Growing up, heavily seasoning your food, over overseasoning it rather, was the only way to eat for Victoria Brady and her family. The New Orleans native, who now resides in Atlanta, said for her family, the more sodium and sugar in your meals, the better they tasted.
“Seasoning is everything for us and so we didn’t really fully understand how to live a healthy life or eat healthy,” she told me over the phone. “I was never given the correct tools for that growing up.”
Because of that, Brady spent most of her life eating poorly. Couple that with the fact that she ate to deal with depression and anxiety and suffered with polycystic ovary syndrome and well, the weight piled on and wouldn’t let go. Before she knew it, Brady was at her highest weight of 275 at only 5’4″.
It wasn’t until she realized that her way of eating food was impacting the health of her two children that Brady received the wake-up call she needed. Two years later, the 32-year-old has managed to shed 130 pounds naturally, got her PCOS in check and been able to get her kids to eat and live healthier.
How did she do it? Brady talked to us about putting the carbs away and replacing them with more vegetables, how she stopped using junk food as a crutch, and why she was hell-bent on keeping her boys from picking up the unhealthy eating habits she acquired and embraced growing up.
MadameNoire: How long was your size an issue for you? Would you say you had a healthy relationship with food growing up?
Victoria Brady: No, I did not, so I was always overweight. I actually was 10 pounds 11 ounces when I was born, so I got an early start — my poor mom [laughs]. But even as I continued to get older, the weight continued to pile on. A lot of it had to do with the fact that where I come from, my family history, we love to just eat fried foods. We love to cook pork in our greens to get that flavor, that extra sodium.
Did you try different weight-loss methods in the past? If so, why didn’t those attempts work the way you hoped?
Yes I had, and primarily, the reason they didn’t work was because they were too restrictive. I felt like I was always limiting myself of what I could eat, which ended up stressing me out and then I would just get discouraged and give up.
I know you have two sons, so what made you want to change things after having them? I know this epiphany came in 2017, correct?
Yes. When I took my oldest for his wellness checkup, he was in the 95th percentile for his weight at a year and a half. And so for me, I immediately saw myself all over again, and I saw the cycle staring to repeat itself. The doctor started mentioning things that I could do to kind of help with his weight, such as switching him from whole milk to 1 percent milk. Just the little piece of advice she gave me made me realize, I don’t know what healthy is because I didn’t even know whole milk was bad for you. So that’s what really triggered me to say, okay, I cant want for my kids to be healthy, I can’t want for them to not grow up overweight if I don’t first take care of myself and be that example that they need to emulate.
When you started your journey, how did having polycystic ovary syndrome impact the results you were seeing? And how has your diet change and weight loss overall helped with the symptoms?
The first month I would say there was a period of time, about two to three weeks, where I actually had zero weight loss. So I didn’t see any change on the scale and I had been doing everything that I was supposed to. Wasn’t drinking any sodas or juices, I was sticking to lean protein, more vegetables and fruits, but I just wasn’t seeing any difference. That’s when I came across the JJ Clean Smoothie Cleanse. I saw that it worked for other people who had PCOS as well, and it was kind of like my last-ditch effort to try to do something to jump-start my weight loss. That really helped me find that I had to strip away the carbs. Before, even though I cut out the bad carbs, I was still maybe having two healthy carbs a day. Having polycystic ovary syndrome with insulin resistance, I found that I really had to follow more of a lower glycemic, lower carb diet. So the smoothies really helped me to transition to that, and that meant relying only on smoothies all day for 10 days as opposed to trying to eat the whole food and me feeling like I had to have a carb with a meal.
As far as how my weight loss and diet have impacted my PCOS, my menstrual cycle is now regular as a result. I’m celebrating a year of actually having a cycle every month for the first time.
Wow! How often were you having your period before due to PCOS?
It would skip maybe every two to three months. There was one year where I went a whole four, five and six months without a period because of my condition. Even though it’s not curable, I have been able to see a lot of changes in regard to my cycle, my hormone levels, and I don’t feel as moody as I once was. It really has helped with that. And then, the chances of getting pregnant now are better for me whereas before it was harder for me to get pregnant.
I also wanted to touch on a deeper aspect of your health and wellness journey. How has exercise and all the endorphins it creates helped you to cope with your depression and anxiety? I know you said that you tried to take your life at one point.
Yes. So for me, before I would rely on food to kind of deal with my emotions. I would binge-eat junk. My go-to before was Chinese food and pizza. I would probably in one sitting eat 1200 to 1500 calories. That made me feel better, and so that’s another reason I was always heavier is because I relied on food to handle my emotions and depression. So me losing the weight allowed me to find a healthy replacement for my depression, find a healthy way to cope. Honestly, working out for me, it really makes me feel better, especially on the days where I’m struggling emotionally. I’ll go for a run outside in the park and I will feel like I can achieve anything. Even the obstacles I may be currently facing, after that run, I don’t feel as defeated or discouraged as I was prior to doing that run. A lot of that has to do with me just trying to meditate more though exercise, and channel my depression and anxiety through fitness.
Do you mind if I ask what was pushing you to feel like you wanted to take your life a few years ago?
Yeah, so it was a combination of things. My family dynamic at the time, I didn’t have really a great relationship with my dad. Also, it had to do with feeling accepted by other people and loved, specifically when it came to dealing with the opposite sex. There was one particular person at that time where I would do anything for him and I felt like in a sense, they would for me as well, but it just was not going to work out. They didn’t want me, they wanted someone else, so I always felt rejected, and that other person they wanted was skinny. They ended up marrying her and having kids with her, so I always took it back to my weight and associated a lot of the things in my life that I couldn’t get or I felt I wasn’t worthy of having was because I was overweight.
You’ve made the physical changes, but what is the work you’ve done mentally/emotionally to no longer tie your life experiences and worth to your size?
I would say starting to really just rely more on my capabilities and my skill set and not look at the physical component. A person can have everything physically, but if they’re not right internally, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve seen it time and time again where people get the dream bodies they want but they’re still not getting the opportunities, and it’s because of what’s going on inside. So once I started noticing that and really put things into perspective, it made it easier for me to stop associating my size with my worth. I started to believe in myself more after I lost the weight, not because I lost the weight, but because I was able to overcome a hurdle that so many people struggle to make it over. That’s how I changed that mindset.
In what ways have you changed the eating habits and activities of your sons to keeps them from going through what you went through with your weight growing up?
They don’t get seasoned food. I want them to have natural taste palates, so I don’t want it to be like how it was for me. Growing up, my mom, for me to eat vegetables, anything green, she would have to put sugar in it for me to eat it. So I continued to eat my foods like that, even as an adult, with the sugar in it. And then as I learned I was like, okay, that is not really what is healthy or what you’re supposed to do, so I started having my kids eat food how it’s supposed to be eaten. Granted, they don’t eat anything green, girl. They don’t eat anything green [laughs], but a trick I’ve come up with is putting greens for them in smoothies. They drink smoothies with me and they look forward to it. They watch me make it as if they’re making it with me and that ensures that they’re getting at least a few servings of vegetables, green vegetables, a day. Another thing is, I make sure to keep them active. I actually work out with them sometimes. Now, if they see someone else running down the street or doing some exercises, they’ll be like, “They’re working out like mommy!” So now they want to do the same things I do.