“I lost the weight by losing my mind”
Name: Marianne McGinnis
Current Age: 35
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Weight Lost: 82 lb
Accomplishments:Improved self-esteem, consistent exerciser for 4 years and counting
Successful Strategies:Replaced negative thoughts with positive ones, focused on foods for health, made exercise a daily routine
“That’s not me,” I said in disbelief, staring at my 200-lb reflection. It was 1998, and I felt like I was living a bad dream. I’d been periodically overweight as a kid and had battled eating disorders, but I thought I’d put all that behind me. At 5’6″, I had maintained a healthy weight of 122 lb for several years.
Then I got pregnant. Though I ate healthfully, I consumed enormous portions. I avoided exercise because I was nauseous, and eating soothed the queasiness. I gained 55 lb (25 to 35 lb is healthy if you’re normal weight), but I figured I’d lose it when I started exercising again.
That plan got snagged.
My son was just 9 months old when I became pregnant again. I had lost 30 lb but gained another 60 by the time I delivered my second son, leaving me somewhere around 207 lb.
From Working Woman to Stay-at-Home Mom
My husband and I thought it would make things easier. Instead of a caseload of 60 people, I now had a “caseload” of three, both boys and my 6-year-old stepdaughter. “No problem,” I thought. Visions of Ozzie and Harriet floated through my head–an immaculate home, delicious home-cooked meals, and no more weight problem.
Six months later, I felt more like Marge Simpson, and my only vision was of hopping the next flight toHawaii–without the kids. I had not planned well for my transition: I had no friends who were at-home moms, our closest family was 3,000 miles away, and my only pastime was watching home decorating shows on TV.
Shortly afterward, I saw a talk show about making changes in your life despite hefty obstacles. People who had done this said you need to make a shift from wishing to doing. The show also discussed the importance of eliminating negative messages in order to succeed. I made a list of what I had been wishing for and how I intended to make it happen.
The top was to meet other at-home moms. I discovered a group nearby, and I started attending meetings. At first, I was scared that I’d be rejected; these moms looked so together, and I felt like such a mess. But they were accepting and, as I got to know them, I learned that they were just as human as I was. I loved the camaraderie and started enjoying time at home with the kids more.
I wasn’t trying to diet, but after a few months, I noticed that my pants were getting loose. I realized that I had been filling my friendship void with food.
Next, I decided to focus on eating for health, not weight loss. I no longer ate a salad with lean turkey and whole wheat bread to lose weight. Instead, I’d think of food as fuel, choosing the healthiest options so I’d have the energy to run around with my kids and feel good about it.
When I was in the first grade, the kickball captains fought over who would get stuck with me on their team. I always despised sports. In college, I briefly tried activities such as aerobics, running, and walking, but only to keep me thin. Reading health magazines helped me develop a more positive concept of exercise. In addition to physical health benefits, I learned that exercise could also reduce stress, increase energy, and improve my mood, and it could feel good. I wanted to be someone who exercised regularly and enjoyed it. I started pushing my double stroller around my neighborhood for 30 minutes a day. By the time my youngest son was 1 year old, I had lost 50 lb. To celebrate, I joined a local Y; free babysitting was part of the deal.
Each time I tried something new, I’d think, “You can’t do that.” “You’re uncoordinated.” “You’ll look stupid.”
But I fought back with positive statements such as “I can lift weights” and “Look how far I’ve come already.” I was no longer buying into negative “I can’t” messages.
To feel more comfortable in the gym, I asked a trainer to show me how to use all the machines and weights. Then I introduced myself to the aerobics instructors so I would feel more at ease in their classes. Pretty soon, I was a regular.
I reached my personal goal, 125 lb, 4 years ago. I still listen carefully to my body and look for cues about what and when to eat–and when to stop. And I exercise regularly. By countering negative messages about body image, weight, and exercise, finding a supportive group of friends, and eating for health, I’ve conquered my fears and the fat and have landed my dream job as an associate editor at Prevention magazine.