From Last-Place Finisher to Age-Group Winner After Losing 80 Pounds in 10 Months!

In 2004, I was 18 years old and tragically lost my father. I began living an unhealthy lifestyle which left me weighing 220 lbs. For almost 10 years I continued to not focus on my health & would eat primarily fast food & junk food. I was now a wife, mother to two young daughters & in school full time. My health was in trouble and I was continuing to gain more weight. It was now December 2013, when so many New Year’s Resolutions are made. I had to make a change…once and for all.

This decision came after breaking down – crying at my doctor’s office. I hated the way I looked and how I felt being overweight. I explained that “I was working so hard running and “trying” to lose weight…but it wasn’t working.” I told him how frustrating it was, and that I just felt miserable. His response was: “well, Rebecca…that’s great you’re running, but it really doesn’t matter if you’re not eating healthy!” When I got back to my car I read the summary paper from my appointment. It stated that the reason for my visit was: “obesity.” That word hit me really hard, but it was the reality.

My doctor’s response provided me with a mental breakthrough regarding health and nutrition. “You need to eat healthier” was an obvious response, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I was only hurting myself. I would run a couple miles, a few times a week, but would eat foods that were fried, processed, and unhealthy. I drank a lot of soda and my “happy place” was just sitting in front of the TV eating fast food.

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A few weeks after the episode at the doctor’s office, I decided to participate in the DeLeon Springs Half Marathon on January 5th, 2014.

I wanted to dedicate the run to the memory of my father since it was close to the 10-year mark since he had been gone. I also made the decision to use this event to kick start my quest for a healthier lifestyle.

I had never run over 5 miles before the 13.1 mile race. I didn’t train for the race, and didn’t know what to expect, or if I’d even finish. It was really tough, but I finished in 2 hours and 53 minutes. I placed LAST in my age group, but didn’t let this defeat me. I used this run as motivation to become a better and happier me. I made it to that finish line, but this was really just the start!

After the run, a friend told me about the app “Fooducate.” I had never heard of it before and decided to check it out. I was just amazed at the amount of helpful information that was available. I went crazy scanning everything in our kitchen. I was addicted!

To be completely honest, I had never really looked at nutrition labels in the past. I didn’t know what a “high level of sodium, sugar or saturated fat” was. I saw numbers, but didn’t know how many grams or milligrams of something were high or low. I had no idea what a good balance of carbs, proteins, or fats was.

I scanned everything I bought (or considered buying!) in the grocery store before purchasing it. By scanning food products, I was able to educate myself and compare the facts. I knew which foods were high or low in calories, sugar, fiber, sodium, carbs, and fat. I also learned about artificial coloring/flavors/sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, sodium nitrates, etc., which I had never paid any attention to before. I focused on healthier alternatives to the foods I was consuming, and started eating foods with a short ingredient list. I loved seeing the foods that just had one ingredient. For instance, the only ingredient in a sweet potato is…a sweet potato. The only ingredient in apples…is apples.

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My point is that so many foods that are “created” contain things that we just don’t need. They aren’t natural. “Food” has been modified and altered into something that just isn’t real. I used to eat Cheetos, Doritos, frozen pizzas and soda. All of this is made in a factory. It’s man made “food.” Educating myself helped me see how these processed foods were not beneficial to my health or well-being. I focused on the saying: “Live Food for Live Bodies” meaning anything that was alive at some point (fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish, etc.). As a result of scanning and learning about the foods I used to eat, I was able to have a better appreciation for these foods and their wholesome benefits.

I became more and more careful about what I put inside my body. I didn’t eat a 100% “all natural” diet, but I did try to find the healthier options to the processed foods I normally ate (like bread, wraps, cheese, Greek yogurts, etc). Not all food is CREATED the same. Sometimes foods are advertised as “healthy” when they really aren’t.

The more I learned about food and nutrition, the more aware I became of how bad food is all around us. I never really realized it before. Everywhere we go there is food to tempt us. There is a McDonald’s almost everywhere you look. You can’t walk into a gas station without a gigantic picture of a donut, hot dog, big gulp soda & pizza thrown in your face. And that’s before you even walk in the store! Once inside you’re greeted with Mountain Dew, Pepsi, M&Ms, Skittles, Lays chips, Twinkies, cookies, Cheetos…and so on. We’re basically being bombarded by junk.

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I know eating healthy is all about discipline, but I feel like our surroundings set people up for failure. Since living a healthier lifestyle, I’ve become much more observant of food around me, what is sold/promoted, and the food people eat, & buy. It’s unfortunate that everywhere we go we are under attack by junk-food. Think about how much happier we would be if healthy food was promoted instead. It would be easier to make better choices.

I love the little saying: “out of sight, out of mind.” Well, healthy food is pretty much out of our sight these days. You don’t see bananas, grapes or apples by the register to purchase while you’re waiting in line to check out at the grocery store. It’s just candy and chips. It takes extreme willpower to resist eating/drinking these unhealthy foods/drinks, because they’re always in our sight. I never leave home without plenty of my own food and a gallon of water…ever! Its more convenient & sets me up for success.

Despite bad food being everywhere we look, I made the decision to stay focused and dedicated. With my healthier diet complemented by running, I was able to lose 80 pounds in ten months. Running became easier as I lost weight. My husband, Kevin, also benefited from having better foods in our house and lost 40 pounds!

Along with my healthier diet, I continued to run. I remember someone telling me that “it DOES get easier”, and I just kept telling myself that. I signed up for the same Half Marathon that I had run the year before at 220 pounds, which had taken me 2 hours and 53 minutes to complete (earning me last place in my age group!)…a year later, 80 pounds lighter and I completed the same 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 58 minutes, which earned me FIRST place in my age group!

Exactly one year later

Running played a huge role in my weightloss success & happines. It wasn’t always easy with two little ones & while being a full time college student…but I looked for any opportunity to run.

I tried to keep a good attitude when I would push the girls in our double stroller & started running races with them.  With time…I was accomplishing goals, placing in my age group and even running PR’s (personal records) while pushing them in the stroller! I also began to listen to uplifting messages/sermons and positive music while I ran. It filled my mind with encouragement and helped me run faster & longer! I try to encourage everyone to get outside and be active, & listen to something that makes your happy…even if it’s just for a few minutes. If running isn’t your thing…walk, bike, swim, whatever! It helps tremendously!

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I’m so thankful for my new outlook on life and nutrition. Eating healthy isn’t always easy. It’s 2018, and most of us don’t grow and hunt our own food. We have to do the best we can with the food that is sold to us, and it can be really tough. For YEARS & YEARS my goal was to “lose weight.” Despite my temporary efforts…I was doing it wrong.  There is no “quick fix”, but staying dedicated (& trusting the process), paid off. I didn’t use any programs, diet pills, help from a professional, meal replacement shakes, wraps, etc…etc! Coming from someone who used to be obsessed with anything & everything fried, processed and fattening…I can tell you that if you stick with it (*live food for life bodies & being active*) you will learn to love it! It does get easier. Don’t over complicate it. Most of us want to lose weight to “LOOK better”…but (appearance aside) it is also a health concern to be seriously overweight!

Living a healthier lifestyle has transformed not only my life, but our entire family as well. Our daughters ages 6 & 7 now love healthy foods. They enjoy running races as well. I’m really thankful that they are able to grow up living healthy and active life.

December 2017, I ran my first ever ultra marathon (50 miles) & placed in the Top 10! I ran 2 other ultras in 2018, & a few weeks ago completed my longest distance…100 miles in 28 hours! Runner’s World recently shared my story & created a video…which was totally amazing. You can check it out here: This Woman Went From Last-Place Finisher to Age-Group Winner After Losing 80 Pounds.

It wasn’t that many years ago that I was struggling to run a mile. It is really awesome to see what you can accomplish, when you actually fight to achieve it. I used to look at healthy eating and running as a chore, or a burden…but a new perspective & better attitude transformed my mind, and in return I achieved positive results. I learned to inspire & challenge myself. It was awesome when it all started coming together & I can truly say that I actually enjoyed the process. It was tough, yet exciting at the same time…and still is!

I hope to promote more than weight loss but a healthy body & mind. Eating better foods, running, and seeking ways to encourage myself helped transform me physically and mentally as well. So don’t dwell on your starting point, keep your eyes focused on what you what to achieve. What you see is what you’ll be. If I didn’t once weigh 220 pounds I wouldn’t have been able to overcome the weight and the other negative things in my life that were also literally weighing me down in my mind. I wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now or sharing my story. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to fail. Start over. Don’t be afraid to come in last (someone has to…even in the Olympics!) Finishing last gave me the drive to fight harder & finish first just a year later. I had to put myself out there to achieve this. I had to quit dwelling on the negative and wishing things were different. I had to START & make it happen. Believe you have the ability and strength to overcome & conquer! You are capABLE. Turn your setbacks into comebacks in 2019!

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I love to encourage others to live their own healthy life! It is possible to do it on your own…and I hope to inspire people through my story. I’ve been there. I get it!

I post health and fitness motivation on my Facebook page if you would like to follow me!

Lose fat with the diet that combines the principles of digestive health and intermittent fasting - Click here to find our more

-Rebecca Rybicki – https://kevbec.com


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