It is no secret that is you want something bad enough, you’ll put in the work to make it happen. This is undoubtedly true for Ebony Haley who lost more than 100 pounds and, in the process, developed a healthier relationship with food. At her highest weight she was 254 and now holding steady at 137, Haley says she is not interested in losing any more pounds. A thought she never imagined she would hear herself say.
The owner of Haley Consulting Group and program director for REVOLT Media & TV based in Los Angeles, founded in 2013 by Sean Combs, recalls how her love for food began and the introduction that would forever change her life. “My mom was a single parent,” shares Haley who learned how to cook for herself by the age of ten. While her mom was at work, Haley began preparing what she called “one-pot wonders” that would last her for multiple nights. She continued with this quick meal fix into her collegiate years until something even faster and cheaper caught her attention, the infamous dollar menu at McDonald’s. “That is when that unfortunately light bulb just went off for me. All I had to do is find $3, and I could have a big soda any size, I could get French fries and a triple cheeseburger. Done. I easily went up to 230 pounds.”
As the weight came on, she began dressing differently and also noticed how others interacted with her was different too. She admits to wearing maternity clothes even when she was not pregnant and feeling like the “fat friend” who wasn’t invited to the cool and hip industry parties but yet was the perfect companion for dinner and drinks.
For years, Haley played mind games with herself to justify the weight gain. She told herself it was the way clothes were made that had her in a bigger size or because she was pregnant, the extra pounds were okay and would fall off after birth. Neither turned out to be true.
Words that Create Change
Then one day, an unexpected comment from a stranger put things into perspective. “My husband and I were walking down the street, and someone yelled, ‘Hey big mama.’ And I thought who are you talking to? In my head, I am not thin, but I am not big mama. And my husband said they are talking to you.”
The initial denial also sparked inner reflection and Haley decided it was time to get real about her weight. She first went to weight loss clinics (Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem) which she felt were great, but she wanted more support to lose her goal of 60 pounds. At the recommendation of her doctor, she began a weight loss class and after it was over, was asked about having weight loss surgery. The doctor shared that she would only lose a certain amount and after that, the rest of the work would be on her. “It is not the easy way out as people make it seem. It is almost twice as hard because I can’t eat what normal people eat,” says the mother of two.
To add to her daily challenge, Haley had her gallbladder removed after being misdiagnosed for what later turned out to be heartburn and not gallstones. As a result, she is not able to eat foods with a lot of sugar. “Sugar is pretty much nonexistent in my diet.”
“Everybody wants to talk about things over lunch,” says Haley who always welcomed the invitation in the past. Now, it requires a little more thought on her end given her change in diet.
The decision to undergo surgery and make changes was a family affair. As a result, Haley is now setting her children up for success when it comes to making healthy food choices. “I’ve learned through trial and error. I had to order a margarita to know that I can’t order margaritas anymore. I can’t make those one-pot wonders anymore. I have turned into a pescatarian. Fish is my best friend,” shares Haley. Because meat is too heavy for her stomach, she no longer prepares it which means her family, including her three and seven-year-old, for the most part, is vegetarian. “They don’t know it,” Haley laughs when talking about her children. “They have never turned down a meal.”
Today at a healthy weight and with a new understanding of how to eat food to live, Haley looks back and says, “It [the journey] has changed us all for the better.”