Retired teacher loses 200 pounds, shares success story and advice

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image "><span></span></div><span class="caption-text">Before and after photo of Kathleen Riser's weight loss journey (Facebook, Kathleen Riser)</span></div>
Kathleen Riser has a picture of herself 200 pounds heavier than she is now as the background on her phone. Why?

"I don't remember myself being that large," she said.

The photo, along with a pair of size 32 pants she refuses to throw away, serves as a reminder of a time when, she said, she could barely stand up. The reminders are motivation to keep up her new lifestyle.

In her two-and-a-half year journey, a lot more has changed about the retired middle-school teacher than her new ability to fit her trainer in those pants with her. Not only does she look different, but she thinks differently about food and exercise. Before she started her weight loss, she says she was a stress eater. Now, she's found another outlet.

"Before when I was stressed, I was gonna eat Oreos. And I don't mean a handful. I mean the whole bag," she said. "Now when I'm stressed, I hit the gym."

Riser found that step--understanding that stress-eating was her real problem--was very important.

"I don't think anybody wakes up and says, 'I want to be obese.' There's an underlying reason."

Riser said the underlying reasons for struggles with weight can be different for everyone, but that what's important is finding an alternative to unhealthy habits as a solution.

She also emphasizes that it's not something that happens overnight, and there is no definite endpoint when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. That belief and her passion for coaching others is why she started her Facebook support group, Kat's Lifestyle Journey. On the page, Riser and others post recipes and tips that they found useful during their weight loss journeys. She said she hopes this encourages people who think they may not be able to lose weight.

"I'm a normal person," she said, despite her success story. "Anybody can do it."

Here are some strategies Kathleen uses that may help you, too:

  1. Educate yourself.
    There's a wealth of information about what's good for you and what isn't online. Kathleen said she's constantly teaching herself about healthy eating habits. What's more, when she learned about the ingredients in some foods--including all processed foods--she cut them out forever.

  2. Make plans, but eat before you go.
    Most people who overeat do it within the confinement of their home, Kathleen said, so getting out of the house gives less opportunity for non-stop eating. At the same time, preparing a healthy meal at home is easier, so Kathleen will often eat at home right before going out, then have a small healthy snack while out if one is available.

  3. Build a support system.
    In a recent Facebook post, Kathleen explained: "Accountability! Find someone you can trust - ask questions to - knows about health/nutrition and lock arms with them!" She credits her trainer, Shaun Lloyd, with much of her success, and also works closely with her doctor.

  4. If you need motivation, think of your loved ones.
    Kathleen said that being overweight affected her family, too, and that is motivation to keep up her healthy habits.

  5. Don't get discouraged by small weight fluctuations.
    Kathleen's weight can fluctuate as many as eight pounds in any given week. She never considers this a setback, but a natural part of the process.

  6. Try different solutions to find what works for you.
    For Kathleen, Advocare's 24-Day Challenge made the difference, but she said she tried many other products and methods before she found the one that stuck, and nutritional supplement products may not be right for everyone.

  7. You'll know you're on the right track when the healthy stuff tastes better.
    Kathleen said that when unhealthy food starts to taste good, she knows it's time to make a change.

  8. Don't believe others when they tell you you can't.
    Two days after Kathleen was ridiculed by a gym worker for being "one of those people who will break our equipment," she was back at another gym, where she found her current trainer. Also, she went public with her story after she saw an online comment about how people over 50 "can't" lose weight. She wants to spread the word that they can--she did.
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