She found love, left sugar and lost more than 100 pounds

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(CNN) — Cady Stanton used to find solace in the sweet taste of ice cream.

Growing up, she would sneak downstairs after her family had gone to sleep and numb her anxiety by digging into a half-gallon container. She would eat until she was sick, knowing this was something she had to do in secret.

As the oldest child of a struggling Jehovah’s Witness family, Stanton shouldered a lot of responsibilities at a young age. Her mother suffered from a number of health issues, and her father worked three jobs just to put food on the table.

The family’s financial struggles had a huge impact on Stanton’s diet. Nearly all Stanton’s family was overweight, as they had neither the resources nor the knowledge to prepare healthy meals regularly.

They ate a lot of ground beef, spaghetti and the occasional treat of a take-and-bake pizza. They would wait in line for government-issued cheese and foodstuffs like powdered eggs and milk.

“Healthy eating requires money and time, something financially stressed families have little of,” she said. “We ate what was quick and cheap and familiar.”

Stanton knew she was overweight in the first grade when she looked down and saw her feet swelling out of her Mary Janes. But it wasn’t until her freshman year of high school that she made the connection between what she was eating and her body size.

One day she found herself staring into the vending machine of the gym locker room. She was 5-feet-5-inches and 200 pounds.

“At that moment it finally struck me that what I ate made me overweight,” she said. “You’d think I would know that. I was an honors student.”

Stanton changed her diet and started exercising regularly. In two years she went from 200 to 150 pounds. But there was one change she was still unable to make: sneaking food at night to comfort herself.

Consuming large quantities of ice cream had a calming effect. She had no other way to cope with her anxiety, so she was unable to keep the weight off.

She married in 1996 and moved to Washington. She stopped running and her weight climbed. She grew depressed when she realized the church she had joined wasn’t as welcoming as the one in her hometown of Portland, which was her only social outlet as a child.

She stopped weighing herself when she hit 265 pounds.

In 2005, she divorced her husband and moved to Seattle to start rebuilding her life. She gave her car to a relative and started walking and biking everywhere, losing 50 pounds almost without effort.

That same year, she met Ryan Laundry. She was pursuing her degree in psychology at the University of Washington at the time and weighed 215 pounds. While Laundry was interested in pursuing a romantic relationship, Stanton wouldn’t allow herself to think that he could be in love with her.

“That’s part of being overweight,” she said. “The last thing you want to do is humiliate yourself by assuming someone likes you romantically.”

She moved to Pennsylvania to get a doctorate degree in Human Development and Family Studies, but she and Laundry reconnected when she returned to Seattle. They bonded over raising teenage boys: Stanton had adopted her son, David, in 2010, and Laundry was taking care of his teenage brother. It was as though they had never been apart.

This time Stanton was open to letting herself be loved by Laundry.

“You can’t live on someone else’s love; you have to be OK on your own,” she said. “But I needed that to start taking care of myself, to start filling up those holes on my own.”

Laundry told Stanton about how he had lost a lot of weight on a low-sugar diet and encouraged her to try it for herself.

“I balked. Bread had sugar. Pasta had sugar. Fruit had sugar. And, more importantly, my ice cream had sugar.”

But at 215 pounds, she figured it was about time she let go of her reliance on food to ease her anxiety. She eliminated pastries, fast food, ice cream and even fruit with high amounts of sugar from her diet. Instead, she started eating salmon, tofu and grapefruit, learning the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger.

“About four to five days in, my sugar cravings dropped. After two weeks, I didn’t even care if there were cookies at work.”

In a little more than a year, by the time she and Laundry were married in June 2012, Stanton had gone from 215 pounds to 157 pounds. Today she weighs 142 pounds.

Stanton maintains this weight by enjoying limited amounts of foods she now considers “treats.” For breakfast, she has a protein shake made with cranberry juice and probiotics. She also stays active by walking two miles as part of her regular commute, and running or going to the gym on weekends.

Instead of sneaking ice cream at night, she now sets aside time for meditation in order to cope with stress. She doesn’t keep any of her old escapes in the house, not even low-sugar ice cream.

“When I was overweight, I think people judged me somehow as less competent and efficient,” she said. “Life is easier. The guilt and shame I felt sneaking ice cream at night is gone.”

By Maggie Blaha, special to CNN

Editor’s note: Do you have a weight-loss success story to share? Tell us how you did it and you could be featured in our weekly weight-loss story on CNN.com.

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3 comments

  • Tonray Crocker

    “Healthy eating requires money and time, something financially stressed families have little of,” she said. “We ate what was quick and cheap and familiar.” — Right. Couldn’t agree more. So, I guess with all of your collegiate work / degrees money is no longer a problem therefore it’s easier for you to buy / eat healthier? This isn’t a motivating story for those people that are still ‘financially stressed’, it’s affirmation that their financial struggle is what’s keeping them in the viscous circle of unhealthy eating. If you have a family of 6 and only 150$ to feed them on for two weeks, how do you feed them healthy? You don’t. You go to the cheap-o grocery store and you buy whatever you can to feed your family for 14 days. CNN – if you want to promote / encourage the obese to lose weight give us a story of someone ‘financially stressed’ that learned to eat healthy on a micro-budget and who is still ‘financially stressed’. Not someone who went from a poor family to doctorates or whatever in Psychology!

    • Allison

      I only had to provide for 2 people on a $100 budget for 14 days, and we struggled. But I will say this….I shop at 3 different stores. I go to Aldi’s for produce, eggs, milk, butter. I go to Schnucks or Diergberg’s for meat only, and I go to Shop ‘n Save for the rest. Its a pain in the butt and i hate having to go to all those different places but I do it bc we are on a budget and thats the way it is. We eat a lot of eggs though. They are packed full of nutrients and protein, and they are filling. And you can eat them SO MANY different ways that its hard to get sick of them. And they are cheap. We (my husband and I) are both overweight and I went to see a specialist and he put me on a strict High protein diet, and to be honest with you, limiting the choices of what you can eat makes our grocery bill much easier to manage. 75% of it is meat and vegetables (fresh or frozen) and the rest is mostly spices or condiments. I try to buy the stuff thats on sale/special. My suggestion would be to pick a certain plan that works for you and stick to it. In following this new diet I cut our grocery bill down to $75 every two weeks. Occasionally I run out of Veggies and have to grab something here or there, but so far I have lost 40lbs and he has lost 20lbs! There is a lot of easy, healthy crock pot recipes that make HUGE portions too that you and your family could eat on for a couple of days. If you are on Facebook, I encourage you to find the group “Weight….No Longer” it is a private group, meaning you have to be accepted, and no one that is not accepted into the group can see what you post in there. I have found it to be incredibly inspirational as well as finding GREAT tips on how to eat healthy on a budget, and recipes that you can cook in bulk in advance. Good luck, Tonray Crocker, I hope you get it all figured out!

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