Climbing on stage, Ryan Lill knew something was wrong. The 30-year-old singer-songwriter from Charleston, South Carolina, told himself it was just stage fright. “Going up to the stage stairs was hard on me,” he says. “I couldn’t even catch my breath. I couldn’t sing. I just stood there—frozen, wondering how the hell I had gotten myself here.”
He’d been overweight for a long time. Despite being active throughout his life, after bouts of depression and anxiety attacks at the end of middle school, he found himself making terrible food choices. “If it was there, I ate,” he says. “No matter if I had already eaten, if I was full, or if I was sick to my stomach already. I just kept eating.” Any time he tried to diet, he’d “cheat,” then beat himself up for what he saw as failure. By 23, he’d hit 371 pounds. Just trying to move made him feel like he was fighting his body.
His changes started small: His diet was the problem, so he focused on choosing healthier food, not eating out as often, and not drinking his calories. He was hesitant about working out because the gym made him self-conscious about his body. “It made me so sick to my stomach to imagine that people were watching me flail around like I knew what I was doing,” he says.
Instead, he tried an app, My Fitness by Jillian Michaels. He felt more comfortable with an app, which let him set his own goals and pursue them in his own space. “I enjoyed being able to work out on my own, able to slow down, make some mistakes, and let myself be okay that I wasn’t perfect,” he says.
Using the app to track his food and guide his workouts, he’s lost 100 pounds so far. “I can’t say that I haven’t had slip ups, weight gains, bad weeks, and upsets,” he says, “but I can tell you that once I reached the point where I felt okay with my body, I haven’t gone back.” His family noticed right away that he was making healthier choices, and supported him by attentive eating along with him.
The greatest motivation for Lill, apart from slimming down, was feeling comfortable in his own skin. “I still struggle with that,” he says, “but knowing that everyone does makes me feel not so alone in it.” He’s gained more confidence, both onstage and off, and he met his husband. “I’m nowhere near finished yet, and I have a long way to go,” he says.
Along the way, he’s learned to listen to his body. And he’s working toward being comfortable in it, forgiving himself his mistakes. For anyone trying to improve themselves, he says, “My biggest advice is to love yourself. Period. You are not what someone thinks of you, you are not someone else’s expectations of you, and you are allowed to make mistakes.”