While browsing social media Beth Dammarell scrolled past a picture of herself and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She looked dramatically heavier than everyone else in the photo.
“That was a real eye opener for me that I had gotten so large,” the information technology project manager from Dallas told TODAY. “I looked at that photo and said, 'I have to make serious changes.'”
At 5 feet 8 inches tall, she weighed 293 pounds. She knew she had been gaining "a couple of pounds a year," yet hadn't realized how much it was adding up.
"I wasn’t happy with how I looked and how I felt," she explained.
In April 2017, Dammarell, now 48, began researching how to lose weight. While some diets promised big losses, she worried they were fads and the loss wouldn’t stick. So she stuck to a tried-and-true method: writing down what she ate.
“I was really underestimating how much I had been eating,” Dammarell said. “I started eating healthier."
At first, she simply ate less of what she normally ate. Then she also started exercising, even though it was tough.
“It was hard at first because I couldn’t even do 10 minutes. I couldn’t walk around the neighborhood,” Dammarell said.
But she kept pushing herself. She’d tell herself to walk past two more houses or for a few more minutes. Exercise and smaller portions worked: She lost about 60 pounds — and then hit a plateau.
“I started to add in more exercise, working out a little bit more and (lifting) a little heavier (weights). That helped me lose another 20 pounds,” she said.
She worried she would not be able to reach her goal weight of 160 pounds so she turned to her local Life Time gym to help. With the help of a trainer, who gave her both eating and exercising plans, she lost another 37 pounds. Her eating habits transformed even more as she focused on clean whole foods, such as lean protein, fruits and vegetables.
“A lot of the food (I was eating) wasn’t helping me lose the weight,” Dammarell said.
While she is about 15 pounds away from reaching her target weight, she set a non-scale goal she’s now focused on achieving.
“My goal is to compete in an endurance obstacle race,” she said.
Dammarell’s life has changed, too. She enjoys going to amusement parks with her children, now that she's able to ride all the rides. And, she’s been horseback riding and finds that she now likes being in crowds and even flying.
“When I travel for work I don’t have to worry about sitting in the middle seat or asking for a seatbelt extender to get it around me,” she said. “So many things I experience every day I never could before because of the size that I was.”
While she loves how she looks and how strong she is, she’s happy to be getting out of her comfort zone too.
“I let my weight hold me back for so long I was always afraid to try something new,” Dammarell said. “I am discovering all these things that I couldn’t do or I was afraid to do.”
Here is her advice for anyone starting their own weight-loss journey.
1. Set reasonable goals.
When Dammarell first started losing weight, she simply wanted to lose 10 pounds. That seemed doable. Setting reasonable milestones made it easier for her to reach them.
“I set small goals,” she said. “It was very daunting and overwhelming to think ‘Oh my God, could I really lose 100 pounds all at once?’”
2. Seek help when you need it.
When Dammarell started going to the gym, she was frustrated that her weight loss had stalled. With the help of the staff, she learned she wasn’t eating enough calories to allow her body to lose weight. After chatting with her trainer, she started losing again.
“The support I got … really helped me reach my goal of losing over 100 pounds," she said.
3. Just start.
“It is never too late and you are never too old. If you want to change definitely take the first step,” Dammarell said.