By Emma Stessman
In a world filled with gimmicky diets, appetite-suppressing lollipops, and “skinny pills” (really!), it can be hard to sort through the nonsense and find manageable and enjoyable—yes enjoyable—strategies for getting to your healthiest weight.
Take health and fitness coach Kymberly Morgan, for example. In the four years following the tragic death of her daughter, she developed complex PTSD (CPTSD), began binge eating, and gained just over 100 pounds. Later, she tried popular diets to lose the extra weight, but they all felt restrictive and didn’t address the issues at the heart of her weight gain.
“It seems like every diet I’ve found, and I’ve done them all…they emphasize only ‘clean food’ and yes, clean food is important,” Morgan says. “But when you have an eating disorder, you have to be able to give yourself those treats every now and then, so you don’t feel the deprivation. Because if not, I would just binge eat again.”
Finally, she found something that worked: A lifestyle shift—not a diet—that took a big picture approach to weight loss. (After all nutrition is just one of many factors that contribute to a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.)
We sat down with Morgan to discuss how understanding nutrition, managing her mental health, and staying active contributed to the story of her incredible 100-pound weight-loss.
One of the hardest parts of the weight-loss journey is getting started. What motivated you?
My daughter had a baby, my grandchild, and I used to take her to go get Happy Meals [at McDonald’s]. What really was the turning point for me was when she was about two or three we were driving, and when we drove past McDonald’s, my granddaughter said “Look, it’s grandma happy’s house!” She called me “grandma happy” because of the happy meals, but she thought McDonald’s was my house. And I just broke down. It was funny, but then it wasn’t. After we got back, I was like, “That’s it. I have to be a good role model for my grandkids.”
It takes some time to figure out what works for your body and what doesn’t. What was that trial and error process like?
It took a while. In 2009, I started doing research and I found “The Eat-Clean Diet,” and it worked. But I didn’t realize at the time that I had an eating disorder, and because it was “clean eating,” I wasn’t allowed to have anything. I became very deprived and I lost 20-something pounds, but I couldn’t make it a lifestyle change because I just felt so deprived.
I didn’t really start losing weight until three years ago when I got involved with Keri’s program (The Nutritious Life Studio). I had lost 20 or 30 pounds doing the other stuff, but then I started Keri’s program, and now I just hit the 100-pound weight-loss mark last week. I just implemented everything that I learned from her—and I guess you could say I mix her program with counting macros. I try to eat as healthy as I can throughout the week, I do weight training, and then if an evening comes or a weekend comes and there’s cake or we’re barbecuing, I don’t worry about it. That’s really what works for me.
Do you feel like having that background knowledge on how nutrition works helped?
Yes, it was so much different from anything I had learned on the internet. Every lesson that came in, I was so excited, I printed it out and put it in a little binder. Now it’s a huge binder. But everything just fell into place and made sense. Whereas you go by a diet book and it’s just ridiculous—you have to remove this and you have to take out this food group, you can’t eat that. That’s not what Keri’s program is about; it’s a lifestyle. It’s about eating more, properly fueling your body, feeling the difference and not taking things away, but teaching you proper nutrition so that you can make the right choices.
Aside from diet, how did factors like exercise, stress, and sleep come into play during the process?
I focused more on waking up in the morning and having a few spiritual moments. Just sitting alone in my room––I talk to Jesus, but that’s just what works for me. I also got into walking and weight training, cardio not so much. I walk on the beach. And going to counseling [for my CPTSD] really helped.
Switching to healthier foods and exercising…really helped me sleep better, so I feel better the next day. I don’t want to eat crap when I get good sleep. I notice that when I’m not sleeping, I just want to eat all the next day.
Also, just spending quality time with family. I have two granddaughters now, so I take them to the park and to the beach and we play soccer. I try to get them out there and get them active. And they can see that we eat healthily, and that’s important to me. Those are the things that fulfill me and help me have a better day, instead of just buying a book and following a diet.
Did you notice a big mental shift from the before to the after?
Very much so. It’s a heavy topic, but I was extremely suicidal at one time and I really couldn’t figure out why. My psychiatrist told me I had really bad grief depression. I kept trying to explain to my doctor, during that time, that I don’t see color anymore, I walk outside and I see nothing, I didn’t know how to explain it. But once I started eating healthy and getting some exercise and getting that oxygen into my body, then one day I was like, ‘Wow, everything’s green, the sky is blue, and I feel happy.” That serotonin boost, it was [because of] the lifestyle change. And once you feel that after 16 years of being so depressed, it’s like you just crave it and you want it more. And I think that’s why I’ve been able to be so consistent with it.
What advice would you give to other women who are hoping to lose weight?
You have to really sit down and focus on what you want for yourself and not what other people want for you. I was in a marriage where I felt like I needed to change for him, and I failed every time because I wasn’t doing it for me. You have to figure out what you want for yourself, sit down, make some goals, and find an accountability partner. Find someone to hold you accountable.
(Photos: Kymberly Morgan)