As a new mom, Renée knew she'd have to adapt healthy habits—ones she'd never followed—to lose her baby weight

By Renée Ross
February 03, 2015
Renée Ross

Several years ago, as a new mother, I found myself at a crossroads. Due to the dynamics of my marriage, I was frequently isolated and alone-and I often took comfort in food. I knew I was putting on pounds, but for a while I fooled myself into thinking that things were okay. But the truth came out when I had to finally give up the maternity clothes. I could barely squeeze into a size 16.

I decided to make a change-not only for myself, but, more importantly, for my son. I needed to adopt a healthy lifestyle simply to be able to physically keep up with him without losing my breath, and, also, hopefully to extend my time on Earth with him. I had one of life's light-bulb moments and realized that although there were numerous stressful situations in my life I was unable to control, I did, however, have full control over what I put in my mouth. (Check out 50 Food Swaps to Cut 100 Calories.)

Living a healthy life became my priority. I knew to succeed at changing my habits I needed both accountability and support, so I publicly declared my intentions on my blog and YouTube. Thanks to my friends and followers, I had help every step of the way, as I shared both my victories and my challenges. And I returned to doing things I loved, like dancing and visiting with friends. After eight months of committing to a healthy lifestyle, I met my goal weight: 52 pounds lighter and able to fit in a size 6.

I was back to being the gregarious, fun-loving woman who'd been hiding and drowning in layers of fat and unhappiness. Not only did I shed the weight, but I also ended my marriage, and, as a result, I am once again the real me!

I started my journey to healthy living the week of Thanksgiving 2009, reached my goal weight July 2010 and have continued to live a healthy lifestyle ever since. Maintenance isn't easy, but what has worked for me is staying focused and challenging myself by preparing for endurance events. I ran my first half-marathon with Team in Training October 2010. I was running for my health, yes, but I also raised more than $5000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. My girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter was battling leukemia and I ran in her honor. I became addicted to endurance events and have subsequently run 14 half-marathons and a full marathon. I am currently training for my second 199-mile Ragnar relay race. (Are you a first-time runner? Check out this Beginner's Guide to Running a 5K.)

But, above all, I think being kind to myself has been the key to maintaining my healthy lifestyle. I know that every day I may not exercise and I also may not make the best food choices. However, I believe that indulging in "everything in moderation" keeps me from feeling deprived and overdoing it: I have adopted a lifestyle, not a diet. I feel great, look good and am happier than I've been in years. And now my son understands the importance of physical exercise and healthy eating; he's been my biggest cheerleader and has even exercised with me! I've given myself the gift of health and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving!