’7” tall and currently weighs 110 pounds. In 2015, after hitting a rock-bottom point of depression, she realized she needed to pursue a healthier lifestyle for her children. This is her weight-loss story.

The Turning Point

Growing up, I was a chubby kid. I always noticed that I was bigger than most of my friends. I became very self-conscious of my body early on in life and developed negative tendencies that directly reflected just how uncomfortable I truly was in my own skin. I struggled with binge eating that continually got worse as I repressed more and more emotions over the years. This toxic cycle followed me into adulthood, and by the time I was in my twenties, this developed into self-hate and depression. After the birth of my second child, I divorced my high school sweetheart. It was 2014 and I hit my highest weight: 270 pounds. I developed terrible binge-eating habits where I would eat in secret and hide the evidence. I knew my weight had become an issue at this point. I hated myself. I hated everyone’s happiness, because I genuinely believed that I didn’t deserve to be loved. I pushed away anything good or supportive that I had. I wanted to just die.

I had a few turning points that led me to make the decision to lose weight. The biggest moment was when I realized that I absolutely couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be in my current state. I was jobless, depressed, and living with my parents with no motivation to get out of bed most days. When my kids began to really walk and play outside, I realized just how bad I had let my depression and weight get. They were balls of energy and such happy babies, but it physically hurt to play with them. I wanted to offer my children so much more than I was. I knew I had to change. This is what made me decide to lose weight. I knew I could never give them the life they deserved without learning to love myself, getting healthy, and changing my life. I remember sitting in front of a mirror and deciding at that moment that I would be worthy, I would be successful, and I would do anything to become a strong person for them.

(Photo: Susan Elizabeth Chaney)

The Changes

In the beginning, I didn’t know what the “right way” was to lose weight and get healthy. I made so many mistakes that resulted in another eating disorder and damage that took years to undo. Hopefully, my story will shed some light on the healthy way to lose weight!

I was too scared to ask for the support and advice of my family, so I just started eating “clean foods.” That was really big around that time on social media, so I figured anything was better than what I was doing. I went out and bought food containers to meal prep six very tiny meals a day. I bought a used treadmill for $75 and set it up in my living room. For 10 months, I ate like this every day and killed myself on my treadmill. I got down to 120 pounds. At this point, I was so happy to just be skinny, I didn’t care that I was weak and unhealthy. My mentality was: I have come this far, I can’t give up. Instead of being happy with my accomplishment and focusing on getting healthy, I had to be thinner. I eventually “cured” my binge eating disorder with anorexia. By the end of it, I was roughly 110 pounds and even more unhappy than before. My depression skyrocketed. I felt completely alone and I hated that I still couldn’t be the mother I wanted so desperately to be. I replaced binge eating with anorexia, a diet pill addiction, and an unhealthy obsession with cardio.

In 2016, my life changed. I was very alone, but on that particular day I felt OK and decided to venture out. I met my now husband, Jourdan, to climb Pinnacle Mountain, a nice, easy hike. He changed my whole life. He taught me how to track my calories and food and understand how weight loss should work, and why programs exist. He took me to the gym and showed me how to lift weights later that day. He helped me mentally and physically to have a healthy relationship with food and introduced me to fitness. Because I made so many mistakes losing weight, I became a personal trainer.

It took me a long time to realize that one of the most important things to do during an extreme weight loss is to nurture your mental state. In the beginning, I linked my happiness and freedom from my mental issues with losing weight and becoming this “skinny” person. What I eventually realized is that you should invest in yourself as you lose the weight to help avoid these negative barriers.

When I began this journey, I knew I had binge-eating disorder, I hated myself, and I struggled with depression and anxiety. In order to be successful, I had to understand and nurture my mental state.

I eventually allowed myself to feel enough to learn my triggers. This understanding led to loving myself. Once I was able to love myself, I began to invest in the quality of my life. I found strength in knowing I was in control. I used this mindset to develop a healthy relationship with food, understand how weight loss works, and lift weights. I was consistent because I reminded myself of what I had overcome.

(Photo: Susan Elizabeth Chaney)

The After

Once I lost the weight and worked my way to a healthy weight, I was both physically and mentally strong! I could walk up stairs without struggling to breathe. I could out-run my kids and pick them up. I started biking with them and playing at the park. We play basketball together and the “tickle monster game” until they can’t anymore! I now have the ability to share my healthy eating habits, activities, and confidence with my kids. When I walk into a room, I am no longer struck down by the anxiety that everyone in the room is staring at me and thinking about how gross I am. I’ve worked through my eating disorders and depression, and I am genuinely happy to be alive.

I embrace who I am and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve spent the last two years rebuilding myself in the gym and in my personal and professional life. I became a personal trainer to help people avoid the mistakes that​ I made and achieve their weight-loss goals the right way. I even started coaching a fastpitch softball team — something I have always wanted to do, but lacked the courage to actually try.

I was surprised at the amount of support that is out there for people who have or are currently losing weight. I was so embarrassed and scared to tell people about my weight loss that I missed out on the truly inspiring support available both online and around me. I was also surprised at my quality of life after weight loss. When you’re overweight, mundane activities are these arduous tasks that make you anxious to even think about.

The Maintenance

For two years now, I have been lifting weights three to four times a week, counting my calories, and doing light cardio. I like to eat a lot of food all at once, so I do intermittent fasting. I wake up and wait awhile to eat. Basically, I have two well-rounded, large meals and a snack within roughly an eight-hour window. This is just how I choose to eat. I use the 80-20 rule — 80 percent of my foods are nutrient dense (pasta, rice, steak) and the other 20 percent are more calorie dense (snack foods). My husband and I have road bikes, and we enjoy doing this kind of cardio together.

I eat what I like, not what I “think” I have to eat. Vegetables are good for you, but they are also carbs, just like bread. I don’t restrict certain foods. I just eat them in moderation. I prioritize working out. I don’t make excuses as to why I can skip a workout because I schedule workouts during my week. This helps me stay accountable.

Consistency really is the biggest thing. If I have a bad day, I know tomorrow my body will feel sluggish and bloated. If I do get off track, I am sure to reset the very next day. We are all human, and one day won’t mess you up if you’ll get right back to it the next day.

I am inspired by all of the people out there trying to start their journey. I have amazing clients that work so hard for themselves, and I am inspired by them daily. Because of this, I am currently working on a step-by-step online video course that not only teaches people how to avoid mistakes I made, but also helps them lose weight the right way. I hope to encourage and inspire people to live the life they desperately want to live.

(Photo: Susan Elizabeth Chaney)

The Struggles

One of my biggest struggles is the amount of skin I have left on my body. My loose skin creates rashes, produces sores, but it also feels as if I am always wearing a weighted vest. Along with the physical, I struggle mentally to accept that I am still beautiful with the skin. It can be so discouraging fighting this hard to love yourself and still be too self-conscious to wear a sleeveless shirt. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, and I have struggled through so many physical and mental barriers, so when I look at myself and see my skin I appreciate that I am healthy, successful, and, more importantly, strong!

The Advice

Because I made so many mistakes throughout my weight-loss journey, my advice is to understand how important your mental health is when losing weight. Do your research and ask for help. There is a “right way” to lose weight. Find a support system and use it. A well-put-together and thought-out program is always best. Understand that this doesn’t happen overnight, so stay away from quick fixes (i.e., fat burners, weight-loss teas, etc.). Track what you eat and work out! Remember, you can do this.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!

Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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