‘Ashley O’Reilly knew it was time to make a change.’
Growing up, I was on the slimmer side, but once I hit puberty, I slowly started putting on weight. My freshman year of high school, I was 140 pounds, but by my senior year, I’d climbed up to 180 pounds. Things only got worse once I started college. Although I was teaching a figure-skating class twice a week, I gained what I call the freshman 50. My energy was low, I was always tired, and I found myself having to take the elevator just to go up a floor. My family noticed how rapidly I was gaining weight and encouraged me to see a doctor. That’s when I learned that I have an under-active thyroid. That contributed to part of my weight gain, but my poor eating habits were also to blame. When the weight continued to stick even once I was on thyroid medication, I assumed it could be my birth control, so I visited my doctor again in April of 2015. As I watched the scale in my doctor’s office move past 200 and inch toward 250, I realized it was time to make a change.
I thought back to a girl I used to work with who lost around 80 pounds on Nutrisystem. I saw a commercial for it and called my dad right away to ask if he would pay for (I was still in college at the time). He was game, so I placed the order.
The night before I got my shipment, I ordered Applebee’s for pickup—an appetizer, entrée, and dessert—and I couldn’t even make it the three-mile drive home before tearing into it. I pulled into a Burger King parking lot and ate it all. After, I told myself that was the last time I’d ever eat like that. And it was.
The Nutrisystem plan I went on was the women’s Core Plan. Every four weeks, I got an auto-shipment of meals that I had selected—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks. Some of my favorites were the double chocolate muffin for breakfast, the three-cheese chicken for lunch, and the lasagna for dinner. As a snack, I often had a yogurt or some cheese. I lost 15 pounds in the first month of the program, and 135 pounds by June of 2016. I was able to switch to the Nutrisystem transition program by that Christmas, which helped me understand how to portion out food I make myself using portioned containers.
Now, I start most mornings with a cup of cereal with milk and hot tea for breakfast. Two to three hours later, I’ll have two tablespoons of peanut butter with an apple as a snack. I’m super busy at my job as a nurse, so lunch is usually just a Velveeta cheese cup with veggies. Later in the afternoon, I’ll snack on celery with a fourth of a cup of hummus. Dinner is where I try to get in my fiber and protein, so I’ll have a salad with grilled chicken and vegetables or, if I’m in a rush, a frozen meal that’s under 350 calories. I try to watch my portions more than anything—if I want to have chips, I will, I just get a small bag that’s under 150 calories. And if I go out for a cheat meal, I plan to eat lighter throughout the rest of the day.
The ice-skating rink was closed when I first stared my weight-loss journey, so I had to find other ways to get my workouts in. I started walking my dogs every day for about two miles and took up kayaking. Soon after that, in the fall of 2015, I started my nursing job that keeps me on my feet eight hours a day. Now, in order to maintain my weight loss, I go on gym dates with my fiancé. We hit the gym about three times a week for an hour or two. Our workouts mostly consist of free weights, but I’ll occasionally mix things up with some cardio on the treadmill.
I plateaued once at 200 pounds—I couldn’t push past that number for what was probably a week but felt like a month. That was frustrating but I simply continued to trust the process and I moved past it. My biggest motivator was Nutrisystem’s NutriStar giveaway. I got a couple of mailers for it with one of my shipments and taped one to my mirror and one to my fridge. The grand prize was $40,000. I knew I wanted to submit myself for the contest, so every time I saw those flyers, it reminded me to continue making healthy choices.
I entered the NutriStar competition, and eventually was named one of the finalists! Nutrisystem flew us all out to Las Vegas and revealed the winners there, and I won, which was super-exciting. I used my winnings on a vacation to Hawaii for me and my fiancé and what’s left over is helping pay for our upcoming wedding. Since winning the NutriStar contest, I’ve gotten to share my story with a ton of people. I want to motivate others to follow the steps I did and know that they can achieve their goals, especially as a student. It can be a tough time to try to lose weight, but my story shows that it’s possible. Now, I have a much better outlook on life because I’m happy and healthy.