Tara Sol Sheds 114 Pounds
Tara Sol had been overweight since childhood. By her mid-30s, she was 261 pounds at her heaviest, and it was hard to walk more than a few minutes. She couldn't bend over to tie her shoe.
"I hated my body so much, I didn't want to be touched – even hugged by my own kids," said Tara, an Optum social worker who handles complex neonatal cases at a hospital in Olympia, Washington.
Then in 2014, tests revealed Type 2 diabetes. So Tara took a prescribed medication but did not change her diet or exercise, and she didn't even discuss it with family. She didn't go back to the doctor.
Nearly two years later, her physician refused to renew her prescription without an office visit.
"That was my rock bottom," Tara said. "I really believed that they were going to start me on insulin. That for me was so scary. I had nowhere else to go. I had to do something."
The next day – Nov. 1, 2015 – Tara signed up for Real Appeal, a weight-loss program available free to UnitedHealth Group employees who are enrolled in an eligible medical plan and meet the program's BMI requirements. It was the beginning of a 10-month, 114-pound weight-loss journey featured in an article last month on PEOPLE.com.
It started with a walk – less than a mile. But subsequent strolls got longer and longer. She set a goal to walk 1,000 miles in a year, and it took just 140 days.
"As I walked, it became a lot easier, and I would do more miles. I really wanted to crush that goal," she said.
Tara enlisted the help of her husband and six children, who range in age from 8 to 14, to hike and bike together as a family. If they had an hour of screen time, she joined them – on a treadmill. At work, she took the stairs and looked for any opportunity to walk and move.
In three months, Tara's diabetes was in remission.
Real Appeal also helped Tara dramatically improve her diet and gave her a new awareness of what she was eating.
"With Real Appeal, you never have to restrict certain foods – a very appealing thing about the program – you just stay within a set amount of calories," Tara said.
Tara said she was initially drawn to Real Appeal because it was free, convenient, and she could privately manage it on her own. She likes the phone app and group session check-ins, which she has attended by phone while walking on a treadmill.
"The workouts were the first workouts that I could actually do," Tara said. "My coach was a game-changer. That they give you a coach for an entire year – it's amazing."
Tara celebrated lots of milestones along the way, including the first hugs from her kids when their hands could touch as their arms wrapped around her.
"The first time I bent down to tie my shoe – that for me was the coolest thing," Tara said with a laugh.
Every facet of her life has changed.
"It's two completely different lives – I'm absolutely an entirely different person," she said. "I get to be the person I always wanted to be. If I can do it, truly anybody can."
Optum social worker Tara Sol was 261 pounds at her heaviest.
She lost 114 pounds in about 10 months using Real Appeal, a weight-loss program available to UnitedHealth Group employees.
Tara credits her family for making her health a top priority. They found ways to exercise together.
They now enjoy hiking and biking in the outdoors in Washington state.
A family portrait last year on the campus of Evergreen State University in Olympia, Washington.
Tara and her husband Will in Olympic National Forest.
The busy mother of six said every facet of her life has changed since she lost weight. “If I can do it, truly anybody can.”