My name is Hannah Curlee Young (@ bl11hannah) and I’m 42 years old. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, and I am a female wellness coach and motivational speaker. After a back injury, I gained weight quickly. I continued The biggest loser and started eating a low carb and low sugar PCOS diet and going for weight loss as well as incorporated strength training and HIIT to achieve a healthy weight for me.
I grew up as a very active child and teenager. I played sports all year round and never struggled with weight issues. But at the age of 19, I slipped and fell down a flight of stairs and broke my back. This accident changed my life dramatically.
I went from being extremely active (I even played sports at the collegiate level) to being in bed for several months. I lost my identity. I needed help bathing during the healing and started struggling with depression. About three months after my spinal cord surgery, I started gaining weight.
I gained almost 100 pounds in just over a year. It was really thinking. I basically dived for years. I stopped seeing friends from my past, avoided people and started a destructive path of yo-yo dieting. I could never find balance. I was either 100 percent off the field or 100 percent restrictive and miserable. I was still having a hard time learning to train with a spinal cord injury, and for the first time in my life, I felt completely worthless.
I was also diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) in the early 2000s before it became better known, and based on my ultrasound and hormone panels I was told that I probably would not be able to have children. I was also told that with PCOS it is not only difficult to lose weight but also difficult to sustain a loss. This felt like a total bowel movement.
The day my weight hit 299 pounds when I was 29, I knew something had to change.
I wasn’t even sure how to do it, but I knew I had to get it together. I had wasted my 20s in being miserable, exhausted and in a body that felt much older. I had pain and sleep problems and was pre-diabetic. I knew that if I did not get my insulin levels under control, medication was next.
Enter: Season 11 on The biggest loser in 2011. I had never seen a single episode of The biggest loser before my sister Olivia and I were on the show after being scouted by a casting producer. I thought it was for medically obese people and did not realize I was in that category.
I had no idea how I was or how it would even be. My first week on the show was awful. I literally felt like one of the most out of shape people there. I fainted the first day before the cameras even started rolling! Each week, some participants tried to predict who was going home or who would not lose enough for the week, and somehow I was always on that list. I was the ultimate underdog and honestly, that was what lit my fire in the beginning.
To be on The biggest loser helped me learn to accept help and take responsibility for my own actions.
I had the best and most difficult experience of my life. I had to wake up every day and stare down at my failures and talk about my deepest disappointments, all the while pushing my body, filming a TV show for hours and preparing my meals. It was exhausting and amazing and incredibly life-changing at the same time. The biggest loser taught me that the only thing holding me back from the life I always wanted was me. It helped me realize that my best was enough and that being myself and learning to love myself was the only way to move forward.
Everyone thinks about the physical part of TBL is the hard part. Yes, it’s hard, but it does not hold candles for the emotional work that needs to be done to truly change your life. Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels were not just educators, they became confidants, mentors and they pushed us to get better, to want more and demand it. Honestly, if it were not for my sister Olivia (who was also on the show with me), I would never have done this.
I started climbing out of the victim mentality; my own excuses became outdated and rotten. I started waking up on purpose and laid my head down and went to work. Olivia and I gave 150 percent every single day, and honestly, it was the first time I stuck to a diet and exercise routine. See, I learned that most meal plans work, we just do not stay long enough to make a real change. We were told that the best diet you can find is one you can stick to and make your lifestyle.
I learned that nutrition and exercise went hand in hand. That even though I lost slower than most participants, it did not matter. My goal was to continue every single day, to wake up and take steps to change my life. (I ended up in the top two with Olivia!)
I still use so many of the things I learned from the show.
I learned that a moderately lower carb eating style works best for my hormones to stay balanced. I learned that moderation is a style of eating. I also learned that the human body is resilient. I had to deal with how I had treated my physical body and how it started in my mind.
The show brought the fighter back into me, the person who can really conquer anything. I learned that using friends and family for support was a must going forward. I learned that living under a black cloud had to do with carrying it around for so many years. Jillian sat down with me and explained that I needed to change things at home. Rearrange my kitchen, really think about whether I love my current job, think again about certain friendships and take a survey of the people in my life. Were they there to support me, or was it just me who always supported them? I made so many changes and it’s stuck.
When I got home from the show, I was reading the book The Obesity Code.
For the first time, I really learned about the power of insulin. I was already in a training program within a health coach and saw disbelief in the food pyramid. How could anyone run efficiently and eat lots of bread, milk and cereal? I knew that keeping my insulin neat and balanced would help my body continue to heal.
I would define my eating plan as a low sugar and less processed carbohydrate eating style. Technically, I am not keto, but I regularly cut out flour, sugar and processed carbohydrates. I make room for treats and have learned to respect food as fuel, but I also know that food can be medicine and can really heal the body. I eat vegetables and fruits that are lower on a glycemic scale (meaning they don’t eat your blood sugar that much), and I still weigh and measure my food intake.
I have also been practicing intermittent fasting to and from for about six years and I supplement daily with exogenous ketones. This way of living works for me and I really enjoy it!
Here’s what I eat in a day.
Breakfast: I drink an exogenous ketone for breakfast (grapefruit is my favorite flavor). This does not break my fast as I do not eat an actual meal before noon.
Lunch: Two whole eggs, two egg whites, spinach, tomato, real or turkey bacon, usually half a serving of goat cheese, 1/4 avocado and coffee with Keto Kreme, an MCT oil powder and collagen. The coffee helps me get healthier fats along with the MCT oil.
Snacks: I have a Greek yogurt bowl almost every day. I love making bowls with different flavors with different extract varieties. The one I had today was Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp. Natural almond or peanut butter, almond extract, sweetener of your choice (I use Stevia), blueberries and chopped almonds.
Dinner: Turkey taco salads with low carb tortilla chips. I make turkey taco meat on a bed of shredded salad with all the fillings. Think a little shredded cheese, tomatoes, green onions, real sour cream and fresh salsa. Then I cut a low-carb tortilla into small triangles with a pizza cutter and fry them with sea salt until crisp.
Dessert: I do not eat dessert often, but I love making a protein muffin in the microwave topped with Lily’s sugar free chocolate chips!
I learned how hard my body really is through training.
It was hard and painful at first, but I got better, stronger, and had more stamina for the first 90 days when I ever thought I would. People do not know that we trained very intensely on the show, but the most important thing we did was to go.
Now I train five days a week. I walk / run in the morning with approx. 45 minutes of weight training. On the weekends (usually Saturday) I go hiking. And my 4-year-old keeps me on my toes, just like my husband, who is a very active personal trainer. I have no choice but to go with them!
These three changes made the biggest difference in my weight loss results.
I accepted that I am not an intuitive eater. I had to learn to eat according to my body and my relationship to food. Tracking my meals and calorie intake kept me responsible and helped me understand what food nourished me and what foods I could fit. I also had a log of several months to look back on when I felt stuck or felt I needed to make changes. Diaries are not just about macros; they are a plan for what works for your body and what does not work. I also wanted to log my mood, energy and training to see when I needed to rest and when I needed to push.
I never gave up. It was the first time I just kept going. I would stop a million times. I had weeks where I lost zero pounds or even gained weight. I had to accept that weight loss is never linear. It’s up and down, but it’s those who keep on succeeding! Your body needs time to adapt.
I prioritized myself in all aspects of my life. I changed careers, I branched out and tried new forms of exercise, and I celebrated every milestone and shared it with others.
I lost 120 pounds in nine months.
After the show, I found my ideal weight of about 25-28 percent body fat and learned to gain muscle so my calorie burn remained high. Six years after maintenance, I became pregnant and had a baby. My body has certainly changed in my 40s, but I am proud to say that I am healthy, happy and most of all strong.
I will be responsible in my Facebook group “Road down“With other women who focus on health while having a life. Social media can be a dark place, but with the weight loss community, it has been very supportive for me. I am very proud of my journey and am so grateful for my time on TBL and mine TBL family.
Losing weight with my sister and doing projects with her along the way has been a dream come true! The real work started after TBL ended and I am proud to say that I have kept my health a priority. I am a happy person and have a healthy, great family when I have bad days. And I know I always have another chance in 24 hours to make better choices.
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