Here, an object lesson in how every journey is taken one step at a time.

October 2010 I signed up for a half marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I weighed 210 pounds. I don't know if you could even call my first training session a run since mostly I walked. But I'm not a quitter. And hey, I was still ahead of everybody on the couch. In several months, I was jogging a 13-minute mile.

March 2011 While training, I had gained 25 pounds. Working out more meant I was hungrier, and at work there were always cookies to celebrate a retirement, cake for a birthday. About a week before the race, I started a 40-day vegan diet with a group from church. Even though by day three I was tired, dizzy, and in desperate need of a burger, soon I felt lighter, more energetic. Yet when I saw a picture of myself from race day, I couldn't believe how big I was. So I decided to continue running and stick with the diet for another eight months.

September 2011 My first good run. Usually, I'd be dreading each mile, noting every cramp and ache. But this time, running didn't feel like a chore. Maybe it was a fluke, or the beautiful weather, or maybe, after nearly a year of running up to six times a week, I'd finally learned to breathe properly. Whatever the reason, on this day, I listened to the birds. I waved to other runners. It was the farthest I'd ever run.

January 2012 I got licensed teaching Zumba, a fitness class that uses dance, because I wanted to help people like me, who were insecure and not sure how to improve their health. Later I realized that an even better way to help would be to become a health coach. (I received my certification in June 2013.)

March 2012 People started to notice a difference in me. I was used to being the big girl, protective of my feelings. I overcompensated with a super-tough persona—friends called it my "beasty" behavior. One friend called me Queenie, after the bully in the Berenstain Bears books. But when one conversation turned to a woman I'd normally say something negative about, I just moved on to the next subject. My friend said, "Wait, where's Queenie?"

November 2012 Then I did something I never thought I'd do: signed up for a bikini competition, the kind where women pose onstage. I'd seen a friend compete in one and thought, "I could do this." I hadn't become some superathlete. But I craved the high of pushing myself. I got to work lifting weights, doing cardio, and eating mostly grilled chicken breasts and broccoli for six months.

May 2013 I had been so busy serving as committee chair for my sorority that I was cutting into my training time, skipping exercise altogether, and stopping at Chick-fil-A for a quick bite instead of doing meal prep at home. So after I was elected treasurer, I stepped down to make more time for fitness. It was a difficult decision, but my priorities had to shift.

July 2013 I didn't place in that bikini competition—but over the course of my weight-loss journey, I shed 60 pounds and squeezed into size 4 jeans. When I first laced up my running shoes in 2010, I didn't know I would come so far, but at every moment along the way, I proved to myself that I could make the right choices, keep pushing myself, and become the best version of me.


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