“I never believed that I deserved happiness,” says Dacia Root, 36 of Pensacola, FL, as she reflects on her weight loss journey. “I hid behind my fat. I held myself back. I doubted everything about myself, my ability to love, because I was fat. And that was absurd.”
Root’s struggle with her weight started in her mid-20s; as she started working full-time she became less active and ate more. “Each year, my weight got higher and higher.” She had tried to lose the weight multiple times, but with about 140 pounds to lose, she had no idea how to start—but this time, she knew why she needed to.
“I needed to show myself some respect, take care of my body, my mind, and my heart, and take control of a life that had spiraled into nothingness,” says Root. “I wanted more. I wanted my dreams and wishes. I wanted happiness. And I wanted to lead a long, healthy life and for the first time, in that moment, I believed that was all possible.” (Check out more of the Most Inspiring Weight Loss Stories of 2013.) And with the following small steps, it was.
Spread the Word
Just after her 33rd birthday, Root asked her friends and family to encourage her along her weight loss journey. “On February 22, 2011, I decided to lose weight and get healthy. On that same day I started my blog. I sent the link to six of my closest friends asking them to help keep me in check. I knew I needed accountability to be successful, but I had no idea how to be accountable. Blogging was my outlet to help keep me focused, but more importantly it led me to find support through other bloggers.”
Losing weight can be an isolating journey, and Root didn’t know anyone who needed to lose over 100 pounds. “I was obese, morbidly obese. I found people in the blogosphere who were not only going through the same things, but they were openly writing about it. They inspired me to try new recipes, join weight loss challenges, and had my back whenever things weren’t going ‘as planned.’”
Let One Good Habit Lead to Another
Root knew she was eating too much food, multiple servings at dinner, and was easily capable of finishing a medium pizza in one sitting, so she started small, portioning her food. This led to food journaling, which led her to research proper nutrition for her body. All of her changes ultimately added up to a huge mental shift: “I went from living to eat to eating to live.” Today, Root lives by the 80/20 rule, which helped keep her focused and sane. “Eighty percent of the time, I prepare meals using whole foods and I focus on eating foods that help supplement my active lifestyle. Twenty percent of the time, I allow for meals out, cupcakes, a beer or two, or whatever else my social calendar may dictate.” (Great diet tip! Check out more weight loss strategies in Experts Reveal: 15 Small Diet Changes for Weight Loss.)
Turn to Fitness
Root started by walking around her apartment complex, working her way up to the treadmill at the gym once her weight was low enough for the treadmill to support her. “I walked and walked and walked. And it was hard. It hurt. Walking at nearly 300 pounds was the hardest thing I had ever done.”
Her strength continued to build and she started to use weight machines. A former high school athlete, Root was no stranger to the gym, but this time around she was concerned with how people would react to seeing her there. She started by using the gym in her apartment complex, which was private and usually empty. “But if there was ever anyone in there with me, I felt that they were probably just judging me. I broke the treadmill twice because I was too big. But after I started to get more comfortable being active again, I cared less about what I thought others thought of me and just focused on me.”
Down about 30 pounds, Root tried pretty much any group fitness class she could: Nia, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Qigong, Zumba. Each taught her something about herself, and motivated her to continue. Feeling amazing and strong at 260 pounds was a game-changer for Root—she finally knew she was worth all of the effort.
Make It a Lifestyle
Root’s new eating habits, workouts, self-love, and social support carried her to goal weight of 156 pounds. But for Root, that milestone was just another day of her new healthy lifestyle. “I didn’t have a big celebration when I hit goal. The day was just another day in an ongoing process to be healthy and happy and to always make those my top priorities.” Now down 130 pounds, Root is still figuring things out. “The whole thing, even now, is a work in progress. I’m always tweaking and changing but now I know that if I’m making choices that don’t support the life I want, they’re not the right choices for me.”
To read more about Dacia Root’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