From ‘Too Fat’ For a Roller Coaster Ride to a Size 4
My name is Susan Haugland. I’ve been a music educator for the last 25 years; I am also the 45-year-old mother of four children ranging in age from six to 24 and wife to James, an electrical engineer/cellist. I currently teach kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade general music and elementary orchestra in Lake Bluff, Illinois. I love to write and have two published books. In my “free” time, I enjoy participating in community theater, performing both on stage and in the pit orchestras for local shows.
I have been overweight my entire life. I was the fat girl who dreaded gym class and being the last one picked for teams. I was the girl who never got asked to dance and never had a date for prom. The smallest size I ever remember wearing was a size 11, and that was when I was 15. My driver’s license still says 170, but I remember that when I was sixteen and filling out the form to get that license at the DMV, I lied and wrote it for ten pounds less than I actually weighed, which meant at age sixteen I weighed 180 pounds. My weight just kept going up from there.
I had my first child at age 21, and three months after she was born, I weighed 245 pounds. I dieted on and off, losing 40 or 50 pounds, only to regain it and lose it all over again. This cycle of dieting and gaining continued for the next 22 years. Each time I regained the weight, I moved closer to the mindset that I was just destined to be fat forever. I really lost hope that I would ever be a “normal” weight. I was generally a happy person despite the weight, but it eventually started to affect my level of activity.
My feet hurt so badly from plantar fasciitis that by the time I was 42, I could barely walk more than a few minutes without pain. Stairs were unbearable because of the pain in my knees. Now, when I watch videos from a few years ago, I notice that I wasn’t walking normally; I was waddling, teetering back and forth like a Weeble. I just thought I was getting old. Maybe it was because I was always heavy, or maybe it was just plain old denial, but I didn’t associate the pain with my weight. Even worse, I have two very small children and the pain kept me from doing so many things with them. I just sat in a chair and watched them play.
A few years ago I took my youth orchestra to compete in a statewide music festival at Six Flags Great America. After the performance, we spent several hours at the theme park, going on roller coasters and other rides. After an hour and a half of standing in line with a couple of students and their parents, I finally got settled in my seat on the Superman roller coaster. Imagine my embarrassment when, in front of those students and parents, the ride attendant attempted to lock the safety harness on my seat and was unable to do so because I was too fat! I had to get off the ride and wait for my party to finish it without me. I just wanted to go home and crawl under a rock, but I knew that was the last straw and I really had to do something about my weight.
When I got off that roller coaster, I knew I had to do something about my weight but I didn’t know what. I’d tried practically everything. Every time I tried a new eating plan I found myself even more focused on food. I had to plan what I was going to eat, shop for the ingredients, and prepare my meals. All I thought about was what I was going to eat next. Luckily, I was watching TV in January when I saw an offer for NutriSystem. I told my husband I wanted to try it, that it was the only thing I hadn’t tried and it was my last hope. Just placing that order and making the decision to try yet again to lose weight was a huge challenge for me. I was nervous and quite sure I would fail again.
The box arrived a week and a half later, and I cleared all the junk food out of my house. I followed the plan exactly and was overjoyed when I weighed in with an 11-pound loss! That was motivation enough for me to keep going. After that first week, I started exploring the NutriSystem Web site and found the support bulletin board. That board became my lifeline and the biggest support system I had. I really feel that I owe much of my success to all of my friends on the bulletin boards who cheered me on every step of the way.
Most of my colleagues and friends started to notice that I was losing weight once I’d lost about 40 pounds, but their mouths fell open when school restarted last August—after they hadn’t seen me in three months. One of my own students said, “You look kind of like Mrs. Haugland. Are you related to her?” I about died laughing. The process was gradual for me, so I didn’t realize that the change in my appearance was so profound that people didn’t even recognize me.
My family was very supportive the whole way. However, they had never seen me thin and were constantly telling me I had lost enough weight and I should stop. I knew, though, that this time was different. I wasn’t just going to get to a more comfortable weight, I was going to get to a healthy weight. Hardly a day goes by now when someone doesn’t tell me how fantastic I look, and I have to tell you, that’s some incredible motivation to stick to the plan!
I learned right from the beginning how to stay on plan, even on weekends. Eating NutriSystem food taught me proper portion control, but when I was busy during the week I didn’t have to plan my meals; they were already cooked and ready in my cupboards. I didn’t have to spend all my time thinking about what I was going to eat, or shopping for food, or cooking food.
In fact, one of the biggest differences I found in NutriSystem over other diets I had tried in the past was that the emphasis was actually taken off food. I now eat to live, not live to eat. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I don’t use food for entertainment anymore – I have friends and family for that.
I’ve gone from a size 24 to a size 4*. It took me a little over a year to do that. I know I won’t let my weight get out of control again. I may indulge in some of my favorite foods from time to time, but I know how to incorporate them into a healthy eating plan.
There have been big changes in my life, and I know they’re due to my newfound self-confidence. I exercise regularly now, and I’ve never done that before in my life. When my feet and knees hurt, I was afraid to even go for a walk so I started with only four or five minutes a day of exercise. Now I run over three miles every other day, and I no longer have any pain! I’ve even done some modeling for a regional chain of stores, and I would have never even considered that a possibility a year ago.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer the spring after reaching my goal, the doctors and nurses told me that my weight loss may have made it easier to find the tumor so early. With such an early diagnosis, my prognosis is excellent. I also find it easier now to keep up with an active and healthy lifestyle to help prevent a recurrence.
More than anything, I want people to know that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been fat your whole life. There is hope. It won’t happen overnight, and I can’t tell you that you won’t struggle now and then along the way. I will tell you, though, that you can make this positive change in your life.