I’ve struggled with weight my whole life, but after my husband left me and my beloved father died, I fell deep into my sugar addiction. I avoided all of my deepest pain and loss by numbing myself with food.
HOW DID YOUR WEIGHT AFFECT ANY ASPECT(S) OF YOUR LIFE? The first time I went on a roller-coaster and was too large to ride was a painful and shaming experience. But don’t worry; I quickly found something distracting to eat. It affected my ability to dance (I had been a dancer all my life,) so that was disappointing, but the ways if affected me were not as big as I believed the reward was for “not caring.”
WHAT WAS THE “TURNING POINT” THAT GOT YOU STARTED ON YOUR WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY? After my Dad died, I dove very deep into food. I thought about how my whole life he had been on a diet of some kind. He was always either on his way up, or on his way down. His fluctuations were dramatic; at least 50 lbs each time. In the end, that was what took his life. Those fluctuations weakened his heart over the years, and then took him suddenly at the age of 60. His mother had passed away before I was born at age 50…of the exact. same. thing. Weakened heart. I remember thinking,”Who cares? If I’m going to die at 60, I might as well be happy,” so I resigned myself to being overweight the rest of my life and dying early. I felt it was inevitable.
As time passed, I slowly began to heal from my losses. As I sat with my family last Christmas, I realized I really did want to live a long life. I wanted to break the cycle. I wanted to change; not lose weight, but really change. Inside and out. My Dad only ever wanted me to be happy and live a wonderful life. So, I decided I was going to.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED? I started by journaling. I knew if I was going to make a life long change, I had to understand why I made the choices I did. I needed to address the way I used food to numb my feelings. I read a lot of books (everything by Brene Brown!) and asked myself a lot of questions. I explored why I felt panicked and deprived when I believed I couldn’t have something. I paid attention to how I felt before and after eating sugar, and eventually faced the fact that I was addicted to it. Once I faced those tough subjects, I truly understood why I ate what I ate. I knew how those choices were hurting me emotionally and mentally, not just physically.
At that point, I went to my doctor and we discussed my having Vertical Gastric Sleeve (also known as “Weight Loss Surgery.”) It’s important to note that surgery is a tool; people who have the surgery and continue their poor eating habits will not see results. It’s not a magic pill. Truthfully, it’s more like a marriage: you are making a life-long commitment to a lifestyle. That lifestyle includes no sugar, no carbonation, lots of protein, and working out. It’s the same changes someone has to make without surgery. However, it’s undeniable that having a smaller stomach that feels full faster is a valuable tool.
HOW LONG AFTER YOU STARTED DID YOU BEGIN TO SEE RESULTS OF YOUR WEIGHT LOSS EFFORTS? Before the surgery, you have to eat clean for 2 weeks so your liver is clean when the surgeon goes in. Those two weeks were difficult, because I went into sugar withdrawal. I missed my comfort food so much! However, in the two weeks of following the “liver diet” (lots of protein, no sugar, no carbonation,) I lost over 15 lbs. I quickly saw what sugar was doing to my body before I even had the surgery.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART? I had many challenges. A lot of my family wasn’t supportive; they thought I was cheating. I tried explaining that I was choosing something that my grandmother and Dad didn’t have as an option, but they were unmovable. I eventually had to let the weight of what other people thought go.
Another difficulty was that after the surgery, I did not lose weight right away. My took time to heal. I used this time to go through a “sugar rehab” of sorts. I put away the scale and focused on the emotional journey I had committed myself to. I mourned my favorite foods, and let them go, like breaking up with a bad boyfriend; “I will miss you, but I won’t let you hurt me anymore.” It ended up being a great thing for me.
DID YOU EVER WANT TO GIVE UP? WHAT KEPT YOU GOING? When I went through emotional moments, I wanted to go back to my sugar drug. But going through my own “sugar rehab”/break-up/whatever you want to call it helped me be prepared for those tough moments. I worked through them as best I could. And when I made choices that weren’t in line with living a long life, I didn’t get mad at myself. I got out my journal and asked questions: “Why did you eat that? How did it make you feel? Did it help fix the problem?” Understanding myself better and why I made the choices I did really gave me room for growth and genuine change.
DID YOU HIT ANY WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAUS? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM? I hit several. I would take a deep breath, and put the scale away. Stubborn scale numbers are poison to a positive mind. I asked myself why the number mattered, and focused on something else: drinking more water. Getting more protein. Walking a little farther. I had a rule/goal of no scale for 3 weeks when I hit a plateau. Before I got out the scale, I wrote in my journal how I felt about my work over the last few weeks without it. I asked myself how I would feel if the number was the same. Sometimes, I could see a difference, so I didn’t care if the number was the same: I had to have lost it somewhere else. But if I felt myself really caring about that number, I took it as a sign I should hold off the scale a little longer. Every time without fail, after this process, the plateau ended.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO LOSE MOST OF THE WEIGHT? About 6-7 months. With surgery, the weight loss was obviously accelerated. But anyone who commits themselves to the clean eating and exercise that I have will see results.
DID YOU HAVE ANY NON-SCALE VICTORIES? The majority of my victories were non-scale victories. I avoid the scale as much as possible because it tells me I didn’t work hard enough (screw you, scale!) but I digress: my victories were fitting into smaller sizes, having more energy, walking farther than I did the day before, and loving the girl in the mirror who was working so hard to change her life.
WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY DIET LOOK LIKE COMPARED TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER? A complete 180. Before, I ate everything and anything I wanted on a whim. I literally stuffed myself to the brim to avoid feeling my feelings. So much sugar and soda. I truly was addicted.
I now eat 90g of protein a day (a difficult feat!), fruits and vegetables, and complex carbs sparingly (wheat bread, brown rice.) I have cut out sugar and carbonation. Carbonation was also hard to give up, but my doctor emphasized it would jeopardize the surgery I had paid for, and the long life I wanted. I had my priorities straight at that point, so I gave it up.
HOW DOES YOUR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY COMPARE TO WHEN YOU WERE HEAVIER? I move a lot more now because I want to. That’s a huge difference. At first I went walking every day, and applauded myself whether it was 5 minutes or 50. The goal was to just get up and move. As my body got over the sugar withdrawal, I found myself wanting to do more. I started doing Pilates about 3 months in, and then added weight lifting. I now walk every morning (for however long I want; no judgement…just get out of bed and move,) and then either Pilates or weights in the evening. For my body, a workout in the evening helps sleep better.
MY WEIGHT LOSS TIPS & TRICKS
- Love yourself the way you are right now. The person you are right now is a fighter and deserves respect for working so hard. Once you love yourself the way you are, you will have more respect for how you treat yourself.
- Explore why you eat the way you do; without judgement. If you see your patterns, it will easier to break them.
- Dump sugar and carbonation like a bad boyfriend. It will be painful. You will cry and miss them. But eventually, you’ll move on, and be happier without them.
- Walk every day. Walk around your living room if that’s all you can do. Just walk with the intention of moving around. Slowly, you will want to go farther. Today you may walk 50 minutes, tomorrow you may only walk 5. Doesn’t matter. Just make a conscious choice to do it every day.
- Throw out the scale, or use it as little as possible. It tries to tell you that the work you’ve done wasn’t worth it (it’s a real jerk, to be honest.) The worst thing you can do is get yourself down after you’ve worked hard. but bodies are interesting and weird and ever-changing, so the scale lies. Once a month is enough.