IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'I changed my whole life': Woman followed 3 steps to lose 305 pounds in 5 years

Despite facing numerous health problems, including cancer, Karen Scanlon lost 305 pounds in 5 years by following 3 steps.
/ Source: TODAY

After Karen Scanlon’s brother-in-law died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 50, her sister, Kim Lieb, made an emotional request to Scanlon: Please lose weight.

“She said, ‘I just lost Vince. I can’t lose you. You’re not going to live,’” Scalon told TODAY.

At 5 feet 4 inches tall, Scanlon, then 58, weighed 489 pounds and experienced declining health. Her sister’s plea, “struck” Scanlon and she began her weight-loss journey. She started by cutting out white flour and sugar, while adding more vegetables, fruit and lean protein. In nine months, Scanlon lost 139 pounds.

“I just changed my diet,” she said.

Over the next few months, Scanlon kept losing weight, hovering around 300 pounds. But then, she faced a series of health problems that slowed down her weight loss. In October, she suffered a herniated disc and needed back surgery and physical therapy to start moving again. In February 2010, she underwent a total hip replacement and needed a cane to walk for several months as she recovered.

“My weight loss stopped at that point because I was trying to learn to re-walk,” she said.

Then in 2011, Scanlon learned she had stage 3 endometrial cancer and underwent a hysterectomy and several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. While Scanlon was now cancer-free, she had gained 100 pounds during her treatment.

“I got really discouraged when the weight started gaining,” she said.

After the treatments, Scanlon experienced nerve damage and relied on a walker to move. But she knew losing weight remained important to her well-being and she needed to shed pounds again. So she started working out with a personal trainer to slowly build strength while returning to her healthy eating habits.

For most of her life, Scanlon was overweight. She's been on an almost a 10-year weight-loss journey and has lost 305 pounds.Courtesy Karen Scanlon

“I changed my whole life,” Scanlon said. “Working out every day is a part of what I do. I changed my eating habits.”

While her physical limitations made losing weight harder, she kept pushing herself. Since 2012, she has lost 305 pounds and now weighs 180 pounds. She feels proud of her accomplishment, but still works hard to maintain her healthy habits.

“I still struggle with (my) weight every single day,” she said.

But her experiences taught her that fighting for herself is worth it.

“Cancer literally changed my whole life. I was given a great gift … I survived,” she said. “If you are open to something and listen to yourself you can do anything.”

After cutting white carbs and adding moderate exercise, Scanlon has lost 305 pounds.Courtesy Karen Scanlon

Scanlon shared some tips that helped her lose weight:

1. Ask yourself why you are eating.

When Scanlon felt sad or stressed in the past, she turned to food for comfort. Once she began examining her eating habits, she realized she often ate when emotions were intense.

“I learned how to handle why I eat,” she said. “Now I think, ‘Am I picking it up because I am hungry or am I picking it up because I am sad?’”

2. Make yourself the priority.

While her sister’s warning inspired Scanlon to lose weight, she stayed motivated by focusing on how she felt. Once she focused on how much easier life was when she weighed less, it was simple to keep healthy habits.

“I always wanted to wear the perfect clothes ... I had to get past that,” she said. “It’s an internal process. You have to do it for yourself. You can’t do it for anyone else.”

After her brother-in-law suddenly died, Scanlon's sister asked Karen to lose weight and become healthier.Courtesy Karen Scanlon

3. Pick something that works for you.

“I got rid of anything that is white,” Scalon said. “I really tried to limit white carbs and it apparently was the right combination for me.”

Scanlon didn’t simply focus on a diet, she also participated in exercises she enjoyed. Because of her various health problems, she often just walks. Adding walking to her daily life helped her shed weight.

For more inspiration, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page.