“Who is that lady standing with my daddy?” Claire asked as I was clicking through old photos. Her question actually took my breath away. I was looking for my “before” photo that I used when I was in Weight Watchers. My recent completion (and continuation) of The 30 Day Shred has accidentally inspired quite a few people, and some of them had asked about my weight-loss journey. I’ve decided to write about it, and I’m sorting through the photos.
“That’s me! That’s Momma!” I said.
“Where? Behind that lady with Daddy?” She wasn’t convinced.
“No, that was me. That was Momma with Daddy, before I lost weight. See?” and I clicked to the photo from November 2002.
Basically, my hair color was the point of reference she needed.
“Why did your style change, Momma?” was her polite and innocent way of asking what had happened.
…and this is that story.
I never weighed myself before Weight Watchers. We never even owned a scales, and I would be weighed at my yearly exam at the doctor’s office, so my weight was being recorded somewhere, but I never cared to remember it.
I never kept track of what size of clothes I wore. Large. I wore large. Or eXtra Large. Or maybe there was more than one X if I wanted to be comfortable. My top-half was always lots bigger than my bottom-half, so I hated shopping.
Usually, I wore sizes 18/20. Sometimes the sizes were larger. Sometimes 14/16 would fit. It all just depended, and I really never gave it a second thought. I had curves, so I felt sexy in the right clothes. The right clothes made me look proportional. Admittedly, I wasn’t wearing the “correct” shirt in that before picture. It was far from slimming. I was never really self-conscious about my weight.
I was who I was, and I was okay with that.
I was a really skinny little girl. I was average in high school and college. Or maybe I wasn’t. When did I get bigger? I don’t really remember. I never saw myself as fat. I never saw myself as overweight. I knew parts of me were “big,” but I was okay with that. I’d accepted that. I’d had to wear “over the shoulder boulder holders” (as coined by my little brother. Gotta love little brothers.) for what seemed like my entire tenure as a “woman,” so bigger sizes just came with the territory.
My husband never had an issue with my size, and he never said an iota about my weight or my shape or anything at all. Total, mutual, unconditional acceptance is wonderful.
But, I will never forget sitting at a stoplight on the way to work one day and looking down and thinking, “I’ll always be this way. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to change. But, I don’t need to. Right?” I don’t remember what prompted it. Maybe it was a commercial on the radio? That detail is lost to me, but I remember the resignation I felt. Only, I pretended it was acceptance.
I’ll always be me.
What does it matter what I weigh?
The important thing is that I’m happy. And, I’m happy. Right? Right.
That moment planted a seed in my brain. What if I could change? What if I could lose weight? I talked to my husband about it, and he told me that if I wanted to change for me, to do it. But, that he loved me just the way I was. I could tell he really meant it.
I tried watching what I was eating, but without a real plan, I floundered. I didn’t know what I was doing. That’s when I decided to join Weight Watchers.
In September of 2002, I attended my first meeting and first weigh-in. At that time, they were on the “Points Plan” or whatever they called it. Basically, without giving away too many company secrets, every food item or beverage you consume has a point value that is calculated by a secret equation of fiber, calories, and grams of fat. (You get guide books of food lists and a really cool little sliding-card-dealie to help you calculate the magical number.) You were allotted a certain number of points per day. If you want to lose weight, keep within your points-range value.
How do you keep track of this? Write down every single thing you eat or drink in a journal along with the point value.
It was simple.
It was calculated.
It was detailed.
I love all three of those things, and I’m good at following the rules.
But, it was also lenient enough that I could eat real food. I just couldn’t eat buckets of it. I had to stay within my points for the day. Since it was a point-range, you could save up points for a little splurge out with friends, as long as you stay within your boundaries when it was all said and done. It took a little bit of planning at times, but that’s to be expected. You can write what you want down in your journal, and you can lie to your journal, but the scales will never lie to you…so it’s best to just be honest and deal with the reality of the situation.
Another big part of weight loss was water intake. Admittedly, before Weight Watchers, I never drank enough water. On the plan, I followed their suggestions, and nearly floated away the first week. But, imagine my surprise when I saw that I’d lost 5 lbs the first week! No, my results weren’t typical, but I was astounded.
Who knew that drinking water and writing down what you were eating would make you lose weight!? (Obviously it’s more involved than that, but it really is that simple. Easy? No. Simple? Yes.)
My hubby was completely on board with this new plan, and he even helped me write the point values on the sides of the boxes we had in the cupboards. (Rather than figure it every time, it was super-simple to look at the number we’d written on the box.) He never made fun of me for measuring my portions. When the carton says a serving is 1/4 cup, it’s really 1/4 cup. At restaurants, he didn’t even bat an eye when I’d ask the waiter to bring me a box with my food order so that I could put half of whatever was on my plate in the take-home box right away and set it by my purse. Out of sight; out of my mouth…and ultimately off of my journal and off the scales.
Sometime over the next week or so, I’ll post some other tips and tricks I learned that really helped me!
Weight Watchers helped me figure out why I was drawn to eating the way I had been eating. For me, there was a lot of emotional ties to the food I chose to eat. With the help of the meetings, I was able to dissect the issue, pull out the problem parts and look at them under the glaring lights. Out in the open, the emotional issues shriveled up. They no longer held any power.
A lot of my emotional issues stem from the way I was raised. I know my mother didn’t mean any harm when she’d say, “How was your day? Here, have a brownie. You’ll feel better.” The brownie made me feel better. In actuality, it was probably the talking about my day while eating the brownie that made me feel better, but my brain latched onto the power of the brownie.
Eat this, and all your troubles will go away.
When I realized what was happening, I had more control over what I wanted to eat. I could decipher the “why” I wanted to eat and then plan accordingly. I realized I could appreciate a nice meal and not eat too much. I could have one piece of chocolate, if I wanted, and not eat a whole box. I could walk into the Godiva Chocolates store and just smell the wonderfulness of it all and walk out without buying anything.
Remember the Sex and the City episode where Miranda joins Weight Watchers? Just like her challenges in that episode, MY Weight Watchers facility was literally next door to a Dairy Queen. Do you know how cruel that is? Do you know how much energy it took for me to park in front of that store and not go in?
Well, I harnessed that energy and focused it on my weight loss goals.
By the end of the year, I had lost 40 lbs. and hit my goal weight and became a Lifetime Member. I was ecstatic.
But that wasn’t the end of my journey.
For the longest time, even in my size 2 and size 4 clothes I felt like I was an overweight person trapped inside the body of a thin woman. I felt like I was wearing a disguise. People treated me differently, in a good way, and I’d never really noticed being treated poorly when I was heavier-set. Had I been? Had I been blind to it?
There was a lot of mental stuff I had to work out, and it startled me. I remember looking down again, like I had in the car that one day, and I didn’t see a difference.
I really didn’t see it.
I’m still me.
Do I really look so different?
And, does it matter?
From the inside out, I still saw the same thing, the old me. What I saw didn’t match what the mirror and my husband and my friends saw. I truly believe that had I not been on a program to help me regulate this, I could have easily slipped into the unhealthy pattern of losing too much.
The most telling part about my transformation were the people who hadn’t seen me in a while and the shocked looks on their faces. “But, we never saw you as having a weight problem. But, wow! Look at you!”
Maybe they were just being kind, or maybe they were telling the truth. Either way, it was true. I had lost the weight. I was healthier, and I was the same person but also completely different. I was still happy, but I felt a different type of happiness that I’d never felt before.
I’d made it to the top of the world, and I couldn’t believe it.
I was able to maintain my weight-loss right up until I got pregnant with Claire in 2005. I was actually really worried that I’d fret and stress about seeing the number on the scales go up, but thankfully, I was able to let that go and enjoy my pregnancy. (Well, as much as I could enjoy pregnancy…which is another story.) I gained the “appropriate” amount of weight according to my doctor, and I knew that I had the skills to get back to where I needed to be when I’d completed this portion of my new adventurous journey.
After having Claire, most of the pregnancy weight just fell right off. This is something nearly all new mothers hope will happen, and few experience. But, that’s how it worked for me. Claire was 8lbs 6oz, and I can only imagine that the rest of it was because I’d suffered such horrible morning sickness that the pregnancy gods decided to take pity on me.
I didn’t want to take any chances with messing up my breast-feeding**, so I didn’t even worry about my weight until Claire was weaned a year later. **They say you can’t mess up breast-feeding by dieting, but I was too afraid to take the chance.
Now, here is where those die-hard WW people will probably be very disappointed with me, but I never went back to a WW meeting after having Claire. *gasp* I know, right!? Well, you see…I knew what to do. I got out my journals, and my point counters, and I got myself back to where I needed to be without the meetings.
Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.
Doing this meeting-less and WW-support-free doesn’t work for everyone, so if you’re struggling, by all means, go back to a meeting. I was prepared to go back if I had an issue, but it never came down to that.
Oddly enough, after pregnancy my body shifted and spread and became flabulous. Flab, though annoying, doesn’t weigh as much as muscle, so with the proper clothes, I looked like I was almost back to where I had been. I was *almost* at my goal weight but my desire to tone led me to the Shred.
As you’ve read about in that adventure, I’m still a work in progress, but all this is what I’m talking about when I say that I’ve already come a long way to get to this point.
And, I can’t wait to see where the path leads…because if I’ve learned anything from this whole experiene, it’s that the journey is far from over.