One of the most common questions that I get from readers is what the turning point for me was in my healthiness journey, and how I got myself to a place where I was ready and able to change. Let me tell you – it was not easy, and it was, and still is, a very long road.
Just last night, a reader named Summer emailed me and asked the following:
I was just wondering how – from a mental point of view – you started your journey to a healthier lifestyle (I assume you didn’t find the motivation to start running races right off the bat), if you ever had moments where you wanted to give up, and what you did to combat those moments.”
I figured I’d take the opportunity to address it here since its a question I get pretty frequently.
I was overweight for my entire life since I was a kid, and then after high school I just started piling on the weight like it was my job. (It wasn’t). I had a boyfriend that I met on the first day of classes freshman year and that sort of solidified my unhealthy lifestyle because we would just stay in every night, order in pizza, wings, and other greasy food, and chain smoke cigarettes. I didn’t get any activity in or eat anything even remotely healthy during those 3 years. Once he graduated (and we thankfully broke up), during my senior year of college I started focusing on myself, working out, and following Atkins. I followed that program for several months, lost around 40 pounds, and felt amazing.
Then, after graduating from college and moving out on my own, I let the weight creep back on quickly.
That’s a photo of me and my old roommate, Molly (who later went on to join WW and become lifetime!). I gained back about 35 of the 40 pounds I had lost because we worked at a restaurant, drank all the time, kept terrible hours, didn’t work out, and binged on junk food like it was going out of style. Since that photo, we’ve lost over 100 pounds between us.
That’s Jess, Rachel, and Me back in 2006/2007.
So my turning point really came after I had lost and then gained back the weight. I got back up to wearing a size 16/18 in pants and XXL shirts. While on the outside I was putting on a smile, going out often, and surrounded by friends, I was really miserable on the inside.
Pretending everyday that I was comfortable in my own skin really took a toll on me. I was and always have been pretty outgoing and outspoken, so I was the funny, fat friend/coworker/sister/daughter. I didn’t want to be that anymore.
In late 2008, I had a doctors visit with my gynecologist, and she said “So, what’s going on with your weight?” She said it so casually, like “How are you?” or “Did you hear about the weather for the weekend?” I was completely taken aback. I knew my weight had gotten out of hand but it was sort of like the elephant in the room – everyone could see it, but there was absolutely no need whatsoever to discuss it. I left the doctors office feeling defeated, angry, even offended, but that was really what started the fire in me. I didn’t want to have to get asked questions like that ever again.
At first, I thought I should try do it on my own since I had done it before, but I knew Atkins wasn’t a long-term solution to my problem. In January 2009, I decided to make “get healthy” my New Years Resolution, but I really had no idea where that would take me. I first started by quitting cigarettes, which was a hard process and I’ve had several relapses along the way. After cutting back dramatically on smoking, I started working out. I started working out 4 or so times a week at the gym, mostly doing the elliptical and/or weight machines. I tried that for 2 months to no avail. I wasn’t doing anything to change my eating habits, so I wasn’t losing weight.
The problem for me wasn’t that I didn’t know what to eat or what was healthy, but that I ate way too much. I soon realized I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed a system to hold me accountable and help me navigate through all the healthy choices I knew about – and that’s where Weight Watchers came in. I decided to commit to it and started religiously counting points and completely changing everything in stock in my kitchen. I remember I lost 6.2 pounds that first week and almost screamed because I was so excited. After that first week, I continued to lose, albeit slowly, and by January 2010, I was the thinnest I’d ever been in my life.
There were many times where I wanted to give up because I had to make a lot of sacrifices like skipping out on happy hours, waking up extra early to get in a workout, and not eating the pizza that everyone around me was eating. It felt unfair that I had to make these changes and everyone else around me could eat whatever they wanted. But the truth was, most people can’t eat anything they want all the time and stay thin. Most people have to make sacrifices and perhaps they eat the pizza in public, but who knows what their lifestyle is like at home. I guess a big point for me was realizing this journey was about me and no one else. In the end, all the sacrifices I made were worth it. If I screwed up and went out and drank too much and ordered pizza, I woke up the next day (feeling like crap) and would pick up the pieces. You can’t be perfect. You can’t change overnight. But in the end, it’ll all be worth it – I promise.
I always wanted an easy solution, to just be able to wish being skinny and for it to work. But the truth is and I’m sorry to say it – there’s no easy solution. You need to watch what you eat and work out, and you can change your life too. You will have slip ups inevitably – don’t let yourself get discouraged. In my prior life, I would try to be healthy and would wake up and eat really lightly during the morning and daytime, only to overeat at night, feel extremely guilty, and then continue to eat until I was numb. The next day, I’d wake up and do it again.
I learned (slowly) to switch my obsessions about food to healthy food and experimenting with new recipes and new superfoods (and starting a blog). I started running, and that same addiction that led me to be obese has lead me to run 9 races, including a half marathon, and I’m signed up for another one in 2011.
Take it slow and realize if you are persistent, you will get there.
Did you have a turning point that led you to change your life? What was it?