Like many SparkPeople members, 43-year-old Chris (ASHLEEMICAHSMOM) can't remember a time when she hasn't struggled with her weight. As an elementary school student in Flint, Michigan, she used to sneak the "goodies" out of other kids' lunchboxes.
"While I was never really bullied about my weight, I have always felt fat, and I always compared myself to all the pretty, skinny girls," she recalls. Then, when Chris lost her father at 18, she sought comfort in even more food. It wasn't long before her childhood chubbiness had become full-fledged obesity.
When she was expecting her first child, Chris found herself sobbing in her doctor's office, terrified that her weight would cause problems with her pregnancy. Even so, as a busy single mother who worked nights, she continued her unhealthy habits for years. "We relied on fast food—'cheap' food—what I call a kids' diet," she admits.
A Milestone Becomes a Turning Point
Chris found herself at her highest weight of 365 pounds when she turned 32—and the same age as her father when he had his first heart attack. She was scared of dying young like he did, and not being around for her kids. After trying several weight-loss programs and products, Chris made the drastic decision to have bariatric surgery. "I decided the surgery was the best option for me, to keep from dying young," she shares.
Although Chris lost weight quickly at first after her 2008 surgery, it gradually started to creep back on. In 2014, she had gained almost 65 of the initial 100+ pounds she had lost, and then slowly got the weight back off. The yo-yo cycle continued for years, wreaking havoc on her mental and physical health.
Around her 40th birthday, Chris got stuck at a plateau and sunk into a deep depression. It was around this time that she realized her surgery might have been a shortcut of sorts, but was not the single, surefire solution to "curing" her obesity. To maintain her weight loss over the long term, she would also need to take accountability of her diet, exercise and overall health.
With help from her doctor, a consistent nutrition and fitness plan, the proper antidepressant medication and support from SparkPeople, Chris slowly began to take control of her weight and her life.
One Decision at at Time
As a single mother working two jobs—a doctors' office during the day and a dorm parent in the evenings—Chris doesn't have time for long workouts or even regular trips to the gym. Instead, she squeezes activity into her busy days in any way she can. "I take the stairs instead of the elevator, I park farther away from buildings, I dance in my chair at my desk, I even walk laps inside the building at night when I am at work," she says. "When I have the energy, I tend to ride an exercise bike or do low-impact workouts."
In watching several food documentaries, including The Magic Pill, Chris realized she had been approaching weight loss the wrong way. "It was during this time that I finally realized I am a food addict—really more of a carb addict," Chris says. She now follows a low-carb plan, cutting out almost all breads and grains except for low-carb wraps.
Breakfast is usually a scrambled egg on a low-carb wrap with turkey sausage; lunch is something simple like grilled chicken chunks, spinach and shredded cheese on a low-carb wrap or a taco salad made with Boca veggie crumbles. Dinner is typically a riced cauliflower meal that can be thrown in the microwave and warmed up quickly. Snacks are mozzarella cheese sticks, nuts, or “fat bombs.”
Chris tries to avoid sugar, has completely cut out fast foods and stays away from diet drinks, as she noticed they seem to trigger her cravings for carbs and junk foods. Cauliflower and broccoli are now among her daily staples, and she tries to limit her food intake to between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Although she's lost more than 170 pounds since her journey started, Chris still faces challenges, like her time limitations and ongoing struggle with depression. After years of carrying around so much extra weight, she had to have both knees replaced. And she still tends to isolate herself, due to lingering fear of being judged by others.
Chris' Tips for Sustained Weight Loss
"People comment that I simply look happier," Chris notes. "I definitely do not miss the other 'person' that I lost."
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