Hannah Jenkins says that she was never bullied for her size.
She reached her highest weight — 278 lbs. — when she was in seventh grade, but “growing up in the South, it wasn’t that out of the ordinary to be overweight,” she says. “We just had no idea that people ate any other way.”
Jenkins, now 22, says that overeating was just part of her daily routine. “Every day I would come home from school, watch TV with my sisters and eat a whole package of snack cakes,” she says. After dinner, she’d continue to snack on packaged foods like ramen with cheese and more snack cakes. But when she got to college, everything changed.
“The turning point for me was meeting so many new people and realizing ‘Wow, I’m really actually very uncomfortable,’ ” the Knoxville, Tennessee, resident says. “I kind of became comfortable in that shell back home. In college I was like, ‘I don’t want this to be my first impression to everybody.’ ”
On New Year’s Day in 2013, Jenkins started her weight loss journey. “I used My Fitness Pal app to log my food, workouts and all the water I drank,” she says. She started off doing about an hour a day of cardio — 45 minutes on the elliptical and 20 minutes on the exercise bike — and after a few months, she moved on to weight training three days a week for 30 minutes. It took her one full year to lose 102 lbs, and in December 2016, after she’d lost 106 lbs., she had a tummy tuck to remove excess skin.
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Jenkins says that one reason she was able to lose the weight and keep it off was because she didn’t deprive herself. “I didn’t cut out anything completely; it’s about portion control,” she says. Now she loads up on protein for breakfast by eating either oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter or a protein shake, and sticks to lean proteins and small amounts of carbs like sweet potatoes and rice.
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Education about health and wellness was a huge part of Jenkins’s success — she just graduated college with a degree in nutrition. “My goal in life is just to help other people lose weight, in any way, any kind of job that I might be able to do that. Even if it’s just one person, [I want] to help one person change their lives like I changed mine.”
She’s already inspiring those close to her: “My whole family is motivated to get healthy because of me: My twin sister lost 170 lbs., my little sister lost 50 lbs. and my dad has lost 55 lbs.!”