Growing up, Georgia Carlton knew she looked different from her friends. When she wanted to dress like them, she often couldn’t. It was hard to find cute clothes like theirs in her size. She also couldn’t understand why she was overweight and they weren’t.
“I always told myself I was made to be fat. So this was just life,” Carlton, 42, of Renton, Washington, told TODAY. “We all eat the same things, but they’re skinny. So it was just like this is the way I am.”
In seventh grade, she remembers being weighed in gym class and learning she weighed 275 pounds. But she still played basketball and volleyball — and her family all looked like her so she never really thought about it. When she left home to attend college, she tried shedding a few pounds. While, she attempted everything from quick fixes to eating only meat and green vegetables, it never worked. She almost always regained what she lost.
“Only once I could say that I was truly successful,” she said. “I was at 293 and I lost about 30 pounds … but I fell off the wagon and gained all that weight back.”
Carlton remained 296 pounds for years. But a visit to Disneyland when she was 39 caused her to re-examine her health.
“That trip was hard on me. I have arthritis in my knees,” she explained. “Every night I was in excruciating pain … It was such a struggle physically but also just mentally because it was like, ‘Will I fit in the ride?’”
Carlton strained to walk through the park, too. But seeing a picture of her from the trip really motivated her to do something.
“I don’t want to go into my 40s living like this any longer. I wanted to live. I don’t want to just exist in my family’s life,” she said. “I want to be a participant in their lives.”
She posted a request on Facebook asking about weight loss challenges. A friend sent her a message about WW (formerly Weight Watchers).
“I needed to try something and I had given everything else a try, so why not try this?” Carlton recalled thinking.
For the first time it seemed as if Carlton could eat the foods she wanted. She simply watched what she ate and learned how to assess portion sizes and make healthy swaps. That appealed to her.
“I always felt like I had to give up a whole food group or foods that I enjoyed,” she said. “I want a lifestyle that I can do for the rest of my life and (if) I want to have tortilla chips every night I can have (them).”
Since starting her weight-loss program in November 2017, Carlton has lost 122 pounds. She now weighs 159 pounds. While she appreciates how her appearance has changed, what she really loves is how losing weight has helped her gain a more active life with her children.
“We went on our first hike this summer as a family. My husband had taken the kids before and I just stayed home,” she said. “We hiked for two hours and it was amazing. My kids had fun. I had fun."
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carlton was spending six days a week in the gym. She enjoyed spin and weight lifting. She’s modified exercising for home.
“I’m doing Zoom Cyclebar classes,” she said. “I bought my own bike just two months ago because I was like I love this so much.”
Last November, she ran a 5K, highlighting how far she’s come since barely being able to walk through Disney.
“It has just been an amazing thing to be a part of activities,” she said. “And not just observing or taking pictures.”
Losing weight has taught Carlton a lot about herself.
“I learned I can get through those most frustrating and bad days,” she said. “Those times during my journey were hard but now that I look back at them they were still needed. Sometimes we just need to go through the journey.”
Carlton shares weight-loss tips to help others on their journey.
1. 'Take baby steps’
For the first three months of her weight loss, Carlton didn’t exercise. She started off watching what she ate, and once she felt comfortable with that, she slowly added exercise.
“You can take baby steps,” she said. “I tell people, if you want to work out, just commit to five minutes of walking around the block for two weeks. If you want to focus on nutrition, just commit to one meal of eating a big healthy salad for two weeks."
2. Be consistent not perfect
“We want to eat right. We want to exercise the right way, but it’s really the consistency over the long time,” she said. “That’s how I had success. I was obviously not perfect.”
This meant that if Carlton ate junk food or skipped a work out, she didn’t let that derail her healthy habits.
“Just get back,” she said. “Consistency gets you to your goal.”
3. Don’t stop yourself
“We’re capable of doing so much. Our minds stops us,” Carlton said. “So if we get our minds out of the way, we’re unstoppable.”