'When you’re obese, you’re invisible': Woman on how her life changed after losing 240 pounds

Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Corey Hyland is 5’5” tall and currently weighs 160 pounds. After a lifetime of obesity, she made gradual changes to her lifestyle that resulted in a whole new body and outlook on health. This is her weight-loss story, in her own words.

The Turning Point

I was overweight for as long as I could remember. In kindergarten, my concern was that I would break the small chairs. I was a secret eater; I would sneak food under the bunk bed I shared with my sister. I would eat an entire loaf of bread in one sitting, then eat some more, then vomit — this while I was still under 10 years old.

I was mortified that I had to shop in the then-called “husky” section of department stores for clothes. In middle school and high school the internet came of age, and I increasingly spent more time sitting. I ballooned to well over 400 pounds by high school graduation and into my college years.

A lot of people have asked me over the years what my turning point was, but unlike most, I don’t have a specific moment. It was a gradual change in behavior. What I do remember is the conscious decision in my early 20s to stop eating pork and beef and to stop drinking soda.

I would go for walks in the park near my apartment after every meal. When you’re that heavy, you can still eat a large amount of food but also keep a decent calorie deficit. I realized the computer chair I was sitting in — where I normally could barely fit between the two arms at the sides — was more comfortable and my pants were getting bigger, but it never occurred to me that I was actually losing weight. It wasn’t until I went to visit family when my sister laughed and said, “I can’t believe how much weight you lost!”

Turns out I went down four pant sizes, but the concept of not being a fat person was such a foreign concept to me that I didn’t think it even possible that I did so.

A young Corey Hyland before her weight-loss journey. (Photo: Corey Hyland)

The Changes

Dropping pork and beef and soda was good, but after a while I gained more knowledge regarding nutrition. I learned about calories and deficits. I’ve been working at Starbucks for 12 years now, and spend a lot of time on my feet there. I downloaded a meal-tracking app, bought a food scale and started counting calories. Counting calories and having a caloric deficit goal has been the number one thing that helped me lose the weight.

As I said, the changes have been gradual. I’ve been running this “marathon” for a while. I went down to 185 pounds and got back up to 245. I started working with a personal trainer at this point and have been with the same one for the past four years. The past 18 months have been the most dramatic. I dropped down to 151 pounds. My body-fat percentage, which I have tested at a hospital yearly, is 23.5 percent. Adding weight training has completely changed the shape of my body. I’m more toned and lean, and I absolutely love it.

My trainer has helped me strengthen areas of my body that were weak due to years of obesity, and my posture and balance is so much better. I have osteoarthritis of the spine and used to be in great pain almost daily, and now I don’t remember the last time my arthritis has bothered me.

Hyland before and after losing 240 pounds through calorie-counting and exercise. (Photo: Corey Hyland)

The After

The physical and emotional changes have been a challenge. Physically, it was difficult for me to tell when I was done losing because the loose skin masks it. Emotionally I suffer from body dysmorphia. I buy size 6 pants and mostly XS tops, but I still think the clothes are lying to me. I’m extremely self-conscious of my loose skin, and it keeps me from romantically connecting with anyone.

But people are nicer to me. They treat you with so much more respect. Even my own family members are nicer to me now.

Hyland, shown after her weight-loss journey, still struggles with her body image. (Photo: Corey Hyland)

The Maintenance

Currently, I am focusing on strength training and adding some muscle. I’ve gained a few pounds back, but have also reduced my pant size. I strength train three to five days a week, sprinkle in some cardio and still work with my trainer weekly.

Those behavioral issues I had when I was a child will always be there. When I find myself slipping, I go back to calorie counting and setting a caloric goal. I keep processed foods to a minimum and focus on eating a lot of protein and vegetables. I keep a loose tally of calories in my head most days, although I’ve mostly stopped using the food scale.

Knowing that I can make such dramatic changes to my body through hard work has kept me motivated to keep it off. I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, and so I’m always asking myself, what’s next? What further improvements can I make to my body? Safely, of course!

In the beginning of October, I will be having loose skin on my abdomen, arms, and breasts removed, and I could not be any more excited. I’m ready for my new body!

The Struggles

I will always have the mentality of a fat person. My entire world view has been shaped as someone who was obese. I feel as if I’ve lost my identity and have to shape a new one, and sometimes I just feel enormous pressure. When you’re obese, you’re invisible, even if you take up more space. Now more people are paying attention. Guys are paying attention, and I spent my formative years so overweight that I have a difficult time connecting romantically.

Advice

Consistency is key. Everyone falls off the wagon at some point when they’re on this journey — everyone. You have to learn to pull yourself up and get back on. And don’t ever think for one second that obesity is your fate and weight loss in unachievable because I’m solid proof that it can be done. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!

Wellness Wins is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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