When Krista Smart’s relationship ended.
she sank into a depression. In her effort to heal her mind, she wound up strengthening her body too.
Krista Smart, 36
Junior high school teacher
Height: 5 feet 6 inches
Starting weight: 179 lbs
Current weight: 140 lbs
Pounds lost: 39
“I was always a believer in staying active.”
I never worried much about my weight. I’ve played on a curling team (it’s like shuffleboard on ice) since I was 8. In my 20s, I weighed a healthy 135 pounds and felt good in my size-8 pants. I lived inArizonawith my boyfriend, Duncan, whom I’d dated since high school, and for fun we biked, hiked, golfed, and walked. I always felt fabulous after exercising, and that kept me going back.
“We started fighting, and I started eating.”
After I completed my master’s degree to become a learning-disabilities specialist in 1998, Duncan and I moved back to our hometown inCanada, bought a house together, and started talking about marriage. But deep down I had serious concerns about our relationship. We’d begun bickering daily over things as petty as Why didn’t you ask me how my day was? Plus, we didn’t see each other very often becauseDuncantraveled a lot for work. After 16 years together, neither of us wanted to admit that we might have fallen out of love. I became depressed and stopped taking care of myself. All I did was sit on the couch and snack — on chips, nachos, and the other salty food I craved. When he was home, Duncan and I spent as little time as possible together because we inevitably ended up arguing. We had always enjoyed preparing healthy dinners together, but as things fell apart, we cooked whatever was quickest, like fatty frozen entrées and pastas with cream sauce. I could feel the pounds coming on, and the more weight I gained, the more uncomfortable I felt. And because I was down on myself, our relationship suffered even more.
“I was losing him — and myself.”
We continued like this for three years. I didn’t know who I was anymore: I’d once been energetic and fun-loving; now I was sad and depressed. It became embarrassing to go into stores and buy bigger sizes. I didn’t feel like I could wear clothes that were in style because of the extra weight I was carrying.Duncanwould still tell me how great I looked, and I still cared about him and what he thought — but at the same time, I didn’t believe him. I felt like I was losing myself and my partner too.
“My health had to come first.”
In March 2003, I went toHawaiiwith my family. Afterward, I saw photos of myself in shorts and a tank top, and I was horrified. I knew I’d gained weight — after all, I was now a size 16 — but the proof was more dramatic in pictures. Around the same time, I started seeing a therapist, who diagnosed me with situational depression, which basically confirmed that my personal life was sending me into a slump. The therapist told me that before I could work at rebuilding my relationship, I had to feel good about myself. She mentioned that an antidepressant might help in addition to therapy, but I wanted to try going without medication.
My mom suggested I join Curves. She was a member and loved how easy the program was to follow: Curves’s 30-minute circuit of exercises combines cardiovascular activity and strength training on machines. I went for a consultation, got weighed, and nearly fell off the scale — I weighed 179 pounds! How had I let myself gain 40 pounds? Still, I felt excited to take my first step toward healing. I started working out six days a week. My foremost reason for exercising was my mental health; weight loss came second. By this point, Duncan and I were like strangers, barely talking and completely distant even though we still lived together. Sometimes I’d do the circuit teary-eyed as I thought about my relationship. But working out helped clear my head, and it became addictive to release all my stress and sadness.
I weighed myself weekly, and after two months I’d lost seven pounds and one pants size. I felt invigorated! Exercise was improving my outlook, but losing that weight gave me the courage to tackle my physical health too. That’s when I set a weight-loss goal: to get down to my original weight of around 135 pounds.
“I needed to get back to basics.”
Right after I lost those seven pounds, Duncan and I officially broke up. We finally admitted we had fallen out of love and that it was too late to fix things. Still, our breakup was devastating to me. I’d been withDuncansince I was 15; being alone now was terrifying. It was hard to get out of bed every morning, but I knew I had two choices: to get sucked into an abyss of depression or to continue toward my healthy goal. So I told myself that the only things I had to do every day were go to work and go to the gym. My health was the one thing I felt in control of, and it was empowering to take charge. I started going back to my old healthy eating habits. I stocked up on plenty of fruits and vegetables; I ate yogurt and granola in the morning, a salad or sandwich for lunch, and a protein, rice, and veggies for dinner. It wasn’t hard to do, since that’s how I’d eaten most of my life.
I lost a half pound to one pound a week, slowly and steadily, over the next eight months. The people at Curves encouraged me to keep at it, and having coworkers, friends, and trainers at the gym notice my weight loss boosted my self-confidence. I also started walking on Sunday mornings with my friends Debi and Cindy. Since we each had difficult things going on in our lives — Cindy had just been diagnosed with cancer — those walks became our special time to vent and share. Such was my life for the next few months: I’d go to work, go to Curves afterward and on Saturdays, and meet Debi and Cindy on Sundays. In December 2004, we set a goal to walk a half-marathon that following spring. In February, we printed out a training schedule and followed it to a tee for the next 12 weeks. By marathon day, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I crossed the finish line in under three hours, beating my best training time. It was the most exhilarating feeling!
“I was so grateful to feel good again.”
After the half-marathon, I continued power walking and working out at Curves and was still losing a half pound to one pound a week. In the summer of 2005, the scale hit 140 pounds and wouldn’t budge. It had been two years since I started, but slowly and surely I had made it to the weight I wanted to be. I knew I looked great, but for the first time in a year and a half, I truly felt good too. I was back to being the real me, both mentally and physically. My energy was soaring and I had a renewed passion for life. I loved walking into stores and trying on tank tops and fitted jeans. I hosted a 33rd birthday at my new apartment with the theme “New style, new body, new woman.” A coworker helped put together “before and after” posters of me to display. For the first time, I really felt independent, and it was something to celebrate.
“Now I live my life to the fullest!”
I’ve maintained my weight loss for three years. I still power walk and go to the gym four times a week, and I try not to overindulge too often. If I go out with the girls and eat a plate of chicken wings or if I feel my pants getting a little snug, I’ll tack on a few extra minutes to my exercise routine. Since then, Cindy, Debi, and I have taken cross-country skiing lessons, and I’ve joined a curling team. I’ve also backpacked through Europe andSoutheast Asia. I never would have had the energy to get through those trips if I were still 179 pounds! My next goal is to power walk a full marathon, and I know one day I’ll do it. I’m confident about getting back into the dating scene, but I’m happy to move forward with my life whether I’m single or with a partner. Five years ago I feared I would never pull myself back to a place of normality. Now, I love my life, and I’m looking forward to what’s through the next door for me.
WHAT KRISTA LEARNED:
1. Do what you love. “Participating on a curling team and walking with my girlfriends never feels like exercise because it’s fun! You can socialize and enjoy yourself and burn calories while doing it.”
2. Reward yourself. “I bought myself new clothes as a pat on the back for my weight loss, but my biggest reward was throwing myself a birthday party. I deserved to be celebrated: I pulled myself through a tough time and brought my mind and my body back to a better place. And it felt awesome!”
3. Keep junk out of reach. “I used to stock up on chips, nachos, and salsa when I went to the grocery store. If it’s sitting there, chances are I’m going to eat it. But as I started losing weight, I stopped buying junk food. That way, when a craving struck, I had to get off my butt and go buy it, which I knew I wasn’t likely to do.”
4. Set a goal. “Once my friends and I signed up for the half-marathon, we had to get serious about our Sunday strolls. We paid money to register, and we wanted to do well. That incentive motivated us to keep at it.”
5. Give yourself a break. “When I go out to a sports bar once a month to watch games with my girlfriends, there’s no stopping me from overindulging on chicken wings. But that’s the one time I give myself the okay to splurge. As long as I’m not overdoing it too often, I’m not doing too much harm.”
GIVE YOUR MOOD A WORKOUT
* That rush Krista felt after a workout helped pull her out of her funk. Studies show that exercise can reduce symptoms of depression by 47 percent. “It in-creases mood boosting chemicals,” says Tracy Greer, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Texas South-western Medical Center. “But you need to break a sweat for 30 minutes at least three times a week to get lasting results.” More tips for using exercise as a blues-buster:
* Take baby steps. Even 10 minutes of activity can rev endorphins and lower tension, according to the Mayo Clinic. And working out in three 10-minute intervals is as effective as one 30-minute session, Greer says.
* Pump iron. After a 12-week strength-training program, nearly 90 percent of clinically depressed women in a Harvard study reported improved mood and no longer met the criteria for depression.
* Get zen. Yoga may ease depression and decrease anxiety, says a study by theAmericanCollegeof Sports Medicine.