Annamarie Rivera's transformation is absolutely incredible. Not only did she lose 235 pounds (16 stone, 7 pounds) — that's an entire person! — but she did it naturally and without surgery.
She didn't have some epiphany or push to start her weight-loss journey. Annemarie told POPSUGAR, "One day I was leaving work, and I did a U-turn into a Planet Fitness just randomly and signed up. I passed the gym every single day and never thought twice. I left the gym saying that it was my day one. I was never the type to start and stop anything, so I knew that when I signed up that, although it wasn't planned, it was going to be the start of something big."
She shared that she was involved in a very abusive relationship that constantly led her to eat unhealthy foods, which resulted in emotionally eating and bingeing. She said, "joining the gym ultimately turned my addiction to fast food and the relationship into an addiction to fitness — a healthy one, a life-changing one."
"It's insane, I lost more than I weigh."
Her starting weight is unclear. She said, "once I finally built up enough courage to get on the scale after losing a few pounds already from working out and eating healthy, I was at 411 pounds. I didn't cry, and I didn't get angry. I was in such shock that I could even have let myself get that far." Now she's at 176 and has dropped 235 pounds! She said, "It's insane, I lost more than I weigh." And she went from a size 30 to a size 10!
Annemarie had no trainer and just started walking on the treadmill and walking outside. She shared, "there was a park right behind my house, and I knew that a lap around the park was a quarter-mile. I got very excited when I reached my first mile. That one mile ultimately led to three and four miles."
She kept going to the gym, loved cardio, and slowly incorporated weight training. Now she's really into it and shared, "it has helped me to tone lots of my skin. Although I have currently over 10 pounds of excess hanging skin, that can't be toned . . . I still lift weights. I can actually say it's my favourite part of the workout now. I love watching biceps come in." Annemarie also loves the way weight lifting changes your body and boosts your mood and confidence.
Working out wasn't the only change she made. Annemarie said she immediately cut out soda, sugary drinks, and fried food. She cut fast food cold turkey, admitting, "I was literally eating McDonald's up to a few times a day. Between Chinese food, takeout, pizza, and fast food, I was on a road of destruction."
Annemarie started incorporating tons of protein, and vegetables, too. She hadn't cooked much before starting her weight-loss journey, and she loved learning along the way. Now she loves to cook, which is why she shares her meals and meal prep with her Instagram followers. She didn't cut out carbs or sugar, or follow Atkins or Weight Watchers. She lowered her food intake and said, "I just chose to eat healthy and work out."
She eats at least six times a day; three meals and three snacks. She said, "failing to plan means that you are planning to fail." Her advice is to "plan ahead and have healthy food prepped ahead of time," and "always keep healthy snacks in your car, purse, desk, etc!"
One of her favourite nonscale victories was being on the airplane for the first time. "I was able to buckle my seat belt! There was a time when I would have had to buy two seats." She also used to be out of breath walking up the stairs, and said, "now I can do over an hour of cardio and truly enjoy it."
Clothing was huge, too. Anemarie shared that when she first started her journey, a size 28 jeans was too small, so she'd take a rubber band and pull it through the loop and attach it to the button just to make the pants fit. She said, "I would cry in the dressing room over and over. And then I would emotionally eat fast food on the way home. It was such a vicious cycle." Now she's proudly a size 8, "and that's with all of my excess skin. It's just incredible to know that I have dropped that many sizes. Being able to walk into a store and not have to walk to the plus-size section and pay double the money was something that I never thought I would experience."
Now Annemarie works out at least six days a week, and said, "I don't just do it for my physical body. I also do it for mental health, as well. It helps me cope with my anxiety and stress." A car accident also caused some herniated discs, so certain workouts she does to strengthen the muscles and joints around those discs for long-term care.
She said, and I'm sure many of us can agree, "I can honestly say that the gym is the most important part of my life. Health and fitness is so big for me because it has given me such self-love, structure, determination, and dedication and values. I have learned so much about setting goals. Reaching them and setting new ones. Helping other people in the gym and eating healthy has become a passion for me." She admits that she used to be one of the most angry, selfish, self-involved people, and she said, "now I don't know how I ever lived that way. Because helping other people get fit and lose weight has to be one of the most gratifying feelings."
How does Annemarie stay motivated? She said, "as crazy as it sounds, I have never lost my motivation. I became even more motivated when I saw how large of a following I was getting, because of how much I kept it real with my followers and shared so many parts of my journey. Knowing that I have so many people that look to me for motivation plays a big part in keeping me motivated. Seeing how far I have come and where I came from gives me so much motivation. It keeps me focused because I would never want to go back that way."
Annemarie has some advice for others about nutrition. She said, "I could never stress enough that it plays the biggest part on a weight-loss journey. It doesn't matter how many hours you spend in the gym if you are not eating healthy. I always say that you can't outrun your fork. And it's the truth. It's all about being honest with yourself."
She also feels it's important to have a good support system. "If your friends and family don't understand or support you, use social media or other networks to find people on the same journey. Although people are not on your exact journey with your exact mindset, they have been or are going through many of the same obstacles." She went on, "be humble and share your journey. You never know who you are inspiring."
Annemarie said, "I never thought that when I started, I would have accomplished all that I have. I remember when I said I just wanted to lose 100 pounds or be a size 14. I never imagined that so many people would look up to me. I never imagined that I would have became an athlete signed by a company. If I can do it, so can anyone. You just have to have your mind made up."
It's all up to you to make it happen. Annemarie said, "Don't be scared to speak up; this is your journey. Whether it be saying no and turning down bad foods, whether it be changing your schedule around or missing events because of your workouts. Don't be scared to speak up. This is your journey."
And don't be concerned about what other people are doing, what they say, or how they might judge you. "Never let the opinions of anyone stop you." And remember that this journey is difficult, and it's a lifelong journey. "The battle of a food addiction never goes away, you just learn to get strong. As time goes on, you'll get stronger and stronger. You just have to trust the process, stay dedicated and focused."
Annemarie also said, "you'll become confident, and it will change your entire outlook on life. There's something about the smile of a person who has battled so much and overcame things. It's genuine, it's beautiful. BE THAT PERSON. Don't be the person that scrolls through the Internet or social media looking at the transformation pictures of others. Create your own transformation. And make sure that you can share any way you can. You never know who you have the potential to inspire."