For almost two years, 31-year-old Justine McCabe has been documenting her weight loss on Instagram and Tumblr. Through it all, she’s accumulated thousands of followers.
She’s also lost 124 pounds.
Today, the California-native has become an inspiration for those who are struggling with weight gain as a result sorrow.
“I am a survivor of a suicide loss,” she wrote on her blog in 2015. “I am a survivor of prematurely losing a parent. I am a survivor of teenage pregnancy. I am a survivor of a life less planned.”
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On the site, she details how she coped with her grief. Most of the time that involved turning away from friends and family and turning toward food.
“There was never any of the answers I was looking for in the emotional binge eating. The only thing I would be left with was an over extended sick-to-my-stomach feeling, regret that it was not worth it and I would have to be held accountable for what I did,” she said in another post. “It was a cycle I began to repeat endlessly, almost expecting a different result each time. Torturing my body with breakfast foods was never going to solve any problems or make unidentified emotions disappear.”
It was several months, and reaching a weight of over 300 pounds, before McCabe made the decision to change her life.
“Moving forward was a choice I had to make every single day,” she tells Global News. “Getting up and out of bed and ready to participate in life was the hardest thing I had ever done, because even though I was in the motion of doing so, my heart was in a different place. I had no desire or passion for life.”
She says she felt lost in thoughts of living without loved ones.
“As I moved forward, I made the conscious decision every day to participate and be present solely for my children. They were my reason to keep going. I searched for anything to serve as a distraction and give me hope of new life. I wanted to feel better, I wanted to feel happiness.”
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So she started doing small things that she could focus her energy on. She joined a gym (where she worked out six days a week), she left her house, and she began to eat better.
According to The Daily Mail, while her breakfast used to consist of three waffles with maple syrup, she now eats egg whites with avocado. Lunches used to be pizza, today midday meals are quinoa, chicken and asparagus. Dinners now involve chicken, brown rice and broccoli.
“Before I used to eat very big portions, then lots of fried food and sometimes at dinner I’d go back for three servings,” she’s said. “I was always snacking between meals, I used to eat a lot of processed food like candy, donuts, cookies, anything quick and convenient… It really affected my confidence, I was known as ‘the big giant girl’ because of my height and weight.”
McCabe also started sharing her “progress pictures” on social media.
To keep herself motivated, she set herself adventurous goals and challenges that involved her facing her fears.
The result for the #keepgoing advocate has been the loss of 12 dress sizes and a new outlook on life. (#keep going is a motivational hashtag for those looking to lose weight.)
In a flipgram McCabe posted several weeks ago, she showcased her total-body transformation. The accompanying caption says it all:
“The person you see reflecting in the mirror…will provide you with the biggest challenges in life. The human spirit is powerful. Do the work. Suffer the setbacks, push past the pain and excuses. True motivation is not an outside source. It’s staring directly back at you. There is nothing you cannot be, do or have. Live with no regrets and don’t ever give up. This is what drives me. My motivation.”
She tells Global News she firmly believes in the idea that everyone has a personal journey they have to go through. “It all starts with the belief within ourselves that we are capable and have the power to change our life, to get through the bad days and to keep going. I did it. I lived it. I know that anyone can.”
She’s also developed a strategy for transforming the everyday.
- Live small. “Search for the small things that make you feel happy, alive and build up your self-esteem by taking care of yourself… you are worth it.”
- Take risks. “I never imagined I would be chasing the things I was once afraid of. Never did I think I would be a skydiver, a cliff jumper, an obstacle racer; things that once paralyzed me with fear are now the very things that set me free and make me feel alive.”
- Seek help. “I [initially visited] a grief counsellor weekly, [and] have gone to her for well over a year. I never imagined that opening myself up and talking about my pain would be so healing.”
- Embrace social. “Using social media to talk openly about my grief has been a great emotional release. Almost like a dear diary. Knowing that it may be helping others who may feel alone in their own battle, helps me in return as I work on my own healing.” She also found comfort in reading thought-provoking quotes on Pinterest. “They really helped get me through sleepless nights.”
So where does McCabe see her journey going from here?
She currently hears from people on a daily basis about how her story has motivated them to change their lives, and she feels passionate about continuing to pay it forward. Even those close to her have started their own weight-loss journey; her father has lost 40 pounds, and her sister is down 22.
On a more personal note, the busy mom of two wants to keep conquering her fears (next up are bungee jumping, solo skydiving and travelling internationally) and she wants to lose more weight – around 25 to 30 pounds.
“I’ve discovered a huge passion for obstacle course racing,” she tells us. “I want to be able to conquer rope climbing, an unassisted pull-up and running over six miles. I want to be viewed as a serious athlete and tackle every challenging course… I want to push my limits and go as extreme as I can!”