Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Looking Through Old Photos

With my 40th birthday quickly approaching on Saturday (EEK! I’ve only got two more days to still say I’m “in my 30’s”!), I have been looking through hundreds upon hundreds (no exaggerating) of pictures this week.  I’ve been pulling out ones from significant moments in my life that my family is using to put together a slideshow for the party they’ve giving me this weekend.  As I’ve been reminiscing, so many of the photos have made me smile, laugh, and even brought tears to my eyes as I’ve been reminded of the people and events that have meant so much to me over the years.  I have been blessed greatly to be so surrounded throughout my life by people that I love, and who I know, without a doubt, love me!

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve been heavy pretty much my entire life, and looking through the pictures put that right back in front of me.  The last picture of me at a normal size for my age was when I was 15 months old.  The next photo I found was of me at 28 months old, and I looked like a totally different child.  Rather than starting to lose the baby face and thinning out like most toddlers do, I was rounder and a significantly overweight toddler.  Each photo afterwards showed that trend continuing as I grew up, and it goes on right through the photos taken in the spring of last year before I started this journey towards a healthy weight.

Today, however, things have changed and I stand on the edge of crossing into totally new territory.  I am currently wearing (and quickly shrinking out of) the size I wore as a senior in high school.  What that means, is that once I cross into the next size down, I will officially be smaller than I was when I graduated high school (waaaayyy back in 1990), and will be the smallest I’ve been in my entire adult life!  I am excited to experience life in my 40’s being the healthiest and most fit I’ve ever been! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why Am I Sharing My Story?

So...I have this blog, and I make posts on Facebook, and I talk freely to people who ask me questions or make comments about my weight loss...but why? Why am I so open about something that is so deeply personal? I mean, after all, I'm talking about what I eat, the clothes I wear, the exercise I'm doing, my health, and other facets of my life that only my closest friends and family members would normally know about. So why am I now discussing it publicly?
There are several reasons. First, I am not alone in making changes to a healthy way of living, but the only way to discover that is to be willing to talk about it. Since embarking on my weight loss journey, I have drawn strength and encouragement from talking to others who have been bold enough to share with me. Because weight is something that people are often embarrassed or ashamed about, or an area of their life they feel like they have lost control over, so many are fearful of talking about it. This fear isolates men and women every day by making them feel like weight is a taboo subject. Talking about it, however, connects you to those who understand what you're going through. Just knowing you're not alone is comforting.
Another reason I'm being very open about this is because I have a heart to help others who share the same struggles.  I have been very overweight my entire life. Ever since I was a toddler I've been heavy. I know what it's like to be the slowest one trying to run in gym class in school. I know what it's like to be ridiculed by both strangers and acquaintances because of my appearance. I know what it's like to have a horrible time trying to find clothes that fit, and to never feel like I look good.  I know what it’s like to be the biggest one in the room.  I know what it’s like to hide behind kids, pillows, animals, furniture, or friends to cover up as much as possible in photos.  I know what it’s like…to just want to be different than I am…By sharing my story I hope to encourage, to support, and to inspire others to know that they CAN make the life changes they so desperately desire.  It is possible!

A third reason for being so candid about my weight loss is that it holds me accountable.  When you’re extremely overweight, you have to lose a pretty significant number of pounds before your losses start becoming apparent to others.  Overweight folks often hide behind oversized and baggy clothes anyway, so even when the pounds start coming off, it may not be noticed for a while.  Because the fear of failure often lurks close on your heels when you try to change over to a healthy lifestyle, if you don’t tell anyone, then no one will know if you go don’t stick to your commitment.  I have to admit, it was very hard, initially, to tell people about the changes I was making.  But by doing so, I’ve developed a network of friends who check in on me regularly.  They ask me how it’s going at the gym and how many pounds I’ve lost each week.  This helps me stay accountable to working towards my goals.

Finally, and most importantly, by speaking out about where I’ve come from and where I’m headed, I get the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the fact that it has only been because of God that I’ve been able to achieve any measure of success.  The Bible says that we have power to overcome the things that seek to destroy us.  This includes issues with food and weight because they can definitely destroy you!  That power comes through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, thereby allowing you to have a relationship with him, and by the word of your testimony of what He has done for you (Revelation 12:11).  So, my testimony is that by surrendering this area of my life to Him, I’ve found healing for my past, strength for today, and hope for tomorrow…and you can too!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My One Year Weight Loss Anniversary...104.9 Pounds Lost!

WOW!  I can hardly believe it has been an entire YEAR since I began my weight loss journey!  Last year on June 16th I stepped onto the scale and cried.  No, perhaps “sobbed” is a better word for it.  I couldn’t get my mind around the number that showed up on the scale.  I wondered how in the world had I let myself go like that?  I’ve always been overweight, but for crying out loud, not to that extreme! 

I had to make a change.  If I didn’t make a drastic turn around now, every medical statistic pointed towards a future defined by serious health problems and a shortened lifespan.  I made a decision that day.  I refused to give up a long and healthy life in exchange for a meal in a paper bag shoved at me through a drive-through window and served with a side of fries!

So, here I am, exactly one year later.  Only now, my tears are tears of joy!  I set a goal to lose 100 pounds in a year, and I’ve not only met it, but I have exceeded my goal!  I have lost 104.9 pounds in exactly one year!!!  Right now, I’m getting ready to head out to the gym this morning to have my 2nd monthly check-in with my personal trainer, who is about to ramp up my workouts for my next phase of exercise as I start working on my year two goals, and guess what?  BRING IT ON!!!

So…what kind of difference can one year make?  Here’s what I’ve experienced over this past year:

- I have lost a grand total of 104.9 pounds!
- I have lost a total of 2.75 inches around my neck!
- I have lost a total of 4.0 inches around my chest!
- I have lost a total of 8.0 inches around my waist!
- I have lost a total of 13.0 inches around my hips!
- My BMI has gone down by 16.9 points!
- My reflux symptoms have all but disappeared and I no longer take any medication at all!
- I have gone down 5 sizes in clothing!
- I have gone from limited mobility (due to a combination of my weight and a back injury), to being able to walk/jog a 5K in under an hour!
- I have gone from being completely sedentary, to working out at the gym 4-5 times per week!
- I have gone from eating around 3,000 calories per day, to eating 1,500-1,600 calories per day
- I have gone from eating fast food 10-12 times per week to eliminating it from my diet!
- I have gone from struggling to carry bags of groceries from the car to the house, to lifting weights!
- I have gone from drinking approximately 64 ounces of diet soda per day, to drinking approximately 80 ounces (or more) of water per day!

As I look back over this year, I have been very blessed with incredible support along the way, and I would like to make a few special notes today, on my one-year anniversary…

I must give God the praise and all of the glory for giving me the strength to walk this path!  There are places He has mended in my heart and in my mind along the way, and I have let go of emotional weight right alongside the physical weight.  It’s only because of Him that I’ve experienced any measure of success!

I am also forever grateful to my sweet husband!  He has been my biggest cheerleader!  He has loved me and told me I was beautiful, no matter what size I have been.  He has prayed for me and helped me celebrate every pound I’ve lost.  There just aren’t enough words to describe my thankfulness for him.  He indeed has my heart!

Thank you to my encouraging church!  So many people have said positive things to me and been so encouraging to me!  I appreciate you very much!

Lastly, I have a small handful of people who have been praying for me and encouraging me privately since I began.  They have held my trust and as I confided in them about where I was starting from and where I was trying to get, and have continued to support me throughout.  They are a treasure to my life!

All of that being said…my work is far from over!  I have a good deal more weight to lose before I can consider myself done and move into maintenance mode.  I am ready to start moving towards my year-two goals!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Changed Thinking About Food

Is everything in my life now sunshine and roses because of my weight loss efforts so far?  Nope, I can’t say that it is, but by making healthy changes, I’m better equipped to function and handle each and every day.  I have the strength, stamina, and endurance for whatever comes my way, and the exercise helps me reduce stress and sleep better.  I have to say that making strides towards a healthy weight has brought nothing but benefits to my life!

There have been challenges I’ve faced in this process through this year though.  The biggest, I believe, has been in changing the way I think about food and getting a grip on how my thoughts and actions are so inter-connected.  Getting my mindset aligned with good nutrition and proper serving sizes has definitely has been the hardest part.  Once I got it, though, I really got it! Because I do eat in restaurants a couple of times each week, let me use that to give you an example…

In the past (old habit days), when I would eat at a restaurant, I would immediately scan the menu, looking to see what I could order that gave me the best value for my money, while filling my taste for rich, savory, “comfort” foods.  I wanted to make sure I got the most for my food dollars.  That typically resulted in some kind of deep-fried meat, with gravy, and two or three side items (can you say “macaroni & cheese” and “french fries”!) and some kind of bread basket, which I admittedly allowed to waiter to refill. 

Now, however, I go straight to the light or low-calorie section of the menu, looking for grilled meats and steamed vegetables (which I order to be prepared without butter or oils).  I occasionally have a piece of bread, but limit myself to one, and have the waiter take away the basket and skip the refills.  Instead of trying to get the most food for my money, now I’m trying to get the lowest calories and healthiest choice for my money!

Interestingly enough, it did not take a long time for me to implement this changed way of thinking.  Once I decided enough was enough (literally!) there was no looking back.  Initially, it was difficult.  I had to make the healthy choices whether I felt like it or not.  I had to force myself smile while I ordered the steamed vegetable medley instead of the loaded potato.  It was hard to pass up the dessert menu when the rest of the table was ordering cheesecake.  However, when the meal was over, I left the table physically full and satisfied from good foods, but more importantly, I felt empowered because for the first time in my life, I had control over food, rather than letting it have control over me! 

After just a few weeks, I no longer felt the tug-of-war between what I wanted to order and what I knew I needed to order.  Not only had my thinking and my actions changed, but I found that my tastes had completely changed as well!  I can honestly say that I really don’t crave the foods I used to eat anymore and it doesn't bother me in the least when others around me are eating high-calorie indulgences.

So, if you’re trying to make your own healthy choices, I would tell you that making a drastic change IS possible, but only if you change how you think about your food.  If you think about healthy food as the enemy, like it’s keeping you from what you really want to eat, or there’s no way you could possibly enjoy it, then you’ll have a long, hard road ahead of you.  If, however, you choose to remind yourself that you’re worth treating your body well, commit to making healthy choices, and start seeing good foods as your friend instead of your enemy, you’ll set yourself up for success!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Surviving Vacation

It has been a very busy couple of weeks!  Our family recently returned from a ten-day road trip to visit with family and friends that spanned over 2,200 miles.  We stayed in three different hotels in various parts of Kansas and Arkansas, as well as a few nights with my husband’s parents.  Did I mention we made the trip with our two boys, who are both under 8 years old?  Oh, and our dog, I can’t leave out the dog!  (Note to self: don’t ever feed the dog sausage from the hotel breakfast buffet right before getting on the road…it’s not pretty!)  We had a fantastic time, and when we got home we all still liked each other, so I consider the trip a success!

Being on the road and eating at restaurants and other people’s homes for so many days is difficult, at best, when you’re trying to maintain a 1,600 calorie per day eating schedule and wanting to get in a few workouts!  Through some creative planning ahead, and the understanding of my mother-in-law (who didn’t mind that I brought in groceries and prepared some of my own meals while we were with them), I managed to keep within my calorie budget throughout our vacation and to eat very much like I do when we are at home.  I feel very accomplished!

Eating right on this trip was probably the biggest challenge I have faced with maintaining my daily food goals since I began nearly a year ago.  Truth is, I was very nervous about it before we left on the trip.  By planning ahead and letting family members know beforehand that I would be eating differently, however, it helped to alleviate the stress.  Also, we eat at restaurants enough normally that I already knew what choices to make when we ate out while travelling and cooking wasn’t an option.

Through our travels, I was also able to get in four good swims in the hotel pools where I swam enough laps each time to get in a good workout.  So, even with travel, I purposely made time for exercise, something I would have never dreamed of doing a year ago! On the final day of the trip, after we got home and everything in and settled, I ran up to the gym for a while and knocked out a good strength training workout along with an hour of cardio. 

In the end, like everything else in life, it all comes down to choices.  You can choose to throw off all restraint because you’re “on vacation” and indulge in too many high-calorie foods, using the excuse that you, “want to enjoy yourself.”  Most likely, you’ll later regret that decision as you feel awful from eating such things, and/or, when you get home and step on the scale you’ll have a lot of extra work to do to play catch up for the pounds your indulgences cost you. Nothing sucks the enjoyment out of something like an upset stomach, or worse, a 5 pound weight gain!  But, you have another option...You can choose to eat with moderation.  You can take a few minutes to plan and build balanced treats into your day (yes, I had a couple bites of my mother-in-law’s Kansas Dirt Cake and a small slice of her homemade banana bread, but without regret and without going over my calories!)  By making the right choices, you can be proud of yourself for staying true to your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. 

When you choose wisely, you can look yourself in the mirror and know that this is who you have become…a person of balance, who is in control of your eating and able to make good choices that will contribute to your own health and well-being, and trust me, that feels AMAZING!