The world was introduced to Chelsea Settles when her self-titled MTV reality-doc series premiered back in October. Smart and bright eyed with a bubbly personality, it was hard not to like the 24-year-old from Pennsylvania. But, even with those great qualities, Settles struggled with insecurities.
At 325 pounds, Settles was uncomfortable eating in front of crowds and taunted by others for her size. This made her draw further into her shell and less likely to try new things. So, it is shocking that Settles would allow reality cameras to follow her every move on her weight loss journey. But, it is probably one of the best decisions Settles has made.
She has not only worked on the external, but more importantly the internal issues that kept her from enjoying life. Unlike most reality series, Settles’ show was a positive one that focused more on learning how to love yourself — but losing over 91 pounds in the process was not so bad either.
theGrio: On the show, was losing weight secondary to you gaining confidence and becoming comfortable in your own skin?
Chelsea Settles: Yeah, definitely. I changed along the way in so many ways and I had gained confidence and I just feel free for the first time. I signed up to do this show for one reason and reason only: I wanted to lose weight. It was like okay, I wonder what this show would be like. Is it gonna be like the biggest loser or one of those shows where they send you away, you have a trainer, you’re working out all the time and I’m gonna lose a ton of weight and I’ll be 130 pounds? I wanted those types of things and then through the course of the journey it really changed and I honestly think if I hadn’t worked on the internal issues I wouldn’t have been able to keep the weight off.
What were some of the internal issues that you had to work on?
I was very very insecure. My mom being sick played a really big part in my life. I think it started when I was in junior high, so ongoing for about 10 years when you really need your mom, when you’re growing up and like you’re a young girl coming into your own…I didn’t have that. Of course she’s always supported me, but I didn’t want to burden her with issues that were going on if she was in and out of the hospital.
As an only child I felt very alone. My parent’s divorce is something that affected me…and at the time I didn’t feel comfortable vocalizing those things to family members or friends so I would go to school and to different functions and just put on a brave face and pretend that everything was okay but inside I was like just screaming for help.
What was your weight loss regimen like?
In the beginning, I kind of went from zero to 60—just a complete drastic change. I cut out gluten, I was eating very little sodium, very little sugar and like high protein [and] vegetables. I could have one processed food or like packaged food a week. I didn’t eat any dairy so it was basically vegetables, protein, two fruits a day, lots of nuts and it was the same every single day. I kid you not, I have a food journal and in the food journal it was the same line up every day.
Did you ever get tired of your new diet and exercising?
No because I just changed my thinking. I went into this experience knowing I had to make a change or I was going to die at a young age if I didn’t make this adjustment. It was just super unhealthy and I was just eating for all the wrong reasons.
Now with your new shape and confidence, what are some of the things that you’ve tried that you would have never attempted prior to losing the weight?
(Laughs) I’m just not as shy. I don’t mind approaching people and things aren’t so awkward. I’ve gone to some clubs now and I’ve done all of these different classes and just weird things that people take for granted like riding a bike on the beach, going swimming, just being in a swimsuit [and] taking dance classes. Never in a million years would I just get out and shake something with a bunch of people that I don’t know, but now it’s like yeah okay this is gonna be fun.
We never got to see people’s reaction to your weight loss. What did your family say when they first saw you?
They were all really happy for me. I went on a camping trip, I think that was the first time that I saw a lot of my family and my mom didn’t recognize me at first because I was walking from afar. I think they were shocked too. I’ve been that size for so long, I didn’t think it was possible and I know that they believed in me but I don’t think they thought it would be as dramatic as it was.
Have your internal and external changes inspired anyone, including family and friends to make changes within their lives?
Yes, like a lot of my friends are getting gym memberships and my family members have been at the gym and working out and trying to eat healthy. And that has been the greatest reward from any of this because I never looked at myself as a person that could inspire people and be a role model. I said from the beginning, the show is called Chelsea Settles but it’s not just about me. I was chosen to do this to be a voice for other people.
What advice would you give to others who are struggling with not only weight loss, but also insecurities?
I would tell anyone to go back to when they started to gain weight, figure out what was going on…and to work on it from there. You really just have to find the confidence to write your own story [and] to not let anyone else dictate that.