Losing weight is a struggle unique to each person. While some manage to drop the pounds with extra trips to the gym or by cutting back on junk food, for others, their problem runs much deeper than bad habits alone. Cammy Chapel got bigger as her self-confidence got weaker; Audrey Holden found comfort in food after her son's tragic death and Hollie Johnson grew up in a household of overeaters. But whatever the underlying issue, these three women learned to deal with the underlying reasons they gained the weight so they could undertake the difficult journey of losing it. Here are their stories.
In My Shoes
Blogger Cammy Chapel ( TippyToeDiet.com), 52, Memphis, TN
"We don't have anything that will fit you here. Your sizes are somewhere else." It's been 20 years and those words-spoken loudly and rudely by a clerk in a high-end department store-still sting. Never mind that I was looking for something for a friend. I hadn't even asked for help; she just saw me and decided I had no business shopping there. Believe me, I wanted nothing more than to be somewhere, anywhere else at that moment to escape the shame and embarrassment as other shoppers turned to look at me, the woman who was too large for that department.
Comments like that-not to mention muffled snickering and offensive gestures-are pretty typical when you're 100 pounds overweight. But my thick waistline didn't equate to thick skin, and I hated knowing that those people assumed I was lazy or undisciplined or apathetic. When I finally committed to losing the weight, my main motivation was better health. But I also wanted others to see the strong, capable person I really was.
Now I've lost those 100 pounds and kept them off for over a year. I eat healthy foods (mostly) and I exercise six days a week. I thought that once I slimmed down I'd escape the harsh judgments of others, but that's not so. Yes, I'm healthier and more fit than I used to be, but some well-meaning people seem to view me as a formerly overweight person who needs to be monitored. One friend called recently, crowing that he'd "caught" me going to Taco Bell for lunch. "Sorry to spoil your party," I told him, "but that wasn't me." I'll spare you all the back-and-forth that followed. I finally figured out that he'd seen me turning into my gym, which happens to share a parking lot with Taco Bell.
Although my first instinct was to get upset about his mistake, I really couldn't. After all, now I, too, have a habit of judging others: I silently criticize the woman at the gym who rests too long between sets, and I scrutinize the grocery carts of fellow shoppers to see if they're buying a lot of cookies, chips or soda. Without knowing anything about these people, I apply my newfound standards to their actions and find them lacking. I don't know why I do it, though it does seem like playing judge has become a national pastime (just look at the popularity of reality TV featuring panels of judges deciding who goes or stays). Regardless, I'm trying to stop.
Whenever I catch myself jumping to conclusions based on what I think rather than what I know, I'm ashamed. I know how hurtful and demoralizing it is when other people do it to me, and the idea that I could be inflicting those feelings on other people feels even worse. They deserve compassion and acceptance, not judgment. Especially when the person doing the judging is far from perfect herself.
Feeding My Emotions
Blogger Audrey Holden ( IamBarkingMad.com), 41, Saratoga Springs, NY
I was sitting against the plush black leather of the limousine as it carried me away from the grave of my 2-year-old son, Joshua, who had been killed days earlier after being struck by a pickup truck. Yet all I could think about was food. With bitter tears running down my cheeks, I closed my eyes and pictured the platters of roast beef, creamy mashed potatoes and assorted pastries that my friends had lovingly set out at the wake. I imagined piling my plate with as much food as possible and swallowing all of it, pushing the pain down as far as it would go. The more I thought about food, the less I thought about seeing those precious brown eyes of Joshua's closed forever.
Some people cope with the loss of a child by turning to alcohol or drugs. My drug of choice was food. When Joshua died, I was 40 or 50 pounds overweight. In the 20 years since, I have "comforted" myself to nearly 400 pounds.
Believe me, I've tried to lose the weight. I've been on countless diets, at times subsisting on little but grapefruit or cabbage. I've tried pills and liquid diets. I've taken laxatives and have tried starving and purging. Every time I lost and regained I felt like more of a failure.
My struggle with weight has been compounded by a society that sees the obese as something akin to lepers. We're viewed as hideous, stupid, ignorant, loathsome and worst of all, worthless. There are laws that prevent discriminating against minorities and the disabled; there are no advocates for the obese. I've been passed over for jobs due to my weight, and my insurance company specifically excludes any treatment for obesity.
Of course, all the discrimination takes a toll. I've spent the last three years mostly indoors, hiding from the world, and at times my self-esteem has been nonexistent. At one point, I became so depressed that I contemplated committing suicide.
The day I realized that I wanted to live and discard the shroud that I had used as protection against the pain of losing my son came a few months ago, when I broke a toilet seat because I was so obese. For the first time in years I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a person-not just a huge mound of flesh, but a real woman who was so guilt-ridden about not being able to save her son that she didn't think she was worthy of making the changes necessary to save herself.
So I'm finally committed to doing what it takes to start losing the weight. The moment that toilet seat cracked was when my hard shell of self-loathing cracked as well.
Try, Try Again
Blogger Hollie Johnson ( SkinnyHollie.com), 34, Nashville, TN
When I was 7 years old, the pediatrician told my mom to put me on a diet. She wasn't surprised-I weighed 146 pounds and wore the same size clothes as my older sister, who was in her 20s. Of course I had been eating all the wrong things, but in our house we never had any rules about food. On the way home from the checkup I started crying, so my mom stopped to get me an ice cream cone to make me feel better.
That mixed message was repeated for most of my childhood. One moment my mom would chastise me for being too fat and insist that I eat a salad while the rest of the family was having fast food. But there were plenty of other times when she would let me eat whatever I wanted. She had her own problems with food; today she's over 300 pounds.
Around the time I turned 12, I started making a genuine effort to lose weight. I weighed 200 pounds, which got me invited to an afterschool program for overweight kids. We learned some exercises and how to shop for food. Soon I started experimenting with a slew of diets, a pattern that extended for years. I tried every diet imaginable, but nothing worked. I always felt deprived, so I'd give up.
Today I have more than 140 pounds to lose. But I am more optimistic than ever, because I've given up quick fixes. About a year ago a friend encouraged me to think about how particular foods benefit my body, and something clicked. I realized it wasn't just about avoiding fattening foods but more about choosing foods to keep me healthy. I want to avoid the problems that my mom started experiencing in her 40s, like diabetes and heart disease.
I'm not following any "plan," but I'm eating fresh, whole foods. I drink water instead of soda, and I'm logging lots of time on the elliptical machine (even though I hate exercise). But it's not easy: I'm a single mom, a graduate student and a new teacher, so time is tight. When you have three children demanding dinner, forgetting to defrost a chicken can spell disaster.
To keep on track, I'm thinking of dieting as a part-time job. When I have to punch a clock at a certain time in order to get paid, you'd better believe I take it seriously! Preparing healthy foods and making time to exercise has to be equally nonnegotiable. I started scheduling gym time as I would a meeting; when my phone beeps, I have to go. And when I'm tempted to skip packing lunch, I tell myself that's not an option: It's my job to keep myself and my kids healthy. Sure, it's a job that will never make me rich, but the benefits of good health are priceless.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com
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