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Salute to Success ~ November 2009


Lists, Lists, Lists

Are you a list maker?
I am!  I make a list of what I need to do each day.  I make a list of my goals each year.  I make a list of all my blessings.   I bet many of you make lists of those things too.
But as we start into the holiday season, it seems there are even MORE lists.   There's the list of people you plan to invite over for Thanksgiving.  And there are all the grocery lists for those dinners you cook every year.  Maybe there's a holiday card list for people you want to remember at Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, or New Year's.  And then there's the gift list...who has been naughty, and who has been nice?
And the "to do" list?  Well, it never seems to be longer than at THIS time of year!  But today, I want to ask you where YOU fit on that list. Are you at the top?  Or are you at the bottom?  Many of us always put ourselves at the bottom of the list...after everybody, and everything, else.
But it's time for you to learn that you must move yourself to the top of the list!  You've got to focus on your own health first.  Then, you'll have what it takes to do all those things you do for others.
So today, I'd like to let my friend Rena tell you her story.  You see, Rena used to put herself at the bottom of the list.  But she's learned to make herself a higher priority.  See if you can relate to Rena's story...
"I was a chubby baby and grew into a chubby child. There’s no way else to put it, it’s not an excuse, it’s just the way it was. My older brother and younger sister were both thin children, and there I was, a chubby child. I was always a tomboy, and a very active child, my favorite activities were swimming at the local pool, playing in our backyard, or riding around the neighborhood on my bike. But still, I was chubby.
I remember being about 8 years old and going to an amusement park in the summer. My thighs were rubbing together and I ended up with thigh burns. 8 years old with thigh burns! I always knew I was bigger than the other kids, but I wasn’t obese so it didn’t mean so much to me. As I got older it became apparent that I was larger than most kids.
Shopping for clothes was a nightmare for me. I remember when I was 11 our family was taking a summer trip and I needed a new bathing suit. I found a bathing suit I LOVED. I could describe it perfectly, as if it was in front of me today. It was a quilted pink halter one piece suit and so cute. Of course, it didn’t fit. My mother used the new bathing suit as incentive for me to lose weight. I distinctly remember my Mom telling me if I lost 10 pounds she would buy the bathing suit for me because then it would fit. I recall being so careful with my food choices and losing those 10 pounds. I think that was the first time I really dieted, the first of many.
As I grew older and went into high school I started to watch my weight, which was the late ‘70’s into early ‘80s when aerobics and Jane Fonda picked up momentum. My friends and I went on all kinds of crazy fad diets. Of course, it never lasted and then I would binge and gain back any weight I had lost. I continued to get those thigh burns and knew exactly how to treat them.
I was a very social and active teen and it was rare for someone to comment on my weight, again, I wasn’t obese but always overweight. I didn’t want to shop with my friends because they all fit into small sizes and I was embarrassed to be shopping for a size 12 or 14 in high school.
The summer after 11th grade I met Jamie, the love of my life, at summer camp. I worked as kitchen staff and Jamie was assistant head counselor. We clicked immediately and have been inseparable since that summer. He has always told me he loved me for me, not my size, but I wanted to love me for me, not my size.
The next summer after I graduated high school I went abroad for a gap year and found the rich cheeses and bread irresistible. We didn’t have a scale in our apartment, and before I knew it, I stopped fitting into my clothes. I knew I couldn’t just go out and buy a whole new wardrobe and I didn’t want to go home to my family and boyfriend a heavier person.
About 2 months before I was due to go home I went on a diet. I start eating healthier food and really got serious about exercising. I reached my goal and went home in better shape than when I left! That was a real wake up call for me, eating right and exercising was the key to success!
When I got home and started college I continued to watch myself carefully and was able to keep in control of my weight. I never was thin, but felt normal in a size 12.
Jamie and I married when I was 20 and 14 months later our oldest son was born. I was determined to take off the 40 pounds I gained during the pregnancy and I was successful. Three years later after 2 miscarriages I finally had a baby and gained 70 pounds during that pregnancy. Being so joyful for carrying the baby to term, I didn’t care about the weight. Heck, I celebrated with food!! After our daughter was born, I was left with all that weight and carried an extra 40 pounds around for another 2 years when I got pregnant with our 3rd child.
 Again I gained 40 pounds, I was fat and barely lost any of the weight after our son was born. I was a really busy Mom! The day our first son was born I devoted every moment to him and then our 2 other children. Somewhere I lost myself in being their Mom and a good wife. As a lot of Moms do, I put myself at the very bottom of the list.
Our children grew and so did I, but not in height as they did, I grew in width! During the first 15 years of marriage and being a Mom, I was either in school finishing my education or working first part time and then full time. I didn’t make the right food choices during those years; whatever was easiest to make or pick up was on the menu.
My children were blessed with great metabolisms and thin genes and gratefully, till today they are not overweight. Our meals have always been balanced nutritionally but in addition to fruits and veggies we had a lot of junk food around the house, chips, cookies, soda, etc. I indulged in those snacks with the kids. I forgot about the days when I balanced my diet with exercise.
Like so many other women, my weight would fluctuate depending on what was going on in my life. That’s the way it was for many many years. In my late 30’s I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and my metabolism and any attempts to lose weight were gone. In my mind, I used that as an excuse to be so obese.
Right before my 40th birthday, my sister called me and asked me if I wanted to start working out at a gym with a trainer. My first response to her was, “Are you crazy, look how huge I am, I’m 245 pounds, why would you think I would want a trainer?!” Her response was to try it once and if we didn’t like it, we would never go again.
She finally convinced me and that was when I met Anne, my trainer, one of the angels in my life. I loved the way exercising made me feel, it cleared my head, and made me feel great. At first it did amazing things for my body without really dieting, I lost inches and really felt a difference. Anne never criticized me for being overweight but she would gently nudge me to be more careful with my food choices and to step up my exercise program.
I never felt embarrassed to work out with her or felt she was disappointed in me. I wasn’t really watching my food plan, but good things were happening anyway so I continued to eat heartily. I thought I was eating healthy food, but I knew my portions and pairing of food choices were abysmal.
I continued to go to the gym, even though I didn’t have much success on the scale. Over the next 4 years the scale went up and down and Anne suggested one day that I should try doing some extra cardio at a class at Slimmons, Richard Simmons’ studio.
At first I was hesitant, really…Richard Simmons! Anne told me that there are all types of people of all ages that work out there and it’s a really great class.  So off we went, my sister, her 11 year old daughter, my 18 year old daughter and I.
Anne couldn’t have been more accurate. When we entered the studio, Richard greeted us and asked our names. He was so sincere in his welcoming and made sure we kept up during class and were doing the routines properly. Anne met us there and it was then I realized how great this workout situation could be! Anne was on one side of me and my daughter and niece were on the other side. How many aerobic classes could there be where a professional trainer, her clients, and their younger children all work out together, and did we sweat!! 
We were hooked that evening. I didn’t start going regularly at first but I’d show up a couple of times a month and loved being with Richard and all my new Slimmons friends. In December 2008 something clicked.
I had become obsessed with looking at other women and comparing myself to them. Was I heavier or thinner than them? I would bug my sister and husband everywhere we went to point out women heavier than me. I HATED getting dressed to go anywhere and had a few staples in my closet with elastic waists that would take me anywhere. I realized I was turning 45 in 9 months and didn’t want to enter that age range at 257 pounds.
I also came to the realization that with 2 children living on their own in a college dorm and in their own apartment I had more freedom for myself. Our youngest son was entering 12th grade and considering colleges outside our city. It was time for me.
I contacted a doctor who I knew helped people take control of their diets. During my first visit to the doctor he weighed me and asked for my height. He took a small wheel and put in the figures and showed me that at 5’5 and 257 lbs., I was in the 3rd stage of obesity and discussed with me all of the health risks that go along with being so obese. I sat in the room with the doctor and started to cry. How could I allow this to happen? When did I lose control?
I needed to be in control of myself, no one else could do that for me but me. At that moment, I promised the doctor that I was committed to changing my lifestyle and if he would help me, I would commit myself to a healthy way of life. He discussed the importance of both diet and exercise.
It is now 10 months later and I am both thinner physically and thousands of pounds lighter emotionally. At first, the weight came off so quickly which encouraged me to stick to the diet. After my first 30 pounds Anne started to encourage me to attend Slimmons regularly so that I can get a great cardio workout which would work hand in hand with my gym workouts.
I took Anne’s advice to heart and started going to Richard’s class once a week. Richard immediately recognized that I had lost weight and celebrated that 30 pound loss with me. That night I worked so hard in his class, lifting my legs higher and using heavier weights. What a great feeling that was. I vowed to come back every week. I started feeling stronger and lighter and the pounds felt like they were falling off.
Everyone started noticing my leaner body and I was feeling healthier and stronger. My monthly visits to the doctor’s office were exciting to me, my cholesterol level dropped significantly and all my vitals were in healthy range. I was feeling great! At the end of cardio class, Richard has a little chat with class about life, how to make it richer and how to make healthier lifestyle choices.
At one class he mentioned that he’s starting to work on a new Sweatin to the Oldies DVD and that he would be holding auditions shortly. In my wildest dreams I didn’t’ think that I would ever qualify to be in the DVD, but it did sound fun!
Anne encouraged me to audition and really felt strongly that I might be a candidate. I was so unsure about the whole thing, this was something so foreign to me and out of my comfort zone, but if there was ever a time to try, this was it! I was feeling like a stronger woman, emotionally and physically. So, I auditioned for Richard and he was so encouraging and asked for me to be a part of his cast! What a major thrill!!!
I took the opportunity to use the rehearsals as great workouts and tried to attend as many as I could not only so I’d feel comfortable with the routines but also because I knew that the workouts would make me stronger and leaner. My plan worked. Over the six weeks from the first rehearsal until the final shoot on set I lost 10 pounds and 7% body fat! That proved that with a consistent exercise and food program, my plan was attainable.
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At every rehearsal Richard would encourage each one of us to continue to watch our food intake and we would celebrate every pound lost for each of us. It was a celebration each time we practiced. Richard really expressed concern for the viewers of the dvd, he really wanted us to understand that we were going to help so many people get into shape and get off the couch just as so many of the cast has done in their lives.  Richard wanted us to be our best to help motivate and encourage each and every viewer.
The three days on set was a remarkable experience. The set was magnificent, the extras were as excited as we were and the crew was fabulous! As a group, the cast felt prepared with the routines and so excited to start shooting. We all worked together as a group which made the process unforgettable. The journey that I have traveled has been an incredible gift.
A huge part of the success I achieved is due to the tremendous support I received from my family, friends, Anne, and of course, Richard.  They have been behind me 100% and have all been so encouraging and proud of my accomplishment.
Today I am 180 pounds and really don’t have a number goal in mind. My ultimate goal is to continue to live a healthy lifestyle and to be the best person I can be."
Rena, I know you can do it!  I'm so glad you started coming to Slimmons that day.  And I'm so glad you were a part of my video.  I can't wait for everybody to meet you when Sweatin' Five comes out!  Thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers this month!