The turning point for Charlotte McLaughlin came when a doctor said her weight had caused the stress fracture in her foot.
She suffered the injury near the end of a 5-mile run/walk in Olympia. Devastated and wanting to make a change, McLaughlin underwent gastric bypass surgery on May 7, 2014.
“I was so upset,” she said, noting past attempts to lose weight. “That was the point where I was just like, ‘I can’t keep doing this to myself.’”
For the surgery, doctors took a small part of her stomach to create a stomach about the size of an egg. She lost 50 pounds in the first six months. To date, she has lost 187 pounds.
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The 28-year-old McLaughlin views the surgery as a tool. Her weight loss has kick-started a new lifestyle that focuses on better nutrition and plenty of exercise. She also has overcome multiple medical problems, including prediabetes, high cholesterol and a thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s disease.
These days, McLaughlin limits her daily intake to 2,700 calories. She tracks protein and carbohydrates while managing the occasional treat.
“I track all of my food every day, everything from my morning coffee to those cookies that sneak in every now and then,” she said. “That helps keep me accountable.”
But exercise has been the centerpiece of McLaughlin’s drastic transformation. After the surgery, she began walking as much as she could, then progressed to jogging and running.
Eventually, she became certified to teach boot camp classes six mornings a week at BodyMechanics School of Myotherapy and Massage in Olympia. Using a bicycle as her main mode of transportation, she commutes from home to boot camp, then to her day job as an accountant at The Evergreen State College. It’s a 24-mile round trip every day.
The hardest part of the journey, however, has been changing her mindset. McLaughlin leads a support group for bariatric surgery patients along with a twice-weekly walk around Capitol Lake for people new to fitness. She remembers how difficult it was to start exercising, despite having a strong support network of friends and family.
“Unless you’ve really changed your mindset into making those lifestyle changes,” she said, “it’s not going to stick.”
McLaughlin admits to becoming a full-fledged “fitness freak” who has signed up for seven marathon-style races in 2016. Her ultimate goal is to compete in the World’s Toughest Mudder, a grueling 24-hour obstacle course slated for November 2016 in Las Vegas. She has set up a page on gofundme.com to raise money for travel and entry expenses.
McLaughlin ran her first Tough Mudder race in 2014 after losing 80 pounds, and did it again this past September.
“I always felt like I had this limitation where I could only do so much,” she said of her heavier days. “Now it seems like there is no limit. I want to see how far I can go.”