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Salute to Success: June 2009



          If you looked at my home page, you know my theme this month is “Sing a Happy Tune in June.”   What kind of tune are you singing in your life? Are you doing the things you need to do to make yourself healthy and happy?
       Well today, I want to share the story of two of my clubhouse members who have really made some big changes in their lives…and they are certainly singing a happy tune this month! First, I want to introduce you to Monique!   Monique (Canadian_Monique) was born weighing a tiny 4lbs 11oz !   She was premature, but she was strong and healthy, and her mom said she was hungry from the get go!! 
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     She was an active child, with a healthy appetite. She grew up in a home where she finished everything on her plate, and ate dessert every night. But Monique was a muscular child, and now realizes she was very slender as a child.   She loved to run and play and spend time outside.   She says because she was so active, she was also very very hungry!!!   Monique says, “We were not allowed snacks and by supper time I was starved and ate A LOT!! I remember my mom's boyfriend getting upset, when I was only 7, because I ate more than him! That was the start of my being concerned with how much I ate in front of other people... I was ashamed to eat in front of people after that.”
     Monique’s mom was always overweight, but Monique loved her as she was. “However, she always complained about being fat, and how horrible it was. She would not do things with me because she was "too fat" ... she would not go biking, nor swimming... but the saddest part, is that I grew up with the thought that 'fat is bad, everyone will see and judge you...if you are fat, you are not good enough.'”
    “When I was 10 years old, I started to blossom. I did gain the extra fat that all girls gain when they go through puberty. I also had unwanted advances from my mom's new boyfriend. He did things that made me very uncomfortable. I was confused, hurt, disgusted.... At one point I had had enough, and I put up a good fight and said NO! He ran away, and we never saw him again. I never told my mom what happened, but I started gaining weight after that. Did I eat to heal? Or, was it simply from puberty... I don't know.”
    By the time Monique was 12, she had become chubby. She was being teased, and was unhappy.  “I was still ashamed to eat in front of people, but now that I was in Jr.High, I was allowed to pack my own lunches for school. I packed nothing... I ate nothing all day. This was the beginning of my starvation and binging period.”
   “The next 7 years I starved myself. I barely ate. I did not eat breakfast, nor lunch, nor snacks. If I ate supper it was very minimal. Every once in a while I lost control and I would binge (for the afternoon). I remember taking the bus to McDonalds. I ordered a McChicken, a Filet o'fish, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, a Big Mac, a cheese burger... 5 large fries (to look like I was ordering food for other people).... 4 milkshakes, and a Coke... I took the food, and ate it at the bus stop, one item at a time... I ate everything... and eventually got home.”
    By her high school years, Monique was thin again. But she thought she was fat. And she continued to starve herself.  “When I was 17, I lived with another lady, who was like a mom ( I did not have a good relationship with my mom). She saw that I didn't eat, and she was concerned. She didn't tell me, but she made an appointment with her doctor. She said it was a routine checkup and flu shot... but I later found out differently.  When the blood work came back, she and her doctor sat me down. He asked me what I had eaten. I remember that it was half a muffin that day (which was hard for me to do), and he told me I was not eating enough. I tried making excuses and cover up my starvation. He told me that my body was eating itself from the inside out. I had high levels of ketones in my blood... they were not from one morning of not eating enough; they were from all the years of starving myself. I was 116 pounds!”
    Slowly, Monique started to eat. Not because she wanted to, but because the lady was was caring for her made sure she did.   She watched Monique, and wouldn’t let her leave without eating.
     After high school, Monique ate well and exercised for about a year. Then she met a guy and moved in with him. He turned out not to be such a nice guy, and Monique found herself in an abusive relationship. When he didn’t come home on time for supper, Monique would become angry with him…and to punish him, she’d eat his portion of food. And when she was hurting, Monique ate even more.

     “I became an empty shell, and no matter how much I ate, I always felt hungry. Now I know that I was empty in the love category, not the food one. Over the next few years, I went from 130 to 225! I was so unhappy.  I cannot even express how empty and unloved I felt.” 
     “I don't know how I got the gumption, but I decided to do something... I went back to school. I made friends, and I started to feel good. My boyfriend did not like this change... One night I thought he was going to kill me. He beat me so bad, and then he put his hands around my neck and squeezed. I could not breathe, I was sure that I was going to die. I prayed to God for His help, as I was not strong enough to fight. I don't know how long this lasted, but right after my prayer, he suddenly let go and stormed out of the house. I cried.”
     Monique still went to school the next day. “A girl that I had become friends with noticed the bruises. She was concerned, and would not let me go home alone. I am thankful for this, now. My boyfriend came back that night, furious that I had someone there... he threatened to kill us. She called the police, and they came. The police saw me, and they found and arrested him. They also would not leave me until I packed up my stuff and moved out. I called friends that I had not talked to in years... they came.”

    Monique’s life didn’t instantly get better after that. Healing was a slow process. But over time, she began to love herself again.   She knew she wanted to lose weight, and she ordered my Deal A Meal and Sweatin’ videos.   She started losing weight and was feeling great. A friend belonged to Weight Watchers, and urged her to join with her. So Monique did, and added those meetings to her tools too.
    “5 years later, I was healthy, happy and I got my University degree! Things were really great. I met a man, and we got married, and the following summer my son was born. Sadly, things changed. My husband turned abusive towards me. He always had a bad temper, but after my son was born, he turned it more and more to me. I don't know why. Again, I turned to food, and I gained weight."
     Monique didn’t really realize how much weight she had gained until she got photos developed from her son’s birthday.   Then she saw herself.  “I was aghast!! How did this happen? I knew I had gained weight, but how did I get soooo fat???  The next day, I started Richard's program again. I was 290 pounds.”
     “The next couple of years was a long journey of ups and downs. I went down to 165 pounds with healthy eating and exercise. My relationship with my husband continued to deteriorate. My son was 5 when I had enough courage to stand up and say no more. I always wanted a real family, but when I saw how much the abuse (mostly verbal) was affecting my son, I knew I had to stop it. My son deserved a happy home. I know I should have cared about myself, and I did, but not as much as I did for my son.”
    “My son and I were so happy, and peaceful after this. It was great. However, my weight started to climb back up!! I was eating right, I was no longer stressed, I was exercising... I could not figure it out. I was living in a small town and I did not have a doctor to go see. I have to be honest... after gaining and gaining, I gave up, and went back to eating anything and everything. I felt that since I was gaining anyway, I might as well eat the "bad" foods.”
    Then, three years ago, Monique moved. Not only was she gaining weight, but she was fatigued, and her hair was coming out, and she was cranky!  She went to the doctor and learned her thyroid was not working. “My doctor put me on synthroid, and about 3 months later I was starting to feel better. My weight was now at 225... I had regained 60 of the 125 that I had lost.”
     Monique got back on my plan, and started her weight loss journey one more time. She is currently at 177.6 That’s a loss of 23 pounds since this January and a loss of 112 pounds from her highest weight!
      “I am learning so much. The most important thing I have learned , is to love myself, and only accept the best! I work hard, I play hard, I eat delicious and nutritious foods, and a treat here and there, I exercise, I do fun activities with my son, and I teach him a healthy lifestyle (and to love himself completely, no matter what!).”
     “I am not sure what my goal weight is. I know it is somewhere between 140 and 160, but I don't have that number yet for myself. But, I know I will reach it this year!! When I get there, I will continue to love myself and give my body the food and exercise it deserves. I will never go back down that road again.”
    “I know that my life looks like it was bad, and you know, there were a lot of really hard times. But, I learned so much, and I believe that I had to go through all of it to get to where I am today. I hope I can inspire people to love themselves and do what is healthy so that they can find success too.”
    Monique doesn’t let her weight stop her now. She still eats right and does my videos, but now she swims, and bikes and runs too! She’s even planning on doing a marathon next year! Monique, thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers. I am so glad you’ve learned to love yourself.    Keep doing what you’re doing!
    Now I want to introduce you to Maria (Maria_Eileene). All you clubhouse members will know Maria, we call her our Pink Grapefruit.   And I don’t know what’s happening on my message boards…but somehow she’s got a lot of ladies naming themselves after fruit! LOL! We now have a whole fruit basket. Anyway, you may think you know Maria…but I want you to learn a bit more of her story that you may not know.
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     Maria grew up very thin. Thin as a rail actually. But she had started developing an eating disorder even at a young age. Maria was raised in a very dysfunctional family and learned early on to be an obsessive -compulsive eater. Food was constantly on her mind. It was the one thing that did not call her names or beat her up. It was her friend.   Maria babysat for hours to get the money to buy food.   Her idea of a fun day was a trip to the grocery store. And to this day, Maria is not happy unless her house is well stocked with food. She says it makes her feel safe.
     But, Maria did grow up knowing what it was like to be different.   Maria was born with a deformity that included having no left eye. She was tortured all through school and she never fit in. She was often told that she should go home and kill herself. There was no safety or support at home either. So Maria grew up feeling very alone and unsafe. And she hated herself.
      One day, when Maria was 13 years old, she was home alone from school, and turned on the television. “There was the Richard Simmons Show. My jaw just dropped as I was mesmerized by this man. For the first time ever, I was experiencing a man who not only said I was worth being loved, but he was crying and showing such love and compassion himself. I was touched from that moment on. I watched every show and collected everything I could that had anything to do with Richard. He became my idol and father figure.”

     Maria grew up and had her first child when she was 21 years old and that's when her super fast metabolism finally crashed.  She gained a lot of weight, going from 126 at 5' 6.5" to 185. She lost most of the weight, going back down finally to 145. But that didn't last long. For the next 20 years, her weight would climb and yo-yo until she reached her all time high of 210 in January of 2008.
     Maria says, “I could no longer walk and talk and breathe at the same time. My health was going downhill fast. My knees were messed up and I could no longer bend or squat. I had acid reflux, IBS, fibromyalgia, and the strain from the excess weight was taking its toll on my mitral valve condition. I experienced chest pains and heart palpitations. I felt like I was nearing death. And I decided I needed to do something about it.”   So, Maria prayed.
     Maria kept having dreams about me. She started to think maybe something was wrong. So, she looked me up online and found my website. Nothing was wrong though. But she kept having the dreams, and kept coming back and looking at my website. Finally, she sent me an email…and I wrote her back and told her I hoped she was taking care of herself. It finally hit Maria why she had kept coming to my site. Maybe this was the answer to her prayer? It was time for her to do something about getting healthy!
     So, Maria joined my clubhouse in April 2008. “And I started doing the very thing I always loathed with a passion... exercising. Since Richard had always been the one person in my life that I knew was sincere and who truly cared about people, I trusted him. And so I did whatever he said to do, even if I did moan while doing it. It wasn't too long before I started to love exercise. I began with my elliptical because it was very low impact on my heart.”
     “I started posting in the clubhouse and made some wonderful friends. I have learned many things about myself and others in the year I have been in the clubhouse. I allowed myself to feel again. I started writing my poetry. I started trusting people, even when I would still get hurt. I was changing every day.”
     “Recently I went back to Richard's DVDs and with renewed confidence in myself, I was surprised to see that I could do them all the way though. I did have to stop and catch my breath. But I am so much stronger than ever before. My heart is stronger. I no longer get chest pains like I used to. Of course I still have the symptoms of my heart condition, but they are minimal. My knees are totally reconditioned. My fibro, acid reflux, IBS are all gone. I feel like I am 20 years younger. And I have lost over 50 pounds in the year that I have been with Richard.”
     “I started at 210 and have less than 30 pounds to get to my goal weight of 130. I owe my life to Richard. From way back when I was a scared kid who started healing thanks to Richard's caring... to this past year as I have regained my health and have gotten a new lease on life. Not only that, but once again Richard has helped me to heal more than just my body, but also my heart and soul. He has no idea what he means to me.”
     Maria is now back in school to become a therapist. That is something she always wanted to do. In fact, Maria believes it is her mission.  “I wish to help people learn to love themselves.  I am very blessed. I have a loving husband and 5 crazy wonderful kids ages 6, 12, 13, 14, and 19. I also have lots of pets....from a dog, to birds, to lizards, snakes and ferrets.  I am happy.”
     And Ms. Pink Grapefruit, I’m so happy that you shared your story with all our readers.   Thank you to both of you ladies. I know you’ve encouraged and helped so many people by sharing your stories. Keep taking care of yourselves, and keep singing that happy tune you’ve been singing!