By Rebecca Drew
MEET the woman who lost a whopping eight-stone in two-years and says that people ‘judged’ and treated her ‘differently’ for being overweight from the age of just EIGHT.
Growing up as an only child, optometrist, Dena Shahani (29) from San Diego, California, USA said that her parents never said no to her and nutrition was not something that was focused on as eating unhealthily was affordable when finances were tight.
Dena says that she has been conscious about her weight for as long as she can remember and developed an unhealthy relationship with diet and weight loss, admitting that she gained most of her weight whist living a sedentary lifestyle at university but has since gone from 18-and-a-half-stone to a super slim 10-and-a-half-stone.
“I have been on my health and wellness journey for as long as I can remember, I recall being eight years old, getting on the scales and weighing seventy-seven-pounds and wishing I weighed seventy instead,” said Dena.
“That is when my unhealthy relationship with diet, weight loss and the scales started, at my heaviest I was over two-hundred-and-sixty-pounds, as of today I have lost over one-hundred-and-ten-pounds.
“I gained most of my weight in college due to the sedentary lifestyle of sitting all day and eating junk food to get by.
“I am proud of my accomplishments and know that I have done amazing things but I am also aware that I am an ever-changing work in progress.”
Dena said that she whilst she was overweight, she felt happy inside but knew deep down that she wanted to look different so started counting calories and doing cardio whenever she could but is now more focused on nutrition and has started lifting weights to tone.
“When I would see pictures of myself I knew that’s not how I wanted to look, in my head I was a beautiful soul and a kind spirit but others didn’t see that, they saw a slob, judged me, and treated me differently,” she explained.
“I restricted my calories and made sure to do cardio as often as I could, I got a little portable elliptical and used it whilst watching TV at home.
“I was too embarrassed to go to the gym and I didn’t focus on nutrition or fitness as much in the beginning but now I pay attention to where my calories come from.
“As of the last year, I’ve shifted my focus from weight loss to fitness, I’ve stopped obsessing over the calories burned on the treadmill and starting focusing on the weights on the squat bar.
“The scale had always been my saviour yet it was also my tormentor, if it said I gained half a pound it ruined my day.
“However, now, the number on the scale doesn’t define me, my progress or my goals.”
Despite losing eight-stone and dropping from a size 24 to a svelte size eight, Dena says that her life hasn’t changed that much except for the fact she now wears smaller clothes.
“When I see my before and after pictures it’s an out of body experience, as if I’m looking at someone else’s journey,” she said.
“I’m still the same person and I think people have a hard time understanding that because people who transform looks so different, but my mind is still the same.
“I still have the same dark sense of humour, I still love arts and crafts and I still love having pretty nails, I just wear smaller clothes.”
Dena says that the most difficult thing about losing weight was keeping motivated and persevering. She says that others who want to lose the pounds should start by making small changes.
“Staying motivated is so hard, people ask me all the time, how do you stay motivated, the answer is, I don’t, I have bad days, I lose motivation all the time but at the end of the day I keep trying,” she said.
“Even while losing weight I would have weeks and even months where I gave up and would gain weight back but I would always re-group and start over.
“Perseverance is more important than motivation.
“The hardest part of losing weight or getting fit has got to be starting, Mondays would come and Mondays would go, every Tuesday I’d sigh and realise that I had cheated on my diet and therefore would have to wait six more days until I could start again.
“The most important thing is being able to hit the restart button, wake up the next day and give it another shot.
“You don’t have to turn your life upside down every Monday and succumb to defeat every Tuesday.
“Start by making small changes and before you know it it’s a habit and lifestyle.”