Before Mother’s Day last year, Adriana Mercado was feeling pretty good about herself.
Sure, her size had been creeping up, from 14 to 16, to double XL, then triple XL. But she wasn't worried about her weight. If she wore loose clothes, she felt comfortable most of the time. Then she saw the photos from a Mother's Day church celebration.
“I was like, what in the world is this?” Mercado says. “That day when I saw my picture I said no, this has to change, I don’t want to be that person.”
At that time she weighed 285 pounds.
Kick start to change
The next day, Mercado started to walk around her neighborhood. She started small, with 20-minute walks every day.
“It was very tough at the start. I would gasp for air and look at my phone to see if it was almost over.”
Mercado kept going and at the end of the first week she had lost 8 pounds. Then she added diet changes.
“I said no to sodas, no to junk food, no to cakes and all that stuff.”
And she was telling people about it. That led to the next step in her journey.
A friend at church told her about Be Well™ Baytown, an initiative of MD Anderson sponsored by ExxonMobil. Be Well Baytown provides community programming across the city of Baytown, Texas, including six-month free memberships at a nearby YMCA.
“It’s changed the whole family for the better,” Mercado says.
“I also joined the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program,” she says. That program is also supported by Be Well Baytown. “It’s a 25-session course over a year that teaches all about portion sizes, grocery shopping, emotional triggers, how to eat out and what restaurants to pick.”
A year later, she was down to 214 pounds, a loss of 71 pounds.
“I have gained 10 pounds back but it’s a lot of muscle because I’m doing cycling and body pump,” she says. “I feel stronger and leaner.”
“The direct impact is happiness”
Now Mercado is comfortable in all kinds of cute clothes and she knows she looks great. But the real benefits of all her hard work have come in the way she feels.
“Before, I couldn’t tie my shoes, I couldn’t stand in high heels. My back was hurting, my head was hurting, my periods were off and I had prediabetes,” says Mercado.
“Now I have a lot of energy. I come to the gym in the morning, I go home, I might mow the lawn. I can do a lot of things,” she says. “And the direct impact is happiness.”
She used to fear that she would end up in the hospital, or worse. She was worried she wouldn't be there for her daughters. She thought, "How am I going to serve others if I don’t love myself first?"
And that’s her message to others: “If you love yourself, do something for yourself. Just do 20 minutes, walk one block, then do the same the next day.”
We did it together
Mercado’s 20 minute walks have turned into an hour on an elliptical, an hour on the treadmill and cycling and strength training classes on top of that.
“Motivation was the key to my success, and the classes and friendship I have built up at the gym.” Mercado says.
Her friends have a social media network and now they motivate each other to keep going.
“It’s difficult to start, difficult to stay, but easy to go back to the way it was,” says Mercado. “I will keep going.”