Inspiration: Deneen Young’s Incredible 139-Pound Weight-Loss Journey

One reader rehabbed her unhealthy lifestyle — and now she feels better than ever.

Deneen Young, before and after.

Deneen Young, before and after.

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Name: Deneen Young

Age: 49

Home: Overbrook Park

Starting weight: 264 pounds

Current weight: 125 pounds

Total time it took to lose the weight: 1.5 years 

My weight-loss wakeup call: I realized my weight was getting in the way of my life as I was nearing the 260-pound mark. I was hospitalized with pneumonia and told the morning after being admitted, “We expected you to be on a ventilator.” I began to cry and promised myself I was going to get on track with my health and lose the weight. Well, that didn’t happen — I tried again and again and again, using different tools and programs, but nothing worked. I was miserable and began to make everyone around me miserable. I had finally come to terms with my weight. I was confident and beautiful and didn’t need to be a small size to know that. But, as much as I tried to convince myself that I was okay with how I looked and felt, deep down I wasn’t all right.

Then, in February 2011, when I was at my heaviest — 264 pounds — my uncle gave me tough love in a conversation. He said, “Why are you killing yourself, and what are you going to do about it? We all love you and want you here on this Earth for a very long time. Don’t you want to live long enough to see your grandchildren?” The answer was yes. So I decided to make a change.

Deneen Young

Deneen Young

How I did it: After much prayer and research, I went to my family doctor and shared my interest in bariatric surgery; she was thrilled and referred me to Jefferson Hospital’s bariatric department. My consultation was in March, and I decided on the gastric sleeve surgery. After that it seemed like each step in the process was a breeze. I wanted this to be a jumpstart, but my goal was to transform my body, mind and spirit — in other words, to change my entire lifestyle. So it was more than surgery.

My surgery was on July 18, 2011. I have been determined, dedicated, disciplined and devoted to honoring God with my temple and caring for it. I have learned how to eat whole foods (I am a “clean” eater) and gained knowledge of what to eat and when to eat knowing that food is fuel for my body. I had never been an athlete, but now I am. I am a runner; I’ve completed nine half marathons and one marathon just over three years. Never in my life did I imagine I would commit to the gym, boot camp (I love lifting weights), Spin and rowing classes two to three days a week in addition to my running. Sunday mornings are set aside for my long runs, even when I am not training. I continue to celebrate using MyFitnessPal to log the food I put into my body. As of today, I have been logging for 1,050 days.

The moment I realized I was succeeding: When I thought to myself, “This is second nature to me now; my body actually craves working out and eating right.” Also, watching my bigger body transform to a leaner one blew my mind! Ultimately, it’s about feeling great, not being out of breath any longer when walking up a flight of stairs, and being a runner. My body feels healthy, and knowing that I am athletic goes a long way. I am strong and owning it!

Biggest obstacles I had to overcome: When the winter months come, I don’t move as much, so the scale moves up — that drives me nuts. But the blessing is that when I see it, I immediately take note and make adjustments. Thanks to my trainer, I have learned to focus on my body fat and not just the number on the scale. My nutritionist has been a huge help in this area, too.

My three best tips for anyone trying to lose weight:

  1. Find the right tool for you, then do everything for you and no one else. Acknowledge that this is a lifestyle change!
  2. Surround yourself with people who will push and motivate you to be a better you.
  3. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. There is NO quick fix!

The one thing I would say to my old self: Never give up. Love and like yourself first. Stay active. Keep your nutritionist and trainer in your life. Most of all, keep pressing and keep pushing!

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