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My Story

I struggled with my weight all my life, or so I thought.  As a teenager, I thought I was fat.  All my friends wore a size 3 or size 5, but I wore a *suck air* size 10.  However, my weight increased steadily until, by the time I graduated high school, I truly had a weight problem.  In college, I’d constantly think about my weight.  I thought “I would be pretty if…”.  I felt awkward and undesirable as I continued through college.  Like many young people, I thought there was something wrong with me.  Finally, I found a boyfriend—now my husband—who loves me as I truly am. 

My weight continued to creep up.  By the time I graduated college, I weighed over 200 lbs.  With graduate school came more pressure.  I’d constantly think, “if only I could get it all together, I’d exercise.  I’d eat less.  I’d be fit and lean.”  The obsessing didn’t stop there.  “If I lost weight, life would be perfect.  My house would be perfectly clean, I’d have perfect scores in all my classes, and my research would be astonishing.”  As usual, with constant obsessing came constant stress and constant eating.  I weighed 250 lbs by the time I finished graduate school.  Between sleep apnea and knee pain, my sleep was dreadful.  I was often too tired to think, and thinking was my job.

“As usual, with constant obsessing came constant stress and constant eating.”

After graduate school, my weight kept creeping up, reaching a high of 300 lbs.  I was having trouble not only standing for long hours, but also doing truly basic things, like walking and household chores.  Tying my own shoes was a major accomplishment.  I couldn’t do things that brought me joy.  One low point was when my family spent Christmas at a state park.  The rest of my family went hiking—one of my favorite activities—but I couldn’t go.  The havoc my weight had wreaked on my body wouldn’t let me. 

When I tried to lose weight, I’d make charts and graphs projecting years in advance.  I spent 2-3 hours each day going over my calculations.  It wasn’t planning.  It wasn’t healthy or helpful, and the result was that I constantly obsessed about food.

A New Life

I became determined to turn things around.  I’d heard the term “lifestyle change,”  but I’d never really understood what that meant.  I thought a healthy lifestyle was eating only kale and quinoa and rock climbing on weekends I wasn’t running a marathon.  That would never be me.

I found that for me, a lifestyle change had to be mental as well as physical.  One of the first things I did was to start obsessing less and doing more.  In a meeting one week, I began describing my plan to simplify my weight loss efforts.  I confessed to my chapter that sometimes I can over-complicate things.  My chapter said, “Yes.  We know.”

I started writing again, and I decided to write my own story—the story of my weight loss.  It’s a fascinating tale, with many twists and turns, but the ending is yet to be written.

“A lifestyle change had to be mental as well as physical.”

When I started writing my weight loss story, I found that writing about my weight loss in the past tense was powerful.  I’d write about obstacles I faced and how I overcame them.  That inspired me to continue.

Now, every loss—no matter how small—was permanent in my mind. I focused on not gaining, and thus, usually lost more the next week. I’d succeeded in losing. It was written in black and white.

I developed rules. One was that I wouldn’t gain 2 weeks in a row. The accountability with TOPS was, as we all know, essential. I started listening—really listening—to other TOPS. When they said something powerful or inspiring, I wrote it down. Here’s one: “When you feel a little hungry, it’s a success! It means you’re losing weight.”

That wasn’t my only change in thinking.  I took a hard look at my life and the cycle my obstacles made.  Knee pain, lack of sleep, and migraines fed into each other and made exercise difficult.  Any motivation I’d gained would plummet.  I wrote down my obstacles and thought, “where can I break this cycle?”  Once it was on paper, I could see that I needed to move more.  I gathered the courage to do what I’d been delaying—treating my knee pain. 

I’d avoided treatment because, after 5 surgeries, I thought the doctor would say that I needed a knee replacement.  I called to make an appointment.  *Deep breath.*  I went to the appointment.  *Deep breath.*  Good news.  I did need surgery, but not a replacement.  After surgery, I could move more and do things that took my mind off food.  With less pain, I slept better, which triggered fewer migraines.  I was happier.  I was starting a new chapter in my journey to a healthy life.

Using that momentum, I turned a downward spiral into an upward one—less weight meant I could do more, being active helped burn more calories, and exercising improved my mood.

I learned to forgive myself.  In the past, after I ate too much, guilt and shame would consume me.  I learned that it was helpful to keep my past indiscretions in the past and ground myself in the present.  I found a phrase that I turned into a mantra, of sorts:  “What can I do right now to move toward my weight loss goals?”

I have difficulty when I feel deprived.  The instant that I tell myself I can’t have something—like candy or sweets—I get a huge craving, and that craving never goes away.  Instead, I’ve started thinking in terms of “moderation,” “balance,” and “sensible.”  (Hmmm…where have I heard the word “sensible” before?).  If I’m at the grocery store and start craving chocolate, I buy some.  However, I don’t buy a bag of fun-sized Snickers and delude myself that I’ll only eat a few at a time.  Instead, I buy one candy bar.  Often, I share it.  This works for me.

“I found my path, and it’s a path I can follow forever.”

I’ve been on this journey to a healthier life for 5 years and, although I reached my goal weight last year, I’d reached my true goal long before.  You see, my goal wasn’t a number on the scale.  It was changing the direction my life was going.  I found my path, and it’s a path I can follow forever.

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