Like everyone else, I have heroes who inspire me. My heroes tend to be people around me who are quietly changing their lives, and in the process, changing the world. My friend Jennifer is one of my heroes. Formerly 450 pounds and a Type 2 diabetic, she’s now succeeding in turning her health around by making small, sustainable changes in her lifestyle choices, and has been able to stop taking insulin altogether. She met adversity head on, and found a way to turn an ugly situation into an inspiring, life affirming story. She tells it with grace, humor and wisdom.
Jennifer at 450 pounds, and today
When Amber asked me to guest post on her blog, I admit I was flattered. Ok, I was REALLY stoked. I mean, Amber, one of my personal heroes, asked ME about my process. Amazing. After I threw up, I told her I would be happy to write something for her.
First of all, you’re probably wondering why Amber would ask me. If you saw me today, I’m a fat, slightly-older-than-middle-aged woman (52). I’ve been overweight virtually all my life except when my mom put me on speed in high school. The speed helped the most (oh, it was legal and called “diet pills”) in weight loss (and fabulous energy), and I was able to reach the greatest weight loss in my life – until now. I weighed less then, but had not even started to deal with why I was fat. I ballooned up to about 450 pounds and was unhappy, unhealthy and, honestly, I was dying. I worked high-stress jobs for toxic people. Then the first of some interesting things happened: I was laid off.
I think it might have saved my life.
I was devastated, however. It was a difficult time in our family life as my husband had recently lost his business. We lost our home, despite valiant attempts to save it. An amazing thing was happening, though: I started losing weight. Yes, part of it was most assuredly due to depression, though in the past depression had the opposite effect on me – I gained weight. I wasn’t doing anything conscious, but people started commenting about how much weight I had lost. It irritated me a bit because I didn’t want to look better. I was suffering, damn it! I had always avoided scales, but we bought one that had a capacity of 400 lbs. I was so excited to see how much I had lost that I jumped on it, only to receive the “Err” message. OMG – did I STILL weigh in excess of 400 pounds? After the panic subsided, I climbed back on, this time I followed the directions (to tap it first!) and saw that I weighed much less than 400 pounds. I had scored my first victory.
What had changed? First of all, I was out of the high-stress environment long enough to recognize that I didn’t deal well with stress; I ate it. Interestingly, my foods of choice tend to be savory carbs, not sweets, but to combat the toxic nature of that stress and those job situations, I needed something sweet and I went for it. Ben and Jerry had become my co-therapists as well as Mike and Ike. They kept me safe and sane (or as near as I got). I was able to experience my stress in a different way and to RECOGNIZE it. And to realize that I did not have a very effective way of dealing with it. One great realization for me was that I did not have a particular problem with food, I had a particular problem with STRESS. So, I ate it.
Another interesting thing was that I started noticing things about food. I remember once in Smart and Final looking around and realizing that almost everything in there was processed food. THAT was a bit of a revelation. I hadn’t made the delineation in my head between processed foods and non-processed. Now, in my defense, I was generally always a scratch cook, so that wasn’t the problem. What started to happen was that I was waking up. I was coming out of what was a kind of food coma in that I was on autopilot most of the time. I don’t LIKE to have to think about food. I don’t like to have to think about myself. I was taught that I came last. Everyone else first. That was virtue.
That was bullshit.
Part of the truth of me was that I had to grow up a little bit. Take responsibility for myself – my actions (or inactions), what had happened because of my inattention and willfulness. There had to be some kind of alchemy to losing weight, right? Nope. It’s as simple as use more than you take in. Really. Swear-to-God. Yeah, I wish it weren’t quite so cut and dried, but it is, and, actually, that’s also the good news. You don’t have to read 7 million diet books (but if you want to, I have them!) to lose weight. What’s the secret? You have to pay attention.
You also have to educate yourself. I’m delighted that some restaurants in California are posting calorie counts. They may help you make a less caloric, perhaps more healthful choice, but if you choose the high-calorie dish, you made an informed choice. It’s on you – perhaps literally.
So this is how I have lost in excess of 150 pounds and am still moving forward. I do not beat myself up when I experience some, er, slippage and revert back to my former ways. I also don’t fall as far as I used to for as long.
People are always asking “What are you doing?” with regard to how I’ve lost such a substantial amount of weight. There is NO SECRET. None. Anyone who tells you different is selling something. There are certainly different approaches and you must do the work and find out the one that works for you.
Weight loss is not a success-only journey. It’s okay to fall as long as you get up more than you fall down. As a matter of fact, it might be good that you DO fall so that you can learn how to get back up. Go gentle on yourself. Forgive screw ups (especially your own!). You didn’t gain all the excess weight in a day, so don’t try to get rid of it all by next Thursday. (I didn’t originate that comment, but I can’t remember who did. I found it absolutely inspirational.)
Stay the course. Examine your life. Do what is good for you. You might even learn to love it – I did!