Last year, JoDee Castello examined her life and felt like she needed to change. She was unhappy in an abusive marriage and wanted to set a better example for her daughters.
“I wasn’t walking in the things that I talk about,” the 32-year-old sales professional from Reno, Nevada, told TODAY. “It felt hypocritical just sitting there with these two beautiful young women telling them that women can do anything but I had just fallen to the wayside.”
But to prioritize herself, she needed to act. She left the marriage with the help of friends and family. And, she wanted to address her health, which she had neglected. She decided to weigh herself to understand where she was at. She thought she weighed about 280 pounds, but was stunned to learn she weighed 313 pounds.
“I stepped off in disbelief,” she said. “I just remember standing there and realizing: I’m in danger.”
First, she decided to drink more water and limited the hours that she ate to ward off mindless eating.
“I started intermittent fasting and just upping my water intake,” Castello explained. “Those small changes became infectious to the rest of my life and translated into such a big pattern to where within two or three months I had made so many substantial changes.”
While adding more water felt easy, intermittent fasting was a challenge. Castello had long used food to soothe herself and now in the middle of so many changes, she didn't want to lean on it. This helped her rethink her relationship with food.
“(That) crutch was so hard to remove but once I realized why I was doing that to myself, it made it better to triage the core (problems),” she said. “I have a much better relationship with food.”
Castello focused on being “consistent and accountable.” She adds in extra movement during her day, like taking her children to the park or on a walk. And she doesn’t punish herself if she eats a cheeseburger or gets a drink from Starbucks. Castello also returned to practicing karate, something she did prior to her marriage, which had helped her maintain her weight as a teen and young adult. This time, she felt frustrated when she got winded. Yet, she loved how the movements felt.
“My body had so much muscle memory,” she said. “It was a chore, but you have to pick your hard.”
These small tweaks added up. In a little more than a year, she lost 87 pounds. She doesn’t have a goal weight in mind because she’s focused on how she feels.
“My body feels different. It looks different. So now it’s not so much of a number. It’s just being able to run after my kids without running out of breath and something as simple as being able to tie my shoes without falling over or questioning how many donuts I had that day,” Castello explained. “It’s about attaining a quality of life. The number that goes with it is going to be irrelevant at the end of the day because the level of happiness and comfort in my own skin (is more important).”
Castello feels like going through this transformation reminded her of who she is and hopes that she remains an example for her daughters.
“Sometimes when you forget who you are your village comes around you to remind you what you’re made of,” she said. “It had taken me so long to put a mirror up to myself and (listen to) my own advice. Once I started to realize how strong I was — even in the worst circumstance — I made it to where I could take each day and each moment at themselves.”
She shares advice for others hoping to make healthy changes.
1. ‘Set reasonable expectations’
When Castello started karate again, she felt discouraged when she wasn’t as good as she was at 18. But when she really looked at herself, she was able to set better goals.
“I wanted to be that 18-year-old black belt that I was and when I immediately didn’t have that stamina and that endurance I was super defeated,” she said. But once she was honest with herself about where she was at, she able to "set reasonable expectations, even if it was just losing a pound a week, or not having a cheeseburger.”
2. Keep track
When Castello first started intermittent fasting she lost a lot of weight in the first two weeks, which kept her motivated. But as her loss slowed, she wanted something else that showed her efforts were working. That’s why she started snapping photos, which she said helped with “accountability.”
3. Take it in pieces
“If I just look at what I can do in the short term and apply that same formula to the long term, it doesn’t feel as overwhelming,” she said.