The physical and mental strategies that helped this woman lose 82 pounds

Name: Vanessa Baldwin

Age: 37

Residence: Skokie, IL

Job: Operations director for the Archdiocese of Chicago

Family status: Divorced, raising a 17-year-old daughter

Peak weight: 226 pounds

Current weight: 143 pounds

Height: 5 feet 6.5 inches

When Vanessa Baldwin left her home country of Peru and came to Missouri for college, she picked up on a traditional American custom — the freshman 15. But she didn’t stop there — she continued to gain weight.

As the years passed her weight bounced around. “I would try different exercises or diets — the latest trends like Atkins, the cabbage soup diet, juicing, cleanses, fasting. I tried everything,” she says. Her weight would drop with these attempts, only to rebound as high or higher afterwards.

She reached a low point in 2017. A small foot injury gave her an excuse to stop the exercising she was doing, and she indulged in what she calls “majorly unhealthy foods.” She says, “I was eating fast food more than once a day, and having a chocolate bar before bed.”

“My unhealthy lifestyle turned into a vicious cycle. When I started eating unhealthily, I started gaining the weight. Unhealthy food tastes great — I enjoyed eating it,” she says. Her knees hurt, she would be out of breath climbing a flight of stairs, and she started feeling unhappy. For comfort, she turned to — you guessed it — food.

She took to hiding at home, eating, watching movies and avoiding her friends. “I lost friendships. I wouldn’t go out anymore. I changed,” she says.

Her weight peaked at 226 pounds. And it was affecting her health, too. She had stopped getting her period due to a hormonal imbalance. Her cholesterol levels were high, and she was prediabetic. She was taking four pills daily to control these conditions, and the medication upset her stomach.