Florence Ryan, 48 of Lewisporte, is living proof that people who struggle with obesity don’t need a fad diet or the Biggest Loser trainers to drop the weight.
Starting her weight loss journey in January of 2011, Ms. Ryan has lost 146 pounds – going from 324 pounds to a current healthy and fabulous 178.
The lifestyle change started for Ms. Ryan when her body began to give her health problems and her mind was set on making a change towards a healthier way of life.
“I knew I had to do something,” she said. “It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even stand without limping or getting out of breath. I had back problems and the pain was unbearable most days. Something had to change.”
So Ms. Ryan began cutting back on junk food, gave up her sodas and consumed healthier foods, paying particular attention to nutrients she needed to lose weight and maintain the weight loss in the long run.
“I’m not a breakfast person, but throughout the day I would pay attention to my eating habits and I began to walk and drink lots and lots of water,” she said. “It was slow going at first because exercise was something I never did, I would just sit on the couch and watch television all the time, but with those changes I started to lose weight.”
Back to school
Ms. Ryan found the confidence in herself to go back to school and is striving to obtain her Level III through Adult Basic Education at the College of the North Atlantic in Grand Falls-Windsor.
“When I began there I was after losing so much and then I was encouraged by my instructor to join their Biggest Loser program,” said Ms. Ryan. “The class gets together and weighs-in every Wednesday, there’s a ‘no-no’ for that week whether it’s sweets or bread, etcetera and it’s very encouraging to everyone involved.”
The support from family and friends is very important during any weight loss journey, but Ms. Ryan said faith in yourself and having the mind set to start and follow it through is even more important.
“People always ask me how I did it and I tell them you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” she said. “But you have to determined to do it. You can be an inspiration to other people.”
Past and present photos
Meeting Ms. Ryan on March 7, no one would believe the woman depicted in many family photos is the woman sitting at her kitchen table today.
Looking through the ‘before’ photos of Ms. Ryan’s weight loss, she admits she didn’t think she was “that big” at that point in her life.
“I knew I had to do something,” - Florence Ryan
It upsets her, not only for the way she was, but that in most family photos she is always sitting with her children or grandchildren instead of playing or partaking in activities.
“I don’t like either one my before photos,” said Ms. Ryan. “My daughter has videos of me at that weight and the only reason I told her not to destroy them is because the grandkids are on there.”
Ms. Ryan is now focused on making new memories with her grandchildren, one where she can be an active grandmother. With four grandchildren, ages five months, two, five and nine-years-old, she dedicates her determination for losing the weight and keeping it off to them.
“I wanted to be healthier for my grandchildren and for myself,” she said. “I tried a lot of diets and nothing ever worked. It seemed the moment I stopped doing the program or stopped the shakes or meal replacements, the weight would come back.
“It’s alright while you are on these diets, but on most of them you are starving yourself. So I decided to put my faith in the Lord and myself and do it on my own. I couldn’t have done it without the grace of God. Being a Christian, He also helped me throughout this
Ms. Ryan understands there may come a point in her journey where she may maintain at a certain weight, possibly gaining at some point instead of losing, but she won’t get discouraged.
“I’m still afraid I’ll go back there - to that weight - if I eat the wrong thing,” she said. “I know that fear is understandable, but I still treat myself every now and then – to a smoothie at McDonald’s actually.”
Ms. Ryan said the photographs of her serve as a reminder and a tool that helps her maintain her current weight.
“Back then I couldn’t enjoy myself or time with the grandchildren and I was in constant pain,” she said. “I would have been in a wheelchair if I had kept going at the weight that I was.
“Now I exercise every night and I make sure that I make time for myself to do that. Most importantly, I enjoy being able to play with the grandchildren. I don’t know who has more fun, me or them.”
Admitting to not having an actual “after photo” of her weight loss, Ms. Ryan was in awe as she reviewed photos taken by The Pilot, stating, “I still can’t believe that’s me.”
Ms. Ryan hopes to shed another 28 pounds to reach her personal goal of 150 pounds.