Weight loss is such a personal journey for anyone who has ever tried to lose even five pounds. What works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. The topic of food and exercise is such an emotional thing that we tend to not want to do what works for someone else, and we spend so much time searching for what will work for us. I was that person. I tried everything under the sun to lose weight. I tried all the gimmicks, pills, diets, fasts, shakes, and programs. I’m sure I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the diet industry. Shoot, I was probably one of the biggest contributors for a very long time. I finally figured things out, but it took a lot of ups and downs and a lot of soul searching. This is my story of how I found not only weight loss, but a lifetime of health and wellness!
I started gaining weight pretty much the day puberty set in for me, around the age of 12. I had always been a thin child, but when the hormones started raging, so did my appetite and my depression, anxiety and self-loathing. I was a nerdy kid, smart and into academics way more than activity and fitness. My parents were not much on being active, so I really did not have anyone in my life (other than P.E. in school) to show and tell me how to stay fit and trim. My parents were overweight and our normal daily diet was the typical American diet—meat, potatoes, fried foods, sugar, occasional veggies. Of course, as a kid we have to eat what our parents make and can’t really choose our daily menu.
The older I got, the more weight I gained. I was shopping in the “plus-size” stores by the time I was in high school. It was so depressing to know that I couldn’t wear the same cute outfits all my friends were wearing. I had to settle for “old lady” clothes. I had no clue how to fix things, though. No one was there to teach me what I was eating was bad and that I needed to get moving. I knew I needed to eat better, but I didn’t know what better looked like. I thought better was just less food. So, I’d starve myself—not eat breakfasts, skip lunches. Or I’d eat small “meals” of such things like a bag of chips and a diet coke or maybe a snickers and a diet coke. Interesting how the mind of a desperate teenager works! How I thought that was the answer, I’ll never know, but it’s what I did.
Once I was old enough to drive and was earning some money with baby-sitting jobs, I started hitting up the drug stores for diet pills, gums, shakes, and pretty much anything I could find that would help me. This obviously helped for a minute, but without the proper nutrition and exercise, I never saw the long term results I wanted and would always see some not so pleasant side effects. I remember one diet gum I was using literally ate away at my teeth and gums! I had sores in my mouth from it and then I couldn’t eat! I guess that’s one way to lose weight!
My senior year in high school I ended up losing quite a bit of weight and by the end of the year I was looking and feeling pretty good. I don’t remember exactly how I lost the weight other than being more active in marching band and more social all around. It felt good to be able to walk into a normal size clothing store and buy clothes. Granted, it was the biggest size, but hey, it was better than the plus-size store! However, once I went to college, I fell back into my old ways. I was eating out a lot more since I was at the university most days, and then when I wasn’t, I was working a fast food job. I ended up gaining the “Freshman 15” but mine was more like the freshman 30. Dang it!
As I attempted to work and get through college, I was really under a lot of stress. I had to pay for my own college so I had to work. Work was a fast food job where I got to eat free. But fast food… uh, not so healthy! I was also stressed by the classes and the schedules always conflicting so I would eat and eat and eat to cope with the stress. No one in my life ever educated me on nutrition or exercise as a way to cope with stress. No one ever told me, other than one time when I was very overweight, that they were worried about my weight and thought I needed to lose some or change things.
Of course, I knew I was overweight. What fat person doesn’t know they’re overweight? I mean, WE KNOW. It’s not like we’re clueless about what we weigh and look like. However, a lot of things come into play when it comes to changing. Fear of change, lack of knowledge, simple denial. Anything can play a part. Mine was lack of knowledge and eventually denial. Like I said, no one ever educated me on how to properly lose weight. All I knew about eating was how I was fed as a kid and old habits die hard. As I got older, I did get educated on some nutrition, but it was all from the diet industry which 99% of the time is just trying to sell you their product! So how sound their information can be seems to be dependent on what they want to sell you!
As an adult, I gave up on the pills, shakes, and miracle cures and turned to Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. I spent thousands of dollars at both places. I lost some weight. But once I was out of money, they were out of time for me. I didn’t learn how to really eat properly with these programs. They are based on pre-cooked foods (at the time, they both were) and just eating less. Neither program taught you sound nutrition. Neither program taught sound fitness and exercise. They just wanted my money for some “counseling” and their food—at least, that’s the way they made me feel.
Eventually, I just gave up. Nothing I did seemed to have long lasting results. I was so depressed and frustrated I didn’t care anymore. Sure I wanted to look and feel good, but I felt I was doomed to be obese and miserable so I just gave up. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t exercise. I bought bigger and bigger clothes and I spiraled deeper and deeper into depression and denial. I cried daily about how I felt. I was angry that nothing worked. I gave up.
In 2004, when I was 33 years old, I met a man and we dated for a year when he asked me to marry him. WOW, things were looking up. In 2005 we were in a major motorcycle accident where I broke both my arms and my right knee one month before we were to get married. Stubborn as I was, I walked down the aisle on the scheduled day broken arms and all. Because I was “broken” I sat around the house and ate. My new husband would bring ice cream home by the gallons and fast food by the bags-full and we ate. It’s what we did, and all I could really do. I ended up ballooning to almost 300 pounds!!! And four months after we were married, he wanted out. He regretted ever getting married and I was healed enough, so he kicked me out and filed for a divorce. Sounds terrible and probably the worst thing that could happen to someone, right? Well, at the time I thought so. But looking back today, it was one of the best things that happened to me. It was MY WAKE UP CALL!
The accident and the divorce were both traumatic, but they forced me to look at myself and my life and where I was headed. They snapped me out of denial and I knew I had to do something drastic to change my life and become the person I knew I was meant to be. The happy, healthy, thin, fit, vibrant woman that was not only intelligent, but looked and felt good, too! I deserved that! Everyone deserves that out of life!
My dilemma was…HOW?! How am I going to become the woman I want to be when I look in the mirror? Remember, I‘ve tried literally EVERYTHING…or so I thought. Then one day at work I was talking to a co-worker about it and she reminded me that our insurance pays for gastric bypass. She asked if I ever thought about having the surgery because surely I would qualify. WOW! I had thought about it years prior, but it was still a dangerous and scary surgery back then. However, by this time many advances had been made and it was a lot safer. I did my research. I consulted with a couple of doctors. A month later I had found my doctor and in September 2006 I was on the operating table changing my life!
Now I know what a lot of people reading this may be thinking: “You took the easy way out” or “How could you alter your insides like that?” I have heard it all, trust me. YES, it was a drastic measure and YES, it is not for everyone. I don’t tell people they must have the surgery. I don’t advocate it for everyone. However, at the time, it was right for me and what I needed to get healthy.
I think the biggest problem people have with weight loss surgery is that they misunderstand why people do it. And, don’t get me wrong, a lot of people are looking for an “easy way out.” They want the magic cure to their obesity problem. However, for me, I looked at it as a tool, which I think is the best way to approach it. It was a tool to jump start my weight loss and get healthy. The problem a lot of people have with this surgery, though, is that they do use it as a miracle cure. They don’t use it as a tool, and they don’t learn along the way. They find ways to cheat the system. How can I still eat the foods I love yet still lose the weight and get around the surgery’s benefits? How can I not really change the way I eat but yet use this surgery to lose weight? It’s a very backward approach to the weight loss surgery option. Instead, I went into it as a complete lifestyle change. I wasn’t going to cheat. I wasn’t going to look for ways to still eat the ice cream, cake, fried foods, fast food. I was going to use this as a way to force myself to eat healthy. After all, the cake, ice cream, fried foods, etc. all made me violently ill now and that was one thing I did not like! So, why not learn what healthy eating was so I could use this tool to the best of my ability? That’s exactly what I did.
I ended up losing 165 pounds in about 14 months. Along the way I learned to like lean meats, vegetables, fruits, grains. No more eating at my favorite fast food restaurants. No more sodas, ice cream, and candy I had been addicted to, but which the surgery forced me to give up. But you know what? I was looking and feeling great and I really didn’t miss them. I loved my new body and my new lifestyle and life was good!
In 2011, I was blessed by Dr. Hobar in Dallas, TX via the Dr. Phil show to finally get my plastic surgeries and have all the excess skin removed and breasts reconstructed. My transformation was complete! HA! So I thought. While I was recovering from my surgeries, I read a life changing book called “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. I discovered so much more about nutrition and eating well that I chose to change my life, yet again. I was thin now, but now I was on a quest to be truly fit and healthy!
I have since changed to a whole foods, plant-based diet. I rarely, if ever, eat animal products and I’m working on friends and family to change their perspective on nutrition, as well. I have realized that weight loss, health, and fitness isn’t just about eating less and losing weight, but also eating the right foods to add longevity to your life, avoid diseases, and truly live a vibrant life!
I am also happy to say that my first child was born just last week, and that probably never would have happened had I not started on my true weight loss and health journey!
I’m thankful every day for the changes I have made, and continue to learn every day about how a whole foods, plant-based diet can help you THRIVE in life, not just get by! I am PLANT STRONG!