How Disney and Shia LaBeouf helped one woman lose 90 pounds

Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Jay Ildaite is 5’7” tall, and currently weighs 160 pounds. In 2015, after her aunt died because of some complications related to her weight, she was inspired to get healthier. This is her weight loss story.

The Turning Point

Weight has always been an issue for me, mentally. Since my youth, my body has matured faster than other kids around me. I was always taller, thicker, stronger. As a pre-teen, some older family members would pinch my fat rolls telling me I was getting a little tubby. Now that I am older, I understand that I was not actually tubby — just a growing child. But the mental issue of “I am fat and that’s not ok” has always been in my head.

As an adult, my major weight gain began in 2009. I was in a comfortable relationship, happy and content. We would often celebrate our monthly anniversaries by going out to eat, having cake, and drinking lots of beer. For the next five years, I sprang from 145 pounds to somewhere over 240 pounds.

In 2015, my aunt, who was like a second mother to me, passed away unexpectedly from a medical issue. Her weight at the time was somewhere above 300 pounds. Though her weight was not the thing that caused her death, it was a large reason for the complications she had. This was the turning point for me.

Jay Ildaite, pictured before her weight-loss journey, says she felt self-conscious about her weight for years. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Changes

The first thing I did was stop drinking. This was probably the hardest part of my weight loss. But became easier once I realized I could actually do it. I left beer in my fridge for weeks just to prove to myself that, even though it was within hands reach, I did not need it.

The second thing I did was count how many calories I was eating within a day. This part was eye-opening. I was eating more than 4,000-5,000 calories in one day, most of them in the evening after 9 p.m. I decided on a more reasonable calorie intake that maintained healthiness but would also provide me with the weight loss I desired. I never made anything off-limits. If I wanted a cookie, I would have a cookie — I just wouldn't have 10. If I wanted ice cream or chocolate or cake, I would have these things, but just a small portion.

The third thing I did was become more active. I am not a gym person. I hate the gym. But I do love to be active. So instead, I found things to do that were “my kind” of things. I got a Disney pass and began walking the parks a few times a week for exercise. I’d wave to my favorite characters, take photos with them for “progress check-ups,” and keep on walking.

I also used a few different workout apps on my phone. There are so many apps available out there to motivate you and help you get into shape. I also used YouTube videos of beginner yoga, Pilates, and Zumba at home after work.

I will be honest, there were plenty of times I wanted to give up. Weeks when the scale just would not move, no matter how hard I worked at making myself better. But the thing that always kept me going was just knowing eventually it will move. And it always did.

Every day I would stand in front of the mirror and compliment myself on my progress, however small. “Oh wow, look at the muscle definition in your calf today!” “Oh wow, look at the way your cheeks show your dimples so much more now!” Complimenting yourself while going through a difficult time is a hard thing to do, but very much worth it. My mother would always say, “Where is your modesty, girl?” and my response was always, “I lost that 80 pounds ago.”

As silly as it may be, the mantra for my journey was Shia LaBeouf yelling in front of his green screen: “Yesterday you said tomorrow! Do it! Just do it! Make your dreams come true!” It really is quite motivational when you feel down in life.

Ildaite before and after losing 90 pounds and gaining confidence. (Photo: Getty Images)

The After

Everything physical became easier. Bending over became easier. Sleeping was easier. Buying clothes, putting groceries in the car, picking up children.

The emotional part of it was also very extreme. You never really realize how uncomfortable you are in public situations when you feel “fat.” I was always adjusting my clothes or trying to hide my belly with a bag or purse. I was always very self-conscious about what I was buying at the store or at a restaurant, thinking people were judging me for my choices.

After I lost almost 100 pounds, it felt freeing. It gave me a level of comfortability and confidence I never had before. The idea that I could go to the grocery store in shorts and a tank top to buy ice cream and cookies was mind-blowing. Such a simple, throw away idea, but such a big change. I was no longer constantly thinking people were looking at me because I was unappealing. I was able to just exist and enjoy my cookies.

The fact that I was able to do this in my late 30s is probably the most surprising thing to me. I am one of the laziest people I know, but I did it. And it feels awesome.

Ildaite, shown after shedding 90 pounds, says that losing the weight has been "freeing." Photo: Getty Images

The Maintenance

Within the last year, I have gained back about 10 pounds, which is perfectly OK. I no longer count calories, but keep an eye on what I eat and what nutrients the food provides for me. I workout at home at least three times a week, if not more, and still visit Disney for walks when I can.

Being aware is an important habit. Be aware of what your body is desiring. If you are craving a certain kind of food, more than likely you are low on a specific vitamin or mineral. Once you figure out what you really need, your body and mind will feel happy and complete without having to eat five chocolate chip cookies.

Happiness keeps me motivated. Remembering how miserable and physically exhausting life was when I was heavy keeps me going. Being able to sit in a chair with my feet pulled up in it like a child — that keeps me motivated.

The Struggles

Time management has changed for me since I first started working out and losing weight. When I first began, I was able to put most of my time and effort into it as a “main quest-line,” but now I have new quests to fulfill that take most of my day. But I do what I can, and I always take at least a little time for myself to exercise.

Advice

Do it. Just do it. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!

Wellness Wins is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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