Eight years ago, Candice Williams, one of our customer service reps, stepped on a scale for a health screening at work. Candice looked down and saw the word “Error” where numbers should have displayed. She had exceeded weight limit of the scale.
It was that moment – the embarrassment of people shuffling around to get a “special scale” with a higher weight limit, and the shock of realizing she’d reached 460 pounds – that brought her to where she is today.
“I will never go back to where I was. I knew then that I had to make some drastic changes in order to stay alive,” Candice says. She was just 23 years old but on the way to serious health consequences if she didn’t lose weight.
Candice’s journey to lose 280 pounds over four years – and keep it off for another four – is one that has inspired the Blue Cross employee community and her more than 130,000 (as of today) followers on social media.
A childhood cut short
“I grew up fast,” Candice says of her childhood.
Candice’s mother had bariatric surgery when Candice was 9. This was in the 1990s before it was a mainstream weight loss surgery – or even a particularly safe one. Complications of the surgery left Candice’s mom with disabilities.
In and out of foster care for periods of her childhood, and always much heavier than other kids, Candice would eat “everything” off the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s. “Food was my stress relief,” she says. “Eating was the only control I had in my life.”
Candice was often teased and treated cruelly because of her weight. “I had a foster parent who told me not to play with her children because I might sit on them and crush them,” she says.
Making big changes
After that day on the scale, Candice started attending Weight Watchers meetings at work. She followed the program closely, and started to see the pounds drop. “The last 20 pounds was the hardest, and took me over a year to lose.”
In addition to the dieting, she also started moving, and she hasn’t stopped since.
“I work out for at least two hours a day, every day,” she says. “I do it because it makes my soul happy.” Candice now teaches Body Pump classes and is getting certified to teach yoga. “I start grinning like a Cheshire cat when I talk about exercising, because I love it so much.”
How she’s kept it off
She doesn’t currently follow the Weight Watchers program, but still closely watches what she eats. She drinks a gallon of water every day, eats as many vegetables as she can (and fruit too, but watches its sugar content), and eats only lean meat.
She admits she’s not always perfect. “If I cheat – I’m human, so I occasionally do – I just don’t go overboard. I may want chips, but I’ll have some goldfish crackers instead.”
She’s past the days where she has to padlock her pantry, but the struggle is still real. She avoids temptation by careful meal planning (which means being less likely to make an impulse stop at a fast food joint). “The first thing I do when I open my eyes in the morning, after thanking God, is plan what I’ll eat for dinner.”
She’s always pushing herself to new limits. “I never would have thought I’d love yoga. The first time I took a hot yoga class, it literally made me sick to my stomach. But I said, I’m not going to let this beat me!”
It’s been a long journey, and she’s the first to admit that it’s not always easy, nor is it ever far from her mind. “When my mother passed away last year, I just wanted to eat. It was really hard to stay strong, but I got through it.”
Her advice to you
- Do not compare yourself to anyone else. “It’s your own weight loss journey, not anyone else’s,” she says. Your friend may only need to lose 20 pounds. Your sister may look like a supermodel without even trying. When you start comparing, you start doubting yourself. And you may get caught in what Candice calls a cycle of “sad, mad, eat.”
- Realize your motivation. “Why do you want to lose weight?” she wants you to ask yourself. It could be because you want to look better for your high school reunion. Or maybe you want to be able to run around with your kids without getting out of breath. Or you have to lose weight to manage a chronic disease. Whatever that motivation is for you, realize it and hang on to it. Tightly.
- No excuses. Candice says, “There are absolutely no excuses. I lost my weight when I was going to school full-time, working full-time, and taking care of my mother. Whether you have a health condition or one leg or whatever it is – you can still do something. You have to start somewhere.”
- Surround yourself with positivity. “This is probably the hardest one,” Candice admits. Still, she tries to find the good in any situation. “I may have a morning where I wake up late, burn my breakfast, and get into traffic – but then I have to think, at least I have food to eat and a car to drive and a job to go to.” Candice has integrated positive affirmations into every aspect of her life, from a smartphone app called ThinkUp to notes she’s posted all over her house.
“I am beyond happy,” Candice says of her life now.
An avid hiker, Candice has a goal of climbing the highest peak in every state, a goal that would have seemed ridiculous to her “ten years ago” self. So far she’s summited 20 of the 50 – the highest being North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell at 6,684 feet.
Her Instagram following is growing daily, and it can sometimes be overwhelming, but she loves it.
“I’m a Virgo, so I can’t stand disorganization,” Candice laughs. “I may have 400 Instagram messages and 1,000 Facebook friend requests, and I want to respond to them all.” And she does. She’s even taken days off of work to focus on responding to messages and offering words of encouragement.
When asked if people tell her she’s made a difference in their life, she answers, “Every day. And I am so grateful for that.”
Still, Candice insists she’s not special. “I never forget where I came from, and I never take a moment for granted. I believe 100 percent that anybody can do what I’ve done, if they are willing to put in the work. Anybody can do it.”