It was 2016 when Christy Justus was just starting a date night with her husband. As she slid into a restaurant booth, she made a startling discovery: She couldn’t fit.
As she tried to scoot further in, she remembers feeling her stomach squish into the table, the space getting tighter and tighter. This alone would have been upsetting, she says, but what happened next was much more cruel.
A table of young, thin women sat just a couple feet away, and soon, one of them noticed Justus struggling. Instead of looking away, she got the attention of her friends, and the whole table began to watch and giggle. Justus pretended she hadn’t noticed to avoid even more embarrassment, but now admits she cried through most of her meal.
“What those girls didn’t know was that I was already 17 pounds down,” she says. “I was feeling pretty good about my 17 pounds until that day.”
Justus, who had struggled with her weight for most of her life, was no stranger to this type of hurtful behavior. The Grundy, Virginia, resident was teased for her size throughout her school years. Looking back now, she realizes she wasn’t even that big — just bigger than the other girls — but the bullying led her to emotional eating, which soon became a difficult cycle to break.
“I didn’t have a bad family life, but I did have self-esteem issues,” she remembers. “I was picked on in school, called ugly, and I believed it because I didn’t have a boyfriend. So I would turn to food to make me feel better. I just felt ugly all the time.”
By 2008, her weight was starting to seriously affect her life. She was struggling to fit into clothes, having trouble getting around and bending over and was even starting to experience health issues.
Justus then began what would become a seven-year cycle of yo-yo dieting — losing the weight, then gaining it right back. When she met her husband, things became even harder as she started going on dates and indulging in meals on the town.
But that night in 2016, her experience with the restaurant booth would be a turning point. While she had already lost weight in the past year — from her high of 270 pounds to 253 — she decided to set her eyes on a bigger goal: 180.
Her husband joined her in her commitment to getting healthier, and they each began working out with different Beachbody programs. Justus, however, didn’t like the portion control containers and strict diet that accompanied these programs. After looking for other options online, she discovered MyFitnessPal.
As she began logging her meals, she was shocked at the numbers.
“I couldn’t believe the amount of calories we were eating on a normal day,” she says. “It was insane — no joke, around the 10,000 calorie mark some days. I was horrified. No wonder there are so many obese people in this country. Some foods are just ridiculous.”
Armed with this new information, Justus began watching her portions and cut some foods out altogether, like high-calorie drinks, after deciding they just weren’t worth it to her.
She made other discoveries, too. Justus, who had long considered herself lazy, realized she actually loved the way being active made her feel. She began logging all her activity in the app, relishing what she had accomplished each day. She even uploaded progress photos as the weight fell off, marveling at the changes she saw in her face.
Ten months later, Justus had shot past her goal, landing at 170 pounds — a total of 100 pounds lost since she first started. Her weight continued to drop into the 160s, which she maintained for more than a year until life took a joyful, but unexpected, turn: Justus, who had long struggled with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), found out she was pregnant.
Justus admits she initially felt a tinge of disappointment about potentially reversing the weight loss she had fought so hard for, but she knew her child was more important. She committed to having the best pregnancy she could.
Nine months later, her daughter, Kora, was born happy and healthy following a complication-free pregnancy. However, Justus — who, like many women, could only stomach greasy, high-calorie foods for much of her pregnancy — found herself in a similar place to where she was years ago. She had 70 pounds to lose.
“Even though I gained the weight in nine months, after she was born, it was like the weight was put on me instantly. I was no longer a ‘pregnant’ woman, I was just an ‘overweight’ woman again,” she says. “But how would things have been if I restricted my calories during my pregnancy? Would my daughter be as healthy?”
Though it wasn’t easy, Justus recommitted to getting healthy. She has since lost 40 pounds and is training for her company’s annual 5K. Along with MyFitnessPal, she credits her family with much of her success. Her husband, who initially lost 70 pounds, is joining her again on her journey to better health. And her daughter, she says, motivates her every day to be the healthiest mom she can be. She hopes to one day pass down her hard-earned lessons.
“I hope to teach my daughter about health, portion control and to have a healthy relationship with food,” she says. “I also want to teach her to be a caring person … not to make fun of someone who can’t fit in a booth. The last thing the world needs is more mean girls.”