How a Editor Lost 100 Pounds in 2 Years

I thrive when things are organized. I make lists, I’m always early, and I like to plan everything in advance.But for the first 23 years of my life, there was one big thing I never felt I could control: my weight.

I grew up as a naturally chubby kid. As my mom tells it, a group of old men at a Lebanese festival told her I was destined to play football because of my build, even as a young boy.

Years of late-night cheese fry runs with a busy single mom didn’t exactly foster healthy eating habits. My poor diet and lack of athletic ability — paired with my affinity for staying inside reading books to avoid being bullied for my feminine voice and mannerisms — contributed to what felt like out-of-control weight gain.

By second grade, I weighed 100 pounds — much more than other kids. In high school, my weight climbed even higher, as I battled bullying, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Shopping was difficult, dating was tough, and I ended up dreading them both.

Food was comforting, no matter my age or circumstance. I was depressed and had low self-esteem, so I didn’t believe I could take control of my eating habits. I was convinced I would fail.

Louis Baragona

All the while, I maintained control over so many other aspects of my life. I succeeded in college, getting stellar grades and serving as a peer mentor and the editor-in-chief of two campus publications. I had good friends, I went to parties, and I knew everyone, including the manager of Chipotle, who found it charming to come up to me and recite my order at bars.

But all that drinking, fast-food-eating, and stress from school and work took a toll. By the time I graduated college, I weighed 270 pounds.

Louis Baragona

Just two months after graduation, I moved to New York, and from there, everything changed. I accomplished so many personal goals — like landing a job and getting by in the big city — and it made me realize I could also take control of my weight and my health. I just had to believe in myself and my power.

“I just had to believe in myself and my power.”

I no longer felt like I had to impress my peers (New Yorkers are infamously hard to impress), I didn’t feel limited by being a feminine gay man in a small-town environment, and I actually had money for a gym membership and workout classes.

The biggest problem with attempting to lose weight after decades of not trying is that you have no idea what the hell you’re doing.

I’d attempt the treadmill every other day, but without stretching or considering other workouts. I’d try crash diets, but they weren’t sustainable. I made lots of mistakes in my first few months of weight loss, but as with most things, I eventually learned and found my rhythm.

Louis Baragona

These days, I take different workout classes, including trampoline and dance; I’m also learning my way around the weight room so I can gain some muscle. My favorite workout is SoulCycle, which allows me to have fun, has majorly improved my coordination and rhythm, and focuses on the mind and body as opposed to weight loss or competition. I go two or three times a week, and it’s the most refreshing thing I do for myself. It’s a way I put myself first, a method of self-care that allows me to feel like I have control of both my body and mind.

When I began this journey, I also took a hard look at my eating habits. I started replacing less healthy options with more nutritious ones, making Chipotle an occasional treat and never straight-up depriving myself. I stopped eating for comfort when I was sad or lonely, and didn’t continue eating when I was full. I’ve done Keto on and off, though it’s not sustainable year-round for me.

Louis Baragona

Stepping on the scale in February of 2018 and seeing my current weight — 170 pounds — was surreal. It feels weird to have lived two different lives in one. It also feels really good: Yes, I shop freely and I go on lots of dates, but most importantly, I just feel so connected with and in control of my body.

The person in my before photo is just as deserving of praise as the one in my after.

Here’s the thing, though. I always remember that the person in my “before” photo is just as deserving of praise as the one in my “after.” I should have been able to find clothes or date without facing discrimination, things I never worry about now.

The only thing I would have changed is that I wish the self-love I practice now would have been abundant throughout my life, not just after seeing myself power through weight loss. I always had the power to do this and so much more, even when I didn’t believe it.

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