The layer of love is real. It's that weight that seems to appear out of no where when you begin to fall in love, and it hugs your waist and thighs. Suddenly, you look in the mirror and realize what's been happening to your body while your heart was so busy. These "happy" pounds, as Erica Lugo, 29, refers to them, layered on when she met her husband – think dinners out and indulging on weekend getaways and vacations.
In 2010, Erica gave birth to her son. It was an amazing time, but what she remembers from that time was the onset of her postpartum depression, or PPD.
"I've always been a smidge on the 'bigger side,' Erica admitted. "Food was how I coped. I gained over 70 pounds before my son turned two.”
She confessed to eating her feelings – it didn't matter what emotion she felt. She would comfort herself or reward herself with treats. She said that every day ended up being a "treat day."
"My son was playing with some toys and I was sitting on the sofa," she began. "He asked me to come down to the floor to play with him and my first thought was, 'Ugh, I'm too tired.' That terrified me. I was too tired to play with my son? Something had to change."
At that moment, she began to take a closer look at herself. She realized the hair tie she looped through the button hole on her size 30 pants to give her extra room was another sign that enough was enough.
Erica took her first step using MyFitnessPal to help her understand the energy exchange between food and exercise. She had tried diets before, but nothing seemed to stick. So, she went back to the basics: less in, more out.
She signed a gym membership and began exploring a new routine. Her husband was all about supporting her, but at the same time, his support didn't equate to him mirroring her lifestyle changes.
"You know, I have really learned that people have much different ways of showing support. Being supportive of my new lifestyle does't mean you should change yours. I had someone in my family even say, 'Well, you know Erica, we all feel like we walk on eggshells around you when you eat and we eat what we have.' I have to laugh. No one ever batted an eyelash when I would eat five pieces of pizza and a pan of brownies. However, I bring in brown rice and chicken, and everyone feels uncomfortable! Throughout this journey you realize you don't need support from others to make this happen because at the end of the day you go to bed with your own thoughts, goals and ambitions. No one else can carry that for you."
Erica began her weight loss journey with a more practical approach than she had tried in the past. It was working. She changed her perspective from "lose this weight right now" to "live a healthier life."
"I learned to not deprive myself and be realistic," she offered. "This is a lifestyle change, not just a 15-month change. If I want a cheeseburger from McDonald's, I get a single burger and a side salad versus a large meal with fries. I also meal prep every Sunday.”
She enjoyed cardio and soon found high intensity interval training workouts, and fell head over heels. She began weight lifting and using resistance to help her build muscle and strengthen her bones.
>> WATCH: Sweat Like A Mother HIIT Cardio Workout
Living for Today
Looking back at her experience with postpartum depression, or PPD, Erica didn't know how far down the rabbit hole she had traveled. She felt a lot of negativity toward her own life, feeling like it was "over." She used her son's nap time not to clean or work on projects, but to sit and cry. She'd steal away and eat alone for a bit when she felt stressed. Looking back, she wishes she would have gotten help, but fortunately for Erica, she said she managed to climb out of the darkness herself.
By making healthy food choices and making exercise a part of her routine, Erica dropped 122 pounds in 13 months, from 322 pounds to 200. Since then, her total weight loss is a generous 150 pounds. Now, she leads a few dozen women through their weight loss journeys by acting as their coach. You can see how she continues to motivate others and push herself through Erica Fit Love online.
"Don't feel guilty to take care of yourself," she said. "Sure, we miss our kids or feel bad when we take an extra 90 minutes out of our day to take care of ourselves. But guess what? It's so worth it in the long term. You can't manage your household properly until you learn to manage yourself. I thrive off the fact that I know my son is being taken care of by a happy, healthy mother. He is also growing up knowing that taking care of yourself is important!"