My Exercise History Part 1

by Andie Mitchell on April 4, 2011

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Let’s chat about exercise for a minute.

Now, having lost 135lbs, I am frequently asked what I did to lose it.  I’ve decided to write a few posts about the way I moved then and the way I move now. The road and then the reflection, naturally.

Here is what I hear most often:

  1. “You must bust your butt in the gym!”

  2. “I bet you work out a lot.”

  3. “Do you run?”

  4. “Is it ever okay to buy Kraft Marshmallow Crème when the original Fluff brand is out of stock?”

Here are my answers:

  1. Nope.
  2. No siree bob.
  3. No.
  4. Never. (I had to.)

So…what’s the deal then?

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I walk. Not particularly fast, not particularly powerfully, and no, not really in a way that most humans would consider graceful.

That last one is unfortunate.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Years ago, when I set about losing fifty thousand pounds (give or take a pound), I joined the YMCA. I know I’ve told the story before, but if you’ll just…indulge me, I like to repeat myself. Think of me like your Nana.

What was I talking about?

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Ah yes, the Y.

So it was 2005, a Saturday morning in June, and I had just arrived home from my sophomore year of college. My best friend and I bought cheap memberships to the local YMCA because, as I was fond of doing every summer, I was planning to transform myself by August’s close and go back to school looking great. I walked into the locker room, knowing that I was the biggest I had ever been, and that’s saying a lot because I had never in my 20 years been anything but big. Not a single day of slender to look back on.

I stepped on the scale, because you know, we all need a starting place, and saw a number I was really not ready for.

268.

That’s two hundred plus sixty plus eight. I’m 5’9,” and though that height is forgiving, it’s not that forgiving.

And I…was…terrified.

I can honestly say that I didn’t know if I’d ever actually be able to do it. Lose the weight. I spent my whole life thinking, ‘someday I’m going to do it! Just you wait, and then life will be–perfect.”

But all of a sudden, nearing 300lbs, that canned, prerecorded message wasn’t auto-playing in my head. I saw myself in five years, ten years, only growing bigger, only making the distance between healthy and dying farther.

I suppose I woke up. I blinked, breathed in, and in that one moment at the Y I knew that if I did not start then, if I did not make even one change, that my life might never be what it should. What I wanted it to be.

For the rest of that summer, I took group cardio classes, I used the elliptical, the treadmill, the stair master. I won’t say it was fun, but I will say that like anything new, and like any challenge you embark on, it was exciting at first. I had my best friend with me. Britney Spears was still making music that moved me.

And then, at the end of that 2005 summer, I was 30lbs lighter. I went back to school feeling good about myself. And though I continued to try and eat well, aimed for smaller portions, and maaaaybe walked to classes, I stopped working out. Largely because I never truly liked it.

By December, three months later, I had probably lost another 20lbs, just being moderate about my life. I still enjoyed cocktails and beer and umpteen late night pizzas, because that was a very integral part of college, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But, overall, maybe I was more mindful. Something told me that two drive through runs within 30 minutes were excessive. Side note: I’m still angry at whatever told me that.

The next month, January, I moved to Rome for the semester to study Italian film. I walked everywhere. No, excuse me, I just need to find my megaphone. Is this thing on? I WALKED Ev-Er-Y-Where.

Everywhere.

And when I was done walking to every monument, every antique church, through every piazza, I walked some more.

I suppose I was trying to move as much as possible. I took the stairs when there were escalators available; I walked to class when there were buses; I climbed Mt. Vesuvius on a rainy Tuesday morning when my unbalanced self would have been better suited sitting at its base. And I joined a gym in Rome. You cannot begin to imagine the oddity I was in a little old gym in Trastevere. Me, three middle aged men, four dumb bells, a few weight benches, and a rickety old treadmill, was all that occupied the second floor space. My memories of it are filtered in that grainy, old-timey photo haze, the same dated effect as the photos in my mother’s childhood album. Everything is tinted yellow, blown out from sunlight, dusty almost.

There, in a city, and a country, that doesn’t necessarily believe in formal exercise, I jogged. I worked my way up from walking and jogging for 10 minutes (and half-keeling over) to being able to run for 30 minutes straight. If I close my eyes tight, I can still almost feel the up and down swinging of a body with essentially three filled backpacks of excess strapped to it. That terrible chafing of my thighs. The way pants snuggle up in such an uncomfortable, intimate manner.

Every run felt triumphant, like I was getting there.

I jogged on cobblestones that led to the Colosseum. I cruised by the Vatican and silently nodded to the Pope, who I imagined sitting in that fourth story window, his red velvet slippers propped up on a chez lounge. I took my first bikram yoga class next to St. Peter’s Basilica.

You try doing 26 poses in Italian.

I know.

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I’d say I probably jogged for 40 minutes every day I was there. And really, really really really, I did taste all the food. Every last gnocchi, every notable gelateria, every slice of pizza from Florence to Rome to Napoli to Capri. It’s a different way of eating there, though. The portions are smaller, the plates too. The elegance of a meal isn’t in the food alone, but in the way one lingers at the table, the way you sit for nearly half a day outside at a wrought iron table to people watch and sip espresso. There’s a purposeful nature to eating. It’s mindful, it’s celebrated, it’s an activity done three times per day. No more. No less.

And between moving around all day and exploring the city, exercising at my dusty little Roma gym, and eating fresh, whole foods- the heart of true Italian cuisine- I left Rome at the end of May 60 lbs smaller.

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I stepped off the plane a new person. I felt new. Alive and afire.

It was June again, and I rejoined that old YMCA where I’d spent the previous summer with my best friend. In no time, we were at it again: taking aerobics classes with the rowdiest of fifty-year-olds, Jazzercising, being debaucherous with exercise balls and an open weight room. Laughing. Laughing. Laughing.

I’d almost call it fun.

I said almost.

I lost another twenty pounds over those next few months.

And on the final day of summer, just as I was saying goodbye to my best friend, Sweet sayonara to the Y, and heading back to school for my final collegiate year, I saw a number I didn’t think I’d ever see.

135.

One hundred plus thirty plus five.

Stay tuned for Part 2. *I promise it won’t be as drawn out and agonizing.

*Do not believe anything that I mark with an asterisk.

{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Halley April 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Ah the feeling of thighs chaffing is one of my own memories.
It definitely goes to show that you don’t need to be a gym bunny to achieve the weight you want to be. Thanks for the heads up.
Looking forward to the next *brief post.
* I like them either way.

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Kristi April 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I loved reading your post. Every single word. My weight is the biggest it has ever been, and though I’m too scared to get on the scale to see those numbers, none of my clothes fit. I feel terrible and terrified. Thank you for this post.

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Nikki April 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Can I be honest with you? Italy has changed my outlook on food and movement and being healthy too. I’ve lived here almost 5 years and am leaving next month. I’m scared for my waistline to move back to the States. I’m anxious about the drive thrus and the rushed eating in restaurants and the supermarkets with ready-made everything.

I’m making goals for myself. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get a job so I have tons of cooking plans. But the States have Krispy Kremes. I love Kripsy Kremes. I’ll be praying a lot between now and then.

I’m excited to hear the rest of your story.

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Stephanie April 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Nikki, where do you live? I live in Milan right now!!! Don’t leave!!!! everyone leaves.. why???
And Andrea, your sight on italy is so right on!!!! I have lost my weight living in Milan too. Holland – where I am from – is not too bad in food either but never as fresh and wholesome as Italian food.
So nice to have found fellow foreigners having lived/living the same thing!
on this note I am going to bed to wake up and go to my – not so scrappy – new gym around the corner and get some miles done… :) notte!

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Can You Stay for Dinner April 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Aaaahhhh Italia! How I miss it :)

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johnny April 5, 2011 at 2:43 am

You are such a beutiful person! Your outsides just had to catch up to the inside. I think inside you where always a thin person. You have an infectious smile that I’m sure goes all the way deep into your soul. I can’t wait for the “rest of the story”.
(I was always thin until the dreaded mid 40′s) I’ve got a long way to go and am very happy to know you did it without the heavy gym excercise! :)

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Bunny April 5, 2011 at 3:11 am

You are such an inspiration! When I read your posts, you make me feel that losing weight is fun!!!!!!!

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Alisa April 5, 2011 at 3:36 am

Beautiful and very inspiring.I cant wait to read the rest of this story.

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Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean April 5, 2011 at 3:52 am

love this! you’re such an inspiration :)

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Cara April 5, 2011 at 4:45 am

Thanks for sharing. As a fellow reformed fat girl (although, my 70-75lb loss sounds weak in comparison, but I am 5’2″) I know that we will always be sharing our stories with others. I’m a little different in that I’m still a gym rat, big on weight lifting and high intensity work to constantly challenge myself, but it just goes to show, there are many paths to the same goal.

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Lisa @ Thrive Style April 5, 2011 at 4:49 am

I love this story—thank you so much for sharing. I’m so inspired by you, and it’s very interesting how you describe it. I work with people who are trying to lose weight (often unsuccessfully), and I can see how they just aren’t ready to change yet—they haven’t had that aha moment you had on the scale.

You are amazing!

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Megan April 5, 2011 at 10:39 am

It really is impossible to get truly motivated in weight loss until you feel there’s no giving up. Like, you’ve gotta do it for something DEEP down inside of YOU – not for anyone else or for a silly goal. That’s my experience anyway.

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat April 5, 2011 at 5:14 am

Great post Andrea!!! I loved learning more about you, and your journey to your healthy weight is so inspiring and amazing! Like you, I am also tall (5’10″). I started my weight loss endeavour at 200lbs, and like you said, a tall frame is forgiving, but not THAT forgiving! I can’t wait to hear part 2!

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Amy @ Second City Randomness April 5, 2011 at 5:20 am

I miss the walking aspect of college. By my last year, I refused to take the bus unless there was a downpour. And I miss it so so much! A quick circle around the office isn’t quite the same as how pretty campus was when spring was in full bloom.

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Jessica April 5, 2011 at 5:47 am

The Y helped me lose 30lbs for my wedding, and 90% thanks to classes where someone yelled at me to hold my squat longer, dip deeper and do one more pushup. I still go 4 days/week at lunch and it’s the best investment I ever made. Although I’m still hoping that stock I bought in robots pulls through in the year 2040….

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Ally@GirlVFood April 5, 2011 at 5:56 am

I completely agree with all of this, PARTICULARLY the ’3 meals a day’ thing. It’s so much healthier for your body to eat 3 square meals, rather than snack. If you keep on snacking, you send your blood sugar on a trip to rival Space Mountain.

Diet truly is 80% of health. Physical activity should just be the buffer.

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Lindsay April 5, 2011 at 6:01 am

I really enjoyed this post :). I was really overweight in high school, and I didn’t exercise much when I lost a bunch of weight, but I do now for both fitness and mental health. It’s interesting to reflect on the ways you change–besides the obvious–in the weight loss journey.

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hungryhealthyhappy April 5, 2011 at 6:12 am

Now it’s my turn to tell you that you are AMAZING! I love your honesty. Just committing to move more can make such a difference in your whole outlook on life, as it did for you. There is such a sense of triumph and accomplishment with any kind of exercise (although, I hate that word–it feels like something I shouldn’t like!). But when you move and you just FEEL so much better, there’s no going back. Can’t wait to read the excessively long Part 2 of this! :)

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paul jennette April 5, 2011 at 6:19 am

Wow! Congratulations on your success! I can’t imagine what a challenge this must have been. I too I’m trying to change a bad habit(smoking). I have smoked for 11 years now and can really feel the pain. So I’m starting slowly and trying to work out 5-6 times a week and “schedule smokes” instead of whenever I want. Thank you for your inspiring story, I can’t wait for part 2!! Paulie

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Rachel @ The Avid Appetite April 5, 2011 at 6:37 am

Wow, thank you for sharing this story! You are an inspiration! And congrats on your journey thus far! Can’t wait to read part 2.

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brandi April 5, 2011 at 6:49 am

so inspiring – thank you for sharing!

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Renee McLeod April 5, 2011 at 7:16 am

You are such an inspiration. I am going for a walk right now! Thank you for this terrific blog, I will put myself on the waiting list for the book you need to publish, your blog is a very pleasurable read.

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Katie G April 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I’ve been saying the same thing here for a while. Sign me up for the book! Andrea’s recipes and way of thinking have completely altered my outlook on food, health, and myself.

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Beth April 5, 2011 at 7:25 am

Wow. Amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing this. You are such a gifted writer and your posts are so easy and delightful to read!

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Clarissa @ Sober and the City April 5, 2011 at 7:29 am

Wow this is such an amazing story! I LOVE walking! And it’s so amazing you went to Italy and LOST weight! And your pictures are beautiful – you made my heart feel warm today, woo hoo for changing your life!

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Shannon @ BetterNextTime April 5, 2011 at 7:36 am

I love posts like this! As someone in the midst of a weight loss, it’s so encouraging and inspiring. Keep ‘em coming, pretty please! :)

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Kelly April 5, 2011 at 7:44 am

I love that you did this the RIGHT way! No strict dieting, no overexercising, just being more mindful and moving more. Kudos to you. I <3 U!

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Shanna, like Banana April 5, 2011 at 7:44 am

Bikram in Italian? Oh yes yes yes please!

Walking is so underrated — it’s my go-to form of exercise and it works!

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Kelly April 5, 2011 at 7:59 am

I love posts about your weight loss history. :) Bring on the long stories! I promise they’re not agonizing, but actually very interesting.

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Joanna April 5, 2011 at 8:04 am

Beautifully inspiring. I love the way you write with such honesty. I have been a reader of your blog for a few months now and I enjoy all of your recipes but was pleasantly surprised to find all your articles on your weight loss! You are so inspiring and like I said, you speak with such honesty .. I really feel you are helping so many people see that they don’t have to deprive themselves to lose weight! Thanks for sharing this. :)

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Stefanie April 5, 2011 at 8:05 am

I LOVE YOU! You’re story is amazing… and I think you are simply powerful. I’m going to share your blog with my website readers!

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TiffanyS April 5, 2011 at 8:15 am

that is veryyyy insiprational! Thank you for telling us your story and I can’t wait for part 2!

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MelissaNibbles April 5, 2011 at 8:15 am

YOU DESERVE A BOOK DEAL.

This post is so well written (all of yours are). I love that you still enjoyed life while trying to lose weight. I wish it was something I was able to do. You’re an inspiration to any woman or young girl who wants to lose weight. Thank you.

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idreamofgreenie April 5, 2011 at 8:16 am

I quit my pricey gym membership a couple years ago and have never looked back. Walking is my main form of exercise as well and I walk about 6-8 miles every day and consider myself lucky I don’t have to do other forms of boring cardio.

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Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food April 5, 2011 at 8:27 am

it truly is amazing what a healthy, active lifestyle can do without structured exercise. What an inspirational story, thanks so much for sharing! :)

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Leah @ Why Deprive? April 5, 2011 at 8:56 am

I love when you post things like this Andrea. You are so honest, and sincere.

I think walking deserves more credit that it gets, its a damn good form of exercise. My dad has always told me (because I run sloooowwww) that walk, run jog, it doesnt matter. You’re still carrying the same amount of weight, over the same distance. Who cares how you get there, as long as you do it.

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Lauren at Keep It Sweet April 5, 2011 at 8:59 am

You are one of the only bloggers that I enjoy reading long posts from. You are an amazing writer, probably because of all the honesty behind your posts. Thanks for being so inspiring!

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Lisa April 5, 2011 at 9:26 am

Thank you for sharing so much. I loved reading how important walking was to you. I think weight loss can happen with walking. I like working out, I like running and swimming but walking is still something that I enjoy doing too.

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Ann April 5, 2011 at 9:31 am

I just found your blog about a week ago after someone posted your muffin pan lasagna on pinterest. I was very curious to see how you managed to loose all that weight. Glad I only had to wait a week for my answer! You are beautiful inside and out.

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Carissa April 5, 2011 at 9:38 am

I loved this story! I went to Italy for 2 weeks after I graduated college and this brings back so many memories. The Italian style of eating brings food to another realm and their lifestyle is so conducive to being active without having a regimented gym routine. We walked everywhere and tasted everything and I came home a few pounds lighter.

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caitlin April 5, 2011 at 9:44 am

Thanks for this post. I have also lost a large amount of weight but I still bust my butt on almost a daily basis fearing if I don’t I will gain it all back. Thanks to your blog I am seeing that I don’t have to kill myself on a daily basis. Thanks!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun April 5, 2011 at 10:07 am

This wasn’t drawn out or agonizing in the least. And I say again – you really need to write a book. Your expressive words get me EVERY time! You are such an inspiration in more ways than you can know. :)

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sarah April 5, 2011 at 10:17 am

so inspiring. it makes me believe I can do it.

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Whitney April 5, 2011 at 10:18 am

FANTASTIC post! I struggle with my weight as well and am trying to find the motivation and mindset needed to get down to a healthier weight. I am moving to Eastern Europe this fall and I know full well that means LOTS of walking and a complete overhaul of the foods I eat. My walking these days consists of about 500-1000 steps per day to and from my office and the bathroom. Other than that I sit on my butt at a desk all day long. Ugh.

This is probably an intrusive question, but I was wondering if you could pose some “before” pictures. Maybe it’s the voyeur in me, but I would love to see just how far you have come. You look amazing now and I am sure you did before too, but it’s nice to be able to “compare.”

Quickly becoming an avid reader,

Whitney

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Di April 5, 2011 at 11:13 am

Great post. It’s nice to see you can achieve weight loss goals without killing yourself in the gym!

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Cynthia (It All Changes) April 5, 2011 at 11:35 am

Such a wonderful perspective. Enjoying food for taste and not quantity and life for the fun it can bring.

The pictures are fantastic to show that health should be fun and not grueling work.

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Sarah April 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Thank you for this! I love hearing more and more about your journey…truly inspiring and needed :-)

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Kate (What Kate is Cooking) April 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I visited a friend who lived in Rome and I’ve never walked more in my life! My friend was an average weight when she moved there, but she lost weight just from constantly moving!

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snackgirlgoeshealthy April 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I loved your story! I love how you did not push yourself to run! That’s awesome! Your such an ispiration! I can’t wait for part 2 and you look so GOOD!

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Heather April 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm

This post really makes me want to go to Italy and sit and eat.

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Blog is the New Black April 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm

GREAT BLOG!!!!! Found you through How Sweet.

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Jo April 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I’m a new reader, and I just have to say, this is awesome! I love that you never put yourself down or made fun of yourself for being overweight in the post. Thanks for sharing this, and I can’t wait to read the rest.

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Alexa @ Simple Eats April 5, 2011 at 3:30 pm

You made me tear up so much in this post. It’s just so honest, enthralling and beautifully written. Amazing job, and again, congrats :)

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Rose April 5, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Wow Andrea! Every post is just so amazing. I REALLY mean this. And like everyone else.. I’m waiting for the book.
You have an amazing talent with writing.

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Jillian April 5, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Thank you for sharing! So so SOOO inspiring!

I love reading each and every one of your blog posts!

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Lu April 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm

So, what you’re saying is that I need to move to Italy? Right? I just want to make sure I explain it correctly to my hubby as I pack my bags.

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Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic April 5, 2011 at 6:01 pm

What a lovely, lovely story. I’m a new reader, but already looking forward to reading more :)

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cleaneatingchelsey April 5, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Wow – you are absolutely amazing! It is incredible what eating right and moving can do for a person!

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Dishes of Mrs. Fish April 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm

This was beautiful, Andrea. I loved every word, and like so many other posters suggested, I believe a book should be in your future.
Probably because that would mean a book tour. Call me selfish, but then book tour would probably come to Ohio. :)

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Mary April 5, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I just wanted to make a comment about Johnnys comment. He said your outsides just had to catch up to your insides… but Andrea you were ALWAYS beautiful.. even 135 pounds more. I don’t want overweight people to think that being thin is the only way to be beautiful because thats so not true. Having curves is beautiful too.

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Can You Stay for Dinner April 5, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Could not agree more, Mary. I always felt beautiful. Truly, always. Thanks for bringing this up :)

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River April 6, 2011 at 3:55 am

What a great story! Congratulations on your obvious love of life!

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Lizzy April 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I’ve been wanting to read this for days since I saw the link on twitter and work has been insane. I love your writing, I love this story. You are so inspiring and I would LOVE to read a book from you- you totally deserve a book deal!!! And are you originally from Boston? I thought I saw one time that you were. Your blog is AMAZING.

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Brynn January 8, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I moved to China and did similar things, and experienced a weight loss of 70 lbs by the time I returned to north america. I then became a vegetarian and lost a further 30, and i’ve been about 115-125 ever since (i’m going on.. geez… 10 years now!)
I have *never* been a gym bunny; the key for me is moderation, healthy food (that is, fewer carbs, more vegetables, and I stopped using an oven all-together) walking everywhere faster than you’re comfortable with, and taking the stairs when they’re available. I now know I need to exercise, but for my health and my heart, not to stay thin. Don’t fear the maintenance!
Thanks for sharing your story and keeping a blog like this – it’s great inspiration and encouragement for others, and it helps those of us who have made it stay proud of ourselves and feel good about our accomplishments!

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Jordan Gillins January 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm

As its 11:05 in Tennessee I sit and think how Im 21 and although I’ve wished on every finger and toe that my life would play out like the twilight series. I realized I relate to you more thank Bella, or Emma Stone, or any other gorgeous person famous or non famous. Reading you blog.. might I mention is the first blog I’ve ever read and didn’t just click on to look at pictures.

you did more than inspire me.

Paris is 10 months here I come.
-thank you

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Nichelle January 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I wanna see a ‘before’ picture…

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admin January 14, 2012 at 7:20 am

Hi Nichelle,

Here you go: http://www.canyoustayfordinner.com/what-i-miss-from-135lbs-ago/

Thanks for reading!

Andie

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Louise, Raspberries In Winter January 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm

This is super inspiring, and you got to live in Rome? CHE BELLA.

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Kerry January 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Reading this entry through tears in my eyes has inspired me in ways you will never know. Thank you for sharing your story. I too am 5’9″ and I am about 250lbs right now, my heaviest of my life. I need to make a change and I need to make it NOW. Thank you for instilling a little motivation in my otherwise lazy self!

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Taylor January 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm

At the beginning, you said that you didn’t run. Later in the post, you talked about running and jogging to lose weight.

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admin January 26, 2012 at 4:25 am

Hi Taylor,

I understand the confusion. At the beginning, I meant: in maintenance and in my present life, I don’t run or formally exercise at all. And I’m able to stay at a weight that I love. In this series of posts I chose to go back to the beginning and show how my relationship evolved. I guess my goal here is to show people that to live well, to be at a happy weight, you don’t need to work out like a fiend.

Thanks for reading :)

Andie

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A Girl, A Style November 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Wow, Andie! I’ve just stumbled upon your blog and immediately was so enraptured by your incredible tale and your wonderfully witty writing, that I’ve just spent the past hour reading. Although I’m not especially overweight, I’ve always had in the back of my mind that I’ll lose those 10 extra kilos I don’t feel I should be carrying around; but never truly stuck to any prolonged attempt to do anything about it. But you have just given me the human, real inspiration I needed.

Thank you for sharing this!

Briony xx

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Freya December 30, 2012 at 10:19 am

Your writing is inspiring! I hope you write often, because your style is so infectious. I just want to read more things! Also, I guess this post was inspiring. ;)

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Kasia December 31, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Amazing, amazing article!!! So on point and you hit the nail on the head. Thank you for writing this!

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Tammie February 27, 2014 at 8:10 pm

I was inspired by reading your story. I wasn’t into working out and liked the junk food too much. I took to walking just like you did. I did do some cardio and light weights and treadmill at one point but that didn’t last long. I lost 40 lbs then gained it back. I am inspired by reading your story to try and start walking again. Thanks for the inspiration- you Go Girl!

Tammie
FREE weight loss report:
http://lose10lbsfastandhealthy.com/lose10/

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