Miriam Fannie was overweight for a very long time. Then, when she was 20 years old, something changed. The first time Miriam embarked on the health-and-wellness journey, she lost 120 pounds. Her formula? Doing lots of cardio, including Dance Dance Revolution on her PS2, and restricting her calories to 900 a day. But when Miriam became pregnant, she put on 75 pounds and found herself trying to lose a significant amount of weight a second time.
It happened quickly, thanks to the same formula of exercise and calorie restriction. But it didn't stay off for long. Following a bout of depression, Miriam turned to food for comfort and became sedentary. "I reached a breaking point in 2012," she says. "I was close to 280 pounds, and I was embarrassed of my appearance and started to avoid social events with family and friends."
After her mother was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Miriam says she hit rock bottom. She wondered what type of example she was setting for her young son and recognized that she didn't love herself anymore: "I didn’t even like or recognize what I saw in the mirror every day." It was time to address the things that were holding her back. She had to tackle every excuse she had made for letting herself gain all the weight back again.
Miriam was ready to tackle her weight-loss a third and final time. It took her a year to hit her goal, but she also made smarter choices. Rather than combine intense cardio with too few calories a day, she stayed between 1,200 and 1,500 — a far healthier number. She also made smarter food choices, picking nutrient-rich carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and opting for whole wheat pasta.
She's maintained her weight loss for two years now. For Miriam Fannie, the third time really has been the charm, and her story shows us that even if you have multiple setbacks, you can still get healthy and feel better.
Check out how her success story can help you stay on track with your fitness goals. You can do it.
How much weight have you lost this third time?
I have lost a little over 60 pounds in 9 months.
Have you always struggled with your weight?
Yes, my whole life. I’ve been considered overweight since I was a toddler.
You described your weight-loss journey as a repetitive one. What makes this third (and successful) attempt different from the previous two?
I have a healthier relationship with food, eating in moderation and not being too restrictive. I had to learn to make healthier choices. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat some things that aren’t considered good for you. If I want a brownie that my husband just made from scratch, I’ll eat one and not the whole batch! I also came to the conclusion that I have to exercise to stay at a healthy weight. I've always had a weight problem because of a slow metabolism. Add unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle and BAM! No wonder I was obese the majority of my life. Most importantly, I’ve learned that managing my weight is an ongoing process. I hold myself accountable when I notice myself overeating or mindlessly eating late at night while watching TV.
How do you stay motivated? Do you find that doing different workouts keeps you more focused?
I look forward to exercising. Instead of treating myself to an ice cream cone when I feel like I need a reward, I buy a new Jillian Michaels DVD or workout outfit. I used to feel like I was being tortured but once I changed my mindset it became clearer that it wasn’t a chore anymore, but something I truly enjoy.
How hard is it to wake up at 5 a.m. to do two hours of cardio?
It was really hard and it still is. It’s actually been almost a year that I’ve switched to exercising in the evening instead of the morning, which I still regret! Exercising in the morning just sets the tone for the whole day. It’s easier to stay on track with your eating habits when you've just busted your ass in the morning. You're like doughnuts for breakfast in the office? No thanks! Now that I'm just maintaining my weight loss I do about 45 to 90 minutes of cardio.
Tell me about a typical workout session.
I started doing Zumba on my Wii and it took off from there. For the first nine months, I woke up at 5 a.m. so I could do two hours (two full classes) of Zumba before I had to get my son up and ready for school and myself ready for work. For Christmas last year I bought myself a weight bench with a 100-pound bar.
I have at least 20 workout DVDs that I rotate. I have Jillian Michaels, Billy Blanks' Tae Bo, Chalene Johnson's Turbo Jam, Rocking Body and Hip Hop Abs (Shaun T), three or four Zumba games on the Wii, Yoga and Pilates… you name it, I probably do or did it at some point! I can keep track of what I’ve done. It helps keep me focused.
Did you make changes to your diet? How are they different from previous attempts to lose weight and keep it off?
We no longer eat out except for the rare occasions that we eat Chinese buffet and even then I hit the salad and fruit bar first. I eat real food. I’m blessed that my husband enjoys cooking and uses fresh ingredients and tries to make healthy choices.
For example, a few days ago, he made grilled salmon filets with roasted garlic and lemon asparagus and twice-baked sweet potatoes. I pack my lunch for work every day, snacks and all!
How would you describe your diet now? Are there foods you avoid entirely?
I avoid packaged foods at all costs. Just because they say "veggie chips" doesn’t mean they’re good for you! I look at the fiber and protein content in all the food that I buy. We eat mostly fresh fruit and vegetables and, of course, meat. While I was in weight-loss mode I was restrictive with my carb intake (potatoes and whole wheat bread and pastas were eaten at a bare minimum) but now I try to just eat in moderation. I eat more fish and less red meat than I used to. I think soda is the devil! I’ve honestly never really had a problem with soda but I’ve noticed that many people who are overweight do. My issue was and still is with overeating carbs like bread and pasta and baked goods.
After especially intense workouts, do you find that you are hungrier than usual? Does this pose a challenge in terms of portions you consume? How do you manage hunger?
YES! I just drink A LOT of water and after I exercise I try to eat breakfast or dinner, depending on what time I work out. Protein shakes are great, too.
Do you have a go-to snack? What is it?
Celery and peanut butter! Or a frozen banana — those are my two favorites.
Do you keep a diary or use a fitness app, step counter or anything of the sort to track calories/activity?
Yes! I have a monthly white board hanging in my living room right next to the TV. It is a constant reminder that I need to get my workout in every day. (I have one rest day.) I also measured out my food while I was in the process of losing weight. You’d be surprised to see the difference between an actual portion size and what you thought was a portion size — as much as double and possibly triple what you really need to eat.
What do you do when your routine gets disrupted? Say you get sick or go on vacation — something that stops you from working out for a few days to a week. How do you bounce back from that?
When my routine gets disrupted, I simply continue on. Like when I was sick for three days last month, I didn’t work out but I hit it hard with my weights and dumbbells on the following Saturday. I don’t give up! I just get back on the wagon and don’t dwell on my setbacks.
What advice would you give to someone who is ready to lose a significant amount of weight?
Be patient. It didn’t take a few months to put on the weight, so it won’t come off as easy as you’d hope. Losing weight is also a very emotional experience as well, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. Be kind to yourself. Don’t let the negative voice in your head tell you that you can’t do it, because then you won’t. If you catch yourself feeling unworthy or anything negative tell yourself this: I am beautiful, I am capable and I am stronger than I was yesterday. I can do anything I set my mind out to do. Love yourself. Because if you can’t love yourself, then how can we expect others to love us?