After losing nearly 100 pounds, O.C. woman becomes biggest winner

Just blocks from her old haunts – KFC, McDonald’s, Wendy’s – Victoria Monroe shares a home-cooked dinner of veggies and fish and considers who she was and who she is.

She pushes back her long blond hair, shakes her head and smiles. From a place of confidence and strength, her inner voice vows, “Never again.”

On Jan. 4, Monroe, 5-foot-6, stepped on her scale and was afraid to look: 264 pounds.

Like most of the 35 percent of Americans who are obese, her blood pressure was dangerously high, her feet hurt so bad she could barely walk, and she had no energy.

A 40-year-old working single mom, Monroe barely was able to stagger to the couch in the evening and stare at the TV.

Like most of us, Monroe made a New Year’s resolution. But unlike most of us, she stuck to that resolution with a simple yet powerful formula of fortitude, perseverance and inspiration.

Today, the Rancho Santa Margarita resident weighs 170 pounds.

Monroe dropped the equivalent of a semi-truck trailer tire.

Oh, she also won $10,000.


Some simply push tough times away, some seek a hobby, some walk then run to drugs and alcohol. But many of us find solace in food that, for a few minutes anyway, makes us feel good.

Monroe was born in Michigan’s state capital, Lansing. Before she was 20, she had two daughters. Another marriage led to another daughter, now 14, and then another daughter, now 3.

For years she ping-ponged between Southern California and the unconditional love she found at her mother’s house in southern Michigan, blankets of snow in winter, firefly nights in summer.

In Orange County, Monroe focused on her job as a publicist for doctors and on being a mom. But she didn’t take care of the most important person of all.

“I wasn’t doing anything for myself,” says Monroe, wearing a loose-fitting orange shirt that gets looser every week. “I was busy with the kids and working.”

The only thing Monroe did solely for herself was eat. She binged on fast food and guzzled three 32-ounce colas every day.

Sure, she tried to lose weight. But the stabs didn’t last. Her weight never went down much, anyway.

In her 30s, Monroe decided she would always be big and that was just fine. But little by little, the pounds piled up. Eventually, she found herself struggling to breathe and was diagnosed with a lung infection. But that wasn’t all.

At the hospital, doctors said her blood pressure was off the charts.

Monroe looks directly at me, leans forward and is characteristically blunt: “I told myself that I was depressed, that I didn’t have the time to eat right, that it didn’t matter what I ate because I couldn’t lose weight. I always had an excuse.

“Then I realized that fast food was like a drug addiction.”


At a funeral last summer, Monroe ran into an old high school girlfriend. She had ballooned. Other high school friends had gained weight, too. In December, she again ran into the woman but barely recognized her.

On a 4-foot-11 frame, the woman had dropped 72 pounds.

Monroe blurted, “What the heck did you do?”

“I stopped eating carbs, starting working out and hiking,” her friend said. “And I used MyFitnessPal on my phone to start counting calories.”

After the new year, Monroe downloaded the app and promised herself she would get to 200 pounds before she turned 40. She had four months.

“I wanted to feel good,” Monroe explains. “I wanted to take care of me.”

She swapped in ice tea, black coffee and water for cola. Lots of water. “It makes you feel full,” she says.

Monroe, a Catholic, pledged no sweets for Lent. She said goodbye to prepared food: “I decided to eat like they did in the olden days.”

Her menu was lean protein, vegetables, fruit. Instead of a burger, she grabbed an apple.

Instead of fries, she munched on asparagus. The first few weeks, she lost a half-pound nearly every day. “When you see the scale go down, it’s a motivator,” she says.

Monroe lost 20 pounds in six weeks. Then her friend told her about a 90-day contest by a health club called Life Time Fitness. Its biggest losers could win up to $10,000.

She researched the gym in Laguna Niguel, which is less like a gym than a country club without a golf course.

The contest was based on body mass percentage as well as an essay.

Monroe told her friend, “I’m going to totally win that.”

Instead of spending $200 a month on fast food, Monroe spent the cash on a personal trainer, knowing that she would find an excuse to skip the gym unless it meant wasting hard-earned money,

The first 80 days were brutal. She couldn’t jog more than three minutes on a treadmill. She stowed away Easter candy so that she could splurge when the contest ended.

“I was dying. I felt hungry a lot,” she recalls. “If I told you it was easy, I’d be lying.”

But then her body changed. Her craving for fats and sweets disappeared.


On May 7, the contest ended. During the duration, Monroe lost 68.5 pounds. But it took a week to sort out percentages and another week for Life Time members to vote on the essays.

Finally, she heard that the results were posted online. Alone in her car, she pulled over to check. She screamed, “I won! I won!”

She will put the $10,000 toward buying a Honda Civic.

For Monroe, the contest is only part of a new beginning. Since January, her teenager has lost 20 pounds. Together, mother and daughter plan to stay healthy and active.

Monroe’s blood pressure is down, her feet no longer hurt, and instead of size 24 jeans, she wears size 14. “I would pay a lot for the way I feel,” she says.

Sitting poolside at Life Time Fitness, Monroe says that rather than playing on her cellphone when she takes her toddler to the park, mom plays with the 3-year-old.

Still, Monroe has a new goal. By the end of this year, she hopes to drop an additional 20 pounds to 150.

As we say goodbye, I let her know she has new inspiration: Register readers.

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