“I Quit Yo-Yo Dieting and Got Real!”
After 20 years of losing weight through deprivation diets and extreme exercise — followed by the inevitable regain — Becky Shultz got off the roller coaster and held steady with a final loss of 100 pounds.
Becky Shultz, 39
Licensed insurance agent
Married with one son, age 22
Height: 5 feet 9 inches
Starting weight: 275 lbs
Current weight: 175 lbs
Pounds lost: 100
“I turned to extreme dieting to drop my pregnancy weight.”
I have always struggled to maintain a steady weight. I got pregnant when I was 16 and had my son,Chad, in August 1985. During that pregnancy, I gained 50 pounds and topped out at 205 pounds. My now husband, Larry, and I got engaged in February 1987, during our senior year of high school, and planned our wedding for that May. I wanted to lose as much weight as I could so I would look my best. So I tried extreme dieting: Each day, I ate between 500 and 750 calories and worked out obsessively for two hours. By the time I walked down the aisle, I weighed 150 pounds. It felt great to be slim again, but after the wedding, the pressure was off. I started binge eating to make up for all the time I’d spent hungry, and I quit the workouts. I ate so much on our honeymoon that I became sick with stomach pains a few times. When I went to college that fall, I was back up to 170 pounds.
“I lost weight easily — but I always gained it back.”
I attended theUniversityofMinnesotaon an academic and volleyball scholarship. But after I graduated, the weight started piling on. I wasn’t working out anymore, and my eating habits didn’t change: I ate three big meals a day, which often included second helpings and desserts. In between I snacked on doughnuts and potato chips and drank lots of soda. At home, I’d pick off my 4-year-old son’s dinner plate, and at the insurance agency where I worked, I’d snack on the goodies my coworkers brought in. At our church’s potluck dinners, I’d load up on ham, lasagna, and potato salad, and I always had more than one dessert. This went on for years. Whenever I felt like I should lose weight — like if summer was coming or I’d made a resolution after the holidays — I went back to dieting the only way I knew how. I’d limit my calories to around 700 a day, skip meals, and do workout videos like Tae Bo for two hours a day. A typical daily diet menu consisted of a sandwich (like bologna on one slice of bread) and low-calorie snacks (like Jell-O). As a working mom, I found it hard to find time to exercise, especially since my husband is a truck driver who was away for days on end. But I improvised: WhileChadwas playing with his toys, I’d pop in a video and do it next to him. I always lost weight easily — sometimes as much as 30 or 40 pounds in two months! I’d feel proud of myself, but also fearful: I knew that all it took was one bad day to throw my diet off completely. Eventually, I’d feel too hungry and deprived to keep going, and I’d gain the weight back, plus more. But I just never had the patience to lose weight slowly. Thanks to my constant rebounding, I weighed 275 pounds by age 37.
“I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror.”
For more than a year, I avoided mirrors and wouldn’t let anyone take my picture so I could stay in denial about how heavy I was. But there was no denying my body: My knees, ankles, and lower back ached from carrying all that weight. Then in 2006, when I was 38, I went toSan Franciscofor a business convention. I weighed nearly 280 pounds. I reached my breaking point when I saw the pictures that had been taken of me there, against my wishes. I looked so bloated — like I would deflate if someone stuck a pin in me. I knew I needed to get off the dieting roller coaster for good. I had read that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to do it slowly. I had never had that kind of patience before. But this time was different. My 40th birthday was less than two years away. I’ve always felt like 40 is a benchmark age: It either makes you feel bad that you’re getting older or you feel good and then 40 is just a number. I wanted 40 to be the beginning of the rest of my life. I wanted to be fit for it — and stay fit.
“My diet worked for me.”
In December 2006, I set a goal to lose 100 pounds in one year. I figured that if I could lose around 2 pounds a week — a safe, realistic goal, from what I’d read — then in 52 weeks, I’d reach my target. Part of me wondered if I had it in me to stick with a diet long-term, but I prayed for the dedication I needed. I didn’t want to cook separate dinners for my husband or give up eating at church gatherings. So I ate what I always did, just less of it. I limited myself to one plate instead of the two or more I would have eaten before. I allowed myself one dessert each day instead of eating sweets after lunch and dinner. I ate one cup of yogurt and fruit for breakfast, a frozen diet meal for lunch, and fruit and 100-calorie snack packs of rice cakes and popcorn in between. Instead of working out to the extreme, I limited myself to 30 minutes each morning on the elliptical machine in our basement that had previously been used as a clothes hanger. I woke up at 5 a.m. to exercise five or six days a week. My son,Chad, was 20 by then and living on his own, which freed up a lot of my time, but I still worked full-time, so early workouts fit best into my day. I’d turn on the Elvis station on my satellite TV and let his music motivate me. It was hard to get out of bed at first, but I told myself that I had spent 38 years doing whatever I wanted, and that this is what I had to do now for my health.
“Slow and steady won the race.”
The weight came off gradually — around 2 pounds a week, which was encouraging. At first, I was tempted to cut more calories and work out more often, to reach my goal sooner. But Larry reminded me that I didn’t gain weight overnight, so I wouldn’t lose it overnight either. Whenever I complained to him about my slow progress, he reassured me that I was doing it the right way, which kept me on track. Because the weight loss was so gradual, it took a few months for people to notice. But by summer’s end, even clients at the office were telling me how great I looked — I think my coworkers got sick of hearing it! People in our neighborhood complimented me so often that my husband called me the town celebrity. I had to admit, this new way of living was easy in comparison to the calorie deprivation and workout mania from before. And it was working. I’d think, Why did I spend so much time doing it the wrong way when moderation was so simple? In December 2007, almost a year after I began, the scale hit 175 pounds. I was in disbelief!
“I feel lighter in weight — and in spirit!”
Now that I’m maintaining my 100-pound weight loss, I still exercise for a half hour on the elliptical machine six days a week and weigh myself on Fridays to make sure I don’t go over 175 pounds. I used to think of the scale as an enemy, but now I see it as a good friend who tells me when I need to get back on track. I’m 39, and can enter my 40s knowing that I’ll be able to play with my grandchildren (if I have them, fingers crossed!) with ease. Another major perk of losing weight is my new clothes. Now that I can fit into a size 10 or 12, I no longer have to shop in the plus-size section. It’s so liberating! When I look in the mirror and I’m wearing my new outfits, I can’t believe it’s me. I feel lighter in weight and in spirit — like there’s nothing that I can’t accomplish. Hello, 40s!
WHAT BECKY LEARNED TO DO
1. EAT WHAT YOU LOVE. I get buttered popcorn at the movies, but I order a small instead of a large. At church dinners, I’ll have a small piece of two or three desserts instead of having a full piece of each.
2. KEEP A BALANCE. My biggest accomplishment was that I stopped playing head games with myself when I overate. Instead of feeling guilt, then falling down a slippery slope, I compensate later. If I splurge at lunch, I’ll eat a light dinner and take a walk. Or if I know I’m going out to a big dinner, I’ll eat lighter meals during the day.
3. DISTRACT YOURSELF. At first, it was hard to adjust to not going back for seconds after dinner. So after I eat my one plate of food, I immediately do the dishes. It prevents me from going back for more or picking at the dinner table.
4. MAKE WORKOUTS WORK FOR YOU. Morning workouts are best for me. They give me energy, and it feels good to accomplish something before I get to my desk. But if I oversleep, I try to find 30 minutes during the day for exercise. I’ll take a walk on my lunch break or after dinner.
5. REWARD YOURSELF. I loved losing weight because I got to buy all new clothes. I had no choice but to shop since I dropped so many sizes. It was fun and affirming to see how small I was getting!
TUNES TO GET YOU MOVIN’:
Elvis got Becky all shook up. Here, what the REDBOOK staff sweats to:
”VIVA LA VIDA,” COLDPLAY (Alison Brower, executive editor)
“BAD MEDICINE,” BON JOVI (Anna Davies, assistant editor)
”FIRE FIRE,” M.I.A. (Sarah Muñoz, associate art director)
“RECKONER,” RADIOHEAD (Stacy Morrison, editor-in-chief)
“MERCY,” DUFFY (Ali Gray, assistant to the editor-in-chief)
“LOVE TODAY,” MIKA (Sarah Sebastiano, assistant photo editor)
Tell us how you got healthy! Send us your story at email@example.com — whether you’ve lost 20 pounds or 120. Be sure to type “RLHL Story” in the subject line and include two full-body photos (one before and one after).
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