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Salute to Success ~ May 2010


met·a·mor·pho·sis [met-uh-mawr-fuh-sis] –noun
1.Biology. a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.
       Wow! Metamorphosis is a big word isn’t it? But it has a big meaning. “Profound change.” Not just any change, but a major, life-altering one! I think when most of us hear that word, we think of butterflies. Butterflies start off as caterpillars. Now, caterpillars are kind of cute. But most of us would not describe them as beautiful. But, oh what abilities, and beauty that caterpillar holds inside!
       When the right time comes, that caterpillar goes to work. And oh does he do a lot. He begins to make big changes. And soon, he becomes one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see… a butterfly. And not only does he become beautiful. Once he’s a butterfly, he can also spread his wings and fly!
       This month, I’d like to introduce you to one of our clubhouse members who has experienced her own “profound change” over the last few months. I’d like you to meet Sandra (crystal_ship). Now… I’m going to let Sandra tell you her story…
       “I was born on August 10,1965. I have battled a weight problem my entire life. My father was of average weight while my mother and several of my other relatives ranged from slightly overweight to obese – one of my heaviest relatives weighed 600 pounds.
     For as long as I remember, food was a focal point in my family. My father, who was from Kentucky, adored all the rich, fried southern foods. I was raised on such dishes as fried catfish, chicken fried steak, bacon, sausage, fried chicken, hush puppies, and my favorite: cornbread. Most of our meals were cooked in fat and were swimming in grease. For years, I thought lard was a food group!
     Sweets were another staple in my life: “clean your plate or you won’t get any dessert,” was a mantra. Dad loved his chocolate and the two of us often shared pans of homemade fudge loaded with walnuts or German chocolate cake with rich, nutty icing. Chocolate was a way I bonded with my father.
     Food was commonplace for every occasion. My family used it as a reward or to placate me, as well as every celebration involved food. It did not take me long to discover the effects of food, and I used it for comfort and to stuff my emotions. I was discouraged from expressing myself in the home; therefore, I would seek solace in a bag of potato chips or a plate of cookies.
     My first dieting experience occurred when I was seven years old. My pediatrician, at the behest of my mother, placed me on a very low calorie diet and appetite suppressants. That set the pattern, which would follow me into adulthood: pills were the cure-all for weight loss.
     Being an overweight child was difficult. I suffered bullying, taunts, and was always the last kid to be picked for teams. In junior high, some of my classmates made cruel jokes about how I looked in my gym shorts. Humiliated, I refused to take gym class and my mother found a doctor who wrote me excuses that exempted me from P.E. all throughout junior high and high school. Exercise was a foreign concept to me; my mother always told me that I didn’t need to exercise and sweating was “un-ladylike.” I was a shy, awkward teenager with too much weight and too little self-esteem. At the age of fourteen, I was 5’4” and weighed 160lbs.
      Around the age of 15, after a boy I liked told me he refused to be seen with me because of my weight, I learned how to induce vomiting as a way to shed pounds. When I saw my weight dropping, I continued to binge and purge until I heard about the dangers of it. Luckily I was able to stop myself after a few months of that behavior. I also started smoking cigarettes when I was in my teens, and continued once I realized that smoking curbed my appetite. Not only did I have a food addiction, I soon developed an addiction to nicotine, which eventaully led me to smoking almost three packs a day before I gave up cigarettes for good in 1993.
      I discovered Richard Simmons when he was on “General Hospital.” I liked him immediately and was sad when he was no longer on the show. I watched him faithfully on “The Richard Simmons” show during the 1980s, and would do the routines with him. Yet, my exercise interest was short-lived. I held onto the belief I really didn’t need it and that pills and starvation was the key to weight loss.
      In the late 1980s, I weighed 250lbs. It was around this time that the very first “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” came out on videotape. I rushed to buy a copy and fell in love with it instantly! My father was a diabetic and I followed his diabetic eating plan in conjunction with working out to “Sweatin.” As a result, I lost 110 pounds in a year.
     In 1995, I was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, and one of the medications the doctor placed me on was the steroid Prednisone. With the side effects of the medication, as well as being depressed over being on disability, and the postponement of my wedding due to being so ill, I turned to food once again for consolation.
      Eventually, I regained all 110 pounds and then some. I was close to the 300-pound mark and soon crossed over into it. My knees hurt. My feet swelled. My back hurt. I looked and felt horrible. My self-esteem was zero.
      I tried every fad diet imaginable: the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet, the Atkins diet, and this three-day diet my aunt gave me that had me eating nothing but hard boiled eggs, dry toast, and tuna. I even set aside my dislike for tuna because the diet promised I would lose at least 10 pounds in three days. I even tried drinking nothing but diet shakes. I used all sorts of pills, and a family member even supplied me with the illegal drug speed. Thankfully, I quit using speed before I became too heavily addicted. I think the amount of money I’ve spent on diet pills in my lifetime would be equal to a down payment for a small house or two!
     Through my struggles with weight, the worst event of my life occurred: my beloved father passed away in 2006. By then, I weighed 300-plus. I self-medicated with food, especially chocolate because the chocolate was my way to remain connected to dad. That year I was in a deep depression and had to deal with some other terrible personal and financial events in my life on top of my father's death; I dealt with my anguish by turning to food.
     On October 25, 2009, I reached my turning point. That night I was startled from my sleep because it felt like I stopped breathing. I was terrified I was dying. I realized then I did not want to die, and by what I was doing, I was slowly killing myself. I wanted to be here to enjoy many more years with my husband and friends. I had a lot of living left in me, and at the age of 44, I was much too young to die.
      I thought of my husband and all the things we used to do when I was thinner. No longer did I want to go out because I couldn't stand people staring at me. I was fed up with strangers making rude comments to me when I was dining out or when I was walking around in a store. I didn’t want to do anything but sit at the computer all day, watch TV, and eat myself into oblivion. I hated to fly because I had to use a seat belt extender, which embarrassed me. I refused to look in the mirror and didn’t even bother putting on makeup or fixing myself up anymore. I had become angry inside and angry at the world. Even my husband stated that I had a lot of rage bottled up inside me. I was a different person, a person I hated. I no longer cared what happened to me. The Sandra I had become was not the Sandra I wanted to be. 
     But on that October morning, I made the commitment to lose the weight once and for all. I stepped on the scale and was horrified to learn I weighed 323—my highest weight ever. I found out how many calories I should be eating and wrote every single morsel down that went in my mouth. At first, I was sure I was going to die of starvation—I was unused to the smaller food portions. I look back now, and am astonished that at one time, I could hold so much food. I was determined to get my life back, so I pushed through those hunger pangs and persevered.
      However, I still balked at exercise. I knew it was something I needed to do, yet I resisted. I no longer owned a VHS player and my “Sweatin to the Oldies” video had long since worn out. I went online ordered the “Sweatin' to the Oldies” box set on DVD. I did not even consider any other fitness routines because Richard is the only one I respond to and his routines I enjoy most of all.
     When the DVDs arrived in November, I could barely get through the warm-up without getting winded. Undaunted, I tried again the next day.  And the next.  Soon, I was able to last even longer and now I can do an entire routine. I noticed the more I exercised the better I felt.
     So far, I have lost a total of 56 pounds. I am working toward my goal weight of 140, and while I know I still have much to lose, I always remember how far I have come and focus on that. I also break down that large goal into smaller steps. I do not say “I still need to lose 127 pounds,” I say “this week, I want to lose two pounds.” I see every loss on the scale as a victory, and have abandoned the mindset that I must lose 5, 6, or 7 pounds to be a success. Even losing ½ pound is still a step in the right direction! I no longer seek out fad diets and pills. I am taking my journey on a healthy path, and one that I can follow for the rest of my life.
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     My energy level has soared and so has my self-esteem. I love being in front of the camera instead of hiding from it. I smile a lot more and even my hair and skin glow because of my new healthy lifestyle. I deal with stress much better and I sleep peacefully at night. I love shopping for clothes and fitting into smaller sizes. I even look for other ways to get activity through the day. For example, I park in the furthest spot in the parking lot instead of right up front. I have left my couch potato lifestyle behind me and have grown to love exercise. I am getting out more and loving life!
     Instead of keeping sweets and junk food in the house, I keep a wide array of fruit in my refrigerator—strawberries are my favorite and are a great weapon to curtail my sweet tooth. When I find myself in a weak moment, I refer to Richard’s “Project Me;” those affirmations help me stay grounded. I no longer run to the kitchen every time I need comfort - I seek out other outlets to channel my emotions, such as writing, calling a friend, or taking a walk. I take the time to read food labels when I shop, something I could not be bothered with before.
     Thanks to rediscovering Richard Simmons and making a commitment to myself to get healthy, I am getting my life back. He has taught me to love myself more and has shown me that I am worth it.
      I am going to go all the way this time, and with Richard as one of my cheerleaders, how can I miss? Thank you, Richard, for giving me these wonderful tools for success. I am forever grateful to you; you are a blessing, an inspiration, and you saved my life.”
       Thank YOU Sandra for sharing your story with my readers! You truly are a butterfly now. I hope you will continue to spread your wings and fly… fly all the way to your goal!