Anne (Hearthsinger on the NF Boards) is an artist and a nerd.
She’s an actress, singer, and writer living in New York City, working as a tour guide during the daylight hours.
Not too long ago, Anne was a slave to games like World of Warcraft, playing them in ever spare moment she had:
I would stay up all night and get very little sleep before I had to wake up for work in the morning. There were days I watched the sun rise while farming netherwing eggs and thought nothing of it. I barely left the house unless I absolutely had to and would forgo social opportunities if I had a raid scheduled that night. When it came to my acting career, I knew that my physical appearance was limiting my ability to actually find roles I could play.
Anne was stuck in a cycle. She never realized she could apply the lessons learned in World of Warcraft and level up in real life, so she never did.
Fortunately, Anne eventually discovered that the secret to getting healthy was right under her nose the entire time.
Let’s learn how Anne lost over 102 lbs by bringing her passion for gaming into the real world.
Steve: Thanks for telling your story Anne! To start off, tell us a little about the “old you.”
My eating was out of control and I would definitely label myself as a food/sugar addict. I wouldn’t eat anything all day and then I’d eat a whole pizza, drink a few sodas, and top it off with an outrageous amount of snacks and deserts. Looking back on it, it really grosses me out. To make matters worse, I have a history with anorexia and bulimia. Every time I experienced “success” with weight loss, I went about it in the most abusive way possible.
I hated myself.
I was just so frustrated with how awful I looked that I would push myself to extremes to get results. I was desperate for a change, but the laziness I was exhibiting in the rest of my life kept me from committing to the the hard work it would take to create lasting results.
Steve: Was there a specific moment when you decided to make a change? What inspired you to get started?
My parents nagged me about my health for years! Family members tried to bribe me to take care of my health all the time. My doctors begged me to change my ways and kept trying to scare me with warnings about diabetes. As much as they tried, none of it really hit home for me.
Then my best friend Emily gradually dropped about 60 lbs over a period of 2 years and was successful with keeping it off, adopting positive lifestyle changes. She was starting to really enjoy cosplaying, but I felt like if I tried it the internet would call me fat. I had used my geekery as a shield to hide from my health issues and now here they were, invading the space where I’d felt safe and making me feel like I couldn’t participate in the things I was passionate about.
I decided I wouldn’t stand for it. I could bitch all I wanted about being “too fat” to be believable as a character, but at the end of the day, the cards were all in my hands.
Steve: Wow, sounds like quite the turning point. What’s a typical day like now?
I’ve basically adopted a Paleo/Primal lifestyle. I try to get up and do my exercise first thing in the morning so I don’t have to worry about it the rest of the day. I give myself 2 days of rest during the week so I have the willpower I need to make sure I don’t miss a planned work out.
After work, I hang out with my friends, play D&D, go to rehearsal, work on my current cosplay project, or write for my blog, Project Reroll. The blog keeps me accountable for sure, but hearing from readers about how my journey has motivated them to pursue healthier lives is what really keeps me going! If I’m at home for dinner, I cook for myself, and if I’m out with friends, I try to steer them towards a place where I know I’ll be able to make good choices.
Steve: What has been your exercise strategy? How has this changed?
For the first month, I focused purely on changing my diet. I didn’t worry about hitting the gym at all. In month two, I asked for a gym membership for my birthday and I went every single day to do an hour on the elliptical – no excuses. I was focusing on making it a habit. The deal I made with myself was that I couldn’t watch reruns of shows I’d already seen unless I was on the elliptical (Firefly, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Xena: Warrior Princess). After a few months, I decided I needed to spice things up and challenge myself to get over my nerves about having other people watch me exercise. I took Zumba and Yoga classes at the gym.
Even though I’d sworn I would never be a runner, I thought I’d give it a shot. I downloaded the Zombies, Run! 5k training app and I never looked back. Now, I try to do three days of cardio (with Zombies or my favorite TV) and two days of strength training. I either do a bodyweight circuit or 20-45 minutes of vinyasa yoga.
Steve: Can you tell us a bit more about your diet strategy? I know you eventually adopted a paleo mentality, but how did you start?
When I started this journey, I was on Nutrisystem. While I honestly believe it was the right one for me at the time, I always knew that I wouldn’t be on Nutrisystem forever; the people who I saw fail on that program were the ones who just blindly followed the plan and didn’t go to the trouble of educating themselves about nutrition, just trying to learn a few healthy recipes along they way so they wouldn’t be left with their pants down when they stopped their shipments of food.
I was still on Nutrisystem when I first discovered Nerd Fitness and read about Paleo. I honestly thought it was insane and that I’d never be able to handle that kind of diet.
I was convinced that the low-fat diet model was the one for me and that I’d be perfectly satisfied switching over to Weight Watchers when I was ready. As I got to know people on the forums and I read their Paleo/Primal recipes, my mouth started watering! In my first challenge, I decided I’d learn to cook three Paleo dishes. It was really intimidating because I felt like I was a really crappy cook, but I did it and I found that the food was delicious and filling – something that my Nutrisystem food was not. That challenge filled me with the desire to eat real food. I absolutely craved it. I was always hungry on Nutrisystem! I’d be starving all the time, but now I’m always full and fueled!
Steve: Permanent diet changes for the win! Was this toughest change for you to make?
Oddly enough, the toughest change was simply learning to accept that I wouldn’t always be perfect at executing my diet. I had to learn how to recover from setbacks and fails rather than just throwing in the towel. I had to learn to forgive myself and recommit each morning to healthy choices, no matter what happened the day before.
Steve: I’m glad to hear you learned the secret: that failure is only a failure when you give up after! How did you track your progress?
I took pictures, I weighed myself, and I took measurements. I’ve found that as I lose more weight and the scale slows down, I need to track other stats to keep my head in the game. The more ways I have of seeing my progress, the more opportunities I create to motivate myself to keep going.
I also keep track of my “fitness stats” like my 5k time and how many seconds I can hold a plank or various yoga poses.
Steve: Most important change you made that helped you succeed?
Honestly, going public with what I was doing has been the most invaluable part of this whole process. My weight and my personal struggles with food addiction and eating disorders have all happened behind closed doors, leaving me incredibly alone and helpless for far too long. Opening up that door and beginning to share things about my past and about what I was currently up against felt just as vulnerable as it did rewarding.
It’s dangerous to go alone! Don’t do it if you don’t have to!
Steve: What kind of support system did you have?
I’m SO LUCKY to have an incredibly supportive family who has afforded me every opportunity to succeed and provided me with extra cash for kitchen appliances and workout gear. I have a tight knit group of friends who celebrate what I’ve accomplished and make me feel like the heroine I always wanted to be.
I’ve also made some great friends on the NF boards and reading about their six week challenges continues to inspire me every day.
Steve: What would you tell somebody in your situation right now to help them: somebody who’s tried and failed but ready to try again?
Take it one step at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t force yourself to do things that you think you’ll hate or you’ll just give up. Find ways to make it exciting. If you hate it, do some research and try something else. Just keep an open and adventurous mind and continue to let your health plan evolve as you do.
Steve: What are you excited to do now that you weren’t physically able to do before?
I’m actively into cosplay now.
I’ve done Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic so far.
Next I have my new rogue Renaissance Faire garb and then hopefully, if I still have enough money, I’ll be putting together a Xena cosplay for New York comic con.
A few months ago, I met up some Rebels from the NF community and we all went rock climbing in Brooklyn. I was terrified I wouldn’t make it up the wall because every time I’d tried it as a kid I’d failed miserably. To my surprise, I shot right up the wall without even thinking about it. I was completely shocked. I had no idea I was capable of doing that.
Steve: Your physical appearance has changed…what else has changed about you?
I’m more assertive about what I want. I used to let myself get pushed around a lot because I didn’t think I deserved any better, but now I’m not afraid to ask for what I want and to go after it.
Steve: Okay, let’s get some nerdy questions in here: Jason Bourne or James Bond?
Indiana Jones. …What? Hehehe!
Steve: Favorite video game of all time?
I’m a huge Bioware fangirl. The Dragon Age series captured my imagination in a way no other game has. Those games always manage to break my heart in the best way.
Steve: Quote to live by?
“We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on.” – Albus Dumbledore, The Halfblood Prince.
Steve: Harry Potter FTW! Tell us something interesting about you!
I have no sense of smell. It’s a long story but I was on a farm as a child and I thought I saw a glass of apple juice in the barn so I drank it. Turns out I gota really bad chemical burn and they had to pump my stomach. I almost died because I refused to eat afterwards due to the pain.
Why Anne was successful
Anne’s story may sound familiar to you: stuck in the same unhealthy cycle, addicted to sugar, and retreating into the shadows when things got tough. Let’s look at why Anne was successful:
She utilized her interests: Anne knew who she was; rather than leave behind her nerdy interests, she embraced them! She used lessons from WOW and other games and put this knowledge towards her workout. She used cosplay events as inspiration and benchmarks for progress.
Diet diet diet: Anne put the focus of her transformation on her diet. Initially she JUST focused on her diet and saw results. She realized that programs like Nutrisystem or Weight Watchers might work temporarily, but long term progress and success required a more gradual and permanent (sustainable) change in diet. After adopting the Paleo Diet she found she had TONS of energy and was having fun eating healthy.
Personal accountability: Anne tracked her results and let the world know how she was doing, regularly. She created a blog and put the energy behind it to make her story something she was proud of. Much harder to fail when the whole world is watching, right?
Support: Anne had a robust support system: Family, friends, and the awesome Rebels of the NF Message boards. Haters can weigh you down and kill your journey before you even begin. Surrounding yourself with healthy people or those looking to get healthy can make all the difference in the world.
Real goals: Anne’s fitness journey didn’t just involve a vague idea about getting healthy; she knew what she wanted. Anne wanted to be able to go to the next cosplay event with pride, she wanted join her friends and get out from behind the keyboard. Anne went in knowing that getting healthy would open doors for the rest of her life, and it did.
Baby Steps: Anne didn’t worry about having the perfect routine and the perfect diet. She didn’t worry about setting aside hours upon hours a day to radically redesign her life. She had tried that in the past and failed. Instead, she understood that “perfect” is the enemy of “good,” especially when starting out. She started by just fixing her diet, then she started using an elliptical, then she mixed in some running, and then added in strength training and yoga. She took her time in the newbie zone before venturing out into the real world. At that point she had already built up momentum, an incredibly powerful buff
Real heroes in the real world
Nothing makes me happier than sharing success stories on Nerd Fitness.
Sure, it’s entertaining to read about how Gerard Butler got in shape for 300, but oftentimes it’s not practical or realistic.
Anne went from an unhealthy addicted gamer, spending any spare moment behind the keyboard playing World of Warcraft, to an awesomely fit and happy nerd in real life.
Sure, she still plays videogames, but now she’s a character herself!
She’s attending events, meeting up with fellow nerds, and breaking down new barriers like rock climbing. She turned her passion into her greatest motivation, using her nerd interests to get her through workouts and set long term goals.
Grats Anne, on inspiring the Nerd Fitness Rebellion; you are inspiring more people than you know!
What sort of questions do you have for Anne?
What kind of nerdy passions do you have that can be applied to living a better life?
photo source: flower