I Kept My New Year’s Resolution and Lost 80 Pounds

“Lose weight. Get fit. Do a triathlon.”

Those were among my new year’s resolutions last year, and for once, I accomplished them.

In hindsight, my goals for 2012 seem preposterous. I’d just given birth to my third child three months earlier. I was weary from sleep deprivation, carpooling duties, homework, laundry, slapping together meals, freelance work, and postpartum hormones. I didn’t have a lot of “baby weight” to lose, because I hadn’t gained much. It didn’t matter, though: I went into my third pregnancy already vastly overweight. I remember stepping on my ob-gyn’s scale that first visit after I learned I was pregnant again: I weighed 198 pounds. By the time I was ready to deliver, I weighed in at 220.

Through the miracles of birth and breastfeeding, by the time the new year rolled around (so to speak), I weighed 185 pounds, heavy by any definition but especially large on my 5’4″ frame. I posted only pictures of my kids on Facebook, and retreated from public view like Greta Garbo, if Garbo had been a puffy-faced mom and not a movie star.

After the new year, something clicked. I’d been committed to losing weight before, but as corny as it sounds, this time I had a mantra in mind, “This is your year,” and I just believed it. When I got roughly 30 pounds down, people really started to notice the change. Their kind words–and the thrill of clothes shopping–encouraged me to keep going, until I’d lost a total of 80 pounds: 45 of those through my own work and 35 due to delivery and nursing (thank you, my baby girl Fiona!). And just shy of my baby’s first birthday, I completed my first sprint triathlon.

People sometimes ask me how I lost weight and now seems like a good time to look back, as a handful of those pounds crept back on over the holidays and like a few of us here at Parents and well, everywhere, I’m on a kick again, getting up before dawn to exercise and deleting emails about free brownies in the office kitchen as fast as I can. (Trade secret: There is always free food when you work at a magazine!)

Here’s how I did it:

I gave myself infinite time to lose weight. There would be no crash diets or crazy schemes I couldn’t stick with for a long time. I needed a sensible approach with flexibility. For me that plan was Weight Watchers. I did it online.

I shook off setbacks. Sometimes, I ate more than I’d planned. There were weeks I’d lost only a half-pound, or nothing. I remembered my goal, and kept going.

I didn’t exercise right away. My past attempts at doing it all at once–dieting and hitting the gym–left me discouraged, and hungry. I focused exclusively on my food intake for a good six weeks, before I started feeling a little lighter, and felt encouraged to get moving. I walked my kids to school, and started jogging home with Fiona, just a few yards at a time at first, until I was running a mile, and then another, around the neighborhood.

But I did set a big fitness goal. That was a triathlon. I hadn’t laced up a pair of running shoes in years. I didn’t own a bike. But I had months to train. Think about it: What can’t you accomplish with months to prepare? I seized opportunities to exercise: If my husband met us in the evening at our outdoor community pool, he handled the kids while I swam laps. Sometimes I didn’t get to the gym until after 9pm, but I never regretted peeling myself off the couch to go.

I surrounded myself with crazy people. When you have a vision of yourself in mind–for me, it was “athlete”–it’s not the time to listen to skeptics wonder aloud how you’re going to fit in exercise between your baby/kids/commute/job. I hooked up with an awesome training group of crazy-in-a-good-way local women called the Triwomen. Why crazy? They believe anyone–that includes you–can do a triathlon. I met a 65-year-old who learned to swim just so she could compete in her first tri. Talk about inspiring!

I bought a bikini! I’d like to say I got fit for my health, and for my three kids. That’s true. But my happiest moment, second only to finishing the triathlon, arrived in the form of a Nike two-piece I bought for our beach vacation last summer. My body’s far from perfect, but in my new midnight-blue bikini I felt…good. I felt free playing in the ocean with my kids and husband, and boogie boarding to shore beside my son. I was healthy, happy, and for once, completely unselfconscious about how I looked. That tremendous high is motivation enough to keep me on track this coming year.

In 2013, I plan to run a half-marathon, another reach, considering I hadn’t run more than 4 miles at a stretch in all of 2012. But with the help of (crazy) committed friends, time, and training, I know I’ll get there.

Good luck with your goals, whatever they may be. This is your year!

Add a Comment
Back To GoodyBlog
  1. by Julie Marsh

    On January 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Yay you! My first sprint triathlon was how I motivated myself to get back into shape after my third baby, and boy, did it ever work! That was in 2008, and last year I completed my first marathon and my first half Ironman. I was never athletic prior to starting triathlon, and it makes me feel amazing to know what my body can do.

    Congrats to you, and best of luck with your half marathon training!

  2. by Janelle

    On January 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    That is so motivational! I was justing googling to see if I really needed to buy a belly bandit and admittedly a little scared of my post pregnancy belly but you have given me strength that I can work it off and not to worry. Go you!

  3. by Kara

    On January 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for the honesty and motivation!

  4. by Heather

    On January 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Thank you so much for this, Gail! You’re inspiring me to stick to my New Year’s resolution.

  5. by Elizabeth

    On January 2, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Go, Mama! My husband and I are gradually entering the tri world by relaying – I swim and run and he bikes…for now. Hopefully we we each do a full sprint tri very soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. by Cathy from Adore Your Place

    On January 2, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I had my third child 3 years ago and need to loose 80 lbs exactly. I am a professional interior designer for twenty years and I just launched a design blog that took me a year to build. That was a huge dream and my friends keep telling me what you told yourself, “This is my Year” I made it my mantra ,started yesterday by joining weight watchers online and made a goal to run the NYC marathon at age 50 (our similarities were crazy). I to have done this successfully before but now at 44, taking care of 3 kids ages 3, 12 & 15, running a design business and launching a blog it seemed impossible to take care of me. Reading your article felt like fate and I truly thank you for the inspiration! All of the best in 2013 Gail!

  7. by Gail

    On January 3, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Thank you for the nice comments!

    Wow, I’m feeling just as inspired reading your stories and plans, about half-Ironmans and running the NYC marathon and abandoning the belly bandit, for 2013.

    I’ll have to post back–I really want to hear everyone’s progress!

    Now let’s rock this year!

  8. by Bye Bye Booty.. ~ Amy Cushing | elephant journal

    On January 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

    [...] read a great article the other day by Parents contributor Gail O’Connor documenting her 80-pound weight loss. Sure, [...]

  9. by Jessica

    On January 9, 2013 at 10:26 am

    This is so inspiring, Gail! Thanks for talking so candidly about your journey.