Turn Up the Tunes and Lose 35 Pounds
As a wife, mother, and high-powered exec.
Heidi Roizen let her health fall to the bottom of her mile-long to-do list. Using music as inspiration, she got into a new groove — and lost 35 pounds.
Heidi Roizen, 51
Founder of skinnysongs.com;
married with two daughters, ages 15 and 13
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Starting weight: 190
Current weight: 155
Pounds lost: 35
“My frustration grew with every failed diet.” Until two years ago, I was a venture capitalist. I co-founded my own software company and later became an executive for Apple. The work was high-pressure. When meetings got tense — which they did, every day — I’d reach for the M&Ms or the cookies. I weighed around 150 pounds when I married my husband, David, at age 31, and then put on a pound or two each year. After I had my two daughters, I packed on 25 more pounds. Exercise was barely on my radar. I was a classic yo-yo dieter: I tried South Beach, Atkins, Jenny Craig, and Weight Watchers, but always found excuses to quit — it’s so-and-so’s birthday, it’s Christmas, it’s half-price margarita night. My frustration grew with every failed diet and gained pound. I’d think, How can I be so successful in every other area of my life yet continually lose the battle with my weight?
“I weighed more than my 6-foot husband!” A few months after I turned 49, I stepped on the scale and saw that I had reached an all-time high of 190 pounds. That meant that I was heavier than my 6-foot-tall, 188-pound husband. And I was also feeling the physical effects: I couldn’t cross my legs, my clothing dug into me, I felt sweaty all the time. I thought, If I can’t get my act together by 50, then I never will. I can either fix myself or accept my body. I chose to fix it.
“I turned to music for motivation.” The same morning I saw 190 pounds on the scale, I drove to the office — where I knew there’d be cookies — and turned on the CD that always pumped me up before work events. I had an epiphany: Why wasn’t there a song called “Don’t Touch Those Cookies”? If music could psych me up for work, then it could motivate me to lose weight. That night, I searched for weight-loss tunes on Google and iTunes, but found nothing. I wasn’t looking for songs to listen to at the gym — I needed music that made me want to get my butt there. Instead of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” why not “Before I Cheat (on My Diet)”? My idea for a CD called Skinny Songs was born. True, I couldn’t sing, and I’d never written a lyric. But I knew I could put a team of people together to make it happen. My colleague Jason had contacts in the music industry; he put me in touch with producer George Daily and Grammy-winning songwriter David Molloy. It was a big commitment: I’d have to put my time, money, and reputation on the line. But I knew that even if it failed, I would be proud I had tried. I dialed back my venture-capitalist work to devote more time to my musical project. I would write the lyrics; David Molloy would write the music.
“I couldn’t promote a skinny CD if I was fat.” Writing Skinny Songs gave me no choice but to get in shape. I couldn’t promote a weight-loss tool if I hadn’t lost a pound. I hired a personal trainer who taught me a strength-training routine I could do at home. He also told me to stick to 1,500 calories a day, broken into five 300-calorie meals. For breakfast, I ate toast with peanut butter or yogurt with nuts and fruit. For dinner, I ate fish or chicken with vegetables. I thought of calorie-counting as a budget: I was happy to skip bread at dinner so I could “spend” on a glass of wine. I walked in the morning and used dumbbells at lunch. My husband occasionally joined me for evening walks, which was great for moral support. These efforts fueled Skinny Songs. If I were having a moment of weakness, I’d think, What would I need to hear right now to keep me on track? I wrote the song “Skinny Jeans” first, about that old pair of jeans in the back of closet that I hoped to fit into one day. I wrote “You Da Boss” to remind myself that food doesn’t control me.
“I refused to let slipups get the best of me.” I knew slipups were inevitable. So I wrote a memo titled “In Case of Emergency” to tell me what to do if I had a bad eating day. Reading it really put things in perspective. One time I was at a party and couldn’t resist the ice-cream cake. I ended up eating a quarter of the cake! But my memo reminded me that I’d only eaten about 1,000 calories — not ideal, but not enough to undo all of my efforts. I weighed myself every Saturday morning and began losing about 1.5 pounds a week. It was so empowering to see the numbers drop. For 18 years I’d struggled to lose weight, yet this new plan seemed to make it doable. Writing Skinny Songs kept me motivated, too. For each size I dropped, I treated myself to a new outfit and donated my old stuff. I praised myself every time I chose a healthy option.
“I finally fit back into my skinny jeans!” After seven months, the scale hit 155 pounds and stayed there. I decided I wasn’t willing to make any more sacrifices: I couldn’t give up my nightly cocktail or do more exercise. Plus, I hadn’t been 155 pounds in nearly 20 years. I even fit into my skinny jeans! How could I not be happy? My CD dropped that same month — one month before my 50th birthday. It was exhilarating to finish both projects. I couldn’t have done one without the other.
“Hello, 50!” My girlfriends threw a Grammy-themed party to celebrate my 50th birthday, my weight loss, and the new album. I felt great in a size 8 dress, and my friends told me I looked great too. My husband loves my new body! He loved me at 190 pounds, but he compliments me a lot more now. I’ve become a better example for my daughters. They used to hear me constantly obsess over my weight. Now they see me eating well and exercising daily — they see that living healthy is not something to dread. Skinny Songs, now available on Amazon and iTunes, has sold about 10,000 copies so far; I feel wonderful when women write to tell me it helped them lose weight. I never want to go back to my old weight. I think I look better than I did at 40!
WHAT HEIDI LEARNED:
TAKE IT SLOW. I told myself that it took me 18 years to put on 35 pounds, so I couldn’t expect to take the weight off in a month. This had to be a real lifestyle change, not a crash diet.
PENCIL IT IN. I put working out on my calendar as if it were a part of my job. It makes exercise as important a priority as brushing my teeth — something I need to do every day.
BUDGET YOUR CALORIES. I attached a “price tag” to food, which made it easier to pick the 150-calorie frozen yogurt over the 400-calorie sundae. I didn’t want to waste a quarter of my daily calories on a snack.
PUT YOU FIRST. I used to fall into the trap of thinking that taking care of my husband and kids was more important than taking care of myself. Now I have a new attitude: You know when you’re on an airplane and the manual tells you to put on your oxygen mask first and then help the person next to you? I feel the same way about my health. If I’m not healthy, I can’t help anyone.
MAKE EXERCISE FUN. I bought myself a DVD set of Lost and only allowed myself to watch it while I was strength training. Sometimes I’d exercise longer than I intended to because I didn’t want to turn it off. Talk about positive reinforcement!
HEIDI’S MEMO TO HERSELF: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
You’ve just consumed a whole bunch of calories you didn’t need. You slipped, you splurged, and you hate yourself for it. What now? Give up? Eat some more? I think you deserve better than that. Here’s what I want you to do:
1 Forgive yourself. No one is perfect. Stop kicking yourself. Everyone who has succeeded has had moments like this. You can still succeed too, but you must stop yelling at yourself and simply say, “I forgive myself for the mess-up.”
2 Put it in perspective. Even if you ate 1,500 calories in a single sitting, it is not a deal-ending amount. You have not permanently ruined your life. You have an extra half a pound to get rid of. Big deal.
3 Reaffirm your bigger goal. Remind yourself about the importance of the goal you have set out to reach and recommit yourself to working to achieve it. Look at the dress you ripped out of the magazine, or imagine yourself bounding up a flight of stairs in a black tracksuit. Just because you ate a quart of ice cream doesn’t mean you can’t meet your overall goal.
4 Eliminate the temptation. I don’t want to waste food, but sometimes the rest of the bag or carton needs to go down the garbage disposal. This is one of those times.
5 What can you learn from this? Take a step back and see if there is something that will help you overcome future moments like this. Did you deprive yourself so much that you were overwhelmed with hunger? Did you get mad and eat out of emotion? Think about what you can do to avoid this trigger or situation next time.
6 Don’t punish yourself. Don’t starve yourself. Don’t go on a cabbage-soup fast. Punishment doesn’t work; it just perpetuates a bad cycle.
7 Recommit to lose. Say out loud, “I’m over it, and I’m back on my plan.” Imagine yourself standing up, dusting yourself off, and getting back on a horse. Hold that visualization for a moment and feel great about that decision. Feel proud that you can recover so quickly. Now forget it and move on! You are back on track.
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