Ashley C, from Florida, US, has been on an incredible journey, which has seen her drop over 50kg and finally find confidence in herself.
The 28-year-old found herself staring at the scales weighing 122kg at her heaviest before she completely turned her unhealthy relationship with food and alcohol around.
Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle about what has been both a physical and mental journey, Ashley admits moving out and becoming independent - eating what she wanted, when she wanted - contributed to her weight gain.
“I had a very poor relationship with food and drinking. I was happy and content and felt the need to celebrate with food or alcohol,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Her joy for independence came after she had a difficult time as a young adult when she was outed as being gay to her parents.
“I had no intentions on coming out, nor do I honestly know how I would have approached it. My household was a very conservative household where being a ‘homo’ was not acceptable in the slightest,” she reveals.
When her parents found out she was gay in 2008, Ashley says her relationship with her family declined. She was no longer allowed to sleep in a shared bedroom with her own sister and was forced to sleep on the living room floor.
“The next day they shipped me to my grandmother’s where the belittling continued. I was told that she’d rather I was dead than gay,” Ashely says.
“I was then transported to a hospital where my parents signed me in because I was only 17 and parental consent was all they needed to admit me. I spent my 18th birthday in a mental hospital for being gay.”
Thankfully, Ashley says she was able to get out thanks to help from her late grandfather but was forced to leave home and ended up in a homeless shelter.
But things soon turned around, and Ashley met with her now-wife in 2011, with the pair eventually moving in together.
“I am now very comfortable with the person I am,” she says. “We are celebrating our 8th year together and I couldn’t be happier.”
But while Ashley had found love and confidence, by 2014 she realised she was unhappy with how she looked, and, as she puts, it “the person my wife had to stand next to”.
“I used to be a very active female and here I stood at 122kg. Imagine feeling so grotesque about yourself that somedays you don’t want to continue. I was scared for myself as well as my partner if something happened to me. I knew then that I needed to begin my journey,” she admits.
So on Valentine’s Day of 2014, Ashley and her wife signed up for the gym.
“That was one of my first steps. I then began to research what to do. I started doing low impact cardio, like the elliptical or walking,” she says.
Over the last five years Ashley has lost 52kg, but still reveals it wasn’t easy. At first she lost about 13kg before gaining it back. But when she was diagnosed with Angioedema, an allergic reaction which for Ashley was triggered by gluten, she ended up learning about nutrition and really started to see the changes.
“I learned your nutrition is the most important part of the journey,” she explains.
And now Ashley says she feels so much happier and healthier.
“The biggest thing that has changed would be my relationship with food,” says Ashley, who shares updates on her journey and tips on her Instagram @glutes.not.gluten.
“I have such a well-rounded relationship with food now. I don’t feel guilty, I find alternatives, I have so much more energy, just overall a better quality of life,” she adds.
Having been through two very emotional journeys that many others are likely facing themselves, Ashley just wants to be able to share her stories as motivation and inspiration.
“I want for people from all walks of life to know: you’re not alone,” she tells us.
“When it comes to coming out I would say, be true to yourself. We now are in a time where it is much more acceptable and if people don’t accept it, they aren’t worth your time. At the end of the day, you matter to you.”
And while the circumstances surrounding her coming out were extremely difficult, Ashley says the weight loss journey has actually been harder.
“Weight loss is a physical, mental, and emotional journey,” she says.
And her advice to anyone wanting to undertake it is simple: “Just start”.
“Start by watching what you’re putting into your body as opposed to what you’re burning daily,” she adds.
“Then start by setting small goals. Big goals and not reaching them can really set you back.
“Find foods you enjoy. There are always alternatives to the foods you enjoy. Do not fall into the fad diets.
“Research workouts. There are so many people that are willing to help you learn, as well as videos out there to help you get started.
“Plus always remember it’s you against you. No one cares what you’re doing, just that you’re there trying. We are all behind you to cheer you on. You just have to start!”
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