Will Rogers said, "A stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet." Well, this weeks story comes from a stranger to me, but I'm sure she is a friend I haven't met yet. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and wisdom Chantal. I look forward to meeting you someday. Enjoy!
I struggled some with my weight when I was in high school and after graduating. I probably was not that overweight – maybe ten or fifteen pounds. I don’t remember weighing myself and my clothing was around a size twelve. My mother would often remind me that after a 12 didn’t fit I would have to shop in a “fat store”. I tried a couple diets in those years with limited success. Food was always a fun thing to do with friends – get ice cream, go out for pizza, parties with lots of food.
In my first year of college I put on about ten pounds and then took it off the next year. When I got married I weighed about 160. After I got married I was busy learning how to cook and bake. We entertained regularly and I loved to impress our many guests with my culinary talents. Every year my weight kept going up and up. I joined Weight Watchers when I weighed 200 pounds and took off 50 pounds. I think I stayed at that weight for about 10 minutes – the time it took me to drive myself back home! I thought that the diet was over and I could get back to eating whatever I wanted. Boy was I wrong! Several years later I was at a new all time high weight. Again, I took off some of that weight. When I became pregnant I weighed 190 pounds and was feeling pretty good. I had a healthy pregnancy and managed to lose about half of the weight I had gained. The joys of motherhood kept me pretty busy and I didn’t really think about what I was eating. I didn’t have time for exercise, either. When my son was five years old I was at a new high weight of over 250 pounds. Whenever I would look at pictures (which wasn’t very often) I didn’t even recognize myself. I didn’t have much faith in diets anymore and felt I didn’t have the willpower to try a structured plan of any kind. My family kept reminding me of the health risks I was subjecting myself to.
I finally decided that my answer lied in gastro bypass surgery and made an appointment to talk to a surgeon. Thank G-d I met with this doctor and not another one. This surgeon was used to seeing people who weighed upwards of 300 pounds. He didn’t really think I should go through with the surgery and he recounted the various risks involved. Finally he stated that this surgery is the second most life-altering procedure possible. “What is the first most life-altering?” I asked. He replied, “a sex change.” Something about his comments really affected me and I gave up on the idea then and there. Soon afterwards, I made an appointment with a physician who was working with a couple people I knew and giving them a low carb diet. I wasn’t excited about the whole idea, but I figured I was out of options.
The first few days were tough. I did not eat sugar, starches, fruits, and only had limited amounts of vegetables. The longer I stuck with it though, the easier it became. The weight came off quickly, too. The first month I was down 18 pounds and averaged about a 8-10 pound weight loss each month. After a year and eight months, I was at my goal weight of 133 pounds.
I remember speaking with a friend who was really working out a lot. She inspired me to get to the gym. I felt embarrassed to go being so overweight. Today she remembers when I told her that I didn’t even have a t-shirt big enough to wear!
I did join the gym and started out slowly – walking the track for 15 minutes. Next, I tried the elliptical machine. I remember trying so hard just to stay on for 7 minutes! Then it became 11, then 15, 20, 30, and finally 45 minutes.
Recently I was walking into the gym and someone kept looking at me. She approached me and lamented, “If only I had started to exercise when I was your size!” I laughed and told her my story!
Today I don’t think that much about food. Eating a moderate or low carb diet has freed me from cravings and being tempted by foods that aren’t good for me. For breakfast I might have two eggs or a sugar free yogurt with some high fiber cereal. Lunch is always a big spinach salad with tuna, cheese, or smoked turkey. Dinner might be chicken, salmon or veggie burgers with vegetables as a side dish. I snack on almonds, fruit, cheese and iced coffee. I never particularly enjoyed fruits or vegetables and now I love them! I have discovered all kinds of interesting ways to prepare vegetables that are really delicious (portabella mushrooms with marinara sauce and swiss cheese; spaghetti squash salad, asparagus teriyaki, etc.)
Exercise is probably the single most important factor in my weight maintenance regimen. I go to the gym before work almost every day. I alternate between the elliptical and treadmill machines. Currently I mostly run on the treadmill. The first time I tried jogging, I couldn’t do it for more than two minutes! Now I run for about 30 minutes. Saturday is my one day off. I reserve this day for stretching and resting. I have a personal trainer and working out with her has totally changed the shape of my body. I do most of my strength training at home with free weights. I also practice a few different yoga poses daily.
Recently I started a course in Fitness and Nutrition and am working toward becoming certified as a personal trainer. I am currently working at home as a weight loss coach. The first thing I tell my clients is that “If I could do it, you can do it!” I did not possess any special willpower or abilities over the next person. Losing weight is a conscience decision to make certain sacrifices for a specific goal. Believe in your ability to become a thin person and you will succeed!
Today, about six years later….
I am happy to say that I am still at a healthy weight… I did regain some weight after the birth of my second child (he’s now four) and was able to take it off. I would still like to lose 5-10 lbs. and can accept that I probably won’t get back down to that very low number.
My eating has changed a little bit. I am not quite as strict about avoiding sugar. Certain foods which contain small amounts of sugar fit into my lifestyle and help keep things simple. For example, I eat a South Beach meal replacement bar almost every single day (for the last three year) for lunch.
For some people variety is key but my experience has shown that basic and routine is the best strategy. I have spent many years studying weight loss and here’s a startling fact: America is blessed with far more food products than any other nation; we also have the highest rate of obesity in the world! These two points go hand in hand.
The name of my business in N.E.W. You which stands for Nutrition + Exercise = Weight Loss. That pretty much sums up what I believe works. Some days I am more inclined to exercise more and sometimes I am more inclined to watch my eating. Right now I believe that nothing can help a person lose weight more than cleaning up the food. I have seen too many people lose huge amounts of weight who have never exercised a day in their lives! Recent research is supporting this idea. Exercise is really about staying healthy, physically and mentally and helping maintain weight loss.
I do the best I can and try to be patient with myself. Let’s face it some days are better than others. I am so grateful to be battling ten pounds and not 50 or 100! I stay very goal oriented and that always helps me (i.e. get to the gym 5 times this week; wear a certain skirt for a future event; run a mile in 10 minutes, etc.)
Remember, being thin may not make you happy, but being fat will make you unhappy.