Blogger Hollie Johnson ( SkinnyHollie.com), 34, Nashville, TN
When I was 7 years old, the pediatrician told my mom to put me on a diet. She wasn’t surprised—I weighed 146 pounds and wore the same size clothes as my older sister, who was in her 20s. Of course I had been eating all the wrong things, but in our house we never had any rules about food. On the way home from the checkup I started crying, so my mom stopped to get me an ice cream cone to make me feel better.
That mixed message was repeated for most of my childhood. One moment my mom would chastise me for being too fat and insist that I eat a salad while the rest of the family was having fast food. But there were plenty of other times when she would let me eat whatever I wanted. She had her own problems with food; today she’s over 300 pounds.
Around the time I turned 12, I started making a genuine effort to lose weight. I weighed 200 pounds, which got me invited to an afterschool program for overweight kids. We learned some exercises and how to shop for food. Soon I started experimenting with a slew of diets, a pattern that extended for years. I tried every diet imaginable, but nothing worked. I always felt deprived, so I’d give up.
Today I have more than 140 pounds to lose. But I am more optimistic than ever, because I’ve given up quick fixes. About a year ago a friend encouraged me to think about how particular foods benefit my body, and something clicked. I realized it wasn’t just about avoiding fattening foods but more about choosing foods to keep me healthy. I want to avoid the problems that my mom started experiencing in her 40s, like diabetes and heart disease.
I’m not following any “plan,” but I’m eating fresh, whole foods. I drink water instead of soda, and I’m logging lots of time on the elliptical machine (even though I hate exercise). But it’s not easy: I’m a single mom, a graduate student and a new teacher, so time is tight. When you have three children demanding dinner, forgetting to defrost a chicken can spell disaster.
To keep on track, I’m thinking of dieting as a part-time job. When I have to punch a clock at a certain time in order to get paid, you’d better believe I take it seriously! Preparing healthy foods and making time to exercise has to be equally nonnegotiable. I started scheduling gym time as I would a meeting; when my phone beeps, I have to go. And when I’m tempted to skip packing lunch, I tell myself that’s not an option: It’s my job to keep myself and my kids healthy. Sure, it’s a job that will never make me rich, but the benefits of good health are priceless.