Growing up, eating fast food was both a necessity and a comfort for Jessica Fauver. Poor eating habits followed her into adulthood, causing her to put on more and more weight in her twenties and thirties.
After years of being bullied and picked on and told she was never going to lose weight, Fauver decided enough was enough. That spark of determination and an online bet was all it took to begin her weight-loss journey. Two years later and two hundred pounds lighter, Fauver competes onstage and inspires hundreds of thousands of followers every day.
We sat down with Fauver to learn more about who she is and how she made this incredible transformation.
BBCOM: You were over 300 pounds before you began your transformation. How did you get to that point?
I grew up in poverty, so everything was cheap: fast food, fatty foods. I was also told I was ugly and fat. I was bullied, and I went through a lot of heartbreak. I turned to food as comfort. As I got older, my eating habits continued.
I'm a nurse, too, so I work 48-60 hours a week. A lot of times, dinner was processed foods or fast food. I would order Crunch Wrap Supreme, a 5-Layer Burrito, a taco, and get a dessert, and I would eat that all late at night after I'd worked a 16-hour shift or something.
The weight just kept piling up after I got into my 30s. It just kept coming on and coming on. I ended up getting to 354 pounds.
What does it feel like to carry that much weight around?
Carrying all that extra weight was hard. I was miserable, I was in a lot of pain. My back hurt, my neck, my shoulders. I felt like my body was starting to break down. I avoided going to the doctor, because I knew that there were some health issues going on.
I've tried to lose weight so many times. I've tried different diets, and I could never stick to any of it. I would crave something, and I would just binge. I knew if I didn't change my ways I was going to die. I didn't want to die.
How did you finally start losing the weight?
One of the girls I follow hosts these little games called "diet bets." To hold myself accountable, I made a little bet—just 30 dollars—to lose 4 percent of my weight in four weeks.
I joined a bootcamp gym, and I just fell in love with the workouts. I ended up losing about 15 pounds in the first month, and I kept going. I made working out a priority, even though I was still working 12-hour shifts.
I changed my lifestyle, cleaning out junk food and cutting the fast food, sodas, and juices. The kitchen is where weight loss is going to happen. It's 20 percent the gym, but the biggest part is what you eat. I just found healthier alternatives.
It was challenging, but I kept doing it. Eventually, the weight just came off.
What made you decide to compete onstage?
I knew about bodybuilding, but I had no idea that a woman like me could ever compete. I have loose skin, and you don't see a lot of people who have loose skin step onstage and compete. I decided I wanted to change that and compete. Loose skin and all, I was going to do it.
I found a $30 bikini, I bedazzled it, and I stepped onstage. Instantly, I was like, "Who is this woman? I love her!" I don't know, it just did something to me. It brought something out of me that needed to come out.
Going into competition was definitely a gamechanger for me. It was an amazing experience. I won the competition—I did not think I was going to win!
Now that you've competed, what's next?
Now, I want my physique to look even better. I've been able to raise my calories higher, kind of like a bulking phase, so I can start building more muscle. I'm going to a typical gym to do more weightlifting.
Someone once told me, "The comfort zone can be the danger zone." I was getting comfortable because I'd lost the weight, and if I got too comfortable, I might start adding an extra cheat meal here and there. I don't want to slip back into my old ways. I found what works for me is keeping myself challenged.
2020 was getting out of my comfort zone. I did that. I think I shocked a lot of people because I lost weight really fast and I didn't gain it back. I want 2021 to be the year that I level up.
What helped you stay on track and what words of encouragement would you give to someone just starting their weight-loss journey?
I'm here to tell you that there is hope. The impossible is possible. It can be done; I've done it.
Make it a lifestyle, make it a priority. Also remember that it's not going to happen overnight. It took a long time gain the weight, and it's going to take time to lose weight. I don't focus so much on the scale anymore. It's more about my health and how I'm feeling. I look in the mirror and I'm like, "I feel amazing!"
Everybody is different, you have to just focus on one day at a time—one meal, one workout—and eventually, you'll see things start changing. You just have to be patient.
You can follow Jessica's progress on her Instagram page.