I Refused to Deprive Myself
Weekend indulgences helped Debra Janney stick to her diet and lose 25 pounds!
Name: Debra Janney
Weight: 110 lb
Pounds Lost: 25
I was 29 when my husband left me. It was such a shock that I became depressed and stopped eating. I went from 110 pounds to 90. I was so preoccupied with the divorce and caring for my 2-year-old son, Truitt, that I didn’t pay attention to what was happening to me.
After the divorce was finalized and I settled into life as a single mom, my depression started to lift and my appetite returned. Running after a toddler, working as an accountant, and taking care of a home kept me busy, so eating right was my last concern. I ate a lot of takeout and fast food–hamburgers and fries, doughnuts, McDonald’s Big Breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, and a biscuit–and I regained the weight I had lost. But it didn’t stop there. Within 2 years, I had packed on an extra 25 pounds.
Soon my size-4 pants made way for 6s. And then 8s. As a single parent, it killed me to spend money on new clothes just because I had gained weight. When even my size 8s became uncomfortable and I had to unbutton them while sitting at my desk at work, I decided it was time to act.
The Family Diet
When I was a kid, the women in my family were always dieting. But at family gatherings, they’d pile their plates high. The joke was: “I’ll start my diet again on Monday.” Monday would come and they’d try the latest fad diet, deprive themselves of their favorite foods, and eventually give up.
I didn’t want to get stuck in my family’s diet cycle, but I didn’t want to give up my favorite foods, either. Let’s face it–sometimes a yummy dessert is worth the extra calories. But I was willing to start exercising. My parents’ treadmill was collecting dust, so I borrowed it and began walking a mile a day. I quickly became bored watching TV while I walked, but I stuck with it because I knew it was the only way I could eat what I wanted and still lose weight. After a month, I invested in a CD player and discovered that walking was much more fun with music. Soon I was picking up the pace, adding mileage, and feeling more energetic. I eventually added an incline and some running. Within 3 months I had lost 10 pounds.
The treadmill inadvertently made me eat smarter, too, because I paid attention to its calorie counter. As I became more conscious of what I was putting in my mouth, I started to read food labels. One day I looked up my favorite McDonald’s breakfast on the company Web site. It was 710 calories! I’d have to walk more than 7 miles to burn off just that meal. It wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to give up all my favorite treats, but I had to make wiser food choices if I wanted to lose more weight.
I was never a fan of fruits and vegetables, but everything I read recommended them because they’re nutritious, high in fiber, and low in calories. So I gave them a shot. Apples weren’t so bad. Then I tried plums and peaches. To my surprise, I liked them, too. As the weight continued to melt away, I made another switch that paid off–bringing low-calorie frozen entrees and fruit to work instead of ordering greasy takeout. For quick dinners, I swapped regular burgers for lower-fat turkey burgers.
To control my cravings, I made a deal with myself: If I ate sensibly during the week, I could indulge on the weekends. So when I’d see mouthwatering french fries on a commercial or watch my son devour a candy bar, I’d remind myself that I could have whatever I wanted–but I had to wait for the weekend.
To make up for the extra calories, I was very active on Saturdays and Sundays. I’d hop off the treadmill and take longer walks or runs outside each day. I usually spent 3 hours cutting, edging, and blowing leaves off the lawn. Add in housecleaning–sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and doing laundry–and I burned enough calories to have pizza with Truitt (I still added a side of veggies) and hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies for dessert, without feeling guilty.
Delaying my cravings helped me be more discriminating in what I ate. Sure, I wanted cookies, cakes, and chips during the week, but when the weekend rolled around I’d find that I had narrowed down the list to the indulgences that were really worth the calories. So instead of wolfing down a dozen store-bought cookies without actually tasting them, I’d savor every bite of the three or four homemade ones that I’d “earned.”
It took 2 years, but I lost 25 pounds. And nothing felt as good as the moment I waltzed into the Gap to finally buy jeans in a smaller size. I pulled on the 4s, but they were too big. The salesgirl gave me a size 2, but they were baggy as well. The size 1s fit just right–and 3 years later, they still do.
Burning Off Calories
Learning how much exercise it took to burn off some of her favorite foods made it easier for Debra Janney to shape up her eating habits. Here are some examples.
Walking the dog 30 minutes = 2 small chocolate chip cookies 119 calories
Cleaning the house 1 hour = 1/2 cup Häagen-Dazs ice cream 239 calories
Biking around the neighborhood 45 minutes = 35-ounce slice of homemade apple pie 307 calories
Mowing the lawn 1 hour = McDonald’s Quarter Pounder 375 calories
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