I am grateful to Coco for making the time to share her experience. She we tweeted after my Not the Biggest Loser blog post and I asked her to share her thoughts here.
I was overweight all my life and have the chubby baby pictures and painful child memories to prove it.
I was a size 12 high school, and although I might have gotten down to a size 8 for a few minutes in college, I pretty much was a size 12 throughout my 20s, including before and after having my two children. My weight crept up further during law school and studying for the bar exam, and I reached the 14/16 ranges.
Since I am 5’1” when I stand up straight, it was hard to find “petite” clothes that would fit.
My wake-up call came with a yearly physical, where my doctor said that I had to get my blood pressure down or I would have to start taking blood pressure medication. At 32, I thought I was too young to start taking pills I would need to take for the rest of my life.
I started by following a Slim-Fast® plan—you know, “one for breakfast, one for lunch, and then a sensible dinner.” Needless to say, I was miserable.
While I didn’t mind the taste of the shakes, I felt deprived with my liquid meals. Then a friend had great success on the Atkins’ Diet, so I decided to try that. It was amazing. I lost weight every day and didn’t feel hungry with all the bacon and eggs, ham and cheese and pork rinds I could eat.
By December I had lost 20 pounds, but couldn’t resist Christmas cookies or all the other baked goods that are forbidden on Atkins. I fell off the wagon, but noticed how much more energy I had with carbs back in my life, so I wasn’t eager to climb back on.
Come New Year’s, I started a food exchange plan that was in Woman’s Day magazine.
It was a well-balanced plan and, while the weight came off more gradually, it was something I could follow. By Easter I had lost at total of 40 lbs, and was a size 2–something I had never even imagined!
But, all was not well. I lost the weight without exercising and think I must have lost every ounce of muscle that might have kept my metabolism going. I had to follow a strict 1200 calorie plan, or the scale would jump up.
I was frustrated and getting desperate, but found a great on-line support group on eDiets.com. With my fellow “Maintainiacs,” I learned to make exercise part of my daily routine. That helped stabilize my weight, but I struggled with emotional eating. I would eat 100% on-plan all day, and then come home and bury my stress in a package of Oreos or box of cereal, or both, easily adding 500 calories or more to my day’s tally.
It’s taken me 10 years to get that monkey off my back, but I managed to keep my weight relatively stable throughout the process, mostly by kicking up the exercise.
In the era of The Biggest Loser, my 40 lb weight loss hardly merits a mention, but I did have to change my life to keep the weight off.
The changes to my eating habits are almost too boring to list–I basically enjoy a super foods-focused diet with an emphasis on whole grains, lean protein and lots or fruits and veggies, but I indulge daily in dark chocolate. The more important changes relate to my emotional health.
I had to find healthy outlets for my stress and coping mechanisms that weren’t so self-destructive.
I learned to stand up for myself, to express my needs, and to set boundaries.
I learned to “put on my own oxygen mask first” and realized that I can take care of myself without sacrificing my family’s well-being or giving up success at work.
I know that losing weight didn’t solve all my problems, but I am much happier with my life than I ever was before. I have more energy and get more enjoyment from everyday activities, and when I can’t find jeans that fit right, I blame the designers, not my curves.
Now that’s a good feeling!
NINE YEARS LATER: