Baby Steps, Not Surgery, Led to Susan’s 250-Pound Weight Loss
Name: Susan Hegarty
Height: 5 feet, 7 inches
Before Weight: 439
How I Gained It: I’ve always loved food, and I used it to cope with the many challenges I went through in my life. I’m the oldest of four children and the only one who had a weight problem — I was constantly sneaking food. As a child, I was never skinny; however, I wasn’t morbidly obese until I reached my 20s. I was 25 when my husband died after suffering with a long illness, and I turned to food for comfort. I had no concept of nutrition, and I did not care what I put into my body — I would consume on average 5,000 to 7,000 calories daily. I didn’t think of the consequences, the depression, and the feelings of self-hatred and lack of self-esteem that came with the weight gain. My diet was full of sweets, fried foods and carbs, and everything was served in a very large portions. When I reached a point when I could not weigh myself on a regular scale, I stopped weighing myself.
Breaking Point: At 429 pounds, I’d had too many breaking points to list. I wasn’t able to walk the mall, fit into a diner booth or walk 10 minutes on a treadmill. I couldn’t even buckle my seatbelt or go to the movies. Finding clothing that fit was nearly impossible. I remember shopping for a car and hearing the sales associate tell one of his coworkers that I would need a truck in order to carry my weight. Our society definitely favors thin people — I was looked down on and treated very differently than my normal-sized friends. People always told me to simply exercise more, but when you are so heavy, it’s very discouraging. It was embarrassing to think of joining a gym filled with healthy, fit and beautiful people who just wouldn’t understand.
My final breaking point happened after I waited in line for more than an hour to ride my favorite roller coaster. When I got onto the ride and squeezed into the seat, the bar came down and an alarm buzzed. The attendant tried to secure the bar, but it would not fit over me. He tried his best, but in the end, I was asked to leave the ride. I had to walk past hundreds of people feeling completely humiliated.
How I Lost It: In 2004, I got approval to have gastric bypass surgery. Within a year, I lost 100 pounds, but it wasn’t long before I began eating unhealthy again. Because of the surgery, I couldn’t eat large quantities of food, but I learned how to “graze,” and before I knew it, I had gained all the weight back — plus more. I was devastated. In 2005, I reached my highest weight of 439 pounds. I felt like there was no way out.
In 2007, I caught a TV show about a woman who lost a lot of weight — she seemed so happy. I wanted to be that woman! I can’t explain what happened to me, but at that moment, I made a decision to change my life. I knew it was going to be hard, but I finally understood what I had to do, and I finally accepted that it had to be a lifelong commitment, not just a New Year’s resolution. I realized that I had to let go of all my past failures, learn from my mistakes and stop making excuses. I began reading success stories and educating myself on nutrition and the importance of exercise.
Exercise was a huge challenge for me. It was a chore for me to walk to my car, let alone run on a treadmill. But I knew I had to do it, so I took baby steps. I started walking at work — I would walk for 20 minutes on my lunch break. I was exhausted! As my walks increased in length, I finally had enough courage to join a local gym. I started on the treadmill, and before I knew it, I was up to 30 minutes with an incline. I started doing light weights and circuit training, even though I was not comfortable on the machines. As I lost more weight, I hired a personal trainer. By this time, I was determined to get in shape and was getting up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym before work. The weight was falling off. These days, I still go to the gym five days a week at 5 a.m., and I do fun activities on the weekend.
I also had to learn to be accountable for the foods I eat, so I focused on staying between 1,700 to 2,000 calories a day, logging everything I eat. I stay away from white rice and other bad carbs, sugar, soda and processed foods. I fill up on the healthy stuff like berries, fruits, hard-boiled eggs, nuts and proteins. And if I feel like having the chocolate cake, I have it, but I also spend extra time burning it off. Seeing how much effort it takes to burn 100 calories puts a different perspective on the foods I choose to eat.
I am not done with my weight loss — I still have another 40 pounds to lose — but for the first time in my life, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It always puts things into perspective when I look down: For the first time in years, I can see my feet!
Current Weight: 180 pounds
Susan has been losing weight steadily for three years now and has been under 200 for more than a year.
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