After tackling a lifetime of obesity, a Pa. woman is starting a new beginning after losing 120 pounds.
Jackie Stees struggled with being overweight since the 2nd grade.
“There wasn’t a real trigger,” Stees said. “I just wasn’t moving enough and eating an excess of bad food, like Doritos and soda and candy bars and ice cream, that I should have been eating in moderation.”
Her struggles escalated through her teenage years, ruining her self-esteem. This lack of self-confidence prevented her from trying out for sports and activities that would have helped her take the weight off.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Stees said. “Being overweight leads to low confidence, but in order to lose the weight you need confidence.”
Stees began to realize she needed a change in 2011 while watching her husband run the Harrisburg Marathon.
“It was an amazing experience to see people of all walks of life, wearing braces, out of shape…one man juggled the entire marathon,” Stees said. “I thought, ‘If they can do it, there is no excuse for me…nothing holding me back.’”
As time went on, Stees started to notice that her knees ached while walking up the stairs to tuck her daughter into bed. She then realized she didn't want her daughter to face the same challenges with self-esteem that she had faced growing up.
The final straw was when her husband gave her a Victoria Secret gift card for Christmas. When she went to the store, she could not fit in any of the clothing and left in tears.
“I knew I had to get healthy,” Stees said. “Not just for myself, but so my daughter would be healthy too.”
Stees cleared the bookshelves of her local library of all of the healthy living books. Quickly, she realized that a traditional diet was not the right fit for her.
“My sister told me to remember how our grandparents ate,” Stees said. “I remembered pears ripening in their kitchen, fruit everywhere, salad with dinner. I knew that was the way to go for me.”
She stayed away from processed food, living by the philosophy that if it could be composted, she could eat it.
Stees also made small changes in her life, including walking to the mailbox instead of driving by it and doing hobbies in the community so that she would be away from the refrigerator.
“I would hang small sizes of clothes up that I wanted to fit into,” Stees said. “I found a fitness buddy that would hold me accountable to sticking with running and exercising. I enjoyed the process…it wasn’t a negative, I enjoyed what I was doing.”
The beginning of this lifestyle change was slow-going. She initially could not run very far very fast and struggled going to the gym. But after a few months, her workouts improved and running became satisfying.
“The hardest part was getting started,” Stees said. “I started slow, pushing my daughter in her stroller on walks, and gradually worked my way up. I stayed focused, and soon I was losing 8-10 pounds a month.”
About a year after she decided to strive for healthy living, Stees saw her hard work pay off when she finished 3rd in the Lancaster Family YMCA Duathalon at Speedwell Forge.
“It was on my wedding anniversary,” Stees said. “My husband was supposed to beat me and then circle back. After I finished, I saw him coming up behind me. He told me afterward that he had gotten lost on the course and I actually beat him!”
She later went on to place 1st in the Wolf’s Hollow Trail Run 5K through the Brandywine Valley YMCA.
At her heaviest, Stees weighed 270 pounds. Today, she weighs just 150 pounds.
“I can enjoy life now,” Stees said.
With this new beginning, Stees has decided to make it her life’s mission to help others reach their own weight loss and lifestyle-change goals. Currently, she is studying for her fitness certification.
Stees says that the most important part to her success came from never losing hope.
“When you’re at your heaviest, you believe it’s not possible,” Stees said. “But you can’t lose hope. You have to find that place within yourself, surround yourself with people who support your decision, and believe that it is possible.”