Height: 5 feet, 6 inches
Before weight: 245
How She Gained It
My mom was a single mother when I was young. She worked a lot, so it was up to my sisters and me to make our meals. There was no structure, so I never learned about portion control or how to make a balanced meal. I ate tons of pasta, potatoes and bread — huge portions of them at almost every meal.
During the summer when I was out of school, I had the whole day to myself, and I would cook so I’d have something to do. I’d make huge breakfasts — with potatoes and pancakes — and then big lunches and dinners, too. I ate out of boredom and for comfort.
I rarely dieted, but I did try exercising when I got a little older. I would workout to Jane Fonda videotapes, and I’d lose maybe nine or 10 pounds. My clothes would fit a little better, but there was never lasting change. I just never had the determination to really get to it and transform myself.
Breaking Point: I became a flight flight attendant in 2014 and had the opportunity to observe a lot of different people. I began to notice differences in the way people interacted with each other. Thin people seemed like they were heard more and acknowledged. Heavier people, I noticed, had to talk louder or be very animated or boisterous to be heard. I didn’t want to have to try that hard to be heard or overcompensate just because I was overweight, so I decided to make some real changes in my life.
How She Lost It
Growing up as a larger person, I was always reading weight loss magazines. If a magazine had a diet story on the cover, I read it! One of the articles recommended using a trampoline to burn fat, so I started doing research on my own. I found that jumping on a trampoline improves heart health and releases toxins from the lymphatic system, plus it’s low impact. I was too heavy to run or jog without jarring my knees and ankles, so I got a trampoline. I started with just 15 minutes every morning, then as my body started to change, I gradually increase the time.
I loved exercising in the morning because it got me pumped up for the day. I’d watch infomercials and be inspired by the success stories. I tell people all the time now: “If you want to be inspired to exercise, watch those infomercials. You don’t have to buy the product, just use them for inspiration!”
Because I’m fitter and stronger now, I’m able to run, and I put in about 50 minutes of intervals on the treadmill every other day. I start with a walk, then move up to a power walk, then jogging, then full out running, and then I gradually work back down to a walk. When I’m traveling for work, I use the workout room at the hotel in the morning before our flight or in the evening before I go to bed.
In addition to the exercise, I made big changes in what I eat every day. I stopped consuming large amounts of refined carbs in one sitting and replaced potatoes and rice with whole grains like quinoa. Before if I had a salad, I wanted both ranch and French dressing on it. It definitely wasn’t a thin person’s salad! Now I eat a at least one salad every day, and I replaced the fatty salad dressing with lite Italian or balsamic vinegar. I choose foods based on the health benefits I get from them, instead of how comfortable they might make me feel for a short time.
I love fish, and my favorite food is eggs. I can taste the true flavor of food now that I eat clean. And instead of eating three large meals each day — with seconds! — now I have six mini meals throughout the day. That keeps my energy up and doesn’t make me feel sluggish like big meals do.
It took me about two years to go from a size 24 to a size two, and losing 100 pounds inspired me to do more in my life. That weight loss took me far beyond the superficial. I realized that if I wasn’t going to accept the fat on my body, I wasn’t going to accept other negative things in my life, either. I decided to expand my horizons.
In 2016, I stopped being a flight attendant so I could earn a bachelor’s degree in counseling. Now I’m back to flying while I work on a master’s degree in health psychology. After that, I’ll start on my Ph.D. in educational psychology. I’m the first person in my family to get a college degree. Losing weight inspired me to truly live out my purpose, and I learned that there’s value in doing weight loss the right way. It might have taken a little longer the way I did it, but now I know it’s lasting change. It’s a fight every day, but I won’t go back to my old habits.
I don’t dislike the person in the “before” picture, though. That person is still me. I’m still the same person with the same heart. I have a passion. I took that photo, and I thought, “I’m never going to see this body again.” That was just a moment in time when I was determined to take weight off and what was inside then and now is that same determination.
I actually love the fact that I was overweight because I could truly see how much more our inner qualities matter rather than our outer qualities. I’m glad I was able to learn that.
After weight: 135
Ali has maintained a 100-pound weight loss for five years, and it’s been 11 years since she weighed 245 pounds.