First, many apologies for the wall of text, but most people like detail so here it is! How I lost (ultimately) 142 lbs without surgery or any medical supervision with diet and later on exercise! I’ve been a lurker-turned active member of the r/loseit and r/progresspics community for over 6 years now, and both of these subs were absolutely integral to my weight loss and continued maintenance. From these forums, I learned SO much about nutrition and different strategies for making your weight loss journey work for you, and furthermore I saw real examples of people who were just like me that were also succeeding. It showed me I wasn’t a hopeless case.
In December of 2012, I was in my first semester of school at the University of Pennsylvania. I had tried losing weight all throughout high school and was wildly unsuccessful (to the point where I was gaining about 20 lbs per year). I can still remember vividly how embarrassed and out of place I felt at Penn—an obese girl, also first generation/low income at an Ivy. It wasn’t the space made for me. The tipping point for me was this image, shown in one of my anthropology classes. I remember seeing the look of disgust on my classmates’ faces… and I weighed even more than the woman in the picture! I was 18 years old, and I was literally signing my late adulthood away with my lifestyle choices. It finally clicked for me, that I needed to make a huge change if I wanted a healthy future for myself.
I know I weighed about 270 lbs when I went in for my pre-university physical and vaccinations back home during the summer, but I bet my highest weight was probably higher because I went wild with the unlimited dining hall food and Wawa hoagies. The first thing I started doing was cutting out bagels. That’s it. I used to eat three just for breakfast. This was the first time that I had chosen to do something and stuck with it. I also started logging calories, just to learn how to do it. I didn’t enforce any limit or anything. I knew it was more important to institute small changes that I could sustain for a long time, and not overwhelm myself. This gave me a picture of what I was doing to myself (upwards of 4000 calories a day) and showed me where I could cut down.
In the summer of 2013, I stayed in Philly to work got a bike. I also went vegetarian. Biking was the first “exercise” I did (really though, I was going maybe 3 miles total) and vegetarianism was solely for the fact that I could cut out calories and unhealthy fast foods. This was right at the cusp of the “health food craze” and fast casual dining, so healthy fast food wasn’t really accessible at the time. And if you’re vegetarian, what are you going to order when you go to McDonalds? It just made it easier to say no. This was when things really started to change when it came to my perspective and my lifestyle. I think I lost about 15-20 pounds that summer, but I wasn’t actively trying to hit any goals.
Once the school year started, I was off a dining plan so I started cooking for myself —only buying fresh fruits and veggies, tofu, hummus etc. and turned to dark chocolate Hershey kisses because there was 9 in a serving and that felt more satisfying to me than one slice of cake (my brain is all about quantity). At the end of 2013, I was down around 70 lbs overall just from changing my food choices. Yes, you read that correctly, I lost a great deal of my weight without exercise! In January of 2014, I decided I wanted to start being active, and I also stopped drinking pop. I started the C25K program (which WORKS, I highly recommend it! Check out r/C25K if you want to know more) with a close friend who kept me accountable. When I started, I couldn’t even run for a minute straight. I ran my first 5K without stopping at the end of Week 5 (of 8). I only lost 10 lbs doing C25K, but it was all about body recomp. I gained a lot of muscle, to the point where before and after C25K I had shed almost 10 inches off my waist.
In July of 2014, I was 100 lbs down and I left for Australia to study abroad. I knew that I had 6 months where I could really make some progress or get behind from all the work I had done. So, I decided to make some progress. I took up distance running more seriously, and completed a 10K. I also seriously took up MyFitnessPal and kept my intake at 1200 a day, cut out all breads (but not carbs!) and processed foods, and limited any oils consumption.
The remainder of the weight came from running, and also doing archaeological fieldwork (aka digging lots of dirt for 8 hours a day), and weightlifting (I got seriously into heavy lifting, and started with the StrongLifts 5×5 program for any who want an easy place to start). I will be very honest — yes, I did gain some weight back during my ~5 years maintaining. However, this was very intentional, and I would do it again! Ultimately, I ended up losing 142 lbs in just over 2 years and hit a low weight of 128 lbs. I realized very quickly that the lifestyle I had to maintain to keep myself at this weight was so unsustainable and would not work long-term. I was running 3 miles a day, and eating around 1,400 calories daily. I knew that life would eventually get in the way of maintaining a strict exercise regimen (and that’s the issue, it was strict). Also, 128 on my frame made me look sick and malnourished. Today I fluctuate between 145-150, wear a size 4 jean, and size Small shirt. I love how I look, and my body can do all the things I want it to do, I don’t restrict the foods I eat, and I’m happy. Each of those 20 lbs was worth my sanity.
For all those who are wondering, yes, I had a LOT of loose skin. Mostly on my arms, legs, and stomach. In the Spring of 2016, just 2 days after walking the stage at graduation, I underwent a triple surgery in one sitting—abdominoplasty, brachioplasty, and leg skin removal surgery by the fantastic Dr. Cross in Philadelphia. His work is acclaimed, his testimonials are fantastic, and it’s all for a reason. From the get-go he was kind, attentive, sensitive to the fact I was uncomfortable with my body, and just all around a great doctor. He clearly knew what he was doing, his staff all had nothing but kind things to say. Furthermore, he was completely supportive before, during, and after the surgery—even taking the time to call the night before, the night after, and a few weeks after the surgery. I honestly cannot recommend him and his team enough, he is absolutely fantastic and a true expert.
Yes, the triple-procedure was pretty extreme, but I was informed of the reasoning (i.e. I was young, healthy, and didn’t need muscle reconstruction done in my abdomen) and he said that if there was *any* sign of complication he would wake me up, no hesitation. Yes, it was as bad as you can probably imagine. I went under the knife for 5 hours (about an hour less than I was told it would take). My procedure went completely smoothly, and I was told I did a brilliant job. If you want to see the before, after, and progress from this procedure, please refer to  these  two posts. I’m also very happy to answer any questions regarding the surgery so pm if you have any questions!
edit: missed a hyperlink