One year on SparkPeople...
What a year it's been!
Christmas day 2008 was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was the day that the love of my life, JT, proposed to me. I couldn't have been happier! We decided to celebrate our engagement by going to Seaworld, our favorite place. The whole day we were completely giddy and all smiles. I didn't think anything could make me sad... I was wrong.
We decided it was time for a rollercoaster ride, so on we went. Struggling to get on a ride was nothing new to me, as I was so very heavy for so long. This time was different, however. I just couldn't seem to squeeze myself into the seat completely. Once I had got myself as far into the seat as I possibly could, I started trying to put the safety harness on. The fact was, I just couldn't do it. My fiancÚ tried to help, and he couldn't get it any further than I could. Finally the ride attendant came over to help. By this time the ride was ready to go and I was holding things up. As the attendant struggled to get the harness attached I saw his eyes say, "Girl, you are really way to fat to be allowed on this ride". I knew he was debating in his head whether of not to tell me I couldn't fit on the ride and I needed to get off. The people on line waiting to get on started getting noisy. Some were annoyed that I was slowing things down, and some were just plain laughing at me. It was quite simply the most embarrassing moment in my life. Just as I was about to start crying, the attendant snapped the harness into place and gave me a look that clearly said, "Good luck".
I spent the whole ride wishing I had gotten off when I could have. I usually have no fear of rollercoaters, and love riding them. But far from loving it, I was just terrified. Terrified that any moment the safety harness would fail under the pressure and I would go flying to my death. I was beyond relieved when the ride ended. But my troubles weren't quite finished. At the ride's exit, there was the booth were you could view pictures of yourself during the ride, and see how much fun you were having. JT said "Oh here we are! ...wow... Look at your face!". I looked at the picture to see what he meant, and I was horrified. I had seen pictures of myself in the past where I looked very large, but not to this extent. The girl in the picture looked like an overstuffed pillow, shoved into a wastepaper basket. I had never seen ... really seen just how obese I really was. Worse of all, the girl in the picture was obviously scared out of her mind. Her face was red and twisted in fear. It was obvious she was not having a good time at all. I couldn't recognize that girl next to my fiancÚ was myself and I didn't want to try.
I spent the next few days thinking about how I came to be this way. At almost 5'2" and 252 lbs I was very obese. I had been obese my entire adult life and most of my childhood. Healthy eating was something I just had not learned and never really thought about. I was never especially active, even as a child. I had of course tried to loose weight in the past, with no real success. Dieting just frustrated me, and I would inevitability break down and binge. I had tried fad diets like Adkins and the South Beach diet, hated them, and stopped. I had tried exercise machines that promised to "burn the fat off those trouble areas". I had tried countless diet pills that promised speedy weightloss with hardly any effort. I even went so far as to starve myself and all I accomplished was to make myself sick. The results were always the same; I would loose a little weight, the highest amount being around 40 lbs... Then I would get frustrated and give up. Then without fail, the weight would quickly come back. After a time I just gave up. I figured I was just never meant to be anything other than fat and I needed to learn to accept that.
But in the days following the incident at Seaworld, I realized that I simply HAD to do something about it. My weight was so out of control and getting dangerous fast. I realized how lucky I had been, having none of the major health problems associated with obesity. No knee problems, no breathing problems, no heart problems, no diabetes. In fact, aside from my weight, I was a fairly healthy person. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks... This would not last forever. I realized, I'm young now, but as I got older, my luck would run out. Diabetes runs in my family and I knew that as heavy as I was, It wasn't a question of "if" I would develop the disease... It was a question of "when?". Probably sooner than later, at the rate I was going. I suddenly realized "Wait a second... This is my one and only body, the only one I'll ever have! What am I doing to it??" This was no longer acceptable... because it wasn't just me I had to think about anymore. I had a future husband and future kids to worry about. Heck, at the weight I was, who knew if I could even HAVE kids? And even if I did, how could I take care of them properly if I cant even take care of myself? This woke me up.
I decided to loose weight. I didn't decide to try to loose weight. I just DECIDED to loose weight. I knew I had to really do it. But if I wanted to succeed this time, I knew I had to change my way of thinking. First of all, I had to be more realistic about how l was going to do it. I had been hoping and praying that a miracle diet or a miracle pill would come out and make all my problems go away. My first step in my weight loss journey was to realize that the "miracle pill" wasn't coming, and I needed to stop waiting for it. I realized that if I really wanted to do this, I needed to do the thing I was dreading... I had to change my lifestyle... period. The second step was to understand that if I'm going to loose this weight the right way, then it was going to take a LONG time, and I just needed to accept that. I tried to think of it as a year-long project. I knew it would probably take more then a year to get to where I wanted to be, but I kept thinking to myself "Think of how much better off you'll be if you put a year into this... Think of how much better you'll feel". That was very motivating thought. It was almost something to look forward to. I thought to myself "After all, just imagine how you would be had you just stuck to that one healthy diet you tried". I knew in my heart that it would be hard at first, but if I could just make it over the "hump", then my new healthy practices would eventually become habits, and I knew that was the key to changing my lifestyle.
The most important change in my thinking was getting rid of the "all or nothing" attitude that I had always adopted during all my previous attempts. I always thought of weightloss as "the bandwagon". I would be "back on the bandwagon". But what happens if you "fall off the wagon"? It keeps going and leaves you behind. So, if one day I went over my calories, or gave into temptation, or ate something I shouldn't have, I would think to myself "oh well, I screwed it all up... might as well quit". Weightloss is NOT an "all or nothing" thing! Its about the changes you make over time. But somehow I always thought that if I ate a little more chocolate than I should have, that meant I had negated all the work I had done before that. This needed to stop. So I chased away the bandwagon. Instead, I thought of weightloss as a hiking trail. Its a long trail full of obstacles, and it's gonna take you a long time to walk to the end. And if you stray from the trail? Well that's OK, the trail is always there! Its ok to leave the trail for a little while to check out the scenery... just be sure to get back on the trail and keep on going. After all, you still have a life to live! I realized that if I "strayed" and ate some cookies, or didn't exercise one day, or went over my calories, that's OK... I just needed to get back on the trail and keep on going. It may take a little longer, but if I resolve to keep going, even when I left my hiking trail once in a while, I would reach my goal. I just had to keep going.
In the first month I tried my best to eat healthy, and managed to drop 9 lbs, but I still needed a little help. January 24th, 2009 (One year ago today), I was browsing the internet for some healthy lifestyle ideas and stumbled upon Sparkpeople. I didn't know then that I had found possibly the best resource I could have found. It became clear that this website had a wealth of information and tools that I desperately needed. The tool that has helped me the most has been the nutrition tracker. I had always heard that tracking your food was an important part of weightloss, but it became truly apparent when I started using it. It really put ito perspective how much I was eating before and made me more accountable for what I was eating now.
The community was important too. Having nobody to make the weightloss journey with, it was wonderful to have people at my fingertips who were going through the same thing. It's very motivating to see how far other people have come and for people to see how far YOU'VE come. Its wonderful to see people who succeeded and still had the same problems as you loosing weight. This was very helpful in conquering the dreaded "plateaus". Because if there's one thing I noticed when moving through the Sparkpeople community, its this; Everybody who succeeded in loosing weight has 2 things in common. First, they have all hit bumps like plateaus, temptations, and all the negative things that come with weightloss. Secondly, they have all kept going and have not given up. This was such a helpful realization, that made me know that I could be one of those people, if I just keep going and don't give up. Sparkpeople made me realize that you cant go on for a long time burning more calories than you eat and NOT loose weight. Does that mean you are going to loose weight every week you weigh in? No it doesn't. Does it mean you wont occasionally gain a few pounds? No it doesn't... What it means, is that over time, these changes you make to your diet and lifestyle will result in weightloss. It will take a while, but it will happen. Plateaus wont last forever... not if you keep up the effort.
Another thing that Sparkpeople taught me is how important moderation is. There really is no "bad" food... it's all about moderation with those foods. Realistically you're not going to stop eating ice cream forever, right? Right... so learn to eat ice cream properly and you will succeed without driving yourself crazy. I myself eat chocolate everyday... in moderation! And that means I am learning to eat chocolate in such a way that I don't have to let it get out of control ever again! SparkPeople taught me that it's not just about eating less food, it's also about eating enough food to get the nutrition you need. I never starved myself, never went hungry thinking that would speed up my weightloss (which it wont). I have a theory that because I concentrated on eating a balanced diet and getting the right nutrition, that I actually helped lessen my cravings. I think that because my body was getting all the good nutrition it needed, it didnt crave things as much... Of course, I'm not a nutrition expert, it's only a guess hehe!
The visual things that Sparkpeople offers like the charts and graphs and even the little weightloss ticker, all give you a sense of accomplishment, even when you cant see the results in the mirror. Focusing on the little goals you set and the accomplishments you make is so important... because it does take a while to see the results in the mirror (For me, I didn't start to really see my weightloss in the mirror until I had lost 50 lbs). And this aspect of Sparkpeople was and still is, invaluable to me, because it kept me motivated to not give up and to keep moving forward.
As great as it was to see the numbers on the scale go down, it was the other little milestones that surprised me. For me, one of the best milestones was when I realized that some of the healthy practices I was learning were becoming habits. I started automatically reaching for water when I was thirsty, reaching for fruits, veggies or nuts when I wanted a snack. The day I realized I didn't have to measure serving size, that I was automatically giving myself the right amount of food, was awesome... even eating the correct serving size was becoming a habit! Another great moment was when I realized that my feet no longer hurt as they did while standing for long periods of time. One day I realized I wasn't getting heartburn all the time the way I used to. One day my rings were too big. One day I realized I hadn't even been sick with a cold since I started my new lifestyle. One day I realized I had reached the last hole on my belt and It was still too big. And then the day I realized I didn't wear plus-sized clothing anymore. Or the day I went from an "obese" BMI to an "overweight" BMI... All these little things were all evidence that what I was doing was actually working, and It prompted me to keep going.
Then came my proudest moment... The day my fiancÚ and I went back to Seaworld. It had been 6 months since that fateful day when I had ridden that rollercoaster. I was 40 lbs smaller, and yet I was so scared to get back on the ride. What if I still couldn't fit? What if I still needed help getting in? What if people laughed? My fiancÚ held my hand and told me how proud of me he was and how I was going to be surprised when I got on the ride. Boy was he right! Not only did I fit easily in the seat, but I didn't need help getting the safety harness on! I got it on with room to spare! No struggling whatsoever. I looked over at my fiancÚ with a look of disbelief, and he was just grinning at me and said "Told you so". That was the best ride I had ever been on. I felt so elated and had so much fun... I wasn't scared of exploding out of my seat at all. And when we left the ride and looked at the pictures I was blown away... I looked like I fit so much better in the seat, and I didn't look like I was bursting out of the harness. But better than that was my face... which instead of looking upset and scared, looked so happy. I was obviously enjoying the ride and having a blast! I started tearing up right then and there... not because anything was wrong, but because I realized how my effort had resulted in this wonderful moment!
It has been a year since I started Sparkpeople and my weightloss journey. I am happy to say that I have lost 97 lbs (88 lbs from the day I started SP), having gone from 252 lbs (243 lbs at the start of SP) to 155 lbs, and going from a size 22/24 to a size 8/10. I'm not at my final goal yet, but I'm close! (Only 5 more pounds until I reach 150 lbs, which has been my goal since I was 14). And I have no doubt in my mind that I can get there. After my year long project, I may not be where I want to be yet, but I am 110% better off for having come this far, just like I knew I would be! I am prouder of myself than I ever have been before. Prouder than the day I graduated high school. Prouder than the day I got my college degree. Prouder than the day I got a promotion. And why? Because I always knew I could do those things... but loosing the weight.... that was something I never thought I could do. But I did do it... I did! And that feeling of accomplishment boosts my self esteem more than I ever could have imagined... even more so than how I much better I look now.
My advice to people who are on the same frustrating journey is this; You have to want it all... You have to want all the good that comes with the weightloss process, as well as all the bad. Nothing worth getting is easy to get, and believe me, getting to a healthy weight is VERY worth getting. Yes you need commitment, dedication, willpower and discipline to loose weight... but more than that you need patience. Not just patience with the time it takes to loose weight, but patience with yourself, and with the struggles you will encounter. You just need to realize that it will all be worth it if you can just keep going and don't give up. Don't just try to loose weight and be healthy. DECIDE to loose weight and be healthy! Weightloss is the hardest thing to do and the easiest thing to do all at the same time. For me, loosing weight sure was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and yet it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. And I'm so glad I did it! I wouldn't trade a day of this past year for anything... It's been SO worth it! It is, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever done for myself. I cant properly express the feeling I have, and anyone who has suceeded in loosing weight must feel the same way. You can feel this way too! I firmly believe that if I can do this, anybody can! Just remember, the trail is long and hard, and the end can seem so far away, especially at the beginning... But if you stay on the trail, you WILL reach the end. And if you stray from the trail to smell the flowers, have a picnic, or to eat some cookies, that's ok... That's OK! Just adjust your backpack, get back on the trail and keep on going!
Thanks for reading