How Gail Lost 100 Pounds and Found Her Strength


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  38 comments   :  68,770 Views

"I had to reach the bottom to come up again, but now that I'm on top, I'm grateful for this journey, for these lessons and for my strength to get here."

Every weight loss journey is unique, but almost all of them begin with an "a-ha" moment. Some might call it a rock bottom, an epiphany, a crossroads. For Gail, SparkPeople member GAILIEBEE69, the turning point was a broken ankle.

Gail had been overweight for most of her life. Food was always a focus—she ate to celebrate, to banish boredom and to curb anxiety. In addition to the extra pounds, she carried around plenty of embarrassment and resentment. "I lived in a perpetual cycle of eating and then feeling guilty for eating, then feeling anxious that I ate and then eating some more," she says.

Like so many others struggling with their weight, Gail was angry at herself for not being strong enough to change her situation. Over the years, she tried every diet imaginable—from pills and shakes to pre-made meals and point systems—but the weight always came back.

And then, suddenly, her marriage of 21 years came to an end, and Gail found herself on her own for the first time in her life, with the additional responsibility of caring for two kids and running a household. More anxiety led to more food. Gail ate to try and diminish the sadness, the stress and the fear of being alone.

"I was anxious and depressed, going through the motions of life, eating my way to death."

Then came the night that changed everything. While out with some friends, Gail tripped off a curb and broke her ankle—a misstep that would send her into a downward spiral of physical and emotional turmoil. Weighing in at 297 pounds, Gail couldn't use crutches because she wasn't strong enough to hold herself up. She rented a scooter and needed assistance with everything from driving to getting up and down the steps of her home.

If there was a silver lining to those tough months of recovery, it was that they allowed Gail to slow down and reflect on her life, goals and dreams. "I knew I was unhappy," she recalls. "I had allowed my weight to handicap me. I chose not to participate in activities because I didn't have the confidence and feared I would get hurt or have a heart attack. I felt a sense of hopelessness and started to feel stuck."

"I describe it as feeling frozen because I wasn't sure what to do, even when I knew what I had to do."

At her lowest point, Gail remembered a physician telling her about SparkPeople several years ago. "At that point, I had nothing to lose but the weight and maybe a little pride, so I downloaded the app and started reading the articles." After setting up her profile, Gail's momentum stalled again. She still wasn't quite ready to make the leap to a new lifestyle.

She finally got the nudge she needed during a visit with her out-of-town brother. During a family pool day, Gail's six-year-old niece swam up and told her she looked like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. "She wasn't being mean intentionally. She was just calling a spade a spade. I wallowed in self-pity for a few days and then realized that I had a choice: I could accept that I was overweight or stop making excuses and make an honest effort to lose the weight."

"I remember looking at my kids, thinking how I'd been overweight most of their lives. I wanted to be there for them long term, for them to be proud of me."

This time, Gail committed to the SparkPeople program. She found education in the articles, accountability in the tracking tools and motivation in the exercise videos. “I also love that I can blog -- it’s so cathartic,” she says. “It's wonderful to know that you're not alone, that there are others out there who can relate to your struggles and understand how you feel.
After spending thousands of dollars on a string of failed fad diets and struggling to adhere to unrealistic food restrictions, she started eating what she wanted, but within her calorie range. "Over time, I learned how to make better choices, eventually substituting healthier options that helped me navigate to success," she says.
For breakfast after early-morning exercise, Gail usually eats four egg whites with cheese and onion and an apple. Lunch is usually a salad with protein or a sandwich on light bread. For snacks throughout the day, Gail grabs yogurt or veggies with hummus. Dinner varies, but is usually a protein with veggies. When she has the urge for something sweet, she indulges in Skinny Cow Caramel Truffles.

Gail has learned to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. Now, when she feels hungry emotionally, she makes a cup of hot tea with some sweetener and a drop of creamer. "It's an indulgence that's low in fat and calories, but allows me to sip slowly, get the sweetness I crave and think about why I felt the need to eat in the first place."

That doesn't mean every day is easy. Gail faces her share of challenges, particularly when she travels for business, attends social events or has a tough or stressful day. A self-described sugar addict, she still struggles to avoid her trigger foods and control her daily cravings. When temptation looms, she uses these strategies to stay focused:
  • Staying active. Gail squeezes exercise into her schedule as often as possible to stay on track and feel good.
  • Eating mindfully. Although she's not perfect, Gail tries to be mindful about what she puts into her body. "There are always healthier options, in every situation," she says.
  • Indulging once in awhile. Gail believes that to deny yourself is to set yourself up for failure. "If you want to have some ice cream, eat a lower-fat option or a much smaller portion, so you don't feel deprived," she suggests. "Depravity can lead to binging, and then the cycle continues. The key is to learn to indulge periodically."
  • Having faith in her ability. "Your mindset will make a huge difference throughout this process," says Gail. "Believe you can do this and you will."
"When you have weight to lose, whether it's 20 pounds or 100, the thought of going down that path can feel overwhelming."

For Gail, the biggest surprise in her weight-loss journey was that losing more than 100 pounds wasn't as difficult as she'd anticipated. "I ate what I wanted, exercised and never gave up on myself," she says. "I set small goals and rewarded myself along the way."

Aside from the weight loss, Gail's biggest accomplishment has been learning to care about herself. After so many years of putting the needs of others first, she's finally prioritizing her own wellness, which includes exercise and healthier food choices.

"Every day, I make a conscious effort to get to the gym, eat my proteins and stay away from my trigger foods," she says. "And every day, I remind myself how good I feel and how healthy I've become, so I'm less likely to reach for the cookie or sleep in and skip my spin class."

For those just starting their own journeys, Gail's advice is to start with a single decision. "Once that commitment is made, follow through by eating mindfully, tracking calories and moving every day, and you'll succeed."

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  • 38
    You are an inspiration to me! Thank you for sharing! - 7/17/2017   7:25:41 PM
  • 37
    You look good, stay focus and keep up the good work - 7/1/2017   6:27:56 AM
  • WBERRY57
    This is fantastic. You are such an inspiration. Keep on Sparking. - 6/1/2017   7:49:27 PM
  • 35
    Thank you for sharing your story. I started this week and your story is very motivating for me. - 5/15/2017   7:32:39 AM
  • 34
    You are truly an inspiration for those of us that have 100 pounds to lose. Thank you for sharing your story! - 5/11/2017   5:07:39 PM
    very good articles - 5/10/2017   9:51:16 AM
  • 32
    That is amazing Gail! I am so happy for you. I hope that one day I will be able to tell a similar story. Thanks for the inspiration. - 4/16/2017   9:34:02 AM
  • 31
    Love this!!!!! I finally had My " A ha moment, and said, this is it!!!! I'm doing exactly what You did, thank Yoy!!! You are a true inspiration and now I know I will do this!!!! Thank You again for sharing! - 4/15/2017   8:29:19 PM
  • 30
    What a inspiration you are. I've struggled for yrs trying to lose. I wasn't thin when younger abscess always active until a certain point in life. Then my health in every way went down hill. I hope to one day be an inspiration and be as strong as you . - 4/15/2017   3:49:47 PM
  • 29
    How inspiring! I needed to hear someone's success because I need to lose 200 lbs! Thanks for the encouragement! - 4/15/2017   1:11:29 PM
  • 28
    Great job Gail. Keep it up. - 4/15/2017   7:44:51 AM
  • 27
    Thank you for sharing! - 4/9/2017   7:14:21 AM
  • 26
    Very Inspiring Story. You look great!! - 2/15/2017   11:45:04 AM
  • 25
    Wonderful story!!! - 1/28/2017   9:03:37 AM
  • 24
    Thank you for your story! It's inspiring, particularly the part about feeling frozen and that weight loss can be overwhelming. I like your lesson that using Sparkpeople gave you the structure and tools to be successful. Thank you for sharing. - 1/26/2017   11:28:43 AM
  • 23
    Congratulations, Gail! And thanks for sharing your experience with us. I could SO relate to you when you said, "I lived in a perpetual cycle of eating and then feeling guilty for eating, then feeling anxious that I ate and then eating some more." I know I need to make a decision to change my life and my health and not let anything get in my way. Thanks!
    - 1/24/2017   9:31:53 AM
  • BLONDIE8080
    I forgot to say, I have 28 more lbs to go. We eat a salad with no protein for lunch. For dinner, we have a BIG salad w/o protein just prior to dinner. For dinner, I eat a 4 oz portion of meat, and a large portion of a green veggie. He eats a 6 oz portion of meat, and a large portion of a green veggie. :-) - 1/22/2017   6:27:31 PM
  • BLONDIE8080
    Gail~what an accomplishment! I am a retired nurse; after 40+ years of helping others, I have decided to help myself. I eat a healthy smoothie 4 days a week: everything organic~green pea protein, dark greens, a carrot, a stalk of celery, ginger root, tumeric root , cucumber, 1 whole fruit with peel, fresh cold added sweetener, artificial or otherwise. It makes enough for 2, so my sweetheart and I share it. He has type 2 diabetes, and his glucose levels are much improved.Both of us have lost weight. Me 12 lbs, he doesn't have a scale at home, but he keeps all his diabetes appts, and it will be interesting to see how well he's done. - 1/22/2017   6:21:26 PM
  • 20
    What an encouragement!
    Thank you so much!!
    - 1/22/2017   2:42:54 PM
  • 19
    Great blog. So very inspiring. Congratulations on your success. We Can Do This!!! - 1/17/2017   8:50:56 AM
    I learned alot from this. I didn't realize that past relationships partly ended due to my weight and I am now looking to lose it for me. Not for anyone else. - 1/16/2017   12:08:43 PM
  • 17
    What an amazing transformation! You look great! - 1/2/2017   5:12:47 PM
  • 16
    Very encouraging, I don't feel overwhelmed while reading. Thank you for sharing. - 1/1/2017   11:25:33 AM
  • 15
    Well done, Gail! I completely understand the self-directed anger, and how turning around "bad things that happen" can lead to something very good. Congratulations! - 12/26/2016   11:30:32 AM
  • 14
    Nice article, Melissa. But the word you wanted to use was "deprivation" not "depravity". :) - 12/23/2016   12:16:53 PM
    All of these comments are inspiring but can I keep up with them? I am trying this for the second time around and hope I can succeed this time. Of course I guess I never started from the beginning either. I am a 68 year old female, with Type 2 Diabetes with an A1C of 8.4 which is always playing a yo-yo effect one me. My weight is the same way, up one time down the next. I cannot seem to lose more than 3-7 pounds over a span of 4 months regardless. I exercise with Silver Sneakers program 3-4 days a week, do tai-chi, chair yoga. I have bad knees and back problems which often require shots. Pain is all I know right now in the lower part of my body. I am putting off knee replacement surgeries as long as possible by using steroid shots of Euflexxa in my knees which as you know steroids raise the A1C and glucose readings all the time. So I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place like the old folks used to say. I take nutrition classes for diabetes but still eat the wrong things all the time. Sweets, breads, potatoes, are my downfall. I evidently don't have the right mindset to get it done properly. I need all the help and encouragement I can get from everyone. Thanks. - 12/12/2016   7:26:45 AM
  • 12
    Very inspiring and encouraging...Thank you so much!!! - 12/11/2016   5:15:24 PM
  • 11
    Wonderful! It is also a great reminder that I have a choice in staying away from "trigger foods." - 12/8/2016   11:52:07 PM
    That is amazing! Great job! - 12/8/2016   7:29:03 PM
  • 9
    Just what I needed. You're my hero!!!
    - 12/8/2016   2:19:22 PM
  • 8
    Congratulations! Keep going strong. - 12/8/2016   1:25:38 PM
  • 7
    Wow! You are a real inspiration to the rest of us! Congratulations! - 12/8/2016   1:21:57 PM
  • 6
    Congrats on becoming a healthier you. Well done! - 12/8/2016   10:53:14 AM
  • 5
    Good for you! I'm still working on the 'one thing'. - 12/8/2016   10:35:19 AM
  • 4
    I'm so happy for her. I've always felt that no matter how many people, doctors, etc. tell you that you really should lose weight (as if you don't know), true success comes when you have that moment and say, "This is the time. I will do this." - 12/8/2016   10:15:47 AM
  • 3
    Great story - I'm glad to hear Gail is on the right path now! It definitely isn't hard staying on the path when there are so many food temptations. It is easier to sit doing nothing instead of exercising. Keep up the great work, Gail!
    - 12/8/2016   9:04:47 AM
  • 2
    Good article but... a picture is worth 1000 words. - 12/8/2016   8:48:14 AM
  • 1
    About the Ursula statement. I would have turned it around and said, "What do you MEAN, I look like Ursula? I'm not PURPLE!" lol

    Anyway, though painful, honest viewpoints from others, DO help. - 12/8/2016   12:34:31 AM

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