Losing weight and getting in shape is hard work. And keeping it off may be even harder! It’s incredibly inspirational to meet someone who also struggled with that but then succeeded. What finally worked for them?
In my “How they did it” series, I interview people who overcame challenges and found a healthy lifestyle, especially those who did it later in life. It’s never too late to become your best self!
Meet Rosi Fernandez, 47, of The Bronx, New York. I met her on Instagram (@nailsbyrosi), where we connected over a shared interest in health and fitness. But until recently, I had no idea that she was a weight loss success story. A major one!
And not only that, but Rosi had to navigate some major challenges in her life to get there.
Rosi is a stay-at-home mom of three young adults, two girls and one boy. Two have Autism.
Like me, she found success with fitness and weight loss over age 40, managed to fit that into a busy life and has worked to overcome emotional eating.
Topping the scales at 300 pounds in 2012, she went from a size 24/26 to a 4/6. Along the way, she fell in love with fitness, and overcame a number of serious health conditions including diabetes and heart disease. Wow!
Let’s find out how she did it.
What was your life like before your transition?
My life was sedentary in regards to being active. I ate whatever I want, whenever I want. I did not have any discipline with food. My mentality was that I’m going to die no matter what; so why bother? I loved to eat. My life after my transition has changed drastically. I’m 99% more active now, whereas before I was very idle.
I was not a fat child, actually from what I can recall, I was a very picky eater and my mom had a very hard time feeding me. I was really thin. By the time I reached my adolescent and young adult years, my hormones started to kick in and my weight started changing, yet I was not overweight.
It wasn’t until I had gotten pregnant with my first born that my weight started creeping up on me. I was 150-165 pounds for the most part before my pregnancy. By the time I gave birth, I had reached 200 pounds.
Now that I am reflecting on this, I noticed that my weight gain was more due to the emotional stress that I had to live with all these years. I was devastated because for me the heaviest I would go to was 165 pounds, so having reached 200 pounds was heartbreaking.
I was dealing with depression, domestic violence, and having a baby. That’s when my love relationship with food began. Every time I was mentally stable, I tried to lose weight. I lost some, but then I gained it back. I never joined a weight loss program, nor did I participate in a gym.
Then at around 1994-1995 I had reached 215-220 lbs, give or take. I was going through a divorce, and that was another blow, and another reason to gain weight. My mind was just not clear and focused.
In 1997, I was finally in a happy place in my life. I had lost weight, I don’t recall how much but it was for sure less than 200 pounds. I met this wonderful guy, who is my current husband. Everything was going well; I was motivated and taking care of myself. Then I got pregnant with my second child, and I started gaining weight again. It got out of control.
My emotions were all over the place, and my relationship with food creeped up again. By the time I had my third child two years later, all that weight from both pregnancies, my out of control eating, plus with being inactive, I had reached 250 pounds by the year 2000. I was at this weight for about 10 years. I lost five pounds, gained it back, and it was like a rollercoaster; up and down.
When my middle child was two years old, my whole life changed completely. My daughter was diagnosed with Autism, and my son was also diagnosed. My life took a different direction from there on. I have only focused on caring for my children. I totally forgot about caring for myself. It is very challenging to care for someone with special needs, let alone two.
When my children started school, I decided to get a job as a parent advocate for children and adolescents with mental health problems. I worked there for five years. During that time, I was starting to feel very sick, however I didn’t know what was going on with me. I just kept working and caring for my kids. I did everything except care for myself. By the year 2010, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I resigned from my job because I was no longer productive. I was not feeling well, and on top of that I have not seen a doctor for many years.
When I quit my job, my goal was to get myself checked, and that’s when hell broke loose. I had so many health issues that I don’t know how I was able to do all the things that I needed to do. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, issues with my lungs that caused me breathing problems, and problems with my kidneys. I was taking 15 different kinds of medication, including insulin for my diabetes.
Here I am with all of these health problems, having to care for my children, my mind at this point was already exhausted. My oldest daughter had to take a leave of absence from college to care for me because I couldn’t take care of myself. With all that, my weight accumulated to 300 pounds.
How did you lose the weight?
By the end of 2011, that’s when it all started to crumble down on me. I was hospitalized a few times and by the spring of 2012, my doctor recommended I undergo gastric bypass surgery. He said to me that I was a “great candidate,” and that this would be “a great opportunity for me if I wanted to get my health back [on track].” At first I was very hesitant, but after a few weeks, I was hospitalized again and it made me say “Okay, I will go for it.”
I started researching about this surgery and preparing myself with nothing but my faith and gut feeling to want to change. During this phase, I was going through a lot of testing, preparing for my surgery. And during that process, I found out that one of my main arteries to my heart was clogged. I had to have a stent put in. This was devastating, but it was also my wake-up call.
That made me finally realize that if I don’t do something about this, it was going to lead to my demise. I had my surgery early 2013. I will always remember what my surgeon asked me. He said, “Are you doing this for a quick fix, or for a lifestyle change?” I said to him, “No, I want my life back. So a lifestyle change it is.” I hold onto those words to this day.
I know that this surgery is not for everybody. Every individual is unique. This worked for me because I was determined to get my life back. I lost 178 pounds during this process. As my body adjusted I gained 20 pounds, and now my body is where it needs to be.
My doctor, a year after my surgery, did my physical and he compared it to the physical prior to my surgery and the difference was astonishing. He even told my story at one of his medical seminars. That was my “aha” moment, because at that point I knew I had gotten my life back, and that was the proof to cement it. This was my life saver.
I would not be here today, sharing this story, if I had not made that decision back in 2011.
What is your day to day routine like? What type of exercises do you do?
I make sure that I have the nutrients (fuel) that my body needs. That would be five or six meals a day. I work out by cardio (HIIT, functional training, tabata, circuit training) 2-3 times and strength training 3-4 times a week. It depends on the type of rotation I am doing. Sundays are for my yoga practice and stretching. I also walk as an active recovery 2-4 days a week.
What challenges have you faced at becoming healthier?
My biggest challenge is keeping myself motivated every single day, and even though this is my new normal, it is still a big struggle to be motivated. I keep repeating to myself that “this is the only way, keep doing it,” to motivate myself. That’s why I turned my bedroom into my gym. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. I know I have to do it; no excuses.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to become healthier/more fit?
This is tricky for me to answer, because we as individuals are very different. What might work for me might not work for someone else. All I can say is to be consistent. Be disciplined, and don’t deprive. There is no need for that. When we take things to the extreme, that’s when things fall apart. Everything in moderation can be done and is acceptable. It’s the only realistic way of living.
What is the most important lesson that this journey taught you?
If there is something that really messes with the body, it’s the mind. If the mind is not stable, for sure it will have a tremendous impact on everything including our health.
Another important lesson that I learned in this journey is to love myself. When I stop for a second to think of myself, I know that I only live once and I have to value myself. Nobody else can do that for me.
Way to go, Rosi! You are truly an inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
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