Salute to Success~ February 2013
Many of you who are members of my clubhouse know our friend Chatty Cathy. Well, this month I want Cathy to share her story wtih you....and let you know about learning to see the good in herself. Here's her story in her own words. ..
"It has taken me 57 years to finally be so close to my goal weight that I finally know that I can and will reach my goal. I am not really any different than most of you reading this. Many parts of my story are your story too. I am more stunned than anyone that I have been honored by Richard asking me to be his success story for this month. That part of my story can also be part of your story.
I was a ‘sweet little chunk’ as a baby and toddler. Then I was a ‘cute little chubkins’ according to my grandfather. I dreaded the beginning of every school year because the only place my mother could find clothes to fit me was at Sears in the chubby department. I can close my eyes and still feel the shame and embarrassment of those shopping trips. I was 12 years old when I began to anticipate ’the look’ of strangers. You know exactly what I am talking about. The look has every negative connotations, pity and disgust being the strongest. But worse than the look were the years of being bullied in school. Those scars on my heart nearly destroyed me. I learned to be a loner and try to stay invisible.
I was overweight when I married. I was 18 years old and weighed 179#. But I told myself as long as I didn’t go over 200 pounds I was just fine. Well, soon I was telling myself, as long as I didn’t go over 225, 250, 275, 300... By the time I was in my late twenties I was miserable, ashamed, filled with self loathing and disgust as I pushed closer and closer to 300 pounds. By then I had tried every diet imaginable, including one that put me in the hospital. I looked at each of our 4 children as I contemplated suicide, and that is likely the reason I am still alive. I loved them too much to leave them living with Mommy’s suicide.
That is about the time it happened. I saw this man on General Hospital. Mr. Richard Simmons entered my life. The very first exercise media I purchased was the album ’Reach”. I exercised to it, occasionally.
Then his television show came on the air. I sat there and watched it religiously. I cried when I heard my own story told over and over in the letters he read aloud. I can’t count how many letters I wrote to Richard. I couldn’t bring myself to actually send one of them because of a song he sang on the ‘Reach’ album. I still can hear him singing:
” don’t tell me you can’t do this because I know you can. Don’t
feed me lines about all the times you tried to change your life…
I’m gonna tell ya how you can do it I know you can do it”
There was so much hope and inspiration in that song. There was too much hope and inspiration in that song. Why? I wasn’t ready to give up hating myself and staying in the frame of mind that the world had no use for me and I was a total failure. As unhappy and miserable as I was on the inside, that felt safer and more comfortable than to consider trying to change my negative self image and possibly being a success.
When I finally went over the 300 pound mark, I got serious. I used the Deal-A-Meal cards and actually lost 30 pounds. Then my youngest decided that those cards were the perfect fit for his little hands and that was the end of that. I was not surprised that soon I was greeting the 30# I had lost and an extra 10. During this time I began to think about Richard again. I bought Sweatin’ to the Oldies, and his “Never Say Diet” book. I was on the edge again, dieting haphazardly, exercising with the video sometimes. Of course, the exercise seemed too much, I was huffing and puffing by the third song, so you know what I did.
I put the book and video on the shelf to collect dust. But I did carry one thing with me. I added a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables to our family meals and snacks. Thank you, Richard.
Then it happened again. I saw "The Richard Simmons Show" on television and this time when he spoke, I listened with my mind rather than my heart. But what I did NOT do, was exercise and consistently following the meal plans that I put so much time and energy into putting on paper. I was still just a bystander to life.
Eventually I reached a point of desperation, and my therapist talked with me about the times I had followed Richard's plan. So, I ordered the new Food Mover and joined the Clubhouse. I joined in 1999. I bought, and used his videos- Disco Sweat, Tonin to the Classics, 80s Blastoff, Blast & Tone, Tonin’ To The Oldies, 60’s Blast Off, and of course Broadway Sweat [my favorite]. I bought most every video he had out, and I was so proud the day I was able to do all of Broadway Sweat. You see, initially I could barely do more than a few minutes. But I stuck to it, trying to not look at how little I was capable of doing, but instead to find pride in what I was able to do. In time I worked up to being able to do entire workouts.
I went on my first Cruise to Lose in 2000. While on the cruise I hit the fifty pounds lost mark and felt like just maybe there was hope for me after all. From the moment Richard looked into my eyes, he became part of my heart. Richard believed in me so strongly that I started to believe in myself. I returned home to the devastating news that my son had been killed while I was on the cruise.
You guessed it. Everything I had learned and started to believe went right out the window and was replaced with as much garbage food as I could eat and afford. Hello and welcome back to the fifty pounds! But Richard stayed with me and offered me so much support and faith in me.
Later that summer, friends from the Clubhouse that had also been on the cruise, took me to LA for a week and we went to Slimmons every day. What an amazing experience that was. I didn’t think that anything could be better than exercising with him on the cruise. But my Slimmons experience was even greater. He does not teach every class, but let me tell you, a class with any of his instructors is fabulous and they all put just as much into it as Richard.
I went on another Cruise To Lose in 2003 and the look of disappointment in his eyes was almost more than I could bear. I promised myself right then that never again would I see that look or feel his pain. But I continued to gain, and my Dr started talking to me about gastric bypass surgery. I turned to Richard and he only told me that I had to do what I and my Dr think is best for me. I didn’t have the surgery at that point. And I admit that the only reason I didn’t was because I knew that Richard didn’t really support such a drastic weight loss method. Unfortunately that is also when I resigned from the Clubhouse and stopped mailing letters to Richard. I felt such a loss of a true friend, but I just could not disappoint him again. It is no surprise to me that he never stopped caring for me. Honestly, Richard's faith in me and his enduring unconditional love are one of the keys to my success.
I have since learned that I have to do this for me. Losing the weight and getting healthy is not something I do for Richard. This was a very hard lesson for me, and one that I fought against with all of my energy. How could I do this for me when I hated myself so intensely? For five years I ignored my Dr’s urging me to have the bypass. During that time, I was not dieting or exercising. I moved up to 365 pounds without even realizing how much I weighed because I refused to step on the scale.
In 2008 I spent more time in the hospital than at home. My heart was giving up. In 53 years of life I had progressed from a cute little chunk to severe morbid obesity. I can’t count how many times in my letters to Richard I acknowledged that I was committing a slow suicide. I wanted to live, but obviously I didn’t want it bad enough to do the work.
That is, until my Dr. came into my hospital room and sat on the edge of the bed. He took my hand and looked so serious and worried as he told me that my heart was failing and I need to get my affairs in order. I was dying of fat. He told me that the bypass surgery might help me, but that it may already be too late. I gave him the OK and I was scheduled for the gastric bypass surgery.
It went smoothly and initially I lost about 70 pounds in the first two months. The weight loss slowed drastically. During this time my back issues also worsened and I was unable to walk without assistance. This made exercise almost out of the question. 6 months after the surgery, another woman I met through an online support group and had the surgery the same week I did, passed away. I was in a panic with worry, but I found out that she had continued to eat unhealthy and in large portions, stretching her new smaller stomach until it ruptured.
I was fighting for my life, literally. And I did the only sensible thing. I returned to Richard and all of the things I have learned from him. The surgery is a [drastic] tool, nothing else. I believe that it saved my life and have no regrets. However, I know that without using the tools Richard has given us, I could too easily have ended the same way that other woman did.
It took me two more years before I felt able to face Richard and let him know what I had done. But I needed Richard and the Clubhouse Family in my life. I need the support, understanding and unconditional love that is here for all of us. Richard has given us gifts beyond words through the Clubhouse.
I think that it was harder for me to tell him that I had escalated to 365 pounds than it was to tell him I had the gastric bypass. Even as I wrote the letter, and then spoke with him on the phone, I could picture and feel the pain in his disappointment. I think that I imagined it to be far worse than it was, but I know it was there.
For over thirty years Richard has had faith in me that I could not find on my own. Today, that is not the case. For the first ti me in 38 years I weigh UNDER 200#. I weigh 192 pounds and am only 37 pounds from goal. I still can rarely bring myself to actually say that I have lost 173 pounds. But those are the numbers and they continue to go down. I know that this is the year I will reach my Dr.’s goal weight of 155#. My personal goal is 145# and that can happen this year too. IF, and only IF I make it happen. Richard offers us the tools and knowledge and holds us up in so many ways. But it comes down to me, it comes down to you, whether we succeed and get healthier and happier, or we fail, giving up on the absolute joy of knowing that we have stuck to this and made our lives not only happier, but healthier.
I was fortunate to get to see Richard when he spoke in Kansas City. I still can’t understand why, but I was more afraid of him seeing me after such a weight loss than I was of him seeing me still at the weight I was the last he saw me. I think he knew and understood. I also think I hurt him when I went to the check in desk instead of rushing to him with a hug. I am sorry for that.
Not one step on this journey has been easy. It is so easy to let my heart win out over my head when I think of how hard I have to work to succeed. So you see, I can honestly say that my heart nearly killed me in two ways. It was hard, but I had to get out of my heart and listen to my mind.
How many of Richard’s success stories have you read and thought of how lucky that person is? How many of us have been envious of their success while telling ourselves that it could never be me? I know I have, more than once. Sharing my story feels a bit like I am bragging, but my fervent prayer is that someone may read this and get some sort of inspiration. Now I understand how hard and how many sacrifices his success stories, Cinderellas and Cinderfellas have had to work and stay vigilant with diet and exercise. There is no luck involved.
Today I live by the motto of never give up. On a daily basis I have to give myself little pep talks assuring myself that I can do this. I am physically impaired, and will eventually be in a wheelchair. So what? Do you know that nearly every exercise on Richard’s videos can be adjusted to be done from a sitting position? I have been in bed for nearly two years, and I have mastered those leg lifts! No matter what your situation or physical limitations, you can exercise. Or, you can end up with your Dr telling you it is time to get your affairs in order.
Richard Simmons loves each and every one of us. If you are not yet where you can love yourself, then I beg you, at least let yourself feel what Richard and our wonderful Clubhouse Family offers us in unconditional love and support. There was a time I absolutely hated it when he or one of the members said, ‘You’re worth it”. But now I get it. I am worth it and so are you.
I never imagined I would one day be one of Richard’s Cinderellas or success stories. I am still somewhat in shock as I write this. I even had some serious doubts as to whether or not I can really consider myself a success because I am not yet at goal. But even if I don’t lose another pound, I know in my heart that on one level I am an absolute success. I LOVE ME! I am 38 pounds from goal and this is the year that one of my dreams is coming true. I have learned that when a dream does come true, it is not because of some magical happening or luck, it comes with a commitment and determination mixed with the desire to live and love. This is hard work. Nobody can deny that truth.
I am beginning to understand something about how fervently Richard works and encourages us to get healthy because if I could give you anything, it would be this feeling of accomplishment and self love. I would give anything to share with you how I feel each time I am able to do an exercise routine or each time I realize, after the fact, that I have made the right food choice without giving it a second thought. This is a way of life. This is THE way of life. Change is hard. Change sometimes feels impossible. Especially difficult is the emotional change of throwing away all of those old negative messages we have either been told or told ourselves. If you get nothing else from my story, please take away this one message. Winning this battle against weight IS possible. You have the choice to win or lose. I chose to win. What is your choice?
On the wings of butterflies, I send each of you rainbows filled with LOVE, LIGHT, and LAUGHTER.
“Don’t tell me you can’t do this
Because I know you can.
Don’t feed me lines about all the times
You tried to change your life…
I’m gonna tell ya
How you can do it
I know you can do it…
Don’t tell me that you can’t do it right”
There is one issue that is, [for me at least] the one that has been at the root of my many failures. It is something we are all guilty of and I struggle with harder than any other issue regarding my weight loss.
I am the queen of excuses. Got a headache? Go ahead and drink a milk shake. Back hurting? Well, I can’t exercise if I am already in pain now, can I? Anger, that is a big dark monster that used to pick at my soul in a slow and steady rhythm. And you know that the only way to safely express anger is to eat chocolate cake, I don’t mean a slice, I mean the whole damned cake. I am pretty sure that over the years I have given Richard enough excuses to paper the walls of his bedroom! I wasn’t fooling him or anyone else, besides myself. I think that if I really look close, I have to admit I wasn’t fooling myself, I was lying to myself. How sensual that chocolate cake was as I savored the sweetness and let it slide down my throat . For those moments I was in temporary ecstasy. Then came the guilt and shame, a couple so willing to drag me down into that black pit in my soul. I hate to admit this, but I think I enjoyed that guilt more than the cake. Seriously, that is the only thing that makes sense. I didn’t need anyone else to tell me how worthless, fat, stupid and hopeless I was. I learned how to do that to myself. My abusers have been long out of my life, but I gladly took on the role of being my own abuser. Nothing anyone else had said or done to me could compare with how heartless I was in my self-criticism. All I had to do was feel an emotion, any emotion, and I could wallow in that guilt and shame that were so comfortable to me. As I write this, I am thinking of how my fork was the most powerful tool of abuse. No belt, fist or words could give me the same satisfaction of showing myself just how worthless I [believed] I was. Do you still use food to abuse your own body and heart?
Today I refuse to give much focus to the negative thoughts when I start to feel bad and berate myself. But this also is a daily struggle. It is not easy, but if I could only somehow share with you how it feels to look in the mirror and see the good in yourself you would begin to understand. I still cringe when someone offers a compliment to me. In the past I shook it off as fast as I could. You know the best way to do that? Make another excuse, tell yourself that the person complimenting you has no clue as to how much a failure you believe you are and head out to pasture to start grazing.
But I am forgetting the best [worst] excuse of all to fail before we even begin.
“I just can’t get motivated!” “I need help to get motivated”
This is the biggest lie we can tell ourselves. At least that was the biggest lie I told myself. There is no person on this earth who can motivate me if I am comfortable in being miserable. For me, this was a deeply rooted issue. I knew how to hate myself, feel like a failure, alone and afraid of making any change. I found out that as long as I added, “Yes, but…” to anything positive said to or about me, I wasn’t going to make any progress. I can’t even guess how many times I have said, “I want to lose the weight, but…”, “I want to exercise, but…” There is no but. There is no secret that will motivate any of us. There is ONLY do it or don’t do it.
I pray that nobody else makes excuses until their life is in danger of ending before they find it in themselves to just do it. Over the years, I have planned, set a beginning date and even bought the right groceries. How many times is that as far as I got? All I had to do was get in the car, hit a drive through and order enough to feed a family of four and then go home and eat properly, in front of everyone else. Then I could whine, ‘see? I can’t lose weight. I give up!’ I fooled myself to think that nobody else could see through my ruse.
In the last 30 years there have been only two people that never lost faith in me, Our dear Friend, Richard, and my husband, Leo. In the last four years I have fought to develop faith in myself. More than I hated myself, more than I was so comfortable living and hiding in my shell of fat, more than I was afraid of change, I want to live.
It comes down to, do it or don’t do it. There is no room for:
But my family won’t support me
But I was abused
But I can’t exercise
But I am not motivated
But nobody cares about me anyway
There is only one ‘but’ that I can give any credence to:
I don't feel motivated, but if I don’t just do it, I am going to die of fat."
Cathy, thank you so much for shareing your story with everyone this week. I know you have inspired so many people!!!!