My name is Gessi (@gessisfitnessjourney) Parisi-Rodriguez and I’m 25 years old. I’m originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but now I’m based out of Alexandria, Virginia. It took hitting rock bottom to turn my life around and lose weight—but now I’ve found my path and have lost 124 pounds in the process.
The first time I realized my weight was a problem was when I was 8 years old. I overheard my doctor tell my mom that I was tipping the scale at over 100 pounds, and that she needed to start thinking of actions to take so that I didn’t gain any more weight.
The reason why it was so hard to control my eating habits is that almost everyone in my Sicilian family owns either a pizza place or a restaurant. Food was always been such a big part of my life, and it was always so readily available. On top of that, I used food as an emotional outlet and source of comfort. I didn’t know any other way to cope with my emotions, good or bad, so I just ate my feelings.
My turning point came in July 2012, after I hit rock bottom.
I had once been an honor roll student. Next thing I knew? I had given up my life to drugs and dropped out of school. My overall health suffered severely as I struggled to manage the divorce of my parents, the decline in my academics, and the existing hatred and disappointment that I harbored against myself. I ballooned up to my heaviest weight, 252 pounds. I was tired of telling myself, “This is the year I’ll lose weight.” I was tired of telling myself, “This year I’ll get my life together.”
But days before my 17th birthday that year, I had a life-changing religious encounter that helped me acquire the inner strength and fortitude I needed to make a lifestyle change.
Up until that point, I had no idea how to keep track of my food intake. So, I started calorie counting.
I’ve tried the vegan diet, vegetarian diet, low-carb diet, WW program, intermittent fasting, OMAD…and none of those was sustainable for me. As a Sicilian woman, I need my carbs and my meats! So calorie counting worked out best for me.
I try to stay in a caloric deficit, which means that I eat fewer calories than I’m burning in a day. I use my Fitbit watch and app to keep track of those numbers. I can still enjoy all of my favorite foods now, so long as the portions are measured and eaten in moderation.
Here’s what I eat in a day now:
- Breakfast: I usually have a packet of Quaker maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal with a tablespoon of peanut butter. I also have a cup of black coffee with sugar-free Torani vanilla syrup and a dash of almond milk.
- Lunch: My absolutely favorite lunch is two homemade beef or chicken enchiladas.
- Snacks: I’ll reach for sliced pineapple or a slice of wheat toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter and sliced banana on top.
- Dinner: I like to have a turkey burger on a low-carb bun with homemade fries on the side.
- Dessert: Half of a Lenny & Larry’s double chocolate protein cookie does the trick.
When I was at my heaviest, I started exercising by doing what I knew: walking.
I walked five to six days a week for 30 minutes a day. As time passed, I worked my way up to walking for an hour and 30 minutes a day.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot more about health and fitness, so my workout regimen looks a little different now, even though there will always be a special place in my heart for walking! If you catch me in the gym nowadays, you’ll see me jogging on the treadmill or sweating it out on the elliptical for 20 to 30 minutes, weight lifting, or using resistance bands for low-impact muscle toning.
I viewed my weight-loss journey as a marathon, not a sprint.
Marathon runners go slow and steady because they know there’s a long distance ahead. I knew it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake to lose weight, and I never tried to deceive myself otherwise. Good things take time, so I encourage anyone on their own journey not to rush the process.
I also fought not to get discouraged by other people’s weight-loss success while I was just starting out. Comparison is the thief of joy. I had to realize that those people had already been putting in the time and effort to see those results. But guess what? They were once just starting out, just like I was. So I narrowed my gaze to focus solely on *my* path.
The other reason for my success? Every time I fell off the bandwagon, I got back up. There have been times I’ve stopped working out, stopped tracking food, and stopped paying attention to my health. It’s just a part of life! What’s important, though, is that I didn’t stay in that place, no matter how long I was camped out there. Getting off track happens to even the fittest workout gurus—the only difference is they get back on track.
It’s taken me eight years to lose 123 pounds…and I am still going.
I wish I had known that weight loss is more of a mental battle than it is a physical one. In theory, losing weight is simple. However, the real test is seeing if you can overcome the mental strongholds and bad habits that led you to be overweight in the first place. A poor mentality can definitely overpower your desire to change if you let it.
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