Me: 2008 (unhappy, unwilling, unmotivated, just “un” period)
The fact that I’m sharing this photo (courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles) is a sure sign that I do, indeed, have a the best kind of freedom. For the longest time, I cringed when I had to show my identification to anyone. I felt like a prisoner, chained by my excess weight. You know that look you get when they’re checking the picture and looking at you to make sure you’re who you say you are? I would always drop my head and vow to do something about my life, which was out of control in every single aspect — physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually,
At this particular time, I wasn’t weighing myself. When I did, the number on the scale made me physically ill. Then I would take out a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and make all the hurt go away. (I freely admit that ice cream is my food drug of choice.)
In the fall of 2008, I started watching “The Biggest Loser.” I would cheer for the contestants while snacking on anything sweet I had available. Sweets are my addictions. If I never ate another nut, bag of popcorn, chip, or pretzel, I’d not shed a tear. But sweets — now that’s a different story. On my worst days, I could eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. (If you think I am exaggerating, I will let you talk to my husband. He’s watched me do it too many times to count.)
At the end of the season, I decided to make a change. January 1, 2009 (I know. It’s so cliché to start a diet on New Year’s Day, but that’s what I did), I stepped on the scale and was shocked to see the number that stared back at me in big, bold, black print: 225.8 pounds. Nearly 226 pounds on my 5’6″ frame.
I went to the freezer, took all the remaining ice cream out and put it in a trash bag. I went through the pantry (I had a shelf dedicated just to me), and threw away Oreos, chewy granola bars, and scads of other delectable, but destructive, items. I immediately put the bag in the outside trash bin and headed to the grocery store. There I loaded up on lots of produce (fruits and veggies that I really did already love, but had abandoned for Hagen Das), lean meats, chicken, fish (which I had avoided at all costs up till then).
My next assignments were to scour the internet for low-fat recipes and get myself moving. (Most regular readers know that I have degenerative disk disease and nerve damage from a back injury in 1988. It was my finest excuse for not exercising for twenty years, despite the fact that physical therapists had told me that walking and strength training — especially strengthening my core muscles so that no more disks become herniated in my back — would alleviate some of the daily, chronic pain I lived with.)
Long story short, I lost twenty-five pounds in 2009. I felt really good about my lifestyle change because DIEts always DIE because they are based on deprivation and unrealistic expectations. It’s a lifestyle change that has to be permanent. I was also in a great place with God, my family, and friends.
In 2010, my greatest supporter and the love of my life — my husband, Kelly — became ill. He was constantly at the doctor and they offered every diagnosis under the sun for almost eleven months. I did not actively decide to abandon my lifestyle change, but I wasn’t as dedicated as I was the entire year of 2009. I actually was able to maintain my weight (198 at this time) for 2010.
On December 1, 2010, Kelly was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) and we spent the next thirty-three days at UNC Cancer Hospital. (See the post about this journey in the related articles below). I walked everywhere at the hospital. I lost another six pounds in 2010.
I give all praise and glory to God, for Kelly went into remission after the first chemo treatment, and has been in remission ever since. We experienced four hard months of follow-up chemo treatments that were very hard on Kelly’s body. I returned to my comfort eating habits. (I should have bought shares in Ben & Jerry’s — no joke) and I gained eight pounds by the end of the year — now, I saw 204 staring at me from my enemy, “The Scale.”
For two years, I roller-coastered — anybody ever do that? (I hear all the “amens!” Thanks for being honest.) I even posted a picture with a post I wrote about my “intentions” for getting back into my healthy lifestyle. I did lose a little weight, but my heart wasn’t in it.
In October 2012, I went for my first visit to my new family doctor. My blood work was horrible — pre-diabetic signs, high cholesterol, blood pressure through the roof. And on “The Scale” that day before Dr. Meredith, Nurse Michele, me, and God, there it was staring back at me — 209 pounds.
The first thing we addressed was the blood pressure issue and the fact that I hadn’t had a pap smear in ten years. (I hear the gasps. I’m gasping with you. Seeing it in print is sobering!) I know it was a horrible decision and I make no excuses. My lesson — it’s worse to not have a pap smear and worry that something is wrong than to go to the doctor and get a little lecture — Dr. Meredith was kind, but firm. She said there were other things we’d address at my next visit in four months.
That very afternoon, I watched an episode of Dr. Oz which dealt with body shapes. I quickly identified myself as an “apple.” His next words hit me hard — women with apple-shaped bodies (that means you carry most of your weight in your belly) and are over-weight have triple the chance of developing heart problems. I thought of my Granny Mae, who died of congestive heart failure in 2001. I thought of my blood pressure reading from the doctor that same morning — 160/100. I thought of my husband, my kids, my precious granddaughter, and my friends — and I got on my knees beside my bed and prayed to God for forgiveness for not being a good steward of my temple.
You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves,because you were bought by God for a price. So honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NCV)
Even through Thanksgiving and Christmas, I lost five pounds. On January 1, 2013, “The Scale” read 204 pounds. Four years later and I’m looking at the same weight as I was on January 1, 2009. This time, I knelt beside the scale and promised God that I would NEVER, EVER, EVER see that number on the scale again!
Talking with my friend and prayer warrior, Michele Bedsole (who is one of my accountability partners — and ACCOUNTABILITY is going to be a post for another day), we decided that our women’s Bible study would be “Made to Crave” by Lysa Terkhurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries. There were three women who did the study (felt like that was the devil trying to discourage us, but we forged ahead anyway). Ladies (and gentlemen as well — this book speaks to everyone), this book changed how I looked at why I overeat. I realized that lack of will power was really a lack of faith. I didn’t believe that God could change this body of mine and I’d forgotten to turn to Him when I felt overwhelmed. I let the “comfort of food” be the god of my life. This was an eye-opener to me.
In January, my daughter, my daughter-in-law-to-be, and decided to join Gold’s Gym. The upfront fees were enormous and I just couldn’t afford to pay it. (FINANCIAL STRESS — that’s also a subject for another post.) As we started to walk out, God whispered, “negotiate. Don’t take “no” for an answer.” So, I poured my heart out to this woman who was taking our application. She called her manager over and I poured my heart out to him. I almost fell out of my chair when the deal they offered was only five dollars more a month than the monthly fee if I paid that huge membership fee up front. Of course, I had to agree to a two-year contract instead of a month-to-month, but God and all the angels were cheering me on.
All winter, we went to the gym. We “treadmilled” and “ellipticalled.” We used the weight machines. We danced in Zumba (I did what I could, stopped and watched others when I couldn’t do the moves because of pain, and joined in again when I could.)
At my four-month check-up with Dr. Meredith, I was down to 194 pounds — a fifteen pound loss since I’d seen her in October! She looked at me and smiled. “I guess we don’t have to discuss weight loss after all,” she said and gave me huge hug. (Then she told me I had to have a colonoscopy — there is always a balance, the good with the not-so-good.)
My June check-up was equally fantastic. My blood pressure was down — 120/76. My bad cholesterol was down (but my good cholesterol was down). The pre-diabetics signs were gone. And best of all, to me, I was down another fourteen pounds — 180 pounds and proud of it!
Today, I stepped on the scale, even though it’s not my day to weigh-in. I usually weigh on Sundays and I thank God for whatever the number is on the scale. In fact, Sundays are for praise and worship. No requests to God from me on a Sunday. (Thanks to Jodie Bailey, friend and talented author of Freefall, for that suggestion a couple of years ago in a Bible study she led.) I wanted to report my actual weigh to you when I showed you my follow-up photo. (If you compare it to the second photo in this post, you will notice that I couldn’t even pull the exercise shirt over my belly!)
Me: 176 pounds on July 3, 2013
If I calculate from January 1, 2009 that’s a loss of 49.8 pounds. Since October 2013, when I really and truly made the commitment to honor my body as a temple of God, it’s a 33 pound loss. I know that it’s been me physically doing the work, but God has been my ultimate Trainer. I don’t make it through a day without Him. I give all the praise and glory to Him.
The Lord God has put his Spirit in me, because the Lord has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken, to tell the captives they are free, and to tell the prisoners they are released. (Isaiah 61:1 NCV)
And THAT, dear readers, is the best kind of freedom — the freedom to be all that God wants me to be, to be faithful and fruitful, and to follow Him — wherever, whenever, whatever. Don’t you want that kind of freedom?
P.S. If there are particular questions you have for me, you can leave them in the comment section or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be glad to answer anything. I’m an open book. And I want to say that every day since last October has not been a success. However, I have not abandoned the lifestyle — I just made a fresh start the next day. In fact, every day is really a fresh start for me. Let every day be a fresh start for you. You can do this too. I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. I’ll offer you suggestions that have worked for me and I’ll share what I’ve read and studied about how the body works and treats food. I am not an expert. I’m just a believer.
Photo Credits: North Carolina DMV and Sandra Hall Rosser
Faith it Forward: A Chance to Say Thank You (lbtk.wordpress.com)
If You’re Weighting On Me (lbtk.wordpress.com)
How Can I Keep from Singing: Beautiful (lbtk.wordpress.com)