Sandy Clark (ORANGECOWCAT)
Weight Lost: 70 pounds
Hometown: Roland, Iowa
Occupation: Group fitness instructor and stay-at-home mom
What was life like before your weight loss?
I got pregnant with my son in 2006. Prior to that pregnancy, I was always at a normal body weight and didn't have to work much to maintain that weight. During my pregnancy, I gained more than 60 pounds. After delivering my son, I realized that those 60-plus pounds were not really necessary during my pregnancy! I lost about 35 pounds within the first few months, but when I went back to work, I started to gain all the weight back, plus some more. I was working 60 to 70 hours a week and felt miserable because I was struggling to make time for myself to make me feel better. The more miserable I felt, the more I struggled with my weight. I'd never been overweight in my life and to struggle with it now felt awful. I wanted to be happy with my new life and my new family, but I hated how I looked and how I felt. Although I was still trying to be active, I found that most of the time I really just wanted to sit around and feel sorry for myself.
What was your ‘light bulb moment’ that made you get serious about losing the weight?
I wanted to lose the weight from the beginning, so there was never really one factor that pushed me to do it. I was unhappy with how I looked, and I was tired of wearing baggy clothes to try to hide my size. My wedding rings were tight, and I absolutely hated all the pictures I saw of me with my baby. I didn't want to be close physically to my husband because I was repulsed by my weight. And I was just sad. All these things together really pushed me to want to get serious about the weight loss. However, when we had our fourth miscarriage a few months after my son's first birthday, I decided that I was going to lose the weight for good. I was going to have a healthy lifestyle so that I would be around to enjoy my son's life, see him grow up and hopefully have some more kids!
Tell us a bit about your weight-loss journey:
In the summer of 2007 I started walking to try to lose the weight. I had been a runner in high school and college, and I wanted to start running again. After years of not running, I knew I needed to start by walking. When the weather started getting colder, my aunt gave us her treadmill. That's when I started running. By the end of 2007, I worked my way up to about three miles, four to five days a week. I lost about 10 pounds in the last five months of 2007 and I wondered why I wasn't losing more.
I joined SparkPeople in January 2008. My first day of tracking food showed me exactly why I hadn't lost more weight in 2007, even with my increase in exercise. I was easily eating more than 2,500 calories every day! I started making small changes to my diet, and then noticed that I had more energy. By March 2008, I noticed that I was losing bigger chunks of weight each week. 2008 was a good weight-loss year for me, and I lost a total of 40 pounds that year. I was down to about 140 pounds by year's end.
In 2009, I started to get serious about my running. I was running longer and faster and I was enjoying it again. I decided to run my first half marathon in the spring of 2010, and I wanted to lose about another 20 pounds. I struggled to lose the weight but the running came almost naturally to me. I ran two half marathons, a 20K, a 15K, two 10Ks and two 5Ks in 2010. I was pleased with the accomplishments, but I really wanted to drop the last pounds that I felt needed to go away.
In 2010, I started taking Group Power, which is an hour-long strength-training class, twice a week at my gym. This was what I was missing! I didn't notice any weight loss during the first six months, but I noticed muscles starting to show, and I felt stronger. In 2012, I decided I wanted to train to teach this class, and I received my certification in August 2012.
Late September 2012 brought a welcome surprise into my life when I found out that we were pregnant again. I knew I wanted this pregnancy to be a healthy one. After talking extensively with my physician, she agreed that because I had been so physically active prior to the pregnancy, I could continue with my routine and make modifications as needed. The first few months were tough, mainly because of the exhaustion that comes with your first trimester. However, I did find that exercising helped with the fatigue and the nausea that I felt. I continued running and teaching my Group Power class throughout the pregnancy, under the watchful eye of my doctor. She was pleased with how the pregnancy progressed, and I kept my weight gain to a healthy range this time. It made a WORLD of difference! I had more energy and felt more positive that the weight I was gaining was only helping the baby, not adding to the weight that I would need to lose following the delivery. My little girl was born on May 15, 2013, and I had a quick and easy labor lasting about two hours, which my doctor felt could be attributed at least in part to my fitness level. After delivery, I couldn’t believe how good I actually felt. Tired, yes, but overall I felt pretty good. Three weeks after my little girl was born, I went on my first run. Five weeks after her birth, I started teaching my class again. Now, seven months after her birth, I actually weigh less than when I got pregnant. My focus is on maintaining this weight and setting some new goals--maybe running that marathon I’ve always wanted to run!
Did you encounter any obstacles during your journey and, if so, how did you deal with them?
One of the biggest obstacles I found was just remembering to make time for me. My husband’s work schedule changed frequently and it was easy to use that as an excuse to not exercise. In reality, it’s about making the time. I had to remember why I wanted to be healthy, and why it was important to continue my routine. I would have to get up early, or take my son to the gym with me. It can be done, and I needed to remind myself that I couldn’t make excuses to not exercise or eat right.
Pregnancy provided another sort of obstacle. Suddenly I was eating to help a developing baby, and exercise needed to be for both of us, not just me. I had to remind myself during my pregnancy that it was OK if I didn’t feel like running, and it was OK for me to lift less weights. Pregnancy was about staying healthy, not making fitness gains. It was a little hard to watch the weight gradually go up on the scale, but I reminded myself that I had time after the baby was born to regain my fitness and lose the weight.
What is your typical exercise routine like?
I run between four to five days a week, usually on the treadmill now because it’s winter in Iowa and much too cold to put the baby in the jogging stroller. I teach my class two times a week and will be teaching three times a week starting in January. When I’m able to make extra trips to the gym, I like to throw some cross training into the mix with spinning classes and occasionally kickboxing. Now that the snow is starting to fall, I will start snowshoeing again for a bit of variety. Treadmills can become a bit boring, so having variety is essential to fight the boredom.
How would you describe your typical diet now as compared to before your weight loss?
I choose healthier foods, and I watch my portions more carefully. There are no foods that I consider off limits. I believe it’s about moderation. I didn’t really understand moderation before losing weight...I had the tendency to overindulge. I definitely cook most of our meals now as well. When my husband and I got married, we ate out a lot. Now I’d much rather cook for myself and my family. It’s much less expensive and I know exactly what ingredients are in our meals. It’s easier to control portions and caloric intake when you make your own meals. I also drink a lot more water now than I did before losing weight. I start my day with water and drink it all day long. It helps control my appetite and I find I just feel better when I remember to drink it. My weaknesses? Little Snickers bars--they’re delicious. Again, never off-limits, but moderation is the key!
What advice would you give to someone just beginning a weight loss program?
Don’t give up! I waited many, many months after starting a good diet and exercise program before the scale budged. It’s tough when you want the number to fall and it doesn’t. You have to remember that it took years (most likely) to gain extra weight and it’s going to take time and effort to get rid of it. Find out what you love to do for exercise...if you don’t like running, don’t do it. Exercise should be WORK but it should be fun, and you should like it and want to do it. Don’t deny yourself treats...if you tell yourself “no” all the time, it’ll be too easy to “cheat” and eat too much of something. Find people to support you, whether it’s a friend or spouse or instructor/trainer at your gym. You may be surprised that once you share your goals with someone, they will help motivate you to stick to them. Set small goals and large goals...short term and long term. I knew at the beginning I wanted to lose at least 60 pounds, but I broke it down into little goals. Could I lose a pound a week? Could I fit into a certain pair of pants in 3 months? I literally thumbtacked my goal pants to my bedroom wall so I saw them every morning...it got me out of bed and onto the treadmill. Drink lots of water. If you don’t like it plain, add some lemon or another fruit to give it some flavor. And remember it’s not just about exercise or your diet. It’s a lifestyle and you need to have all the parts working together to achieve it. Eat well, get and stay moving and love yourself.
How has your life changed since losing weight and improving your health?
I feel better not only physically but also emotionally. I don't hate the way I look anymore. My clothes fit and I'm not ashamed to be in public anymore. I need to have my wedding rings resized to a smaller size! I love running again and I have learned that maintaining this lifestyle is what is needed. Diets don't work; making positive changes is what needs to be done.
*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
Have you lost weight and kept it off using SparkPeople.com? We'd love to share your story. Email us: sparkpeoplesuccess (at) gmail (dot) com