This is about life.

Get ready, deep thoughts ahead…

The past several weeks, I’ve hobbled through the doors of the physical therapist and done exercises that shouldn’t be hard for me. I’m trying to gain strength and reduce pain from my ankle injury. The extra time on my rear end has left me thinking, which is always dangerous for me ;)

Before you think I’m going to complain about how sucky it is to be injured, I’ll spare you:  this isn’t about injury. This is about life.

In the past few weeks, I’ve shared my weight loss progress with people outside of my normal bubble. I was asked something that I hadn’t thought about for a very long time:

What was the turning point for you?

A couple of days ago, blog reader Kimberly posted a question that was similar:

I have a recurring question in my mind, when you (being you…me…overweight…obese, whoever) have a whole lotta weight on your body, where/how do you find the motivation, energy or whatever is needed to get your ass up and at ‘em and exercise?

This has always been a hard question to answer by writing out. It requires distillation of 30 years of weight struggles into an answer that makes sense. It’s messy. It’s complicated. Was there really a lightbulb moment?

The past few weeks I have been watching a show on TLC called “My 600 Pound Life.” It follows four of the heaviest bariatric surgery patients in history through their procedure and then seven years of progress afterwards. It smacks me in the face every time I watch it, because that could have been me.

At over 400 pounds, I was unable to walk or stand for more than 10 minutes at a time. I would binge eat on the most crazy things and have no idea why. My large weight gain happened around the time when I was dealing (or not dealing) with my mom getting young-onset Parkinson’s Disease. She had to move far from me with relatives who put her in a nursing home when she was still in her 40’s.

My deterioration followed hers. She lost her ability to stand very long, and then lost the ability to walk. Her mind got clouded, and her laugh faded. She developed a propensity for all things sugary-sweet and overly processed. Her days were spent watching TV and not interacting with anyone. I couldn’t help her, so I hurt myself.

I was at a press conference for a company I worked for at the time, and a photographer at the event sent me the photos to use on our company website. On the disc was one photo of myself from afar, and I couldn’t grasp what I saw. I was unrecognizable. I remembered that day and standing on my feet for about 15 minutes and going home with swollen legs and ankles. I remember that I had to walk about 1 short block from the car to the event site, and was sweating profusely when I entered the building. I remember that I rode in my boss’ SUV whose seatbelt was so tight that I feared it wouldn’t clip. I was in denial.

I straightened myself up for a while after that shock, and lost over 125 pounds. I started to get friends as I found the confidence to enter graduate school and push myself towards a better, more active life.

When my mom died at age 50 while under my responsibility (I had to move her back near me as the relatives weren’t taking care of her) at an awful nursing home, I held it together until graduation and then promptly started to destroy myself again. Old habits came back fast, as did the weight. I ended up at 455 pounds.

I watch these people on “My 600 Pound Life” and see myself. Yes, it might be my former self and habits, but inside, it is still me. The stares from strangers, awful comments from strangers, inability to walk, binge eating, justification of poor behaviors… it’s like watching a time machine into what my life would have been like if I continued along that path.

left: the photo from the press conference that shocked me into change; right: 2 weeks ago, living at Blissdom

What are my options I have every day?

  1. Be pissed and upset at genetics, binge eating habits, societal pressures of beauty, injury, circumstances. Give up.
  2. Continue pushing towards HEALTH. Stop looking at everything as a battle.  Learn to live in order to continue living. Find life.

A weight loss journey isn’t something that begins and ends. It’s a daily struggle of fighting your habits and trying to complete a long sequence of correct decisions.

This whole blog isn’t dedicated to showing how I can drop numbers on a scale, it’s about showing how you can learn to live your life without limits. Am I proud of the weight loss? Of course. But those days that I get upset about being stalled for a really long time or having an injury from doing something you thought would be epic, I have to remember that I’m choosing life. There are people that deal with illness, natural disaster, and disability. Each day, I have to be thankful for the day I have and make the choices to best control what I do have. Thank you for helping me live.

What are you doing to live?

  • Tjstestkitchen

    I love this post! Live life to the fullest! ;)

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you :)

  • Myla

    For me, it has always been a daily struggle.  I have always been the “food lover” among my friends, family and co-workers.  The one who could always be counted on to go to any restaurant at any time.  So, it’s different when I have placed dietary restrictions on myself and can no longer eat “anywhere.”  It’s testing my own will in ways I never thought possible.
    By the way, my light bulb moment was when I boarded a plane and the flight attendant asked me right away if I needed a seatbelt extender, when I have never needed one before in my life.  In fact, on that flight I was able to buckle the seatbelt with about 5 inches of slack, but the fact that this stranger saw me in that way really schocked me into action.

    • Emily Sandford

      yes, the not being able to eat “anywhere” definitely requires discipline. It’s habit, comfort, and bonding you’re giving up – not just certain foods. 

  • slavetofashion

    Thank you for writing this post! It’s hard to forget that it is about more than numbers on a scale or the size in our pants and shirts – it’s about making the choice to live a full and healthy life. I’d give you a big hug and high five if I could. Thank you for being fearless and honest and an inspiration!

    • Emily Sandford

      thanks so much. I’ll give you a virtual *fist bump* LOL

  • Tara_dawn123

    Great post! You are awesome, and I think that what you are doing is amazing! Keep living life to the fullest! :)

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you so much

  • Soul in the Scale

    Awesome post.  “There but for the grace of God go I” always rattles through my head when I watch those shows.  Choose life, indeed! 

    • Emily Sandford

      Yes, I can see where that would rattle inside your head. mine does something similar.

  • Deb

    Fantastic post, very inspiring – well done! xx

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you Deb

  • Mizfit

    you are so amazing. tenacious. and strong.

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you Carla, that means a lot.

  • Esther

    Thank you so much for writing this post. You are strong and beautiful, and even though we’ve only met once, I look up to your strength. That’s not meant to sound stalkerish either, but I’m sure you know what I mean. 

    Please let me know if you’re ever in Philly. Let’s do lunch :)

    • Emily Sandford

      LOL Esther, I wouldn’t ever think of you as stalkerish! I appreciate your kind words. 

      • Esther

        Well that’s good to know! <3

  • never mind

    Great post! You are so inspiring. Thank you for encouraging me!!

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you 

  • Marcie101

    Thanks, Emmie. I need to hear this today…and I need your blog just about every day. Keep hanging in there and writing about the reality. You’re inspiring, even when you aren’t trying to be!

    • Emily Sandford

      thanks Marcie. The reality sucks sometimes, but you have to face it in order to get somewhere better.

  • Diet Schmiet

    I find it really confronting to see people behaving as I once did – or sometimes still do. It’s scary because it reminds me of who I was and who I could still be (and sometimes am).

    This is a really inspiring (and sad) post. I love that you acknowledge that you still have a little way to go, but that you’re ‘living life’. 

    Congratulations. I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but I think/ hope your mother would be so proud.


    • Emily Sandford

      thank you Deb. she would be proud. :)

  • Chantelle

    I love your blog and so appreciate your honesty. Your progress is inspiring!

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you Chantelle

  • Johnette

    Thank you for this post! I have had a difficult time with some of my friends as I’ve been losing weight and some don’t seem to understand that it’s not a diet, its a lifestyle, but reading this, I’m like “she gets it!!”  haha! :) 

    You are beautiful and amazing and alive- go you!

    lots of love to all,

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you very much J

  • KimberLandry417

    Emily, what an inspiration you are!! I see alot of your struggles in my own life….if we could only KNOW that what you say is true!!! Thank you!!!

    • Emily Sandford

      there are times when I can say things here and they make perfect sense, but then I refer back to them and it’s like I can’t remember ever being clear-headed enough to say something. This darn thick skull of mine!

  • Mary

    You are doing an awesome job!  Keep it up.

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you Mary

  • Angie

    I look at these two pictures and it makes me so happy for you!  The light in your eyes and the smile on your face in the Blissdom picture are the polar opposite of the woman in the other picture – she’s completely closed off to the world.  It’s not just a matter of weight, it’s a matter of attitude.  Congratulations, and thank you for being an inspiration to all of us who are fighting the battle and working hard to overcome the obstacles of heredity (my dad topped out at 450 pounds) and injury or illness (just call me Ms. 4-neurosergeries-in-3-years).  We need to hear your story to know we’re not doing this alone!!

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you for your kind words Angie – I can look at that photo and still feel the person on the left – I need to remember to not return to her (in size or in feelings). I hope you’re on the road to recovery!

  • Leah Segedie

    You inspire me to pieces girl…just being you. :) 

    • Emily Sandford

      thanks lady :)

  • Sarah @ Run Sqrl, Run

    Wow, those two pictures side by side say it all. 

    Emmie, I love reading things like this! This quote:

    “A weight loss journey isn’t something that begins and ends. It’s a daily
    struggle of fighting your habits and trying to complete a long sequence
    of correct decisions.”

    is the most succinct I’ve ever seen anyone put it. You are dead on. :)

    • Emily Sandford

      Thank you Sarah

  • Aimee

    You are simply beautiful!  You go girl! :)

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you so much Aimee

  • Lisa Eirene

    “A weight loss journey isn’t something that begins and ends. It’s a daily
    struggle of fighting your habits and trying to complete a long sequence
    of correct decisions.”

    YES! So true. People think that the journey is “easy” for me because I lost 110 pounds. But it takes a lot of work to keep it off. The work doesn’t stop. It will always be hard, but some days it’s easier.

    • Emily Sandford

      on one hand it makes me sad that the journey won’t really ever get “easy.” On the other hand, it makes you fight a little harder and appreciate your work. 

  • Jody – Fit at 54

    You show people that you are a strong person & can inspire all of us! I always felt my weight loss was hard but maintenance is a life long journey & it is hard work!

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you Jody

  • Allison@thecrazyfat

    You are so inspiring!  I am glad I came across this blog and will definitely check back often.  I’ve got my own similar troubles and half the time feel like a crazy person when I know I need to lose weight but still order pizza multiples nights each week, le sigh.


    • Emily Sandford

      We’ve all been in that state of crazy! 

  • Brittany Staires

    You are amazing, beautiful, strong, and courageous! Thank you Em! I need this today :) LOTS! Love and miss you!

    • Emily Sandford

      thanks Britt – xoxo

  • Mary (A Merry Life)

    You are amazing. This was a wonderful post.

    • Emily Sandford

      thank you Mary – you’re amazing yourself! 

  • Tanya Landry

    Great post Emmie.  Congratulations on your progress – I’ve been following you for quite a while and I can relate to the stalled weight loss.  You inspire me to keep going.  I just wrote (not published yet) a blog post where I said that this is a lifestyle change, it’ll never be over.  This is so true.  As we know, if we go back to the way things were before, we’ll end up where we were before.  Keep writing and keep on keepin’ on – you are amazing!

  • Megan Armstrong

    Great entry!  It IS about living!! 

  • Beatriz Domínguez

    Thank you for sharing your weight loss progress with us. I’m happy for having found your blog and I’m proud of you. It’s inspiring for someone like me who has been struggling with weight issues all her life. Your story reminds me that we can go past obstacles and achieve our goals.

  • Sharilee

    So beautifully and eloquently said. I know what you mean. It really is about learning to live. Thank you! 

  • Erica Zamsky Hunt

    This is a great post and something to always think about when we all get down on ourselves.  For me living is doing my best to be in the moment.  Be with my kids and be present, be at my job and with my students, be present and make good choices with exercise.  To just be here and be present and work hard every moment for what is important…as you put it “living”

  • LHA

    Thank you for an excellent post!  Those of us who are fighting excess weight are truly fighting for our lives.  Changing your life for the better is a one day at a time endeavor and it isn’t easy.  I really identified with your comments about overeating during your mother’s illness.  I use food to deal with stress, especially that type of stress which comes when a situation is out of my control completely.  As if eating unhealthy foods in large amounts could help the situation in any way!!  Your journey has been inspirational and I thank you for sharing it with us while we are stumbling along on the way to better health.

  • Kalibutterfly7

    Thank you for sharing! I think I’m learning to live right now, too!

  • Jodi @ Fat or Not

    I really, really needed to read this post today. Absolutely amazing and inspiring and eloquent. Thanks for taking the time to write it out.

  • Shauna

    Emmie thank you so much for sharing this and reminding us of what really matters xx

  • KCLAnderson (Karen)

    What a GREAT post!!! Thank you for being willing to “do the work” in public :-) This, especially, speaks to me: “Stop looking at everything as a battle. ” YES!!! It was when I made that shift that things really started turning around for me.

  • Kay

    I needed this today.

    I need to remind myself of this each and every day.

    Thank you.


  • Kevin Kilmer

    Hi Emmie, I’ve come by way of KCLAnderson’s sharing this post on Facebook.

    The two quotes from the post I
    take away are: “A weight loss journey isn’t something that begins and
    ends. It’s a daily struggle of fighting your habits and trying to
    complete a long sequence of correct decisions.” and “This whole blog
    isn’t dedicated to showing how I can drop numbers on a scale, it’s about
    showing how you can learn to live your life without limits.”

    There is great wisdom in these words.  Thank you for sharing.

  • redstar5

    Emmie – I heart you and your story so much. I agree wholeheartedly that everyday starts with the choice to focus on either number 1 or number 2 for me too. It makes my heart grow that we are both choosing number two and moving in the direction of life fulfilled. I can’t wait to meet you at FitBloggin this September. I hope you’ll be able to join Tara and I for our discussion room – I know you’d have amazing insight to add. xo

  • Kaytness

    It’s been over 7 years ago that I began my weight loss journey. Through many starts and stops, ups and downs, I’ve managed to lose 140 pounds. An entire person. I am the closest to my goal weight (25lbs) than I ever thought possible. There are times when I see an old picture of myself and can’t remember ever being that obese. And yet there are days when I look in the mirror and all I see is my old 321 pound self. I struggle with my weight every day. Old habits that I started as a child, as a way to cope, are very easy to fall back into. It’s what I know. It’s what is safe. But then I remember the quality of life I had at my heaviest, and I will not let myself ever get back there. It was lonely and sad and scary and painful. And I’m such a different person now, inside and out. I’ve seen a couple episodes of that show and they leave me devastated. They remind me of how I used to live. And they fill me with guilt and shame. So I won’t watch again. But I have to say that the show also made me appreciate all I have. Losing half your body weight, losing a person basically, wreaks havoc on your body. No amount of exercise can fix it. Sometimes I beat myself up about my flabby body. But then I remember that show, and how long I’ve come, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Flabby skin and all. And when I feel completely alone and like no one can relate to my struggles with food and body image, I turn to blogs like yours. Because there are people out there who know where I came from, who understand, and who’s own weight loss journey motivate and inspire me to keep going. Thank you.

  • David

    My wife was killed by a 420 pound man I believe was so obese his legs couldn’t function properly and that was one reason he T-boned her car at 60 MPH. I had low regard for obese people before that, and it turned into something verging on hate afterward. Your story makes me understand there are obese people who are taking responsibility for their own behavior. I applaud your effort and your honesty. And I wish you the best.

  • Sara Hawkins

    Emmie, You’ve come a long way and each day is an opportunity to say ‘yes, I’m going to live’. I’m so glad I got to meet you at BlissDom. And what’s interesting is that I never looked at you and saw a fat girl. I look at myself and see a fat girl. But having dinner with you and laughing and crying and laughing some more – all I saw was a woman who, like me, wants to be healthy and know that there will be a tomorrow. You CAN lose the weight that’s hurting you. But just like you didn’t put it on in 3 months, it won’t come off that fast either. Sadly, I think there’s some stupid logrhythmic-exponential-derivative-geometrical calculation as to how long it will take to reach a goal weight. And even then, the vigilance never stops.

    Don’t blame yourself for your mom’s care or passing. You did your best! Know she loved you. Know you did the best you could. Remember you cared for her because you loved her. You deserve to be healthy and live a long life. 

    I look forward to seeing you at BlissDom next year! And if I don’t recognize your sex-aye self, you’ll forgive me. Right?

  • Roxane Linnell

    Thank you so much for the “two options”. This is one of the truest, most inspiring things I have ever read.

  • Chantal

    I just happened to run across your blog when I was doing a search for weight loss, and I am so glad I did. You are such a great inspiring human being. I am extremely over weight, and I have been struggling for longer than I can ever remember. I say everyday that Im gonna start walking, or Im gonna start eating right, but I never do it. But it’s time. I don’t want to die from being fat, I wanna live, I wanna be happy. Following you and you blog during your journey just might be what I need. It helps to know that someone else is going through the same things and there’s is someone out there you can tealk to about your struggles. You being in that situation helps me wanna improve myself. Thank you so for being such an inspiration to me and many other girls as well.

  • Annarowlett

    you are classy…at any weight  :)

  • jjannskii

    wow… thankyou.. just what i needed…. thankyou thankyou!! for sharing your journey.