I Lost 30 Pounds After I Quit My Gym and Allowed Myself to Eat Ice Cream

After years struggling with stress eating, Megan Barracato worked to find balance in her diet.

Photographs courtesy Megan Barracato

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one local’s story. Want to share your Transformation Story? Email ccunningham@phillymag.com

Who: Megan Barracato, 30, an attorney from Roxborough

Who I wanted to make a change: “Growing up, I was incredibly active. I was a competitive dancer from ages five to 18, and I continued to dance even throughout college. Then, in 2009, I started law school, and my mental and physical health started to decline. I am a notorious stress eater, and I had been trying to reduce my anxiety with food. I put on close to 30 pounds in two years.

“I distinctly remember one day in December of 2010, I looked in the mirror and I didn’t even recognize myself. Not only had I gained so much weight, but I no longer felt like the strong or confident girl I used to be. I realized right then and there that my unhealthy binge eating had to stop, and I needed to find a different way to deal with my stress. I vowed to stop eating take-out, and start getting active again. I bought some Jillian Michaels DVDs, threw out the garbage in my pantry, and never looked back!”

How long it took: “Initially I lost most of the weight in about three or four months, but it has taken eight years of consistent workouts, meal preparation, and pure dedication to remain healthy, and the journey is still ongoing!”

Height: 5’3″

Starting weight: 145

Current weight: 127

What all changed: “I’ve gone through a lot of transitions since the beginning of my weight-loss journey. My entire perspective on life, fitness, and food has changed many times, and I think I have finally reached a point where I really understand balance. I am stronger and faster than I have ever been.  My anxiety is controlled, and my relationship with food is so much healthier. I wake up each morning happy, energized, and ready to crush my goals!”

“If I were to completely cut off chocolate or pizza, and just eat salad all day every day, I would end up binge eating and destroying all of my progress.”

How I changed my diet: “I learned over the course of my fitness journey that depriving myself of all of the foods I love just is not sustainable. If I were to completely cut off chocolate or pizza, and just eat salad all day every day, I would end up binge eating and destroying all of my progress. A few years ago I discovered the 80:20 rule – which essentially means that I choose healthy foods 80 percent of the time, and my other favorite not-so-healthy foods 20 percent of the time. This means that I incorporate lean protein, whole grain carbs, and healthy fats into every meal. Then, if I want a cupcake at a birthday party, or an ice cream cone on a summer night, I just do it.”

Photographs courtesy Megan Barracato

How I changed my exercise plan: “The best decision I ever made was giving up my gym membership! I have a bench, barbell, dumbbells, jump rope, and treadmill in my basement and that is all I need! I used to follow a lot of different fitness programs, but now my workouts mostly just come from my own head. I usually workout five to six times a week at 5 a.m., and I make sure to incorporate HIIT cardio moves between all of my weight lifting sets to keep my heart rate up.”

“It took me a long time to see food as fuel rather than a reward or a fix for stress.”

The hardest part:The hardest part of my transformation was readjusting my attitude towards food. It took me a long time to see food as fuel rather than a reward or a fix for stress. I still hate salad, but I have figured out that I don’t have to eat it for every meal in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I can still eat foods that I love AND stay in shape.”

What I’m most proud of: “My consistent dedication. I think of so many times when I could have given up or become lazy, but I have stayed faithful to this lifestyle for eight years and I’m extremely proud of that.”

What I want everyone to know: “The saying ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you’ is the truth! There is no magic diet or pill or plan that will transform you overnight. Change takes time, patience, and most of all, hard work. But if you’re willing to give it a try, you’ll never regret feeling happier, stronger, or more confident.”

Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how: