So how did I do it? I was finally armed with the confidence that I was worth something, so how did I actually turn that into progress that turned my life around? I went back to the basics.
Exercise and Eat Right
You know how you’ve always heard that in order to lose weight you have to EXERCISE and EAT RIGHT? Turned out, that’s right. What that solution is missing, though, is how to get those new habits to stick and become a part of your lifestyle.
I started out with renewed confidence and energy that this was a problem I was capable of defeating and I made a promise to myself and God that I would make a real, 100% effort to combat my unhealthy habits. I knew that it takes three months for a new behavior to turn into a habit and I figured that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I gave myself a three month time period to give it everything I had and then to reassess. I knew I could do ANYTHING for three months.
On August 2, 2004 I started walking on the treadmill. My husband set it up in my garage with a TV up on a shelf. I figured I was going to watch TV anyway so I might as well do something worthwhile instead of just sitting on the couch like I usually did. I started slow and only went for 1/2 hour. It was hard and it took everything I had to make it for the entire length of the TV show. But day after day, I went out there and moved my body. I knew I had to do it every single day because one day off could easily lead to two, to three, to four. I got blisters which turned into open sores, my knees hurt and my hips ached. I was tired and out of energy. But I knew that this was my last option and I had to do it right.
After a few weeks on the treadmill, I also took a closer look at my diet because I knew my eating habits were sabotaging any progress I made during my workouts. I knew I needed to get out of the “diet mentality” of doing some program for a while to take off the weight and then peter out. I had a realization that I needed to find something that I could incorporate into my life forever. That was hard for me because I didn’t want to deal with this forever! But I knew that I would be dealing with this problem for the rest of my life anyway; I would either be morbidly obese or counting calories. Because I had started discovering that I was actually worth something, I decided to take the path that would honor my body and help me to become healthy.
I took up a low calorie/low fat diet, learned about portion sizes and officially combined eating less and moving more.
After my three month period of creating new habits and changing my lifestyle, I realized that these things weren’t as hard to maintain as they used to be. My new life really was a new habit. Some days I DID have to force myself to get out there on the treadmill and remind myself not to overeat and make bad choices, but other days it just seemed second-nature.
My highest recorded weight when I started was 285 pounds and I was a size 28. 12 months to the day after I was about to schedule my gastric bypass surgery, I reached my goal of losing 125 pounds! (Later, I lost 60lbs. more after I had a baby) It was an average of 2-3 pounds per week which is the same amount I would have lost if I had gotten surgery.
Now I’m running four miles a day on the treadmill (still watching TV) and I have added many pushups, situps, leg lifts, and weight-lifting to my routine. If I miss a workout now, I feel like something is missing and I have that not-quite-right feeling. I still maintain my low calorie/low fat diet and am continuing to learn more about nutrition in order to look at food more as fuel, not as fun.
I am also learning to enjoy physical activity. I have entered several triathlons where I’ve found I’m actually pretty competetive. I’ve come in the top 10% of each race. I’ve also done a 1/2 marathon and entering a full marathon in the near future. If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be doing these things, I honestly wouldn’t have believed you.
Getting inside the emotions
Diet and exercise were extremely important factors for me to address to fix my weight problem. But there’s another part of the equation that needed equal attention. I knew the basic things to do to lose weight, eat less and move more, but there was some reason I wasn’t able to do it for an extended period of time.
On the Counseling page, there is more information about how I made some pretty incredible discoveries about my worth as an individual, incredible person. Because of those things, I was able to make choices that were more respectful of myself as a person.
But there were also some very deliberate things I had to address in my life that would help me continue on with my new choices of eating right and working out.
Once I started valuing myself more as a person, I started to notice that sometimes without even knowing it, I sent myself really negative and sabotaging messages. I would often catch myself saying little things like, “What is one little cookie going to hurt?” or “you’re going to have to deal with this for the rest of your life anyway, one cheat day won’t really matter.” or “you have too much weight to lose, you’re just wasting your time.” I was a bit surprised how often and how easily those messages were tolerated as part of my self-talk. I had to make a conscious and concerted effort to rebuke those messages the instant I heard them. Sometimes I would even say out loud, “No, that isn’t right, I am worth it” or “I don’t believe that anymore!”
By closing the door on those messages, I was able to take a more positive outlook and remain steadfast in the changes I was implementing.
Another breakthrough change in thinking was when I realized I was addicted to food. That was a really strange thing to me because how can someone be addicted to food? We all eat, we all enjoy food, where does it cross the line? I realized that it was when I ate way too much and got way too much satisfaction out of it that I had a problem. I came to a point where I had to change my thinking about it and my relationship with it. I needed to look at food the way an alcoholic looks at alcohol. I needed to make peace with the fact that my relationship with it was not normal and I would never be able to treat it the way “normal” people did. I needed to be ok with the fact that I couldn’t eat birthday cake at a party, I couldn’t casually eat the treats in the office workroom, I couldn’t celebrate with food. I couldn’t act normally with it the way other people could. I don’t know if I was dealing with an actual chemical reaction or if my lack of control was the issue, but just like an alcoholic can lose control after one drink of alcohol, I was the same way with food. Once I had a taste of sugar or junk food, it snowballed from there. I needed to make peace with the fact that I was just different with food and that had to be ok.
I made adjustments at parties by not eating cake or snacks and sometimes would even have to bring my own dinner when visiting friends. I made arrangements to not celebrate special occasions with food and made a conscious choice to not even have the first bite of something that would sabotage my progress.
As soon as I made peace with the fact that this was just the way my life was, I was able to move on and continue on the road to being healthy.