Here is a YouTube video slide show that sums all of this up, and a detailed version of my story is below. Let me know what you think.
Starting Weight: 325 Pounds
This is my story and I’m stickin’ to it! If you want a quicker version, like a photo chronology of sorts, click thehealthyhabitlady.com/
fat-pictures/ for the ‘fat pictures‘.
I get asked this question a lot. “How did you lose it all?” or “What is your story?”. My favorite question is “What is your secret?”. The truth of the matter is — there is no secret. And my story is more like a complicated book filled with science experiments, medical drama, failed starts, endless loops and eating disorders. Surely I will write the autobiography … but for now, I will try my best to sum it all up in a quick blog post here. Of course my definition of the word ‘quick’ may need work.
First and foremost, I had a great childhood, great parents. Nothing about my obesity is their fault. I was never abused or neglected. I did lose my mother at the age of 17 when she died unexpectedly, but I really do not believe that has much to do with my downward spiral of bad habits. My father is alive and well today and a great support to me, even though he lives far away.
The core of my problem lies in an eating disorder that started very early in my young life. It is called SED (Selective Eating Disorder). Nobody even knew what that was back then. I am 45 years old; so this was back in the 70’s and 80’s. At lunch in the high school cafeteria I would only order 2 orders of french fries and a chocolate milk. That was my lunch – every day – for four years. I started working at a store at the age of 14 and after that, I pretty much never ate at home again – just junk food at the store. Usually Cheetos and Mt. Dew for dinner. I never ate breakfast, at least I have no memory of eating it. I began high school weighing about 135. (I am only 5’4″). By the time I graduated and went on to work full time, I had to get a physical and realized I weighed 179. I remember being mortified. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the weight climb. I topped out at 325 pounds.
So at the age of 18, working full time for the F.B.I. – commuting a LONG way to work, my fast food habits escalated. It did not take long for me to move out of my father’s home and get my own place because of the long commute. I had no idea how to cook. None. This was not my mother’s fault – she would have happily taught me, but I had no interest. I kind of thought I had plenty of time for that, but I didn’t, because she died. My dad knows how to cook too though. I could have asked my dad to teach me how to cook. He would have happily taught me. I never did. I didn’t want to learn. I just wanted to eat my ‘safe’ foods at the places I knew would get everything right. No seasonings, no sauces, no condiments, everything plain. Basically, everything fried, lol. We are talking tons of fast food. If I was too broke for fast food, as often happened, I would buy a bag of chips and eat it for dinner because it was cheaper. That. happened. a. lot! I never ate fruits or vegetables. And I certainly never exercised.
I would have these grand ideas of ‘eating better’. So I would make little microwave soups at work and at home, eat cereal, and make PB&J. I would do this a week or so, then stop. I would join a gym, go for a week, then stop. Something always got in the way. It’s called life. Start again, stop again, start again, stop again. Sound familiar to anyone out there?
I would also do extensive research. I read a LOT of information about nutrition and exercise. I was always reading and preparing for the change that I was GOING to make, some day. I look back over journals from my 20’s and clearly I was obsessed back then with changing my habits, eating better. I would create point systems and give myself grades on how well I did for the day. I even did Phen-fen in the 90’s until it was banned. So I lost and gained. I did Weight Watchers. I did all kinds of ‘plans’. Half-hearted plans and unfinished, they remained. I found a Valentine’s day card I made for my husband several years ago promising him that my gift to him was a healthier ME and I was going to eat better. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Not for over a decade anyway. Can we say ‘analysis paralysis’ anybody?
Clearly, I have known I have eating issues. I have known it most of my life. What I did NOT know is that I’m not a psycho and there are actually other people in the world just like me. Other people with the same bizarre eating habits exist. Wow. Who knew? I always thought I was some freak of nature, born with this crazy problem, that had no fix and I was pretty much doomed.
So how did I fix it? I didn’t. I haven’t. I’ve just improved it. I honestly believe I will always have eating issues. I still get nervous at the idea of going to someone’s house for dinner, but at least now I do not lie about it or make excuses. I have not eliminated every bad habit, and yes I still eat fast food sometimes – but I can take it or leave it, and if i do consume fast food it is usually in small portions.
What I DID do though – was ask for help. SparkPeople was crucial to my success back around probably 2009. I met amazing online friends in this community and we are still friends today. We migrated to Facebook. I am now on a mission to meet most of them in person, and lately, I have been doing just that. I bought Chris Downie’s book The Spark and inhaled it. I loved it, and shared it.
With the help of friends, online and in real life – I started getting OUT of my comfort zone. I made myself get active and do things; even when it hurt, even when I was tired. I asked God to give me the courage and fierce bravery I needed to TRY new foods, even though they terrified me to no end. I added several items to my very limited diet. Instead of trying to change my whole life on the ever-elusive Monday that never comes, I decided to focus on ONE habit at a time. Just one thing.
Also – and this is key – I started going to the doctor on a VERY regular basis. I seriously go to the doctor every month to monitor my nutrition levels, draw blood, check thyroid, etc. My doctor monitors my weight loss. He got me straight on a good cocktail of meds and supplements that work for me, and we tweak it as we go along. There are no magic pills or quick fixes here. It is diligent, consistent and focused effort on the thousands of little choices you make every day.
This has been a journey of YEARS. I had a whole lot of failure before I ever experienced success. People want to know ‘how long’ it took me to lose the weight. There really is no easy answer to that unless I count from the beginning; and in that case it took about 20 years 🙂 You see, in the midst of up and down weight loss games, I also had three pregnancies, a miscarriage, my gallbladder removed and hernias repaired. Not all at the same time mind you. So I’d make progress, then I’d get hit with a surgery or a pregnancy, or medical mystery, etc. I’d plateau, maybe gain a little, and find my momentum again.
So, my advice? Drink lots of water, cook at home when possible (real food, not microwave madness), move your butt, move your feet, lift heavy things, push and pull things, stretch your muscles, get out of your comfort zone, tackle bad habits, start good habits, go to the doctor, take your vitamins, learn your body inside and out, face your demons, find out WHY you are overweight (if you are), and ask for help — not just from family and friends or medical professionals – – but from GOD. Not in that order.
People do not want to hear that there is no quick fix; or that I needed God to help me slay this dragon. People want me to tell them to do 1, 2 and 3 and that’s the end. Here’s the thing. God made us all different. We are all unique. We are all amazing masterpieces of mystery and until you ask God to help you understand yourself, and get to the HEART of the matter … you’ll probably just continue spinning your wheels. The good news is; you’re not dead. If you’re reading this and you’ve stayed with me this far, you’re not dead. So it’s not too late.
As always, make champion choices,
The Healthy Habit Lady
This is FABULOUS, Debra! Well written, engaging, and convincing.
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thank you NancyAnne