I gained a hundred pounds over the course of 13 years as a mom. My devotion to my kids and family meant neglecting my own health and needs for a long time. The years of worry over Nate’s development didn’t help, and I spent almost a decade using food as a method to unwind and cope. I told myself I needed and deserved the rich, sweet, delicious foods I was eating because my days were really hard. And they were (and sometimes still are) really hard. A bowl of ice cream definitely didn’t make a speech therapy session more effective, or Nate’s hyperactivity slow down, but it may have made me care a little less.Being overweight was never devastating to me. I was active, I could keep up with my kids, my health wasn’t suffering yet, and my husband never stopped finding me attractive. I had friends who loved me, a career I was proud of, and clothes I looked forward to wearing. I was a good friend, a good citizen and a fun person to be around. I was OK with who I was, didn’t want the failure of diet after diet under my belt, and wasn’t driven to change. I secretly rolled my eyes when conversations turned to fitness or nutrition, and knew that immersion in those worlds was not my thing.
How did it happen then, and how did I stick with it for so long? Certainly parenthood didn’t become easier. Nate still brings worry, exhaustion and stress to my daily life. Ice cream still seems like it would help. I’m no more an expert on fitness or nutrition now than I was 9 months ago but I do have some thoughts on weight loss to share:
1) I never could have done this alone. My husband and I dramatically changed what we ate, but we did it together and held each other accountable. My close friends supported my pickiness around dining out and my kids kept their complaining about our diet changes to a minimum. I needed every ounce of their support and encouragement and was lucky enough to get it.
2) My whole life has not changed. I’ve heard other people who have lost a lot of weight say that their weight loss changed everything. I absolutely look better in my clothes and have more confidence in my appearance than I did before. I also have more energy and stamina, and my feet hurt less. Most aspects of my life remain the same though. I still find the topics of nutrition and fitness kind of boring. I still have back pain. My kids still frustrate me and my house still seems to always be messy. I’d like to think I’m still funny and a good friend too. The things I am most proud of about myself haven’t changed, and are completely unrelated to my weight.
3) For me, exercise played only a small role in my weight loss. I never once in 9 months set foot in a gym, and for most of the time simply walked briskly for 30 minutes a day. I’ve recently incorporated jogging into my weekly routine but most of the time I stick with walking. I lost weight because I changed the way I was eating, and not because I spent hours working out.
4) Goodbye sugar, hello veggies. I cut out ALL sugar and carbs and relied primarily on eating vegetables and protein, along with food provided to me by the diet program I used. For me, eliminating all sugar meant I stopped craving sweets (I never would have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me) and didn’t experience extreme hunger most of the time. I almost never cheated because I didn’t want the cravings to come back. At first, eating 2 cups of veggies at every meal was almost impossible and I begrudgingly choked down more than my fair share of Brussel sprouts and cauliflower, hating every bite. However, over time I’ve learned how to prepare them in a way that I can tolerate (and occasionally even manage to enjoy) and eating veggies has become my habit.
5) My weight loss is a lifetime commitment. I am only a few pounds away from my goal weight and then it will be time to shift gears into “maintenance” mode. Truthfully, I’m scared. I don’t want to gain the weight back, but I also don’t want to obsess about food for the rest of my life. I hope that if I keep my support system around me, stay moderately active and continue to be mindful of the food choices I make, I’ll keep the weight off. I will try my best, and that’s all I can do.
6) Please don’t offer opinions on whether I should stop losing weight, or should continue to lose more. My doctor and I together have chosen a goal weight that is right for me, based on my age, my build, and my health goals. Although well-meaning and loving, those comments and inquiries feel like an invasion of my privacy. I feel strongly that what I weigh and what I want to weigh is only between my doctor and me. I love compliments about my new look, but please avoid talking numbers with me.
I’m still a mom who is devoted to her children and family. I’m still the parent of a son with a disability. I’m still great at snuggles but not so great and imaginary play-time. I’m still irreverent and tend towards eye-rolling when talk turns to nutrition. I’m a lot more likely to smile at myself in the mirror, but I’m still unlikely to care what brand of jeans I’m wearing. I have accomplished something pretty big, but I know I don’t have all the answers.
I am still Rachel, but now I am 100 pounds lighter.