Today we have a post from our guest blogger, Sarah Johnston. Sarah is a social media specialist at INTEGRIS.
When someone says “weight loss” what do you think? Constant hunger? Bland chicken breast? Dry broccoli? Feeling sad as you say, “I can’t have that because I’m on a diet”?
You’re not alone. I thought the exact same thing, and still do at times. But after several years of stops and starts, I’ve finally learned why I overeat and I’ve managed to reprogram my brain. And that, in turn, has helped me lose 106 pounds (so far)!
I should say right here, I am not a doctor nor a weight loss specialist. There are many credible programs and services that are so useful to aid in weight loss. Today I just want to talk about what finally worked for me.
I grew up in a family that bonded over food. Good report card? Let’s get ice cream. Feeling down? Let’s get pizza. Lunch after church? Let’s go to the buffet and get our money’s worth. Need to cram for an exam? Let’s go get pancakes. My version of a portion size? Clear my plate, and eat until my stomach couldn’t take any more. Food was my friend, my comfort, my happiness, my buddy and my pleasure. Food was my reward when I succeeded. Food made me feel better when I hurt.
My journey started eight years ago shortly after I got a job working in corporate communications at INTEGRIS. I had some health problems that resulted in emergency surgery, but the surgery itself was fairly common and my doctors expected I’d go home the same day. However, I had numerous complications that all stemmed from my weight — the worst being my heart rate dropping to a dangerously low level.
When I opened my eyes, my doctor filled me in. “You’ve got to get your weight under control,” she said. Even worse, she told me I’d almost died. I couldn’t believe it. My thirtysomething body couldn’t handle the impact of a pretty routine surgery because I was so unhealthy.
I needed help. I needed someone to guide me. I needed someone to teach me what to do because it was crystal clear what I was doing wasn’t working. But I was SO scared. I was at a weight where I could barely walk a few feet without my knees hurting and my back feeling like it would break. How on earth would I be able to exercise?
I heard INTEGRIS offered Weight Watchers at work, and I knew I was on the right track. I didn’t need to worry about going far to get help, yet at my first few meetings I still felt extremely vulnerable. But then I found a home there, because there was no judgment and no shame. I learned new recipes. I got tips to easily incorporate more movement in my life. I figured out my own system of portion control. Slowly, the weight came off and eventually I lost 75 pounds and gained a ton of confidence and genuine happiness.
Then life got in the way and threw some drastic changes my way, which caused me to lose focus. For five years, I put myself low on the priority list as I took care of everyone else. As I cared for ailing parents and navigated a failing relationship, I lost the essence of myself. My happy energy and confidence disappeared. Soon, I gained around 40 pounds and felt like such a failure.
Finally though, I realized my mental state was the most important part of this journey. After my parents passed and my relationship ended, I took a year to simply take care of myself, and to think about my own needs and desires and motivations. After some introspection, I was ready to address why I overeat and self-medicate with food.
I began seeing a counselor and took it the proverbial one step at a time. I like to visualize peeling an onion. As each layer was peeled I addressed it, and moved to the next one. It took time, energy, and was definitely not always a barrel of fun. But it was time for me to take care of myself.
Eventually physical changes started happening. I made a bunch of friends and quite a support system at the local YMCA-Healthy Living Center. I exercised there often and kept at it, but then came the time to take my exercise up a notch. I hired a personal trainer who had a reputation of working his clients pretty hard.
On the first night my trainer said to me, “Are you ready to work? Because this isn’t going to be easy.” But for the first time in years, I felt deep inside that I was ready. I knew I wasn’t doing this for anyone but myself because I wanted to live. There was no turning back. I looked back at him and said, “Let’s go.”
Week after week, my commitment didn’t waver. I attended the weekly Weight Watchers meetings, worked out six days a week (often in the morning and night), and met with my trainer twice a week. Really, I just went back to what worked: tracking my food and getting up and moving. Did I want to quit? Absolutely. But I didn’t. Boy, I was exhausted, but it also felt so good.
I didn’t lose the weight for vanity (though shopping is very fun). I lost the weight to live a healthy life. I lost the weight because of my family history of heart disease and diabetes. I lost the weight to be my best self, physically and mentally. I lost the weight so I can give my best to the people I love. I lost the weight so I can live life to its fullest.
As I said, I’ve lost 106 pounds so far and the journey continues. I still have to work hard, and keep this a priority; like everyone else, I definitely have setbacks.
My next goal is about 30 pounds away and in total I want to lose about 80 more pounds, which means I still have work to do. But if I stay the course, and take it one meal at a time, I know I’ll get there.
In closing, I want to tell you the top five things I’ve learned on this journey:
- Asking for help does not make me weak.
- If I gain weight I’ll own it, learn from it, and move forward.
- The scale is simply a tool to check in. It doesn’t define who I am.
- I need to verbalize my thoughts. People can’t help me if they don’t know what’s bothering me.
- I’m worth it.