For nearly 30 years, Danyeil Durrant, 42, struggled with a food addiction that kept her from living and nearly killed her. Today, she’s broken free and is breaking personal records almost every day.
I was 10 years old when I went on my first diet. My mother struggled with her weight and dieted frequently, and I think along the way, some of her issues rubbed off on me. The diet consisted of vegetable soup, a pickle, and a piece of cheese three times a day. I remember being so hungry I would sneak food whenever I could. That’s when my unhealthy relationship with food began.
That unhealthy relationship continued throughout my teens and into my 30s. I ate fast food three times a day. I loved macaroni and cheese, pasta with Alfredo sauce, and greasy cheeseburgers. Every time I was about to go on a diet—which was often—I would spend the entire weekend eating all my forbidden foods and probably gained another 5 to 10 pounds before I even started. To lose weight, I tried everything—pills, shots, shakes, starvation. I survived on 600 calories a day for six months. Each time, I would lose 40 to 60 pounds, and then I’d stop and gain every pound back.
Sadly, I put 30 years of my life on hold because of my weight, thinking, if I could just lose the weight then I could…take a vacation, meet the perfect guy, get a great job. I avoided going out, spending too many days watching super heroes and eating chips.
All the while, my weight itself physically kept me from living. I couldn’t lift my own body out of the bathtub, I paid for first-class tickets because I couldn’t fit in coach, and I had to request tables at restaurants because I was too large for booths. But oddly, no one talked about my weight, not even me. I was the elephant in the room.
I remember one day when I was eating dinner at my mom’s house, the chair broke beneath me. My mother and I laughed hysterically while I was lying helpless on the floor, but I was laughing to keep myself from crying.
But my real wake-up call came at the doctor’s office for routine blood work in early 2012. He said, “Your cholesterol is so bad you are at risk of a cardiac event sometime in the next 10 years.” I was only 39—a HEART ATTACK? That’s when it hit me that I was slowly killing myself. I vowed to make changes and left the office crying.
What I did next is particularly alarming to me when I look back on it. I went straight to McDonalds for what I thought was my last fast food meal. While I was eating it, I thought, “IS this going to be my last meal? Am I going to die?” I clearly had a very unhealthy relationship with food, which would prove hard to break. I didn’t immediately change my ways, and unfortunately there were many more unhealthy meals after that one.
I ate one of those meals on August 3, 2012 at a birthday party for my sister—it was rice, steak, and veggies covered in creamy sauce at a Japanese restaurant. At that party, my sister and my 21-year-old niece, both overweight, told me they had joined Weight Watchers a few weeks ago and were already losing pounds. Although I’d tried what felt like hundreds of diets in the past, I’d never tried that one. I joined with my best friend the next morning.
At my first weigh-in, the bad news was I weighed 363.3 pounds. The good news: I was in the right place. For the first time in my life, I discovered how to create a healthy and balanced meal, with the right mix of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. (Here’s what a perfect day of eating enough protein looks like.) I discovered a new love for vegetables I’d never heard the names of before, like rutabaga. I also learned I could eat foods I liked—I just had to learn portion control. I made so many changes the first week that I expected a loss of 10 pounds or so. When I stepped on the scale and only saw I’d lost 1.2 pounds, I was devastated and demotivated. I knew I had to add some exercise.
The problem was, my knees were so bad that I couldn’t walk more than a few steps without pain, so I had to find another option to get moving. I begged my best friend and weight loss partner to join a gym with me until she agreed. Together, we spent 2 to 3 hours a night at the gym after work. At first, I could only do about 10 minutes on the treadmill. My knees barely bent enough to get onto the stationary bike, but I would do another 10 to 15 minutes there. My friend would strap my feet into the rowing machine because my stomach was too big to reach them. We would row side by side, and although the activity was extremely hard for me, it felt great to finally have some control over my life and my health.
With the addition of exercise, the weight started coming off, which was so motivating! I built up to lifting weights 5 to 6 days a week and doing some form of cardiovascular exercise for an hour each day. I couldn’t believe how quickly my body was transforming. (Add these strength training exercises to your daily routine and start to see results fast, in only 10-minutes a day with Prevention’s Fit In 10 DVD.) I felt unstoppable. For the first time in so long, my legs and shoulders grew muscular, and my jawline and biceps became visible. I looked like a new person. I went from a size 9 ½ shoe to a 7 ½, from a size 32 pants to a size 12, and from a size 5X shirt to a medium. Within only a year of joining weight watchers, I lost 100 pounds! Perhaps most importantly, my cholesterol dropped 37 points.
From there, I stayed motivated by coming up with unique challenges. On New Year’s Eve, I completed my year total of 2015 pushups. By the end of 2014, I also hit my goal of losing 150 pounds! For 2015, I vowed to do everything I couldn’t do when I weighed 363 pounds. I rode a bike, which I hadn’t done since I was a teenager. I went kayaking for the first time. I swam next to dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. I saw three concerts in one weekend and danced in public. The list goes on and on.
Now, I’m 150 pounds and 150 inches smaller, and I no longer find happiness in a bag of chips. I am up with the birds every day, ready to live the life I held myself back from for far too long. I am my own superhero.