Woman loses 90 pounds after seeing a photo of herself in a bikini: 'I cried'

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

Ali Shinn is 5’9” tall and currently weighs 170 pounds. In 2014, after seeing an unflattering picture of herself, she was determined to get in shape and live a healthier life. This is her weight loss story.

The Turning Point

The summer after middle school I went from a 5‘9”-beanpole to a curvy woman. I wasn’t prepared for it and as a tomboy, it was hard to wrap my mind around this new identity. I started high school not knowing a single person and was automatically labeled as a girl who had probably slept around just because I had a chest and curvy waist. I was 14 years old and already being pigeonholed into an image that wasn’t me. Between the unwanted advances at school and issues with depression and abandonment, I found comfort in food and my laptop. I’d spend hours tucked away in my room on the internet or playing “The Sims” and eating until eventually all my “curves” went away.

By the time I was 16, I was nearing 200 pounds and starting to see the consequences of my bad habits. I lost the stamina I once had, my clothes didn’t fit how I wanted, and I was just uncomfortable with myself.

There were a few points when I tried desperately to lose weight. In college I partied too much and fell into the routine of eat, sleep, drink. I was putting on weight and trying to keep it off at the same time, spending hours at the gym to just try and stay where I was. I would try again and again until eventually I hit 260 pounds. At that point, I had stopped caring and just pretended I wasn’t that big. I’d tell everyone I was 180 pounds, throw on my bikini, and put a smile on my face. Then in October of 2014, I went on vacation to the Florida Keys. My stepmother took a picture of me, back turned and sitting on the edge of a pool in a bikini, and I cried. I couldn’t believe that it was me.

When I got back from that trip I made a promise to myself that I would get healthy and be that happy kid who was so full of life again. I wanted to be able to chase my pups and not get winded. I wanted to hike and swim and run (and be good at it). I wanted to put on clothes and feel good in my own skin. So I made a promise to myself and haven’t stopped since.

This is the swimsuit photo that Ali Shinn cried over. It started her weight-loss journey. (Photo: Ali Shinn)

The Changes

I knew that if I tried to do everything at once I would give up and be right back where I started, so the first thing I did was cut back on my drinking. I had been in such a depressive state for so long that I was drinking all the time. Cutting down was a huge step in the right direction for me. I continued to make small changes. A few weeks went by and I began walking my pups every day, taking hour-long hikes around a 3.5 mile trail. I was feeling better already and the weight was coming off. I hadn’t even begun to change my eating habits yet.

At the start of 2015, I began dieting. I tried everything from going low-carb to counting calories, Weight Watchersketo, and fasting. They all worked, but nothing stuck. I would lose weight and get annoyed with how hard it was to maintain and quit again. But I continued to drink a ton of water and walk my pups every day, so I was still losing weight at a slow pace.

Eventually I made the decision to just eat what I want, only less of it, and aimed to make healthy choices 70 percent of the time. It worked. Soon enough, I was nearing 200 pounds. At that point I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be able to do pushups and kick ass. I tried so hard to get into the gym life, but it just wasn’t for me. Then a friend introduced me to at-home workouts through Beachbody, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When I tell people how I lost weight, I tell them I learned how to eat a piece of pizza instead of the whole pie. Today I walk my dogs and I work out at home for 30 minutes or less. I still drink. I still eat fast food. Sometimes I even eat a whole package of Oreos, but 99 percent of the time I stick to reasonable portion sizes and if I’m not hungry, I don’t eat.

It felt like I was taking back control of my life. I felt like I was moving toward the life I was supposed to live. I’m so lucky that I found a great community of people on Instagram to support me during my weight-loss journey. I made friends with strangers all over the world struggling with the same things. They kept me motivated, and every time I came close to quitting they were the ones who reminded me of how far I’d come.

Shinn before and after her weight-loss journey. (Photo: Ali Shinn)

The After

My life has changed completely. Losing the weight helped me figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life. It showed me that the life I had been living since I was 14 was essentially me trying to fit in and shelter my true self from being picked on again. My job, my day-to-day routine, my hobbies, the relationship I was in — they weren’t me. It was like waking up from a coma and life had moved on without me. I slowly started to strip away everything that wasn’t me and now I’m closer to my dream life than I ever was.

Every day I feel a little closer to the person I truly am. Now I am about to make another huge change and move my pups and my significant other into an RV and go on the greatest adventure of our lives. I wouldn’t be able to do this without a healthy body.

I wasn’t expecting the need to help others as much as I have it. I thought my weight loss would be private. But I learned how to rely on myself and push myself, and I wanted to help others do the same. So my journey became very public and it still is.

Shinn after losing 90 pounds. (Photo: Ali Shinn)

The Maintenance

I walk my three dogs every day for about an hour and work out for 30 minutes every morning from home. I try to do active things with my significant other, like bike riding, axe throwing, trampoline parks, etc., instead of going to the movies or out for drinks.

My eating habits are simple: I eat when I’m hungry and I eat what I want, but I always eat correct portions and choose healthy food 70 percent of the time. I drink a ton of water as well and stay away from sugary drinks. My best habits are the ones I created from the beginning: cutting out heavy drinking, upping my water intake, and walking my dogs every day. I can eat pretty badly, but if I maintain those three things my weight doesn't fluctuate much.

The Struggles

The biggest thing I struggle with is eating when I fall into a depressive state. Food is still a comfort for me, and I’m constantly working through it.

Advice

Start slow — change one habit at a time, and remember it's all about learning how to eat a slice of pizza instead of the whole pie. Small, good choices will lead you to big results.

You can follow Shinn’s journey on Instagram @ladywiththedogs.

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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