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Salute to Success ~ August 2012


          Welcome to August! August is known for being a hot, hot, hot month. Sometimes you just feel like you're melting, don't you? But if you stay on track this month, you can do some real melting and melt away those pounds!
          One of my webbies has sure been doing some of that kind of melting lately, and I want you to meet her. Here's Judy, in her own words...
          "I’ve been using Richard Simmons’ FoodMover program for nine months and have lost 85 lbs. so far! When Richard told me he wanted to feature my success story I panicked for a moment, thinking I’m not at goal; I’m not a success yet! But, the more I thought about it I realized that I was being ridiculous. Every pound we lose is a victory and is cause for celebration. I decided that Richard was right: I do have a success story!
         I was a normal-sized child until I hit my early teens, and then the weight started accumulating gradually. I wasn’t an avid participant in sports, and I wasn’t interested in putting much effort into gym class through my junior year in high school. I was told, especially by my paternal grandfather, how cute it was that I took seconds or thirds at the table and how welcome I was to extra dessert. My close family gave me the nickname of “Garbage Can” as my food habits got worse and the pounds started accumulating. I didn’t become morbidly obese during high school, but I did reach 162 pounds.
        I slimmed down during my junior and senior years due to an increase in the amount of exercise I was getting from riding my bicycle long distance and dancing in the spring musicals. I wasn’t home for meals and late evening snacking, so my calorie intake decreased as well. I liked the changes in my body and the compliments I received, so I started putting more effort into exercise. I decided on a career in the Air Force and dipped under their weight limit of 134 on the day I enlisted. I weighed in at 133.
        After basic training I, unfortunately, never saw that weight again. The freedom of being a young adult without supervision meant worsening eating habits and the addition of adult activities like drinking alcohol. I ordered Dominoes pizza a couple of times per week. Nobody was around and watching, so I ate the entire pizza myself. I became a frequent customer of all the fast food places near the base where I was stationed. My friends and I added an entire meal to our daily routine when we discovered that these places were open 24 hours, and after a night of beer and snacks, we could then have a burger and fries before bed. I had a little money in my pocket by now, and I used most of it for food and alcohol. A boyfriend remarked one day that I “was losing my waist.” The insult stung, but I laughed it off. When I was transferred to Germany and discovered great-tasting local treats such as fried schnitzel sandwiches and dark German beer, my daily intake of calories increased even more. When I left the Air Force and returned to the states I was up to 165 lbs. at age 23.
         My bad habits and weight gain would not stop for the next 29 years. I didn’t choose healthy food. I ate way too much processed and fast food. The portions I ate grew to insane amounts. I didn’t exercise regularly. I joined gyms but didn’t return after the first week or two. I tried diet fads and stuck to them for only a couple of days. I’d buy those diet shakes and binge on so many of them that I ended up gaining instead of losing. I began to use excuses for the scale. Either it was because I had gone through a bad break up or I was going through a rough time for one reason or another.
        My mother died suddenly of a heart attack when I was 28. On the morning of her funeral, the same grandfather who thought it was cute to encourage me to eat extra helpings turned to me in front of everyone in the room and said, “Well, Judy, it looks like you’re the fattest one in the family now!” Besides being the rudest, most cruel thing he could have said to me at that moment, he was right. I had nearly passed the 200-pound mark.
        In the coming years I reached 220, 240, 260… The specific excuses and dates don’t matter, and imparting decades worth of stories about my pain and suffering, divorce, illness, injuries, surgeries, car accidents, death of loved ones, mental abuse imposed on me and every other excuse I could come up with is unnecessary. What matters is that I continued to abuse my body with food for way too long and was heading down a short road to major weight-related issues. I cannot blame anyone else or what they did to me or what they said to me. All along, I was in control of what I put into my mouth.
        I’ve suffered with some medical issues over the years that are not directly related to my weight and have allowed myself to use them as excuses for gaining extra weight. For one, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis about 14 years ago. I have the type that comes and goes, but when I have a flare-up it can be challenging in many ways rendering me weak, unable to move or in pain. When I reached my highest weight, though, I was confronted with some of the typical health conditions that are related to morbid obesity. My cholesterol sky rocketed. My blood pressure was elevated. My ankles and feet were constantly so swollen that I could seldom wear shoes. I couldn’t move without pain. I was becoming a recluse because I no longer could participate in normal social activities because of my size and decreased energy levels. I fell into deep depressions more than once. What did I do to make myself feel better? I ate, of course! Somewhere along the way I had stopped drinking alcohol except for special occasions, but my caloric intake didn’t decrease because I constantly added more food until the amount of food I was ingesting was beyond insane.
         A friend took some photos of me after we had enjoyed a large meal and ice cream cake for my 52nd birthday in 2011. I’ve included one of those photos as my “before” photo. I couldn’t bear to look at the photos when she posted them on Facebook the following week because I had gotten so large. I asked her to remove the photos, and she did, but I knew that removing those photos didn’t change my physical state. I prayed to God for strength. I promised Him I would change.
           Several weeks later I visited my doctor. When I stepped on the scale I almost passed out. The number that was recorded in my chart that day was too much for me to bear. I had gone over 300 pounds. I requested blood work primarily to check my cholesterol, but I also suspected I might be entering the early stages of diabetes. I was extremely happy to learn that I was wrong. Other than my high cholesterol my blood values were normal, and I was cleared to begin a healthy lifestyle of proper diet and exercise.
          Richard Simmons’ FoodMover is the only food program that has ever made any sense to me. I knew that I needed to learn normal portion sizes and I needed to feed my body the nutritious food it needed and nothing else. I visited and ordered a purple FoodMover and began my weight loss journey the moment it arrived at my home on October 20, 2011. I find the FoodMover easy to follow and have done well at staying on plan because I’m determined to lose this weight for my health’s sake. My most important revelation during the beginning of this journey was changing the way I think about food. I no longer eat for pleasure; I eat because my body needs fuel. Before eating I routinely stop and ask myself:
1. Am I sincerely hungry, or am I eating out of habit?
2. Does my body really need this particular food I’m about to eat?
3. If I am sincerely hungry and ready for a snack, is this particular item the best choice at this moment?
4. Will eating this item keep me within my planned, balanced diet and calorie limit for the day?
         The next thing I did was join Richard’s Clubhouse. I love the Message Boards and our Live Chats to interact with other people on a similar journey and with Richard himself. I’ve met some incredible individuals that have become my real life friends instead of just an anonymous screen name. It’s helpful to know that others understand where I’ve been and where I’m headed. I search Richard’s recipes often to find low-calorie alternatives to whatever I’m thinking about making. Judging by his recipe selection I think I’d love to be a guest at his house for dinner!
        Getting started on an exercise program was slow-going. The first couple of weeks, though I was excited and motivated, my big body just could not keep up with my good intentions. My first aerobic workout lasted about five minutes and left me huffing and puffing on the bed, but within a couple of weeks I had extended my workouts to 45 minutes or more. In January 2012 I started walking on my local track. This was a major accomplishment not only because it meant I could physically do it but in getting out there I overcame a social anxiety of being seen in public “at my size.” A mere six weeks later I added jogging intervals to my walks and started setting monthly fitness goals that are usually just a little out of my reach, but I almost always attain them. Currently, my monthly goal is to walk/run 100 miles or more, averaging well over three miles per day. In addition to the miles at the track I do DVDs like Richard’s “Tonin’ to the Oldies” and use free weights for upper body strengthening. Sometimes the Multiple Sclerosis puts a crimp in my workout schedule for a few days or a week, but then I get right back to it.
          I enjoyed remarkable improvement in my overall health within the first few weeks. The swelling in my ankles and feet decreased almost immediately and now is gone completely. My blood pressure returned to normal within two months. My resting heart rate had been around 88. I now have a heart rate so low that they call it an “athlete’s heart.” The frequency of my migraines has decreased dramatically. My cholesterol is lower. My skin’s appearance has improved. I’m stronger. I’m super energetic. I no longer consistently need a cane or walker. My friends and family tell me I’m much more fun to be around.
          I officially started at 309 lbs. and I’ve lost 85 lbs. in nine months, so currently I weigh 224. I plan to lose 62 lbs. more to reach my goal weight of 162. I think you can see by the smile on my face in my “now” photo that was shot just yesterday that I’m enjoying my smaller, healthier body! Oh, and the bare feet? That was by choice and not because my cowboy boots wouldn’t fit!"
         I'm so proud of you Judy! Thank you for sharing your story with my readers! Keep on working hard and you'll be at your goal before you know it!