My weight loss has had many starts and stops along the way. In January 2017, just a month shy of 45, I finally committed to not only losing weight, but also getting healthy. This is the story of my journey.
When I was young, I was average weight until about third grade. At that time my parents decided to put me in a private elementary school, moving me out of my local public elementary school. While I liked the new school and most of the kids there, there were a few bullies. I got made fun of here and there and began to eat my feelings. Over time I gained weight. The bullying took a turn and I started getting teased for being overweight. While the whole experience there wasn’t awful (I was there from third to sixth grade) the teasing and bullying had a profound impact on me and set the stage for future weight issues. In seventh grade I went back to the local public school and reconnected with the kids I knew before private school. I was still a little chunky but not grossly overweight. In ninth grade I started exercising at home. Those were the days of Jane Fonda and Joanie Greggains. I would exercise faithfully every day and eventually lost weight, probably 15 or 20 pounds in total. I was at a normal weight, I felt better, and I had more confidence.
High school came and went and my weight stayed pretty steady throughout. I remember my senior year of high school some friends and I decided we wanted to join Weight Watchers. This was my first exposure to Weight Watchers and I embraced it. I lost maybe 10 pounds but the program and approach stuck with me for many years to come.
College and Graduate School
Enter the college years. Like many college students I enjoyed a lot of late night eating, pizza, and beer. With those indulgences came the “freshman fifteen” (and then some) and after four years, I graduated with an extra 20 or 30 pounds. As I transitioned to the “real world” my weight became more of an issue. I was working a desk job and not as active as I had been when I was younger. During the first year or two post college, my weight was becoming an issue. Two years into the real world, I decided I wanted to go back to graduate school. After getting into the school I wanted to go to, I realized I didn’t want to go to grad school overweight and set about losing 30 pounds. I was successful and started my graduate program at a healthy weight.
You can guess what happened next. Slowly, over the course of the next two years, I gained the weight back (plus 10 more). The stress of student life, being across the country from my family, and the student vices of eating, drinking, and having too much fun took their toll. While I loved every minute of my graduate program, I did not love how I looked on graduation day.
The Real World
After I finished my graduate degree, I re-joined the workforce. I moved back across the country to be closer to family and friends and was back to life behind a desk. I I lost some of the weight I gained in graduate school but was probably still technically (according to BMI) overweight, but I was happy. Over the next twelve years I worked for several different companies, had a good group of friends, and was enjoying my life. I dated off and on, did a good bit of travel for work, and slowly the weight creeped up. My dating life was up and down. This was the early years of online dating apps and I met my fair share of “interesting” people. Several felt the need to tell me they weren’t interested due to my weight. Others used my weight to hurt me when I told them I wasn’t interested in them. At one point I decided to take a break from dating and focus on me. You know what they say about meeting the person you’re meant to be with when you’re not looking? That’s exactly what happened to me.
Falling in Love
When I met my husband I had been training for triathlons and had competed in several of them. While I wasn’t in optimum shape, I was happy with my progress. In the early stages of dating I kept up with my training program but slowly began to spend more time with him and less time in the gym. We also ate out a lot and that combination caused my weight to creep back up. At that point I didn’t care because I was in love and my husband (then-boyfriend) told me he loved me no matter what size I was. While I knew he was a keeper long before he said that, those words and that sentiment really sealed the deal. He loved me for me, not because of what I looked like or how big or small I was, but for who I was as a person. I had been judged by my weight for so long, it was an “aha” moment for me that I’m so much more than just a number on the scale.
We dated for a little over a year before we got engaged, and were a married a year after that. I swore to myself I would lose weight before the wedding and get back into decent shape. Thankfully I did not make the mistake of ordering my gown in a smaller size as incentive because no weight loss happened prior to the wedding. Here is how I looked on my wedding day:
Along Comes Baby
Soon after we married, my husband and I started trying to get pregnant. We were older and didn’t have the luxury of time. We got lucky and I got pregnant within six months. Sadly that pregnancy did not last and I miscarried at ten weeks.
Within two months I was pregnant again and successfully delivered my son in February 2014, just 9 days shy of my 42nd birthday. I delivered my son weighing just under 240 pounds (me, not my son). Within six weeks of delivery I had gotten down to 208 pounds thanks to breastfeeding, lack of sleep, and little time to eat.
I was a happy mommy and happy wife and in love with my little family. My weight became a secondary thought and I didn’t pay much attention to it. I was enjoying watching my son grow and thrive, learning how to walk and talk, and generally loving motherhood.
As my son started to get more mobile, I spent a lot more time running after him, getting up and down from the floor to play with him, and just generally being more active. While it didn’t make much of a dent in my weight, it did make me realize I didn’t move as easily as I used to. My son was only going to get more active and want to do more. He was also going to need a mommy who could keep up with him over time. I knew I needed to do something.
The Journey Begins
January 21, 2017 was the day that changed my life. It was on that day that I made the commitment to finally lose the weight. At almost 45 years old and 5’8″ tall, I weighed 228.2 pounds. According to my Body Mass Index of 34.7, I was obese. It was time.
I started Weight Watchers that day, learning the current program and throwing myself into it with everything I had. I explained to my husband that I wanted to do this and that I needed his support. He was behind me 100% and said he would do everything he could to help me.
I started off the first few weeks concentrating on getting the fundamentals of the program in place, stocking the pantry and refrigerator with Weight Watchers friendly foods, meal planning, and measuring and weighing everything that went into my mouth. I didn’t want to add exercise into the mix until I had a good feel for the program and had lived it for a few weeks. My first month I lost 12.6 pounds.
Increasing Activity with Exercise
I decided it was time to add in exercise. In previous weight loss attempts I had thrown myself into exercise immediately and tried to do something every day. While it worked for a little while, I eventually got burned out.
This time I decided I was going to do something sustainable, even if it meant slower weight loss. I wasn’t interested in Biggest Loser style workouts that required multiple hours of exercise per day. As a working wife and mother, that wasn’t going to work with my schedule. Two days per week on the treadmill was a good starting point. Those sessions could easily be fit in on the weekends when my son was napping.
I started out doing 30 minutes running at a very slow pace. I’ve always been more of an endurance runner so speed wasn’t a huge factor for me. I gradually built up to 60 minutes at a time, upping the pace and incline as I went. Anything I did I wanted to keep it to an hour. This schedule worked well for me. I was even able to add in a weekday run here and there when the mood struck me. I had found my balance. In the second month I lost 8.2 pounds.
I continued along for months on this program, eating well and exercising per my realistic schedule. By the end of 6 months I had lost 45.6 pounds. Then I got sick and ended up in the hospital for a week. I recovered from that only to discover that my gallbladder wanted to break up with me. I had to wait two months before I could get on the surgical schedule. During that time I was told to not eat anything with fat in it as that could trigger another gallbladder attack.
Side Note: If you’ve never had a gallbladder attack you’re lucky – it is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, worse than childbirth. You are in constant pain and there’s no way to get away from it. It’s agonizing.
October 30 I had my gallbladder removed and recovered quickly. Throughout this time I was still eating on plan (except during my hospital stay when I was eating much of anything). By the time the holidays rolled around I had lost another 24.6 pounds and was weighing in at 158 pounds.
I had done it – I met and exceeded my Weight Watchers goal weight of 164 pounds (high end of a “Normal” BMI). My first personal goal weight of 150 pounds was next on my list of milestones, with 140 pounds as my ultimate personal goal. I maintained for several months and was feeling good.
Hitting Some Turbulence
Unfortunately, life and the daily stresses got the best of me over time and that led me back to my favorite friend – food. I still kept to the Weight Watchers plan most of the day but would slip when nighttime would roll around. This went on for several months but I managed to stay in the low 160s. Try as I might I couldn’t get back in “the zone” and I couldn’t figure out why.
I spent the next few weeks doing a LOT of soul-searching and finally figured out why I couldn’t regain my healthy eating mojo. It all boiled down to unhappiness and not feeling fulfilled professionally. My job was stressful and wasn’t giving me the creative outlet I so desperately needed. I needed something in addition to my day job to focus on, something I could use as an outlet for my anxiety and stress. I did a lot of reading online and came across the idea of starting a blog.
Fulfillment through Blogging
Blogging piqued my interest because I was looking for something that A) could be an outlet for my creativity and B) allow me to share my experiences in the hopes that I could help others. I devoured everything I could get my hands on about blogging. I spent hours scouring the Internet for guidance, reading others’ blogs, and learning what I needed to do to get started.
As I threw myself into building my website and blog a funny thing happened, my eating fell right back into place. Refocusing helped put me back on my path to wellness. The clarity I had been searching for was right in front of me. Happiness, meaning, and staying busy are my keys to successful weight loss and maintenance. If I don’t feel like I’m contributing, doing something that brings meaning to me, or am just bored my emotions take over and that leads directly to food.
This is a lifelong journey, I’ve realized that from day one; however, I didn’t realize how difficult and enlightening it would be along the way. My journey continues and gets stronger with every new day and phase of life. Being open and receptive to learning about myself, applying what I learn, and doing the hard work to understand how I tick, those are the things that determine my success.
And when I need a little “pick-me-up” or reminder of how far I’ve come? I try on my wedding dress…
UPDATE: COVID Changes Everything
It’s now September 2021 and oh my how the world has changed. Since I started the blog in 2018, it progressed steadily and then other areas of my life started taking my time away from it. As you might guess, the weight started to creep back on. Around that same time COVID hit, and by the end of March 2020 we were all home all the time. I started baking bread and other goodies (like everybody else early on) and just trying to get through it all. During the summer of 2020 I took a hard look at where I was and realized I needed to get my groove back. My weight had creeped up to 203.4 pounds and I knew it was time to do something about it. I re-committed to Weight Watchers and started working my way back to my healthy weight. It took about 10 months but I got back down to a healthy weight range.
During this whole experience I started to realize the importance of staying busy with meaningful things, i.e. hobbies and activities. I planted a huge garden last spring and have been enjoying the fruits and vegetables of that labor all summer. I also expanded my flower beds, tending to many new types of flowers I had never grown before. Every day I go out and check on all the different types of plants and flowers to see how things are progressing. I truly enjoy it and am already planning next year’s gardens!
I am still trying to hit my ultimate goal weight of 140 and I will get there, but I’m just taking all the time I need to do so. I’ve started really paying attention to the types of food I eat, when I’m eating, and mixing up my exercise routine. It’s been very interesting to see the different effects those factors have on my weight loss. For example, I try not to have carb-heavy dinners like pasta, choosing more protein/veggie combos for dinners. That’s just one of many things I’ve learned with which I am continuing to experiment.
The past year and a half has reminded me that this journey is never over and that I will always have to stay aware and mindful of what I eat for the rest of my life. I don’t see that as a bad thing. I see this whole experience as something that shapes how I live my life and spend my time. It know it won’t always be easy and will continue to be a bit of a roller coaster ride. With the right level of mindfulness I believe I can keep the peaks and valleys of that rollercoaster to a minimum and continue on my journey to continued good health and happiness.
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