How long did it take you to lose the weight? I’ve been consistently losing since January 2013, so about 19 months.
Lightbulb Moment: My grandmother passed away on New Year’s Eve 2012. She was the only grandparent I’d had growing up and losing her was difficult. I had been a yo-yo dieter in the past- as high as 202 pounds, as low as 149. But when she passed away, I knew I needed to get serious about my health and my weight. I wanted to be healthy for my future children and grandchildren - and I wanted to make my grandmother proud. I knew I needed to make significant changes in my lifestyle.
How did you do it? I chose to go back to Weight Watchers. I first joined when I was a freshman in college and had gained what I lovingly refer to as the “freshman 40.” That was 12 years ago. I knew that WW worked- I’d lost close to 40 pounds that first time. However, I knew that I would have to change a lot of my thinking if I wanted it to work for good.
One of the biggest changes I made was to re-learn how I think about food and how I reward myself. When I was younger I would think, “Well, I’ll count points for now and then once I’ve lost all my weight, I can go back to eating whatever I want.” You can guess how that worked out. I also used to think, “I’ve worked hard to lose these X amount of pounds, I deserve to go to a restaurant and order what I want. It’s not fair to deprive myself.” Again, you can guess how that turned out. I gained all that I lost back - and then some more.
This time was different- I finally learned that I will ALWAYS have to watch what I’m eating. For the rest of my life, I will have to count points/calories/portions if I want to stay within a healthy weight. It’s just who I am. I am addicted to food and the feelings that come with it - I have to first acknowledge that and then take steps to keep my eating in check. Once I realized that this is just how it will always be, it’s been easier to adapt my lifestyle to fit that understanding.
I also finally understood that when I go out to eat, it’s not the food that is the reward or the indulgence- it’s being able to spend time with friends/family, not having to cook and not having to clean up - that’s the fun part of going out to eat. I had to take the focus off of food. Growing up, I placed a lot of importance on food- I have to constantly remind myself that food is nourishment and fuel- it’s not happiness or confidence or a shoulder to cry on. I’m not a dog; I don’t get rewarded with food. Now, I reward myself with a new book, a trip to my favorite make-up store, or a new pair of earrings.
What was the biggest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it? My biggest challenge was re-learning how to interact with food in a healthy way. Honestly, WW meetings (and some personal counseling) helped me the most in understanding this. They were a group of people struggling with the same things I was struggling with - in WW meetings we can support each other and give feedback and advice that actually helps. Many of my mantras come from things others have said in a WW meeting room.
What was the single thing that helped you most along the way, especially when things got tough? For me, weight loss is all mental. I know how to eat healthy, count points, exercise, etc. The real challenge - when things got super tough- was to rely on my own willpower (which isn’t a lot!!) to walk away from an unhealthy situation. I use mantras when things get tough. When I’m at a party and there are all kinds of unhealthy yet comforting foods there, and everyone is eating and encouraging me to eat to excess, I repeat this over and over: “What you’re holding onto is holding you back.” It reminds me that eating that unhealthy food just takes me further from my goals, even if it feels good in that moment.
How has your life changed since losing the weight? My confidence has soared. Because I am confident that I can lose weight and have a healthy relationship with food, I feel like I can do anything!
Exercise routine: I run 3-4 times a week (10- 20 miles total), and try to incorporate some type of cross-training 2-3 times a week when I’m not running. Usually it’s yoga or pilates and a Jillian Michaels DVD. Sometimes it’s swimming or biking - it all depends on the time of year and my schedule. But minimally, I’m working out 3 times a week.
Favorite breakfast: Greek yogurt, string cheese, and a piece of fruit.
Favorite grab and go snack: WW 3 point bars, an apple, string cheese.
Favorite quick dinner: Chicken and salsa in a crock pot - cook all day, serve over rice/ couscous/quinoa in the evening.
Favorite healthy restaurant or fast food find: I love everything about everything at Panera - especially Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and Black Bean Soup.
Advice for someone just starting: Don’t be afraid to examine your relationship with food. Counseling is a good thing and honestly, it might be what makes the difference in your weight-loss efforts.
Anything else that you would like to share: Don’t get discouraged by slow weight loss. I’d much rather be losing weight slowly than gaining or staying the same.
Learn more about Sarah's story over at her amazing website Sparkly Runner!