UWF graduate featured on cover of People Magazine’s ‘Half Their Size’ issue
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Ashley Donahoo, a University of West Florida 2012 graduate, is no stranger to difficult circumstances.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life – getting pregnant at 16 and married a short time later, and then putting myself through school while living in poverty,” she said.
But in June 2010, one obstacle overshadowed them all: weighing 288 lbs., the then-25-year-old was morbidly obese. When her doctor told the wife and mother of two that she wouldn’t live past 30, Donahoo knew it was time to make a change.
“I’ve tried to lose weight my entire adult life through diets and programs, but nothing worked,” she said. “One day my husband pushed me to take a walk around the block in my neighborhood. Halfway through it, everything hurt and I was crying. I made the realization that I chose this for myself, and I had to choose to make a lifestyle change.”
Although her full-time job and family responsibilities left Donahoo with barely any free time to spare, she incorporated regular workouts into her routine, logged her calorie intake on livestrong.com and spent countless hours researching nutrition to come up with new, healthy meal options.
In August 2010, Donahoo left her job to focus on another life goal: getting her college degree. She re-enrolled at UWF to finish her senior year of college, after leaving in 2006 for personal reasons. The load was “overwhelming at times,” she said, as she maintained her commitment to losing weight while being enrolled in as many as six courses. During that time, Donahoo also had to keep up with her sons’ schedules while her husband worked two jobs.
“By the time I came home, made dinner, got my kids in bed and finished my homework, it was 10 p.m.,” she said. “I learned that I had to fit workouts in whenever I could and still make time for myself.”
“Utilizing effective time management skills was key,” Donahoo said.
“I learned how to take care of myself so that I could take care of everything else in my life,” she said. “I felt like a good mom, wife, friend and student throughout the journey.”
Thanks to her hard work and professors who went out of their way to help her when she needed it, Donahoo said, she graduated from UWF in May 2012 with a high GPA that had landed her on the dean’s list every semester.
“I was never cut any slack for being a ‘non-traditional’ student with a lot on my plate,” she said. “But when I got overwhelmed, a few of my professors made time to meet with me outside of class to explain a concept or assignment further.”
Donahoo said UWF will always be “her school.”
“UWF was like a home to me,” she said. “At a time when my life was hectic, I always knew there were plenty of resources there when I had a crisis.”
Fast forward two and a half years from the start of her journey, and Donahoo also found herself on the cover of People magazine’s annual “Half their Size” issue, looking happier and healthier than she could have ever dreamed. Through a combination of “old fashioned” exercise and healthy eating, Donahoo lost 137 lbs., and 100 inches from her body, going from a size 26 to a size 4. She is working on a book about her life, including her weight loss journey, and a cookbook with healthy recipes she created along the way.
“I want to use my story to tell people who are broke, overweight and hopeless that it can be done,” Donahoo said. “They can choose to change.”
For additional information about Donahoo and her weight loss journey, visit her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AshleyDonahoo.ChooseTheChange.