Transformation Tuesday: Sharon

Welcome to back for another Transformation Tuesday series! Today we’re hearing from Sharon!

Photo Sharon Balan before Photo Sharon Balan after

I never had a “weight” problem as a child, but after I graduated college and began working in Manhattan, I didn’t realize how sedentary I had become and I put on some weight. It was then that I began my first exercise program, as my brother was very into fitness and cycling and worked at a gym at the time. I began running, going to a gym, and doing aerobics; I completed my first half marathon. I never considered myself athletic but immensely enjoyed being physically fit.

All was well until I put on over 40 pounds when I was pregnant with my daughter. The first 25 pounds came off quite easily, since it was pregnancy weight, but I had put on about 15 pounds before pregnancy. At my daughter’s first birthday party, my cousin’s child asked, “Is Sharon pregnant?” and I realized that it was time to do something. I went to Weight Watchers, started exercising again and lost the 30 pounds quite easily within a few months.

I have found that I tend to gain weight whenever I have major changes in my life—childbirth, marriage, divorce, a change of job, and most recently, a change in careers, in which I went back to school to become a Rabbi. Each time, I would go back to Weight Watchers, start exercising and lose the weight. However, the last time, after I completed Rabbinical school in 2009, I was determined to lose weight again, and did lose 20 pounds, but for the first time ever, I did not make my goal. I am not sure what happened, but I slowly gained all the weight back over six years and then some. I think I had become resigned to being overweight; stressful factors in my life always seemed to get in the way. I was horrified when I went for a check-up at my doctor’s and the scale read 175. I had never been that heavy in my entire life (I’m only 5’2”), and for years was convincing myself that I was only 150. I continued to pay for the on-line Weight Watchers app even though I wasn’t logging or using it. I was now 25 pounds heavier than my husband!

I’m not sure what finally did it, but perhaps it was Margery! Last summer (August 2014) I saw a post on Facebook that she had lost over 100 pounds with a new app, Myfitnesspal. I ran into her and she looked fantastic. I thought I would give it a try. After all, it was free. What could I lose (except a few pounds!)? I really fell in love with the ease of the app, especially compared to the Weight Watchers app which was cumbersome to use. I never got used to the new points system. With Myfitnesspal, the database of foods was much larger, and “points” calculations were not necessary; everything is calories. Plus, it gives you a breakdown of nutrients. I could see if I was getting enough essential vitamins and minerals. It works on my phone, iPad and Mac. I liked it so much I immediately cancelled my Weight Watchers account. I decided this time around that I would take things slower and see where it would take me. I was no longer in a position to spend large amounts of time working out, and I needed something that I could stick with for life. So I began by seeing how many calories I needed to eat and lose without much exercise. Realistically, thought I would be able manage about 30 minutes of exercise five times per week or so.

The weight began to come off, but much more slowly than I was used to. My goal was to lose two pounds a week, and I was losing about one pound a week. This time around, however, instead of giving up, I chose to stick with it. I thought, “Staying the same weight or losing slowly was better than gaining.” I needed to make a permanent life-style change, one that I felt I could do forever, not just reach a goal and stop. If I feel I am on a diet, I will never stick with it. I love to cook and certainly love to eat. There is no such thing as a “forbidden” food. If I want it, I’ll eat it. I just work it into my day. And, if I go over on one day, I don’t stress about it because it really is an average over time. I make healthier food choices, incorporating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. I used to eat anything if it was in front of me, and I stopped doing that. The snack or treat really needs to be worth it for me to eat it now.

One of the most important things I did was to start making time every day for exercise, even if it was only 20 minutes on my exercise bike. I gradually began increasing the time and the intensity. I get up a little earlier each morning and this has become my “me time.” Now I frequently ride for 60 minutes a day, but I don’t freak out if I can’t do a whole hour. If I can’t do formal exercise, I make sure that I walk. I started taking a yoga class once a week. I have found that it relaxes me and it improves my strength and flexibility. I recently got back on my road bicycle, and it felt great to be in much better shape than I was a year ago!

So far in over eight months, I have lost 35 pounds. I still have five pounds to go, but my real challenge will be to keep the weight off. I have learned that I need to be accountable for what goes into my body. As I get older, it is even more important to keep moving. I hadn’t really realized how sedentary I had become.

It feels terrific to get into my “skinny” clothes again, but I find that it is even better to be physically fit. And yes, many people have asked me advice on how I did it. I tell them my secret: Eat less and exercise more!

Thank you, Sharon, and congratulations on your success! We’re glad you were willing to be be a part of our Transformation Tuesdays, and hope your story inspires others! Just like us, now you’re another person who’s been there. 🙂

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