Heather McNally went on her first diet when she was 10. Her on-again-off-again love affair with yo-yo diets, weight gain, and weight loss continued for the next 12 years. It wasn’t until a visit to the gynecologist that she realized things had to change for good. “I was 22, diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, insulin resistant, and well on my way to diabetes. I was facing heart disease and infertility. I cried the whole way home. That was the moment I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore.” (Here are more of The Most Inspiring Weight Loss Stories of 2014.) Here’s how she changed her life.
It’s All About the Mindset
McNally recognized that she hadn’t grasped the “lifestyle change” part of successful weight loss in past attempts: “I would always get to a goal weight and then let hell break loose and go back to my old ways.” This time, she explains, “I was desperate to take my life back.” First she changed her mindset, refusing to think that her changes were part of a diet. “I didn’t do anything drastic and unmanageable. I slowly made changes I could actually maintain. I just looked at it as how I was going to lead my life from then on.”
Set Goals That Motivate
McNally was overwhelmed knowing she had to lose over 100 pounds, so she focused on the first 20. Once she lost them, she bought herself a pair of jeans that were a few sizes too small. “It was a gift to myself and even more motivation to keep going.” Her success continued, one goal and 20 pounds at a time.
Find Motivation in Fitness
“Day One I struggled to walk on the treadmill for a half an hour. Slowly but surely, I increased the speed and incline, then added in some resistance training. I eventually joined a gym,” says McNally. The gym introduced McNally to group fitness.
But when her favorite classes were cut from the schedule, she found a trainer, started Insanity, and ultimately went on to find a new home at Crossfit where she was welcomed with positive support. “When I first started, I had to do most of the Olympic weightlifting movements with a PVC pipe because I wasn’t strong enough for the barbell, and people cheered me on as if I were an Olympic gold medalist. That’s the thing I love about Crossfit—no matter how good or bad you are at it, everyone is pulling for you to be the best version of you.”
She doesn’t let things get her down either: “I focus on getting more pull-ups rather than getting depressed over how far away I am from ever getting a muscle up.” (Speaking of fitness inspiration, keep your motivation high with 15 Fitspirational Quotes from Trainers Who Know How to Get Results.)
Before her dramatic weight loss, McNally didn’t go out much. Adjusting to the social scene took some getting used to. “It was very scary at first, but I slowly started to have more of a social life. Unfortunately, it got a little out of control with going to bars and clubs at one point,” McNally admits. She has since stopped drinking: “My idea of fun is spending time at the gym or dinner with friends—not a trip to the bar.” (Hit a spin class after work! Post-Work Workouts Are the New Happy Hour.)
Give Up Vices
McNally was a soda fanatic before she lost the weight: “I rarely drank anything but soda,” says McNally. “Initially I just thought I could quit cold turkey…I was sorely mistaken.” After experiencing something similar to drug withdrawal, McNally says, she re-adjusted her plans: “I decided to have only two sodas a day for the first week. Plus, I made myself walk across the street to buy my soda every single time I had one. Eventually, I went to one a day, then one every other day, until I quit for good.” While she still occasionally has a soda, small steps like these helped McNally change her life for good.
To read more about Heather McNally’s amazing weight-loss journey, and find out how her life has changed, pick up the Jan/Feb issue of Shape, on newsstands now.
By Shape Editors