By Alyce Collins
THIS MOTHER blames enormous American food portions and her tiresome corporate job for her weight gain which led to her sleeping with a machine so that she wouldn’t STOP BREATHING during the night.
Account executive, Emma Passé (35) originally from Bristol, UK, blames her busy corporate lifestyle and huge American portions for her weight gain, before doctors warned that she would need medication for the rest of her life if she didn’t lose weight.
Mother of two, Emma moved to Portland, Oregon when she was just 18 and ended up getting a job over there before starting her family.
Emma’s job required a lot of travel by plane and car which also meant eating at many restaurants on the go or at numerous corporate dinners. In addition to the on-the-go lifestyle, the sizeable American portions saw her weight rise to 21st 4lb, with Emma wearing a UK size 26.
In 2015 doctors warned Emma that she had poor cholesterol, she was pre-diabetic, her body acne was out of hand and she also had to sleep with a CPAP machine to keep her breathing at night. By this point, Emma would get out of breath just tying her shoelaces, as her declining health left her deeply concerned about what other people thought of her.
The fear of having to be on medication for the rest of her life made Emma realise that she could still change her health. So, she began working out at a gym which promised no judgement to gym-goers, and in her first month she lost 15lbs, which spurred her on to keep going.
Since then, Emma has discovered a love for fitness, particularly weight lifting which makes her feel strong. Emma has now halved her weight as she is now down to 10st 5lb and wears a UK size 10.
“I really started getting ‘curvy’ as a teenager, and I remember my grandmother poking the bottom of my belly when I was in a bikini on holiday,” said Emma.
“I was probably about 14 at the time and already it was being noted that I was getting pudgy.
“The real weight gain into obesity ramped up when I moved to the United States in 2002. At 22 I had my daughter and then at 27 I had my son.
“Over the years the lack of activity combined with American food and portion sizes, I gained weight steadily as time went on.
“Portions of food are served on massive plates and could easily feed a few people at once. All drinks have free refills and the calories in one meal can easily exceed anyone’s daily allowance.
“A number of years working a corporate job which required a lot of travel by plane and car led to an unhealthy regime.
“My career has kept me very busy – I spent a lot of time driving or flying and eating at restaurants on the go. I didn’t work out and I didn’t watch my portions, so gradually the weight continued to pile on until I reached over 21 stone in May 2015.
“At my doctor’s appointment in April 2015, my lab work showed high cholesterol and I was pre-diabetic. I had such severe sleep apnoea that I had to sleep with a CPAP machine at night just to keep breathing.
“I had uncontrollable body acne that was resistant to treatment, and frequent bouts of anxiety.
“I felt heavy and tired all the time. Bending forward to tie my shoes or even put shoes on left me breathless. I was hyper aware of how I looked and constantly worried about sweating or getting out of breath in front of people.
“I remember I took a work trip to Washington DC and I took the stairs up to the offices on Capitol Hill, and by the time I got to the top, which took me a while, I was covered in a sheen and I could barely breathe. I felt so embarrassed in front of my colleagues.
“I would go for walks with my kids, but nothing more than that. Work has always kept me so busy that I always had an excuse as to why I couldn’t get in any real exercise.
“I was morbidly obese and at the age of 30 I was hearing suggestions of lifelong cholesterol medication. I was scared and overwhelmed, but I wanted to be healthy and try to cure myself before embarking on a lifetime of medication.
“I couldn’t imagine having to take medication for the rest of my life. I felt totally defeated and worried for the future. The idea of taking a pill to control something that was within my power to change really prompted a big shift in my mind.
“I wanted to look and feel good, and I knew I wasn’t willing to take a lifetime of medication at my age.
“When I first went to the gym, I stuck to the weight machines which had instructions on them and did cardio for half an hour after. Initially I joined Planet Fitness, a gym which markets their facilities with a promise of no judgement.
“I stayed in that gym for about a year until my capabilities outgrew what they had available.
“In the first month I lost 15 pounds and I was so surprised. I knew most of it was that initial water weight, but I considered what would happen if I did that month after month, again and again.”
Emma loved the gym once she started, as it made her even more determined to keep losing weight and find out how to improve her life.
“I found a love for fitness and an obsession with weight lifting. I found the combination of weights and cardio was magic for me and it made me feel strong,” said Emma.
“A woman who can power lift is a powerful thing. I went to the gym almost every day, most days at four am before work or before my kids were up.
“There’s something very rewarding about sore muscles and the breathless walk out of the gym, knowing that you did something great for your body and your life.
“There’s something compelling about a woman who can lift heavy iron and still embody femininity. I am inspired by strong women who fuel their body with strategic exercise and good food.
“Weight loss to this degree is such a double-edged sword though. While I am very happy with what I have achieved and even happier in this new lifestyle where I can prioritise my health, I still fight body image issues from a lifetime of obesity.
“I’m not sure that will ever go away, and I think that’s simply human nature. We are programmed to find the negatives in and around ourselves, so you really have to be ready to battle out those thoughts.
“My message has always been consistent on all social media: ‘nothing worth having ever comes easy’.
“Sometimes we’re all so consumed with being parents, or spouses, or employees, we never make the time for ourselves in the same way, but none of us want to sacrifice our health and shorten our lives because we’re too afraid to be a little selfish.”
You can follow Emma’s fitness journey by visiting @the_busy_bodybuilder.