No bells or whistles went off that morning in May 2020, but something inside Tonya Eller changed.
Like many moms, Eller had done her due diligence over the years — raising her five children, caring for her husband and home all while putting herself and her own health on the back burner. At 50 on that spring morning during the height of COVID, Eller was bordering on high blood pressure and often wore an outer smile to hide her inner unhappiness.
“I literally woke up one day and thought ‘why do I think I do not matter?” said Eller, who pondered the nagging thought over the next few days before deciding to make changes in her life that not only resulted in an 80-pound weight loss but in the gain of so much more.
Eller had lost weight before. She’d been successful with Weight Watchers at one time, but she put the weight back on. The focus of those previous attempts was the same – match a number on the scale and look better.
This time, though, weight loss wasn’t the ultimate goal.
“I wanted to feel better,” said Eller.
She wanted to have the energy to play with her grandchildren and go on trips with her adult children.
She didn’t undergo surgery or follow a commercial weight loss program. She examined her eating habits and adopted what’s called a “clean” approach focusing on a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats. She counted macros or macronutrients which are broken into three categories — proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
She discovered her previous diet was high in carbohydrates while low in proteins.
“I didn’t do low carb or low fat,” she said. “It was about being balanced.”
The Evans woman also added exercise to her daily routine, adding different types of activities, which progressively got harder and presented more of a challenge to her.
“I was trying to do something every day,” she said.
And she started feeling better physically. The weight loss was an added benefit this time.
She began setting non-scale related goals such as participating in a half-marathon, which she did in February 2022.
Her husband, Greg, has coached her along the way, and they’ve bonded through her fitness journey. They lift weights together in the evening, and it’s something she looks forward to every day.
Since May 2020, she’s sculpted her body from a size 22 to a size 6, but she’s gained self-confidence she never knew she could achieve by pushing herself beyond her limitations.
In addition to her daily workouts with her husband, she does CrossFit, which according to its website is a “branded fitness regimen that involves constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.”
CrossFit was something she had to work up the courage to try even if she wasn’t good at it.
“One day, I said ‘why can’t I not do it?’” she said.
It doesn’t bother her that her times may be the slowest of those where she works out.
“I suck at it,” she said of CrossFit.
What once would have been a cause of embarrassment (being the slowest in the class) only fuels her desire to keep trying. She also said she’s stopped comparing herself and her journey to others. Instead, she uses their example to gain inspiration. She’s motivated herself by following other women on social media who in their 50s, 60s and older and are in peak physical shape.
That self-confidence has spilled over into other areas she never would’ve imagined.
Now that the Ellers are empty nesters, they take time to travel. Before her weight loss journey, Tonya Eller didn’t want to travel and she certainly wouldn’t be seen in a bathing suit, she said.
“I go do all the things I never enjoyed before. I was not enjoying things,” she said. “We travel all the time. We do excursions, and I’m not scared anymore.”
Eller said she was always afraid of heights, but she jumped off a cliff in December 2022 while on vacation in the Yucatan Peninsula. She admits it took about five tries before she finally took the plunge.
That was an accomplishment on two levels, she said. The first related to her fear of heights, and the second was not caring that she was in a swimsuit around other people.
Since she’s reached her goal weight and been there for a while, she has no intention of going back. She has “before” pictures on her mirror to keep her motivated, and she keeps making new goals to cause her to press on.
“A pullup and climb to the top of the rope, I want to do that one day,” she said.
And now, Eller said, her smiles are real.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org Subscribe to receive headlines in your inbox here.