Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Request #3 - My Shenanigans - How Did I Lose Weight and Manage to Keep it Off?

Question from My Shenanigans: I was wondering how you lost so much weight, but more importantly how you've managed to keep it off.

Short answer: Yeah, right. If I had a short answer, I'd be rich!

Long answer: It was a lot of work.

Two and a half years ago I was close to 200 pounds - on a 5'4" small frame, that is a lot of weight! My dad died at the age of 55 of a heart attack, so I was aware of high cholestrol and heart problems in my family. Dad was an ultra-marathoner (30+ miles per race, up to 100 miles in a go), but he didn't eat properly.

I've always been okay with dressing my body no matter what shape it was (and I was skinny as a kid, but had problems with my weight starting in my 20s). But my poor husband would often find me crying in my closet before a special occasion: I felt horrible in everything I owned, I hated myself for letting me get to this point. I didn't love my body.

June 2006: And believe me, I am sucking in everything possible in this picture (sorry it's fuzzy, I'm taking pictures of pictures). That's a size 14 dress I have squeezed myself into.

A coworker was on Weight Watchers and I watched her lose a couple of pounds each week. I asked her a lot of questions about the program and how workable it was (I'm supremely lazy and unmotivated). I thought, "Gosh, that doesn't seem too bad. I think I could do that."

In August 2006, my work organized a "Weight Watchers at Work" program and I signed up. I bought a treadmill so that I could walk without anyone seeing me (the only workout clothes that fit me were men's). I lost really slowly, never more than 2 pounds in a week, but I stuck to it and I started to notice my clothes were getting large. I was fitting into some of my old clothes!

End of September, 2006:It had been 2 years since I'd fit into this dress! I was ecstatic! That's a size 12! I was starting to feel better about myself, but I still hadn't set a weight goal. My goal was to walk into Dots (a local chain that sells off sample sizes, mostly size 8s) and be able to buy the sample sizes.

By this time, I was going great on the treadmill, but it was So Boring. One day, I wondered how long it would take me to walk to work. I normally took the bus: leave the house at 7:55am, get to work at 8:25am. So I packed my shoes and hoofed it all the way to work. I left at 7:50 and I arrived at...8:30! Only 10 more minutes and I get 40 minutes of exercise? I'm in!

I started walking to work Monday to Thursday (Friday has always been No Exercise Day, because I need a day off), which is my main workout, even now. I get 80+ minutes 4 days a week, then do a 1-hour walk on Saturdays. Sometimes on Sundays I go for a walk, depends. Sometimes I go shopping! That counts as exercise!

Christmas 2006:
I bought this lovely dress in late October - it was the smallest size I could barely zip up: a size 10. By Christmas, as you can see, it was too big. Thank goodness for the straps! I wouldn't have stayed up on its own!

I was feeling pretty good at this weight, a lot more like myself, but I felt like I was not quite there yet. I started thinking about the marathon in October 2007. One of my personal goals had always been "Do a Marathon Before I'm 40". In October 2007, I would turn 40. Could I do it?

February 2007: Valentine's Day, actually. I'm dressed up for night out with my sweetie. I have to say, my husband was my staunchest supported all through this. He never complained about our new dinners (gone were the days of Mac & Cheese, or heavily processed packaged frozen dinners), the salads, the stir-frys. He continuously complimented me, and reminded me why I was losing weight: for myself. He wanted me to be happier, and to feel better about my health.

Anyway, the clothes in the above picture are too big! I was frantically trying to buy cheap and inexpensive clothes to fill the massive holes in my wardrobe. Even dropping from a 16 to a 10 meant that most of my clothes were falling off me. Literally: I was walking to the bus stop one day (on a day when I didn't walk to work), and my skirt fell around my ankles! So embarassing!

Around this time, I decided on my goal weight: I would lose 50 pounds total (okay, I wanted the magnet that WW gave you then).

Late March 2007: My goal weight picture! I felt so amazing...but then, Maintenance! I was in heavy training for the marathon by this time, putting in lots of hours walking and working on my technique (I race-walk). I went into the maintenance phase of WW (yay! More food!) and shopped to fill up my wardrobe. Oh, those were heady days!

October 7, 2007:
It's 5am and I am barely awake, but I did it. I did the marathon. All 26.2 miles of it, and I did it under my goal of 6 hours!

But maintaining my weight is really hard. I stay motivated by going to WW meetings every Saturday morning. It inspires me to see these women (it's mostly women) really wanting to make this change in their lives, and I hope I can inspire them by showing them: yes! You can do it! I did it and you can too! I've dropped another 8-10 pounds since I hit Goal - it varies - and I try to stay around the 60 pounds gone mark. It's where I feel most comfortable...and I still have curves!

I also get weighed every meeting (I don't own a scale), so I know when I need to smarten up and eat more veggies or walk more. I actually lost a pound over Christmas this year.

I'm also motivated by...my clothes! I have all these clothes and I need to stay in them! No more letting the weight creep up on me.

The best thing about losing the weight has been the ripple effect it's had in other areas of my life. If I can put my mind to it and lose 50 pounds AND do a marathon, what else can I do? I now try to do things that challenge me: I joined Toastmasters last year to improve my leadership skills and my public speaking; I took an art class and do a painting drop-in; I just started aikido (oh man, it's hard!). I know there is no limit to what I can do if I really want it.

Advice if you want to lose weight:

- Do it for yourself. Do it because YOU really want to lose weight. Not because your husband/boyfriend wants you to, or because you think you "should." You will have the biggest, longest-lasting success if you do it for you. You need to reach that point where you can put yourself first (for a change, for most of us!) and say, "I deserve this, for myself." That's a huge emotional turning point.

- Whatever system or program you use, make sure it is sustainable in Real Life. You can't keep weight off if you are relying on pre-packaged, processed frozen food. It might work in the short-term, but you are going to have to re-learn how to grocery shop, how to cook, and how to treat food as a fuel, not a comfort or a reward. It is a lifestyle change that you have to make, and you cannot go back to your old life. Sometimes I really miss that...eating whatever I wanted...but then I remember how unhappy I was with myself.

- Exercise. You might be able to lose weight through diet alone, but you won't keep it off if you don't make exercise part of your life. I walked. That's all, just slow walks at first. I still walk. It's still my main exercise. It only requires good running shoes. Whatever exercise you choose, make sure you integrate it into your life; plan it into your day. The more you do it, the better you will feel. I used to deal with depression, mood swings, and insomnia. I still have my moments, but most of that is gone. No medication. Just walking and moving my body.

- Set a goal. Do you want to walk the 10K? Do you want to have the doctor be astonished next time he checks your blood pressure? Spell out your goal and the small steps it will take to get you there. It's got to be concrete (not "I want to be thin") and you have to set mini-goals that are achievable.

- Reward yourself - not with food! Every time I lost 10 pounds, I bought myself a new item of clothing (only shoes for the 1st 30 pounds). Every time I wore them, I said, "These are my 20 pound shoes!" I still have my 50 Pound Dress.

- Don't deprive yourself. If you really want chocolate, have some...a very small bit of the best chocolate you can get. I have not given up a single thing that I used to eat, including Subway, candy, pizza, alcohol, chocolate, chips/crisps. I just don't eat as much as I used to, and I don't eat them as frequently. If you cut a major food group or even a minor food group (like chocolate, ha) out of your diet, you will eventually rebound and overdo it. And then you'll feel like a failure and want to give up. And that's no good.

- Don't beat yourself up. If you are "bad" one day, start fresh the next day. One day isn't going to kill you - but beating yourself up for days, then going back to bad habits, very well might. Every Saturday is my "free day" - I can eat anything I want on Saturday (because I weigh in on Sat morning, then start my WW week on Sunday) and not feel guilty at all. I might have a bottle of wine and a bag of chips! I really look forward to it all week, but I know that as of Sunday, I'm back on track.

It took me a long time to get to the point where I could say truthfully, "I really want to lose weight and keep it off. I want to change my life."

If you want it, do it. Just do it. You deserve it.




  1. Sheila, I think you are an amazing woman, and truly a wonderful example, thank you!!

  2. How inspiring! I have lost 15 pounds so far, and have 35 pounds to go in my "weight loss" goal!!

    A helpful website I use is www.sparkpeople.com! It's like a free mini-version of weight watchers!!


  3. This is a fantastic post! I'm at the start of (another) weight loss journey only I want this one to be FOR GOOD. I'm going to bookmark this post and come back again (and again...and again...) for inspiration. Thank you!

  4. I have just cancelled my gym membership and aim to run every or walk with the dog every day instead of on the treadmill.
    I lost nearly two stones five years ago but 10 pounds has crept back on. Your post has made me more motivated - you are a true inspiration.

  5. What a great story - having run marathons I know how hard it can be. But even that isn't as hard as keeping the weight off. Well done you.
    It goes without saying that you look amazing. And healthy!

  6. Truly, very truly and inspiration! You just made me smile as i read this. Keep doing your thang!!! :-)

  7. You are a GODDESS! I want to say more (and will) but can't tonite (other committments)....still, I had to post to this thread as soon as I saw it (and you know why)

    A freakin' Goddess :)

  8. Sounds like you really found a balance in your life. Walking to work is a great way to exercise. You are really an inspiration.

  9. I just recently found your blog and I am so glad I did...thanks for sharing your weight loss journey, it helps all of us in the battle of the bulge. =) you look amazing! congratulations!

  10. This is such an awesome post! I totally fell in love with your blog!

  11. Okay, you guys are so sweet! I'm totally blushing.

    MS: you're welcome! Good question.

    Katie: way to go, girl! You look awesome! www.sparkpeople.com is a great site.

    Leslie Ruth: welcome and good for you! This is my second weight loss and I have finally admitted to myself that I can't do it alone. It's a very difficult thing to do! I know you can do it. :)

    Credit Cruncher: welcome and all the best for your new regime! Make sure you wear proper weather gear.

    Jane: aw...thank you, m'dear! Gosh, running a marathon is SO hard, I can't even imagine - good for you!

    Lady D: thanks so much!

    Kayleigh: you're so funny. Thanks, hon!

    Alison: it's worked the best for me. Thanks very much.

    Tooblonde1: welcome and

  12. ...thank you!

    [how does this stupid thing post my comment when I'm not freakin' DONE? Arg!]

    Hilary: Thanks!

  13. Congratulations on such an achievement! I too had the goal to run one marathon in my life. I also finished it in my goal time of under 6 hours. Props!

  14. Thanks, Cat! Well done to you! Such an amazing thing to do, isn't it? I was way faster than I thought I'd be (I had to do it under 7 hours - they won't let you enter if you're slower), and I was only sore for a couple of days after. I think I could go faster - there may be another marathon in my future!

  15. Oh my gosh, what an incredible inspiration Sheila! Great post, great advice, thank you for sharing with us. A remarkable transformation indeed. Just think of the years you have added to your life by making these healthy changes. You are truly a hero woman!

  16. Found you from Jane (i think)

    Thank you for this honest post! I am trying to lose about 40 lbs. and it's so very hard. And it's kinda encouraging in a weird way that it stays hard....not like my life will be easy once I lose this weight....


  17. Welcome, Mrs. MK (I actually work with an MK and he has a Mrs.)!

    I always hate that none of the "diets" tell you how hard it is to keep weight off and change your life. I'm tempted every day, every time I eat.

    All the best in your own journey. You can do it!

  18. Thank you so much for directing me to this post today. I love how you took photos of yourself along the way, and how supportive your husband was...this really moved me, to tears! I'm so impressed. And I'm in the same shoes. Same size, same height, same weight, same goal. I need to do this for me.

  19. You're very welcome, Christy! If I can do it, you can too! I'm coming up on my 2 year anniversary of maintaining my weight - seriously, getting the weight off was easier than maintaining it.

    Be strong!

  20. Sheila,

    I've visited your blog before and today took more time to read through former posts. The video with little Inigo was very enjoyable! :-)

    After reading your post on how you lost the weight, I was very taken with the similarities (including height) that we share!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and offering such an encouraging and uplifting blog.


  21. Hi, Jean, thank you so much for reading my old stuff, and for commenting. I really appreciate your kind words.



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