Like so many others, I’ve struggled with weight most of my life. I have never been very good at sports and am pretty uncoordinated. I fall down a lot, to be honest. By the time I was ten, I was already overweight. Junior high brought the inevitable teasing, only made worse by braces and bad skin, so when I turned fifteen, I made a change: I bought a step aerobics set with my allowance, along with a Jane Fonda workout video that I used religiously, every day. I lost twenty pounds, which stayed off until college. And then I gained it all back.
And then some.
And then, even more.
Homesickness, an abundance of french fries in the dining hall and no one telling me what to eat combined with the stress of studying packed on the pounds until I became the heaviest I’d ever been. By my senior year, I had no idea what I weighed, but was miserable and only wore clothes that had elastic waistbands.
I joined a gym after college, but never changed my eating. I’d eat cookies on my lunch break at work. I’d go out to dinner and eat until I couldn’t breathe. If it was a fancy restaurant, I’d stash sweatpants in the car and then sneak out to change into them in the bathroom before we left. It lasted until one day in 2003.
I was shopping for a pair of new jeans. Store after store, I couldn’t fit into the size fourteens, the biggest ones in the mainstream shops. With a heavy heart, I went into Lane Bryant, and discovered their jeans were the only ones that fit. I started sobbing on the dressing room floor, but after I pulled myself together, I folded the jeans, put them away and walked out of the store. I simply refused to let myself be that heavy for another minute.
I went home that night and joined Weight Watchers online. I knew the program had worked for my grandparents. They were among the first members to join back in the sixties. They lost over 170 pounds together and kept it off their entire lives. I bought the restaurant guide and discovered my “healthy” treat night–a tuna sub from Subway and frozen yogurt from TCBY–was more points than I should have eaten in an entire day. I bought the food guide and wandered around the grocery store for almost two hours, trying to figure out how to make better choices that didn’t leave me eating only lettuce. I went to the gym and logged hours on the elliptical four to five days a week. And very slowly, the weight came off. It took a year and a half for me to get to my goal. I kept that weight off for the next five years. Unfortunately since I’d lost all my weight online, I couldn’t officially become a Lifetime member. I had to keep paying unless I went to meetings for a new period of “maintenance”. I went to one single meeting where the leader split the group into different levels of weekly achieved “activity points” and was the only person sitting in the six plus section. A fellow member gave me a nasty look and said, “What are you doing here?” I never went back.
I kept working out, but I stopped holding myself accountable for what I ate. Once again, the weight crept back on. I finally stepped on the scale again in 2013, and was disgusted with myself. I’d gained almost half the weight back. I thought about signing back up for Weight Watchers, but it was still just as expensive, and I no longer agreed with the new Points Plus Plan. Without that as an option, I tried MyFitnessPal.
It’s free. It works. It’s got a massive database, and there’s no translating calories to points. I logged my calories every day. I got more serious about exercise and got a heart rate monitor so I knew my exact burn. I put my goal in front of me and I didn’t stop until I got there. Now I’m thirty-five, and I’m the strongest, healthiest and happiest I’ve been in my entire life. I’m a size four—even a two in some stores. I’m on maintenance, which is another challenge in itself, and I’m finding I need new, different goals to work toward. But I’m never going back to where I was. So wherever you are in your journey, I hope you’ll let us be a part of yours. Because whatever struggle you’re facing, we know what it’s like. We know, because we’ve been there.
In the snapshots of me as a four-year-old, bouncing a ball in front of our porch in the bungalow colony at Rockaway Beach, I looked very healthy and normal. But my grandmother, who insisted that I was too thin, would feed me strawberries and cream. By the time I was a third grader, I was overweight. I didn’t think of myself as chubby…I didn’t really think about weight at all. But as my parents and my younger brother ballooned in size, I slowly edged up the scale as well. And in middle school, the truth hit and hurt. My nickname, thanks to a charming classmate, became “Chubby Krane.”
It wasn’t until the 1964 World’s Fair, however, when my mother posed in front of a statue of a dinosaur, that “fat” took on real meaning. That photo, which my mother taped to the refrigerator, started her journey through Weight Watchers, losing 103 pounds and going from a size 24 ½ to a 12. We all slimmed down along with my mom. At my Sweet Sixteen party, I weighed 107 pounds and wore a size 5 beautiful black and white cocktail dress. Life was good.
In college, I gained the freshman 15, lost it, gained 30, bought bigger sizes, and stopped weighing myself. I went on Weight Watchers for my wedding and trimmed down to a size 11. As work and family began to take up more of my time, I began to care less and less about my food choices. My husband developed diabetes in 1982, and although I stopped baking sugary foods and tried to help him manage his diabetes, I was too busy to do healthy cooking. I knew very little about nutrition except for the sugar-free items I knew how to prepare.
I knew my weight was beginning to slowly edge up, but I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t look at photos of myself. I limited the requirements of my self-image: I was a good wife and mother, a dedicated teacher and newspaper adviser. Those were all important, but I avoided thinking about my health or my size. I began shopping in Lane Bryant for “large and lovely” women. I worked long hours and sustained myself with snacks of M & Ms and cookies. Even when I had to go on medication for high blood pressure and was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I fooled myself into thinking that I was pretty healthy despite the pounds. That lasted for forty years.
Then, in June 2010, my younger brother died at age 53. He had weighed over 400 pounds before gastric bypass surgery, lost over 100 pounds, but his heart had weakened, and he suffered a massive heart attack. I knew that I could easily have followed the same path. So I started to do crunches at home and walked around the block every day. I denied myself pizza, cake, and candy. I lost a little more weight, but I didn’t have a clear plan or even a goal. Two years later, I ran into my high school boyfriend, who barely recognized the obese woman I’d become. Despite the work I thought I’d been putting in, I was nowhere close to the beautiful girl he’d known at sixteen. I was embarrassed and ashamed.
Then, last May, I found my solution: Myfitnesspal.com. To this day, I don’t know why it clicked with me: Maybe it was because my daughter had been so successful with it; it was a simple website linked to a huge data base; it was free, and I didn’t have to fit in classes that didn’t appeal to me. Or maybe, I was just finally ready.
I began to enjoy figuring out what I could eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that would keep within my 1300 calorie-per-day limit. I joined a gym, and began a regimen of cardio every other day. It started to be fun – a challenge to choose what I would eat each day. I weighed and measured everything I could, I entered everything I put in my mouth, and I learned to make better choices.
Slowly, the pounds came off. I lost 20 pounds by the summer, 40 by the fall, 60 by the beginning of winter, and had lost a total of 87 pounds when this website launched in May 2014. As of of now I have lost over one hundred pounds, seven pounds under my goal. I now work with a personal trainer, and am wearing size 6 clothes. People are surprised that I am so small. I have developed my own little quip: “There was always a little person inside the fat lady.” The little person is out, and she is happy.
Part of the purpose of telling my story is to make sure I never go back to the fat lady. But the other part is to help others who think they can’t do it. If I can do it, so can you!