How I Lost 80 Pounds and Kept It Off

By Wendy Dawn

So many weight loss stories have an addendum in the small print that negates just about everything a quick-loss product promises to do. Usually, they say: “Weight lost in conjunction with diet and exercise.” I’ll bet you’re sick of seeing buff models work out on the latest “As Seen on TV” exercise product, intimating their athletic body is a result of that one machine. We all know weight loss commercials and infomercials are designed to suck us in by our strong desire to lose weight and have a more beautiful physique.

So what do we do?

My weight loss wake-up call

I’ve always been athletic and enjoyed outdoor activities. Once I left the workplace, however, to homeschool my children I began to pack on the pounds over the past several years. Before I realized it, I was at 240 pounds. 240 pounds is a lot of weight on a medium 5’7″ frame.

I found it more difficult to participate in activities with my kids. I hid under big clothes, and I was generally more fatigued and definitely clumsier. This wasn’t working well for me, but for a long time I did nothing about it.

When I turned 40, it suddenly occurred to me that being overweight was going to shorten my lifespan and continue to prohibit my ability to get out and enjoy my kids. I also thought of five to 10 years down the road when I have grandkids. I wanted to be able to care for them and play with them without feeling like I was going to pass out.

Weight loss was no longer about how others viewed me. Weight loss became a health issue to me.

Beginning the journey toward weight loss

In order for me to lose weight and improve my health, I knew I had to take an introspective look at my life, identify factors that contributed to my weight and make a decision based on what I learned.

Among the things I discovered about myself were the following:

  • My family has a predisposition to being overweight.
  • I was comfortable with my weight because it allowed me to hide behind fat.
  • I often ate for comfort.
  • My lifestyle had become largely sedentary.
  • I paid little attention to my diet, eating what was quick and convenient.
  • I drank around 20 Diet Cokes a day and very little water.

Each of these issues had to be addressed, but it couldn’t be done all at once. It took time to deal with each issue. Some were dealt with concurrently, but once I identified them and wrote them down there was no avoiding addressing these weight issues anymore.

Weight loss success despite genetic predisposition

We are all different. Although there are many generalities, we could each come up with our own excuse for being and remaining overweight. Regardless of my family’s disposition to being overweight, I had to shed that as an excuse.

My medical doctor performed thyroid tests, found I did need synthroid to give my thyroid T3 production a boost, and put me on the medication.

This knocked out one of the first reasons I was overweight, but synthroid didn’t make me lose weight. I had to put more effort into changing my lifestyle.

Lose weight by getting comfortable in your skin instead of behind your fat

I’m generally outgoing. I am a pastor’s wife, so there are certain expectations, fair or not, placed on me. In my quest to lose weight and make positive lifestyle changes, I also came to the realization that I didn’t have to be a fat and jolly preacher’s wife. God created me the way that I am, and I began to realize that the fat was hiding me and preventing me from being who God created me to be and doing all that God created me to do.

I had to change my thinking about myself and my role in society and the Church. It was time to step out from behind the cellulite.

Successful weight loss didn’t change who I was, but it improved my ability to convey who I am and what God has created me to do.

Successful weight loss meant finding fulfillment in life, not food

If you are a comfort eater, you know exactly what I mean. When you feel emotionally empty or hurt, it is very easy to turn to cool, creamy foods, high-carbohydrate foods and high-fat foods to fill you up and help soothe your feelings. In reality, comfort food does you better than those who choose to self-medicate their problems with alcohol.

It is very easy to become addicted to food, especially the foods that make you feel better. In order to successfully lose weight, I had to acknowledge the foods that I ate for comfort and, although painful, identify what inside my soul or psyche was empty and in need of fulfillment.

This was one of the most difficult parts of beginning successful weight loss. But once I pinned down the issue of comfort eating I was able to control it; this lead to moderate weight loss even before I began to exercise.

Lose weight by changing your lifestyle — for good

Losing a little weight by giving up comfort food was nice, but I knew there was more I had to do. I needed a lifestyle change, one that included diet and exercise.

As I worked to overcome comfort eating and related issues, I tackled exercise first. I didn’t have much stamina to begin with, but I joined a gym (American Body Works, Ridge Road, Hiram, Georgia) where professional employees and trainers encouraged me. I was never made to feel uncomfortable about my weight, but was encouraged to get moving in order to become healthier.

At first I could only do about 15 minutes of cardio. I weighed too much to put much pressure on my knees, so I did a lot of work on the elliptical and the spin bike. In no time at all I had lost 30 pounds.

Once I could see the light of breaking beneath the 200-pound mark, I was highly motivated. I began to work out five or six days a week. The more cardio I did, the more fat was burned.

Lose weight by paying attention to your diet

Once I dropped 30-plus pounds, I hit a plateau. It was time to focus more on my diet. I knew the basics and implemented the basics of a healthy diet, cold turkey. I ate more lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates were limited to complex carbs like oatmeal, whole grains and sweet potatoes.

My weight dropped even more.

Everyone always asks if I ever cheat on my diet? No. I didn’t, and I don’t cheat because I AM NOT ON A DIET. I made a lifestyle change. Yes, that change does allow me to enjoy a small piece of cake at a birthday party or have a bite of something sweet when I get a craving. The amazing thing is that once I changed my lifestyle, including eating habits, I no longer wanted — nor want now — foods that are more harmful than beneficial to my body.

Successful weight loss involves not drinking most of your calories

Many people are not aware of the number of calories they pour into their bodies when they drink soda, juice filled with high fructose corn syrup and sweet tea. I didn’t have that problem. The only thing I drank was Diet Coke. It has zero calories. What harm could it do?

A little research and a discussion with the nutritionist at American Body Works Ridge Road / Villa Rica opened my eyes to the harmful effects of Diet Coke. The problem with Diet Coke is two-fold. One, carbonated soda leeches calcium from your bones. That’s not good for anyone, unless you want brittle bones. Two, aspartame breaks down into a few toxic components in your body. One of them is formaldehyde. It is little wonder, then, that fat on my thighs and belly didn’t want to move. It was well-preserved.

One of the biggest aspects of my successful weight loss was giving up Diet Cokes. I did it cold turkey, not for the nutritionist and not because someone sold me on a scare tactic, but because I felt that it was in the best interest of my health.

Within one week I lost another 10 pounds.

I now drink a minimum of one gallon of water each day.

Lose weight successfully by exercising

I was well under 200 pounds when I hit another plateau. At this point, I spoke with a personal trainer at American Body Works, Ridge Road in Hiram. I was advised to continue working on cardio to burn fat, but to increase weight training.

Like every other woman, my immediate response was that I didn’t want to look like a brute or weight lifter. I was assured that weight training would help replace fat with healthy muscle mass, help strengthen bones and burn calories.

Successful, lasting weight loss does not happen overnight

All of my weight loss efforts have taken place over the past year and eight months. I have tried yo-yo diets in the past, quick weight loss pills and even starvation. Those methods did more to harm my overall health and slow my metabolism than to help me lose weight.

All the time, the key to successful weight loss and healthy weight maintenance was a change of mind and lifestyle.

How successful weight loss has changed my life

I now weigh around 160, but I’ve learned not to pay attention to the scale. Muscle weighs more than fat. What matters to me is that I no longer wear a size 20. I wear a size 10. I’m still losing fat and maintaining weight training.

I no longer have a weight loss goal. I already look smaller than my weight, which is up due to toned — but not bulked — muscle mass.

Fat weight has been replaced by muscle. My skin isn’t flabby, as it would be if I lost quick weight, which included muscle.

I am stronger and have more stamina.

My cardiovascular health is no longer worse than that of a 40-year-old. It is much closer to that of a young 30-year-old.

My borderline hypertension has been eliminated without the use of any medications.

By changing my lifestyle to include cardiovascular exercise, weight training and healthy eating, I know that my life — and my weight — has been changed forever.

I lost 80 pounds, have kept it off, and I continue to work daily toward weight loss and greater health and fitness. If I did it, you can do it, too.

Wendy Dawn is a freelance writer. She enjoys research and writing on a variety of topics.

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