Name: Heather Gomez
Occupation: Defense Consultant
Hometown: San Diego, California
Start Weight: 270 pounds
End Weight: 150 pounds
Time Running: 3 years, 6 months
Prior to age 36, I had never attempted to lose weight. I had completely turned a blind eye to how unhealthy I was. My life was just going to and from the office, eating take out for almost every meal, and watching TV until it was time to go to bed. My back and knees were in constant pain, I couldn’t tie my shoes without losing my breath, and I had zero energy for anything. That was my life for many years.
Around the beginning of 2017, my close friend invited me to an OrangeTheory workout class. I had never taken any group exercise class before, but it sounded intriguing. For 60 excruciating minutes, was put through the wringer. I walked out nauseous and vowed to never return.
But a fire was sparked, and I knew something needed to change in my life. Thanks to Facebook algorithms, ads for a popular kickboxing gym near me called 9 Round Kickboxing started popping up on my feed. I tried a free workout, and within four months, I was hooked! But I was looking for more to challenge me.
That inspired me to running in January 2017. I decided to train with a friend who was doing a 5K later that month, and even though I had minimal training, I loved the feeling of crossing the finish line and getting a medal.
From there, I was addicted. I started using the Couch-to-5K running app, and ended up starting and stopping multiple times. But I kept trying. I was running one- to two- mile increments twice a week, and I started signing up for more local 5K races to keep me on track. In April 2017, I finally ran the entire 5K distance without stopping. When I crossed the finish line, I cried. I was becoming a runner.
From there, I kept going farther. In December 2017, I ran my first half marathon. I just kept building every year since then, and in October 2018, I became a marathoner at the Long Beach Marathon in 7:59. In June 2019, I became an ultrarunner, finishing the Black Mountain Trail 50K in 9:55:05.
And in January 2020, I ran my first 50-mile trail race at the San Diego 50 in 13:32:13. I cried again at the end because I knew I had come so far in my running journey.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and gyms and trails were closed, I had to do something to keep myself focused. I started running virtual ultramarathons in my neighborhood, and eventually hosted my own virtual 50K and had 12 other runners participate in their own neighborhood on the same day.
In May 2020, I had extended abdominoplasty surgery to remove excess skin from my belly and took a running hiatus. I have been slowly building back my endurance and have taken up hiking, which is lower impact than trail running. I plan to summit Mount Whitney (14,505 feet) in October 2020 with an experienced crew.
Along with running, I also adjusted my diet. I started eating more at home (less takeout), but I wasn’t measuring or tracking. I focused on eating more vegetables, protein, and complex carbs, and also tried to minimize processed foods.
Once I decided to run an ultra marathon, I hired a local ultrarunner/coach who taught me a lot about macros, gut-healthy foods, and low-sensitivity foods. It completely changed how I viewed food because I understood how it worked in my body.
That being said, my primary goal has always been to live a sustainable life with food. I still eat pizza, tacos, and apple fritters. I just consume them less often, which makes me savor them that much more when I incorporate them into my food plan that day.
Doing all of this, I have successfully dropped 120 pounds during a 3.5-year time span and have kept the weight off. I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in my entire life. I feel great, and I look at life completely differently now.
The physical changes have been successful because I’ve been working on my mental and emotional health. We have to be honest with ourselves about what we want, what is holding us back, and how important the change is to us.
My journey isn’t over yet. I’m always a work in progress. But I absolutely enjoy the process. That’s the biggest piece of the puzzle: to fall in love with the process.
To do this, I had to find the best way to stay disciplined. A lot of people rely on motivation. Motivation is fickle. I rely heavily on my discipline. I make a routine—something sustainable—and stick to it. It eventually becomes a habit that you look forward to. This included finding my crew. Find people who aspire to do big things in their life. People who are nonjudgmental, who show up for you, and make you want to show up for them. That has been critical in my journey. I couldn’t have done half of the stuff I’ve done without them.
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