“I became an athlete (and lost 75 pounds).”

A newfound addiction to running (and competing) helped this Toronto woman lose 75 pounds’and gain mountains of confidence

Source: Web exclusive: August 2008

The proof was on film: Lesley Taylor, a Toronto-based corporate trainer in the financial sector, was seriously overweight. “I couldn’t believe how big I’d gotten,” she says, about seeing pictures from her summer vacation. It was 1996, she was 32, and 235 pounds (at 5’7). With a history of heart disease in her family, Taylor was determined to make some changes—little did she know the transformation that awaited.

The breaking point

At around the same time, Taylor picked up Bob Greene and Oprah’s hit book Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life and had an emotional breakthrough. “I put on the weight to distance myself from other people. If I don’t let anyone get close to me, I won’t be left or hurt. It was a mechanism for self-protection.”

The challenge

To lose weight and, more importantly, gain inner confidence.

The plan

Initially, Taylor started counting calories, and hit the treadmill at her work’s gym five days a week without fail. She shed 25 pounds, and after entering a 5-kilometre race sponsored by her work in 1998, she was bitten by the running bug. Despite weighing more than 200 pounds, Taylor joined a number of Running Room clinics and began running seriously. “I never saw myself as an athlete before," she says. "And I love the social component of training.” Taylor also realized she was competitive—with herself. She was amazed every time she achieved one of her goals, and slowly her confidence grew. “Success breeds success,” she says.

The biggest obstacle

Besides a penchant for sweets, Taylor has hit quite a few plateaus over the past 12 years. “It is so hard when you follow a diet so carefully for 10 days and don’t lose a pound.” But Taylor never gave up, adding that she turned to her running group friends and an online group for support.

The results

By 1999, Taylor had run an 8K, 10K and half-marathon and had competed in her first triathlon in Milton, Ont., part of the Ontario Women’s Triathlon Series. In 2000, she shed another 25 pounds on a low-carb diet, and kept the weight off by keeping close tabs on her daily caloric intake. Over the years, Taylor has lost a total of 75 pounds, and has just 10 pounds to go to reach her goal weight of 150 pounds. “I look great and I am happy when I look in the mirror. But I am also way more confident inside.” Taylor’s now run three marathons and dozens of triathlons, including two Ironman races, in 2003 in Lake Placid, N.Y. and in 2006 in Penticton, B.C. With each success, she says, “I realize I can be successful at the next goal I set.” She’s planning to do a third Ironman in Lake Placid in 2009. (See Taylor’s before and after photos.)

The tips

Find what you like to do, do it when you like.
“People always ask me what is the best type of exercise to do, or when should they do it. Find one you like, and do it whenever it works best. Life comes first, so you’ve got to fit exercise in around it.”

Every meal is a chance for a do-over.
Taylor says she avoids a common trap: the tendency to blow off eating healthy for a whole day (or the week) after one bad meal choice. “Just make the next meal a good one,” she says.

Set goals, not limits.
Taylor encourages people to avoid complicated goal-setting; otherwise, there’s a risk of giving up. “Just do more than what you did yesterday. It doesn’t have to be huge.”

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