My Journey to Weight Loss
So over the past 5 calendar years (throughout 6 different school “years”) I’ve lost 46 pounds! It certainly is something to celebrate. My family members (some of whom I see only once or twice a year) have told me “You look great, Kate!” and “Wow, here comes Skinny!”, which I have loved. They have offered a lot of support and have given me tips, recipes, websites, and articles that promote healthy living and weight loss. Once I hit the 40 pound mark, a lot of people started asking me “How’ve you done it?” Here’s my story:
It really started back 5th grade. I remember going to the doctor and getting on the scale and seeing the numbers flash “120”. I knew I was overweight, but I didn’t know I weighed that much. I don’t think my doctor or my mom made a big deal about it, but I remember crying about it coming home from the doctor’s office. I felt stuck; like I was an overweight person and others around me weren’t; the me vs. them mentality.
Throughout my years I remember my mom saying “Not so many noodles!” because that was my serious downfall. My mom was always on the quest to loose that extra 10 pounds; she never needed to, but she always was insistent that she was going to “be good this week” and stick to a strict diet. I think it was her way of encouraging me and trying to model healthy living. My mom was the one who encouraged me to join Weight Watchers. It was near the end of my 5th grade school year and we were planning to move from San Diego to Seattle for 7 weeks for my dad’s business. We continued doing Weight Watchers and went to meetings in Seattle too. I’m pretty sure I was “starving” everyday that summer and feasted on the “0 point” WW vegetable soup until it came out my ears. I did loose 8-10 pounds while we were away. That was the first time I ever tried to loose weight. My mom had tried to get me on several different diets such as the “Sugar Buster’s diet” and this awful 4 day cabbage soup diet (I didn’t eat cooked cabbage again until college) but I never thought they would work, nor never thought they would do me any good.
Once we returned to San Diego we discontinued going to the WW meetings, but we had a great jump start on how to eat well. I remember feeling educated about food and was excited to have knowledge about calories and fats and healthy choices at my fingertips. Middle school dawned and I was 5’8” and probably 150 in seventh grade—head and shoulders above everyone else at my church’s youth group (I was homeschooled so the youth group was my only real dosage of “tweenage culture” at the time). There was one woman who interned for the junior high department, named Dominique (Dom) who was probably 5’10” or 5’11”. She was beautiful and I always tried to get a seat next to her at church. At my church we stood up for the music in the service, and then sat for the remaining time. When we stood for music kids would always look at me because I was so tall. My two best friends (who still are my BFFs) were both petite—one was half Mexican and one was a blend of European ancestry (I’m still not sure why she didn’t get the 6-feet-tall-classic-Dutch-women syndrome...) Needless to say, I was always more than happy to sit next to Dom because she was so tall and I was so tall and we could both stand and sing and be tall together.
I soon realized that being tall and being overweight were kind of a nice combination. Many people assumed I was “athletic”. After a few months in junior high of constantly getting asked “Do you play basketball?” (to which I would always reply “No, do you play miniature golf? You’re miniature sized, so I thought you might”) I told my mom I wanted to play basketball. See, my mom was raised in a family who loved The Arts, not sports. Her love for The Arts has thankfully been passed down to me, however, I do like (not love) sports, especially basketball! Once I found out there was a sport that praised tall people, I was all over that! In seventh and eight grades I joined homeschool basketball teams (yes they exist...and yes they suck and we always lost...but that’s beside the point!). When I decided to go to a Christian school for high school (something I’d wanted since sixth grade) I immediately began looking for schools that had girls basketball programs. I found a wonderful school with the most beautiful campus imaginable and actually was able to go there. Enter center stage: Linfield Christian School.
I had to have an interview and pass several entrance exams to get into Linfield (I had to retake the basic math test twice, and never did pass it, but they were so impressed with my English Language Arts skills that they let me accepted me into the school anyways, thank goodness). During the interview I remember telling the principal that I wanted to go to Linfield because I wanted to play basketball. The interview finished and by the time we arrived back at home the girls basketball coach had called and left a message on our home phone (pre-cell phone days, kids). He asked if I wanted to come to Linfield the next day and start playing “summer ball”. This was before I was even accepted into the school, and I thought it might be a good way for me to get my foot in the door if they could see my amazing athleticism (obvious sarcasm here). The next day I showed up for basketball practice with my new gym bag (read: duffle suitcase that my mom and I picked out at Walmart right before practice that we thought looked like a gym bag). When I walked in the gym, everyone looked at me and kind of held their breath for a minute. I was nearly 5’11” at this time, and probably 165 pounds and 14 years old. I picked up the nickname “The Jolly Green Giant” shortly thereafter from my basketball pals, as well as “Zookie Monster”. I was big. And everyone liked that I was big. I distinctly remember Coach Liveasay telling my mom that first day “She’s got great potential if she’s not even a freshman now! We’ll keep her!” As much as I would like to say that I went on to win scholarships and awards for high school basketball, I really never became that good. I wasn’t in shape, was still overweight, and didn’t have much motivation to be anything other than one of “The Bigs” as my 10th grade coach called me (she was a 6’2” former-college volleyball player, so I relished in the fact that I got the same nickname she had while playing ball).
Throughout my years of high school I played basketball nearly year round. I played summer ball, would do the preseason workouts, launch into the season for several months, and then joined a YMCA league during the spring until summer ball started back up again. You would think I would be slamming layups left and right with how much I practiced, but I averaged my two points a game and was alright with that. I wanted to be good, but I didn’t want to loose the weight. I wasn’t ready at that point in time to do whatever necessary to shed the pounds. No thanks to some of my thin teammates poor eating choices, we would go out to eat after the games and I consumed extra calories from what I had “burned off” for the 10 minutes or so during the game that I actually played.
By the time I got my drivers license in October of 2007 I was still nearly 5’11” but weighed 190 pounds. I was pretty unhappy with my weight, but like I said, wasn’t ready to change it. In 2007 my school changed policies and we were required to wear school uniforms. One year later by the time I started my senior year I had gained so much weight that I barely fit into my pants and skirts from just one year before. I was very unhappy and ready for a change. I knew what to do. I knew how to eat and what to eat and I knew that I wasn’t doing it. When the scale tipped over 200 pounds at the doctor’s office, I nearly panicked. I decided to join Weight Watchers again, this time incredibly motivated to loose a lot of weight and to really slim down for 18th birthday, my high school graduation, and most of all, some new clothes for my graduation extravaganza overseas to Europe with two great friends.
I joined WW March of 2008 with a start weight of 208 pounds, the heaviest I’ve ever been, and stuck with it for two months (until the end of the school year). I lost 12 pounds in those two months and was very, very happy to know that I was the only person who could change me. I was extremely motivated to keep going on my weight loss journey. Unfortunately school finished for the year, I graduated, and the WW I went to was now a 45 minute drive out of my way. I quit going to the meetings, but my mom and I kept going with the food journals. I would help her construct grocery lists and would ask her for certain WW meals. She bought a WW cookbook and used their website to help plan our family meals. The biggest thing that I did to change my diet during that time was “no more seconds”; my mom and I refused to serve second helpings for dinner.
Scene change: Freshman year of college, California Baptist University. I was extremely lucky to go to CBU for my freshman year of college. Not only did I develop so much emotionally and spiritually, but I also learned about myself and who I was and how I ticked. I worked through several months of therapy and counseling and came out with a better grip on life. I knew in order to continue to like myself even more I still needed to shed some weight. Thankfully, my freshman roommate, Alanna, liked to workout and was an encouraging “workout buddy”. I began to search for other workout buddies and found four girls who wanted to shape up for summer. We made it our goal to run all the way around the city block that our campus sat on. I know that myself and one other girl, Anna, reached this goal before the end of the school year. I knew what exercise was from my basketball days, and I knew from WW that I needed to get moving and eat less in order to shed some weight.
I didn’t actually loose any weight my freshman year of college, but I did keep off those 12 pounds I had lost while doing WW. What’s better, I had gained the opportunity to observe the eating habits of “skinny people” and “overweight people” (which is how everyone was categorized in my mind for years and years and years). I started to recognize patterns that all skinny people chose: take the stairs and not the elevator to the second or third floor of the building, don’t obsess about getting a parking space as close to the front of the store as possible so you don’t have to walk farther, eat salads on a regular basis, don’t skip breakfast, schedule time in your day for your food, treat “gym time” as “me time” and not as “exercise/ torture time”, and so on. I started to pick up on these habits and tried them out for myself. See, my mindset about healthy living started to change. In my WW program I saw women who were not pretty to me, they were extremely overweight, so unhappy with themselves, and had really poor health. I did not want to be one of those people. I wanted to change the way I viewed myself. I wanted to grow old and still feel sexy about myself, not be dependent on a cane because at age 45 or 50 or 60 I could barely support my own body weight. So, little by little my mindset changed during my freshman year of college. I didn’t actually loose any weight, but I lost my apathetic spirit and gained some responsibility for taking care of myself.
Scene change: Sophomore year of college, Palomar Community College. For a mired of academic reasons, after my freshman year I transferred to Palomar College and went back to living at my parents house. During that time I joined an awesome college group at my church (yes, with the same people who were so short in junior high, and had now finally grown... a little...). I started to look around at my friends and realized that I was still overweight. I decided I wanted to aggressively loose weight. I signed up for a self-paced fitness class at my college where all you had to do to receive credit was go to the school’s fitness center 3 hours a week. I really liked going to the gym, mostly because they had a great music line-up that had all the radio-edited versions of songs that get your heart going. Also, many of my friends from my college group at church went to Palomar and would workout at the gym. Exercise became a social activity for me to catch up with friends in between busy college classes. My sister asked me and my mom and our other sister to run a Halloween 5k; I said yes. I worked out in the mornings at the gym and went from being able to run for 10 minutes (the length of time it took to get around the CBU city block) to running for 18 minutes. I ran and walked my first 5k in October 2009 in about 38 minutes. I was so proud! During that school year, the pounds slowly but surely began to drop. I probably lost 10 pounds that school year (for a total weight loss of 22 pounds). I was so excited and so encouraged to know that I could take responsibility for becoming a “skinny person”, something I thought completely unobtainable for me. If I would have known how simple it was to actually eat less and therefore loose weight, I would have done it years earlier. However, I wasn’t ready. I had to come to that point in my life where I wanted weight loss more than I wanted nearly everything. I feel like my goal of “loosing weight” shaped much of my sophomore year.
Unfortunately, at the end of that school year I woke up one day (the week before final exams, actually) with horrible, horrible back pain like I had never experienced before. I normally had a rough time with my periods and would get really excruciating back cramps, but I knew that this time it was something different. For months and months I was in pain. I didn’t go to the doctor because we didn’t have good medical insurance, and I had no idea how grave the situation was. Eventually, about 4 months later, my pain subsided. My time in California had also subsided as I moved to Tennessee for the remainder of my college career.
Scene change: junior year of college, Knoxville, TN. Good Ole Rocky Top is where I transferred to next. I was thrilled by the fact that I was starting with a blank slate; I didn’t know a soul in Knoxville when I first moved there, seriously—no one. I also knew nothing about the culture, including the food. For you Californians who may think that TN is in the South, but not the Deep South, you’re right. However, they might as well be in terms of their food. I had never tasted Southern food and for all I knew it consisted of all the foods I grew up with, plus fried chicken and something called “Memphis BBQ” (but I didn’t know what that was at the time).
For my junior and senior years of college I lived on campus and ate in the cafeteria. Some of you might be thinking “Ut-oh! She ate a lot of fried foods and gained back her weight!” Well, no that’s not what happened. I didn’t like Southern food when I first moved to TN. My dislike of it (and my longings for all foods Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, or any other ethnicity you’ll find in Southern California) helped push me towards some creative food options. There was a great salad bar, with homemade soups, available at every lunch and dinner. Because there really wasn’t anything I wanted to eat besides the soups and salads, I stuck with them. When there were things I wanted to eat, they were pretty good, but not good enough to tempt me to have seconds. The weight came tumbling off and I lost another 18 pounds my junior year. I knew I was going to be working at an outdoors horse camp that following summer and I wanted to have as little baggage on me to schlep around those steep mountain hills. I also wanted to be noticed by the boys, which did eventually happen mid- junior year. I also knew that the lighter I became the less issues I would have with my back (or so my theory went).
Senior year started without much fanfare, other than the fact that my back pain had returned a little bit over the summer. By Valentines Day, I had an episode that nearly crippled me for three days. I couldn’t stand up straight. I couldn’t sleep. My heart rate was way up for those three days. My roommate told me I needed to go to the doctor because her mom had a slipped disc and experienced many of the same symptoms and pains I was having. I went (once again) expecting the student health center to send me home with some more physical therapy exercises and say “We don’t know what’s wrong so we can’t do anything for you”. However, this time was different. I got sent to the sports medicine doctor who took one look at me and said “You have a herniated disc!” She was right. We took some x-rays and she started me on an aggressive medical treatment. By the time summer came I was looking at surgery that would have cost nearly $5,000 out of pocket. After taking an MRI we found out that I had not one herniated disc, but two! The doctor said she could not believe that I had lived with such bad pain for almost two years at that point in time from when my first disc herniated back during my sophomore year.
June came, a few weeks before my surgery date, and I felt so much better. I cancelled my surgery and decided to tough it out. Two days after my scheduled surgery date, I heard on the radio that there was an outbreak in Nashville, TN (three hours away from where I was to have my surgery done). This outbreak was deadly and killed 12 people for the very surgery I was supposed to have done two days before! God’s hand of protection was all over that situation, as who knows whether or not I would have gotten one of the lethal dosages of steroids in my surgery. I never had the surgery, and continued to heal, or so I thought. In November of 2012, one day while in the middle of student-teaching for my master’s degree internship I felt what I thought to be another disc herniate. I immediately rushed back to my sports medicine doctor and begged me to give me “that big steroid shot” she had given me in February that nearly instantly took away the pain. She did, and thus began the medical treatments once more.
One day, I had a Groupon send to my email inbox one day for chiropractic care. I didn’t know how much snapping my spin into place would help with my discs being herniated, but I thought it was worth a try. I will tell you now that that chiropractic care changed my life. Without going too much in-depth, the chiropractor confirmed the gravity of my situation and told me that I have a condition that may cause other discs to herniate. I cannot run or do a lot of strenuous exercising anymore and I have to ice my back everyday, and stretch everyday as well. I have to be really careful with my back and neck.
So, how does a dysfunctional back tie into weight loss? Well, I have learned many lessons from having to nurse my back. One of them is that you have to stand up for yourself and say “I’m sorry, but I cannot sit on the floor” or “I can’t drive with you to Florida for the weekend without stopping every 2 hours to stretch.” It has caused me to be assertive. With my weight loss, I have had to be assertive with myself and with others. I’ve had to change my mentality of things that I can and cannot do. For example, with weight loss, I tell myself that I cannot eat out more than three times a week. Being a college student, where any food that is cheap and easy to come by is as good as good, that posed a very difficult task. However, I’ve learned to be assertive and tell people that as much as I’d like to go out with them, I’ll take a raincheck if I’ve already been out three times.
All this to say: if you are going to try to loose weight, you need to first be sure that you want to take care of yourself. It is going to require a change of mind. It is going to require a change of perspective. It is going to require a change of the way you think and feel about food.
This summer I got married, and before, during, and after the wedding I gained about 10 pounds. I was not okay with that, so decided to take action and put myself on Weight Watchers again. I’m not actually paying for the WW program, but since I’ve done it before and know the gist of the program I found enough materials online to help me be successful. It’s taken a long time to get used to. It takes a lot of self-control. I’m in the middle of my sixth week on WW now and I’ve lost 1.6 pounds. The first three weeks I actually gained weight! I don't know how that’s possible, but I’ve lost what I gained, plus am 1.6 lbs lighter than my start weight. I hope I am on my way to more and more losing!
I will be posting health tips, recipes, and various things I’ve found to be successful over the next few months. Good luck on your weight loss adventure!