Donna Learned to Love Running--and Herself!*


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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Donna DeGroot (DDHEART)
Weight Lost: 41 pounds
Hometown: Gillett, WI
Occupation: Retired Cardiac Nurse Specialist/ re-retired Passenger Services Manager on a private railcar
What was life like before your weight loss?
 I was never hugely overweight, but always heavier than I probably should be.  I grew up being "the big little sister."  My father said he preferred his girls plump (I hate that word!) while my mother had her own weight problems.  Food was the equivalent of love.  No hugging, but here have some ice cream.  Now, that's not to blame my family but it does help to explain the complex relationship with food and the connection with emotional eating.  I love to eat and I eat when I'm unhappy, bored, when socializing, etc.  I have almost no pictures from when I was heavier.  I would avoid the camera like the plague and when I did find that a photo of me was taken, I would often get rid of it if it was unflattering. It's important for me to note, that when I try to look back through photos, I now see pictures where I was not particularly overweight but if you were to ask me I would've said I was ALWAYS overweight.  I did not have an eating disorder, unless you would count the years of yo-yo diets, but during those earlier years, I also wasn't particularly fit.  I certainly wasn't athletic.  Even as a child, I was shy, cautious and aware that I was "the fat little sister.” I was not as coordinated as other children- at least that's what I thought- and I was afraid to try things for fear that I would look foolish.  I missed out on so much.
What was your ‘light bulb moment’ that made you get serious about losing the weight?
A few years ago when I retired, I joined Weight Watchers and had to step on the scale.  My ‘OMG moment’ was stepping on that scale and realizing that this weight gain could not keep up.  I lost about 40 pounds and actually wore a size six very briefly.  Alas, I didn't keep it up.  I should have continued to go to meetings, but didn't and soon even size 12’s didn't fit.  I managed to keep some control but just couldn't seem to get myself on track.  I knew I needed to adopt a different life philosophy if I want to fit inside a different body. I don't know if I will ever be a person who likes to exercise more than she likes to eat, but I sure would like to be someone who doesn't fill the empty spaces with food.
Tell us a bit about your weight loss journey:
I found SparkPeople and the Sweatsuit to Swimsuit Boot Camp Challenge.  My endurance has improved and my resting heart rate and blood pressure are both lower than when I started.  This means my health is also improving. Plus, my clothes fit much better now and I can get back into some of those lower sizes.  Now, I need to put more focus on my emotional health- I still need to work on seeing the real me in the mirror.  It's a work in progress. When I joined SparkPeople, I had come to the conclusion that dieting didn't work.  A diet implies something that ends when you reach a goal.  When that happens, at least in my case, old unhealthy habits resume and soon the diet needs to be started again.  So I committed to myself that this would be different.  Sure I wanted to lose weight but it couldn't be just about that.  This had to be about lifetime health habits.
It doesn't matter where or when I came to believe I was that "fat little girl", but I never really believed any differently even at those time when my weight was perfect for me.  In a comment to a blog that I wrote on this subject, one SparkFriend in particular had a profound effect on me.  She suggested that I post some of my progress pictures someplace that I would see them every day.  They didn't have to be public, just something to get myself used to looking at me, myself and I.  I made a collage at that time and used it as my desktop wallpaper.  Every time I sat down at the computer, I saw those pictures and I began to see different things.  I saw many things that I liked: muscles, a lean and athletic look.  I began to see someone I really liked, and someone I was proud of. I don't know if I would ever have come to this point without that SparkFriend or so many others.  That's the role of SparkPeople for me.


What is your diet like now as compared to before your transformation?
One thing that’s different is that I have been eating the rainbow.  I eat six colors a day which means that fruits and vegetables are always the center of my eating and I try to eat wholesome, home-prepared foods and stick to foods with a limited ingredient list.  I still track all my food and drink and that continues to help me learn what works and what doesn’t.
What is your typical exercise routine like?
My husband and I walk every day or nearly every day.  I try to run every other day.  I have found running to be one of my favorite “me time” activities.  My weakness is that I still have not found a love of strength training.  I keep trying to find the right thing, but it’s a work in progress.  I get a lot of functional exercise while gardening and doing yard work.
What advice would you give to someone just beginning a weight loss program?
First, set some goals.  Structure your goals in a way that allows you to build for the big goal.  It can be really discouraging to aim for a weight loss goal, but when you define smaller goals like changing a specific eating habit and accomplish that, you will have moved toward the bigger goal.  Second, build activity into your life.  As is often said on SparkPeople, don’t set yourself up for the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.  Small exercise segments add up and if you don’t like a certain activity, keep looking for the thing you do enjoy.  Third, don’t think you have to go it alone.  Remember how I learned to accept myself?  It was from the advice of a SparkFriend.

How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health?
I have become a runner! An athlete at the sweet young age of 61!  I have taken home age group trophies from races I have done and I am very proud of that even though I know that the competition isn't so great in my age group. I know how much work it takes to cross the finish line, so even if I am the only old "broad" in a race, I can be proud.
I believe I am healthier than I have ever been. And although I live in a fairly isolated part of the north woods, I have friends all over the world who have been there for me through "thick and thin" and for whom I would jump through hoops to help in their journeys.

*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
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