Photo: Ruven Afanador

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Lindsay Gutierrez, New York City
Age: 25
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 268
Goal: Become fit and healthy and get my dream job

Being a first-generation Latina in the U.S., I understand all the factors—social, political, economic—that bring immigrants to this country. It took a while for my family to legalize themselves here, and I know what they went through, how dangerous that journey can be. So years ago, I set my sights on a job that would be especially meaningful to me: working with the Department of Homeland Security as a customs and border protection officer.

In February 2015, it was time for me to take the fitness evaluation for that position. It consisted mostly of push-ups, sit-ups and a stair-climbing challenge that lasted five minutes. I failed: I wasn't able to do one push-up or one sit-up, and I couldn't last on the steps for even a minute. It was so discouraging.

My weight has been an issue almost literally since birth: I was 11 pounds as a newborn and 100 pounds in first grade. Growing up, I was always the heavy one, the one who couldn't trade clothes with friends because they wouldn't fit me. In college, I put myself on a strict meal regimen, worked out twice a day, and lost 50 pounds. But when I moved to New York, my environment changed drastically; I was surrounded by different people—and different foods, all of which I wanted to try. Two winters later, I was back at square one. I had to sit for a minute and reflect on how I'd let myself go.

I'm currently working with personal trainers, and I graduate with my master's in May; I'll take the fitness test again at the end of the summer. By then I'm hoping I'll be physically ready because it's now or never. There's no "maybe next year" for me. I don't want my weight to hold me back from anything ever again.

Watch Lindsay tell her story at

The World Awaits
From top: Lindsay in 2012 in Sitges, Spain; at her June 2013 graduation in L.A. with a friend.

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Photo: Courtesy of Jen Patiglione-Brody

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Photo: Courtesy of Jen Patiglione-Brody