Amy Parady, vice president of business development and the corporate liaison between Supply Chain Services and Watco, wasn’t planning on any big celebrations for her 45th birthday on Aug. 29. But she bought herself a special outfit anyway — something to wear for a photo that would document the end result of a long journey. 

Parady has been working toward giving herself the best 45th birthday present she could think of: To lose 52.5 pounds and to quit smoking. 

Her journey was an attempt to reinvent herself after coming through what she described as the worst five years of her life: a divorce after 20 years of marriage, and becoming an empty nester when her children left home, relocating, the death of her father, and just other life challenges.  

“Usually age doesn’t bother me, but for some reason, it started weighing on my mind heavily that I was turning 45 after those five years of struggle,” she said. “It happened all at the same time, and it was devastating.” 

Once she set her mind on a quest to self-improvement, she turned to Facebook to share her journey with others. 

“I felt like if I had accountability to a group of people, even if they do live somewhere else, I’d be more likely to stick with it,” she said. 

Parady created a hashtag: #FitAndFabBy45. 

She stopped smoking and started clean eating. 

And she shared her successes and setbacks with her followers. 

“Sometimes I fell off the horse,” she said. “But I made a solid commitment, and there was no reason for me to not be able to quit fully. That was my birthday present to myself. So, I just got back on the horse.” 

For weight loss, she turned to Ideal Protein, a program managed by a physician. 

“Essentially, it’s a very high protein, low carb diet,” she said.  

It was the right choice for her because she’s single and she travels a lot, and it provided structure when it comes to how many vegetables and how much meat she must eat each day. 

Each week, her physician took her physical measurements and assessed the amount of body fat. She admits to cheating a few times — almost always conscious decisions, like to eat a piece of someone’s birthday cake or go with friends to a Mexican restaurant — but she’s OK with that. 

“No one’s perfect, and yeah, I cheat, but I’m going to keep getting back on the horse,” she said. 

Along the way, she found she was helping others — and that felt good. 

“I have always enjoyed motivating and inspiring people,” she said, “and during this process, people began reaching out to me privately in messages about smoking and weight loss — that they were really struggling, saying ‘Please help me’ and ‘How are you doing this?’ What it became was it was more incentive to me not to let people down. One of my passions in life is inspiring and motivating people.” 

“A nurse took a before picture of me and I didn’t even look at it as I imagined it was just hideous,” Parady said.  

Her best friend, Jenifer Smith, a photographer, scheduled a photo shoot for Parady last week so that she could make a big reveal of her success to her followers, who have encouraged her. 

“Now I’m ready to put them side by side and see how far I’ve come,” she said of the before and after photos. 

A week before her birthday, she had lost 50.1 pounds and planned to keep going until she hit her mark — even if it happened a few days after her 45th 

“I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish,” she said. “To me, this really isn’t my 45th birthday. It’s my first birthday. It’s the beginning of my new life with everything put behind me.”